This post is inspired by a couple of resources. One is the Dave Ramsey show. A caller asked if the baby emergency fund of $1000 should be raised to adjust for inflation. Two is the post by Kristine Kathryn Rusch on how writers fail.
On the Dave Ramsey show, Dave Ramsey and company argue that $1000 is just as valid today as it was when Dave came up with his plan. Well, that would all be well and good IF the cost of things remained stagnant, but the problem is that inflation is a real thing. Fixing or replacing things is more expensive today than it used to be. I love the Dave Ramsey show, but I wish they would adjust with the times. Their other baby steps might still work, but, in my opinion, the baby emergency fund of $1000 isn’t one of them. Yes, you want to be uncomfortable so you’re motivated to get out of debt, but you don’t need to be so uncomfortable that you can’t breathe.
Life is always changing. Nothing stays constant. This is not only true with finances, but it’s true for writers. I really enjoyed Kris’ post about how authors fail because she points out how life is always changing, and, as writers, we need to adjust with those changes. There is always something we can do to improve things in our favor. Maybe those things won’t work, but if you don’t try them, how will you know? Not doing anything at all will guarantee failure.
I’m not a big proponent of trying every new fad that comes along. You only have so much time in a day. I suggest picking the things that most interest you because if you choose something you’re interested in, you will be more likely to stick with it long enough to see results. Just because another writer loves to do something and is seeing success with it, it doesn’t mean you have to do it. For example, I hate click ads. I don’t care how many authors see more sales from Amazon and Facebook ads. I don’t feel like spending my time adjusting keywords or tracking clicks or even creating a banner for the ad. But if click ads are your cup of tea, you should give them a try and see if they work for you. Also, a lot of authors say they are seeing success on TikTok or You Tube. I tried video, and I don’t care for it, but it’s an area that has some success. I’ll stick with writing blog posts, free book strategy, my email list, and my one-and-done ads. Marketing is something that has to be tailored to your specific strengths and interests.
While we’re discussing changes, I want to tackle the fact that technology is going to impact how we need to move forward as authors. Earlier this year, I got a lot of push back on the AI audiobook thing. A lot of people came to me and said that if a human narrator isn’t making the book, then it’s going to fail. Just the other day, I heard that Apple is now coming out with their own AI narration tool for authors to use. AI narration is not going away. It’s only getting started. AI narration is what ebooks were back in 2010. A lot of authors didn’t believe ebooks were going to take off, but they did. Amazon (through ACX) is going to have to get into AI narration at some point because they’ll leave a lot of money on the table if they don’t. I believe Findaway Voices will finally allow AI narrated books in the upcoming future. Kobo is already allowing AI narrated books on their store. Google Play was ahead of its time by making it easy and efficient for their authors to make AI narrated books earlier this year. You can protest all you want about changes, but you can’t stop the changes from happening.
In another post, I pointed out that only 14% of authors make $35K or more a year. Maybe putting your book in a new format won’t earn you more sales. Maybe it’ll be a bust. But if you don’t do it, you’ll never have the chance to increase your income with that new format. Take a lesson from the Big Trad Publishers who dragged their feet on adapting with the times. In Kris’ post on how writers fail, she pointed this out:
But one particular statistic shocked all of us. From Jane Friedman’s industry newsletter, The Hot Sheet, on August 31, 2022:
…of the 58,000 trade titles published per year, fully half of those titles “sell fewer than one dozen books.” (Not a typo, that’s one dozen.)
That’s very eye opening, and it should make every indie author feel a lot better about their situation. Most indie authors I know sell more than one dozen books. Plus, as indies, we keep full control over our content, and we can put that book into different formats (paperback, ebook, audio, serial, etc) to help increase our possible revenue streams. We don’t need to hope a publisher will do that for us. Now, if you were to find a small publishing house with people on staff who know how to market effectively, I suppose that would be a win if you really don’t want to be an indie publisher. But I prefer publishing my own books because I get full say over everything that happens with the book.
However, let’s say in some future time, the retailers decide they will no longer take indie books. (I don’t see it happening, but let’s say it happens.) At that time, I would look into a small publisher. I would have to be willing to adapt with the changes. Or let’s say that every retailer offers a subscription service for ebooks. Amazon, Kobo, and Scribd all have them. I think this is a very real possibility. Fortunately, I don’t see any retailer besides Amazon requiring exclusivity to be in this kind of program. Amazon just has too many customers in their basket. If an author has to be exclusive, they would go with Amazon instead of another retailer, even if Amazon has a bad reputation for suspending accounts of innocent authors.
Now, I do think there are some things that authors can do to help buffer themselves against the unpredictable future, and these are things that are in our control. The first is to write a story that compels the reader to keep reading. Granted, a good story is the eye of the beholder, but if you can deliver on a story that makes someone excited about your work, you will have one less obstacle in your way. Remember, you’re not writing for everyone. You are writing for the people who embrace your vision for storytelling. Deliver on every book to this group. The second is to make sure you let your readers know when you have a new book out so they know it’s available. This can be in a newsletter you mail out to people on your email list or in a blog post that people signed up to follow. I prefer to get into people’s inboxes over just announcing it on social media. Posts in social media don’t always reach the intended audience. The third is to try to make the next story better than the one that came before it. I know that it might not be better as far as the reader is concerned, but I’m saying that it should be something you try to make better. You want to keep up the quality in every story you write. That means no cutting corners on the storytelling. Give the story the full attention it deserves. I know it’s tempting to try to skimp on things when you’re trying to get more books published in a year in hopes of earning more money. (The more time you spend in a story with writing and editing, the longer it will take to get it out into the world.) But if you keep delivering a solid story to your readers, you better your chances that they’ll keep buying your books. Also, they might spread word about your books to others. Word of mouth is very important.