As of June 1st I will no longer be a full-time writer. For a while I may not be a writer at all. Oh, I’ll still have way too many books published and available for sale and I still have some audiobooks I want to record. But I may completely step back for a while.
And, honestly, I don’t have any regrets about doing so. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time then you know that I wasn’t the most driven of authors. The idea of fame actually makes my skin itch and I was far more motivated to give my dog a quality life and myself time to breathe than I was to “be the winner” or “be the best”. (While other authors were spending sixty hours a week writing and giving themselves carpal tunnel I was…not.)
Now that my dog is gone it’s a good time to make that transition. I need the structure of a full-time job right now and the one I’ve accepted will pay my bills and leave a bit of a cushion. And I like what I’ll be doing. It actually excites me.
It’s also much more certain and stable than self-publishing. I don’t like what I see coming down the pipeline for self-publishing.
I was already well along the interview path when this news hit, but the recent Amazon paperback pricing changes will increase my print costs for a lot of my books by around 30%*. This at the same time that I think they’re playing some games on the AMS side to drive up bid costs. So that means less profit per sale and making it harder to get those sales in the first place.
(*My product mix is not like most self-published authors. I sell far more in print than most and I also publish in the 7.5″ x 9.25″ size for all of my computer or image-heavy books, which is not the case for most. Also on the non-fiction side I have a lot of new buyers I have to attract for my titles so advertising is more important for me than an established fiction author.)
I also think AI is going to mess things up for at least the next few years and will likely hit non-fiction first. It doesn’t matter if it’s good enough to pass, there will be people who see a pretty cover and spend their time/money on an AI-generated title. And there will be lots of them published. Which is going to further sour the reader experience and drive readers back to “trustworthy” sources. I think it’s also likely that AI can copy non-fiction easier than it can copy a novel.
Established names will be fine. If you have an audience already that autobuys your books, you’re solid. But for those who never established themselves I think it’s going to be rough. Same with new authors who don’t have some sort of support from existing authors who will vouch for them. So if you’ve got friends in a genre and they tell their mailing list about you, great. But if you’re just new and eager? Ouch.
I honestly think it will make trade pub more attractive for some newer authors. And if trade pub ever gets their heads out of their asses about ebook pricing and starts putting out ebooks in the $7.99-$9.99 range with price promotions on a periodic basis? Double ouch.
And I know there will be someone out there who says something along the lines of how you only fail at writing if you quit. Which, fair enough. But there are only so many hours in this life that we get to live and putting those hours into publishing into an increasingly ugly market just doesn’t seem like a good use of mine. (Especially when someone then comes along and outright steals or copies what I just did. Why offer myself up as a victim if I don’t have to?)
I have always been a storyteller. Set me in a waiting room without a book to read or on a long road trip and I’ll be spinning some sort of story in my head. And putting those stories on paper is an interesting experience because the story evolves when it’s written down and turned into 90K words of prose versus that sketched out shape of a story that existed in my head.
But the publishing side is something else entirely. I’ve enjoyed learning the process–formatting books, designing covers, etc.–but at this point I’ve done that. And if I’m not trying to make my writing pay my bills, publishing is not necessary.
I do still have some collections to publish at some point for the non-fiction so I’m sure you’ll see me announce a few more titles here at least. I’ll also still have thoughts about writing because I’m not going to stop reading books anytime soon.
And, who knows? I may have become addicted to all of this and not know.
Between my sophomore year and junior year of college I took a year off with the full intent of taking five or so years off to make enough money to pay for the rest of college flat out. (I was a bit naive.) But I really, really missed studying Mayan hieroglyphs and it turned out that the local library didn’t have books on that. So I decided I had to go back to school. (Not that I spent all that much time studying them when I got back, but I did get to take a cool course on language change.)
So you never know.
I do know that removing the profit pressure from my writing is going to be a good thing. It will let me write whatever fiction I feel like writing because whatever I write will be for me first not some nebulous “market”.
And, yes, I’m lucky that I can do this. I know of authors who had to make it with their writing because they were on welfare/public assistance and had no prospects or were stuck in a minimum wage job and didn’t have a pathway to a different job. Or writers who are busy parents and writing is their escape and validation.
But for me, personally, I did have other choices and I’m taking one of them.
I’ve loved learning all that I have the last decade. And taking the time to see a broader world than I would have if I’d stayed on my original path. I think writing has made me a better person. Not a great person–I’m still arrogant–but at least I know that now. 🙂
Anyway. I’ve shared my writing journey up to this point so figured I should share this, too. Wish me luck. And best of luck to you on your continuing journey, wherever it takes you.