I don’t know if this is something every author who has been publishing long enough eventually reaches, but I have now reached this point.
When you’re starting out on this author thing, you obsess over every little criticism someone throws your way. Every thing, no matter how small and insignificant, is a huge deal. I mean, authors will argue over just about anything. I’ve seen threads of arguments devoted to word usage (ex. “walk” or “stride”), active or passive voice, plotting or going by the seat of one’s pants, how often to publish a book, whether to use white or cream paper in a paperback, buying ISBNs vs using the retailer’s identification number for a book, and uploading books directly to every retailer or using a distributor to send the book out to multiple channels for you. Back in 2010, authors had heated debates over paperbacks vs. ebooks. This largely went away because of the popularity of ebooks, but back then, it was all, “You can feel and smell the pages of a paperback. Therefore, ebooks aren’t ‘real’ books.” Today the big debate has become, “You need a human narrator for an audiobook. Using AI narration will ruin the listener’s experience.” I already know how the human narration vs AI narration will go. We still have paperbacks, but ebooks are accepted. Likewise, human-narrated books will still be around in the future, but AI narration will become accepted as a whole. It’s the same stupid argument. It’s just a different format we’re talking about. There’s a place for both, but authors will devote a ridiculous amount of time arguing over it. And some authors are not making AI narrated books in order to appease the critic, even though they really want to.
When you’re a new author, acceptance is everything. You want everyone to love you. You want to be accepted by every author and every reader on the planet. You might logically know you can’t please everyone, but your heart wants to please everyone. Feelings are delicate things. I’m sure they’re more delicate in some personalities than in others. I happen to be “softer” in the emotional area than others. I feel things deeply. It doesn’t take much to get to me. But, over time, I have noticed that I’ve been developing that tough shell experienced authors once advised me to get ASAP. I think it was back in 2010 or 2011 when one author said the only way I was going to survive long term in this business was by letting all of the criticisms I was facing roll right off my back. Her exact expression was, “Let it roll off your back like water rolls off a duck.” It was good advice, and it’s advice I’m offering to anyone struggling with the critic today.
Recently, I posted something in a group where I upset a lot of authors. I knew I was planting something unpopular in the group but felt it had to be said because everyone was ganging up on this poor author who didn’t have the experience under her belt that I do. This author wanted to do something a certain way, and everyone was criticizing her. Her idea was just fine, so I spoke up and said something. I don’t believe in engaging with authors in these arguments anymore, so I didn’t engage any of the critics. I just posted my opinion directly to her in the thread. I had a gut feeling other authors agreed with me but were too scared to say anything.
The purpose of indie authorship is to do things your way. If you’re right, you’ll find an audience. If you’re wrong, you won’t find an audience. If you’re wrong, you can change your course and do things the other way. This business is composed of trial and error. You’ll succeed in some areas; you’ll fail in others. But failure is okay. Failure is a learning opportunity. You’re not strapped down to your failure. You can rise above it. Just change course. Simple as that.
If you have it in your heart to do something a certain way, go for it. Why let someone else make decisions about your books for you? They’re not paying your bills. They’re not dealing with your readers. They’re not stuck with your books in their library. I understand wanting to get advice, but you need to take that advice and tailor it to your specific situation and your specific interests. We are not all the same. We are not all meant to do things the same way. Being indie means you are the owner of your business. It means you have to ultimately make the decisions that are best for you and your business. Your business is not meant to be run by these other authors. Too many authors run their business by committee.
It takes time to get to the point where you will do things your way, and you don’t care what some other author out there thinks about it. It took me 14 years to get here. I’m sure if I wasn’t so emotionally wired, it would have taken me less time. The only way to arrive at this point is to make a decision best for you and stick with it. (Like I said, if you turn out to be wrong, change course, but if you’re right, stick with it.) At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what those authors think. The only thing that matters is that you are free to do what you want with your books without the need for someone else’s approval.
Nice post that could be relevant for many people who turn their passion into business. Always remember where your drive originated and what you do should always be enjoyable, even learning the lessons. You’re right, other people dictating how it should be done will make this author’s passion a weight instead.
I wish her luck, and appreciate you stood up for her.
I agree. As soon as the “business” part comes up, it becomes work. We try not to let it, but money has a way of manipulating the way we feel about writing. Listening to other people makes that even worse. Ironically, any decision we can make doesn’t work the same for everyone. I’ve seen different strategies work for some authors but not others. So what’s the point in dictating any of it? It’s best if authors do things that make the most sense to them.
Good for u speaking up for her! I don’t like bullies 😕 just because it’s not their way doesn’t mean it’s wrong, she’s right, u hv to do what u think is right for u!😊
Exactly. The advice might be right for a certain author, but it doesn’t mean it is right for all authors. I don’t know what this particular author will do, but I hope it’s not something she does because she feels like she has to appease the author community. I hope it’s something she sincerely wants to do.
😀 You’re welcome.
When I first started out with my other pen name, I would literally get sick with butterflies in my stomach when I saw bad reviews on my books. Now, I don’t even look at them. I haven’t checked my reviews in years. You aren’t going to please everyone. That’s just a fact. We need to go our own way. Yes, we need to listen to the advice of more seasoned authors. But then we have to decide whether or not it’s good advice. Or maybe we want to do things a little differently than the norm. Maybe we want to be a rebel in the business. There are so many possibilities, and we need to see what works for us. That thick skin is hard to grow, especially when we’re sensitive, but it will grow. Otherwise, we could make ourselves crazy.
The bad reviews used to depress me for days. I would even cry over them. I expected that some people wouldn’t like my books, but I was shocked by how mean some of those reviewers got. It’s okay to have an opinion, but I see no reason to be nasty about it. I agree. We need to weigh the advice and decide if it’s best for us. Sometimes the advice works great for some authors but not others. I’m tired of this idea where we need to all conform to the same way of doing things. And yes, that thick skin is hard to grow!
I hate the way AI sounds when they try to read something. they mispronounce words and it’s hard to keep track of the sentences without inflections.
Thank you for illustrating my point, which is that there is no right way for every single person. Your preference is your preference.
I happen to love AI. I’ll explain this from the perspective of a reader and an author.
As a reader, I have been listening to AI since 2010. The text-to-speech feature on the Kindle is what I’ve been using to “read” books for years. I can’t read off of phone or ereader screens or even paperbacks. I require a special filter on my computer to write. By the time I’m done writing, my eyes are too exhausted to read. Most ebooks I want to read are not available as audiobooks. The only way I can read these is by using AI technology. For readers who struggle with vision issues, AI has been very helpful. Maybe some people never get used to the way AI sounds, but I did. Those things you mentioned don’t bother me. My mind will automatically correct a lot of things. I don’t expect AI to be perfect. Not all human narrators are good. I’m an example. My human narration sucks. It took me a good month and some back and forth to get one of my narrated books removed with Findaway. Because of that hassle, I’m reluctantly leaving the standalone book that never sells up as is. Sometimes it’s too much of a pain to undo a mistake. That doesn’t mean I can’t make an AI version of it on a site that allows AI audiobooks, but that AI version will be better than what I am able to produce. The shorts I did with my son under my pen name will stay up on You Tube, Bitchute, and Rumble because he is actually good.
As an author, my issue with human narration is cost and being wide. I have almost 100 romances out under this name (Ruth). I did pay $10K for five books to a human narrator. While she was good, I never made that money back. Two years later, I maybe approached $1K back on what I spent. I made most of that through Findaway, but I notice that the numbers are getting lower and lower every month. Audible is run by ACX. ACX also delivers to iTunes. But ACX also has a very lenient return policy on audiobooks. This means when someone is done listening to my books, they can return them, and ACX will require me to pay back any royalties I earned in a previous month. So if someone “paid” for my book, ACX pays me. But if the person returns that book after listening to it, ACX will turn around and withhold future earnings from me until they are “paid” back from the money they sent to me. This is a horrible business venture. ACX doesn’t lose out. I do. I have stopped putting books on ACX for this reason. I have only gotten paid maybe three times a year from ACX. At least with Findaway, I get something each month. But even with that, I will never make back the $10K I spent on making those books.
I could arrange a royalty-split with a human narrator on ACX, but given the situation above with them AND the fact that the royalty-split ties me into being exclusive to ACX, there is no way that this is happening. This would not only hurt me, but the human narrator will not get paid much, either. At least when the narrator is paid outright by the author, they got paid. ACX offers no guarantees of payment due to their return policy.
But I am not in a position where I can financially pay a human narrator for the amount of books I have. They are paid by finished hour, and some of my books can go up to 7 or 8 hours. I rarely write novellas in romance. My romances are typically full-length for the genre. This adds up. I did the calculations, and it would cost me $182K to get my entire backlist up in audio with a human narrator who is decent. I don’t have $182K sitting around. Unlike some authors, I’m not making “six figures” a month. I don’t even see that in a year. AI audiobooks have opened a door to me that was closed off for the longest time. I can produce these on Google for no money. That means two things for my readers. 1. They finally get my books in audio. 2. They will get those books for the same price as my ebooks. Those are a win for me and a win for them. If any reader decides that they can’t stomach AI, then they can either read my ebook instead or decide to listen to a human-narrated audiobook from another author. The choice is theirs.
To address other people who might be reading this comment:
I don’t know how many other people are reading this, but I hope this helps shed light on what a lot of authors out here are going through. Most of us aren’t making the kind of money that allows us to pay out to human narrators. It’s not that we don’t care about human narrators. We do care. But when you’re struggling to pay bills and put food on your table, you’re pretty much either going to have to use AI technology to produce audiobooks or you will not make those audiobooks at all. It just depends on what your goals are. My goal in creating AI audiobooks was for me to be able to listen to my own stories. Google Play’s AI technology is better than Amazon’s Kindle. I can’t read my ebooks or my paperbacks due to my eye issues. I can only listen to them. So when Google made their offer, I jumped on it. I’m just happy that I can finally listen to my books on my phone. It doesn’t matter if someone else listens to them. If people don’t want my AI audiobooks, fine. Don’t get them. This was a decision I did for me. It is okay for authors to do something for themselves. They don’t always have to be thinking “book promotion” or “sales”. It didn’t cost me anything to make these audiobooks, so I could afford to do it. Anyone who decides to buy my AI audiobooks is icing on the cake. But the cake itself is that these are available to me. I couldn’t care less about stuff like inflection or pronunciation or whatnot. I’ve listened to AI books for years. I’m used to AI. Everyone is going to feel differently about how to manage their books, but this is why I did AI audiobooks. If it’s not your path, don’t do it. You do what’s best for you and your books.