What Does It Cost to Self-Publish A Book

I tend to ignore the conversations where people discuss what’s required to self-publish a book. A few years back someone who’d done very well with self-publishing who I know and like posted a list of everything a new self-publisher should take care of before they publish and I remember staring at that list in horror and thinking I’d never have self-published if I’d thought it required all of that.

I always figure it comes down to a difference in philosophy. I long ago accepted that I will never be perfect and that the level of effort to reach perfection far outweighs any benefit I’ll receive from it. In school being perfect would’ve meant I couldn’t take all the courses I wanted to, play the sports I loved, and do the extracurriculars I enjoyed all at the same time. It seemed oddly limiting to me to spend all that time on one thing so I could get an A+ or up my shooting percentage in basketball when I could get an A- and still start varsity with a lot less effort.

I also long ago learned that arguing with the perfectionists is exhausting and a waste of my time and energy. And in self-pub especially where everyone thinks they can see and judge your performance it’s an even more obnoxious experience. Because, since of course I’m not perfect, if I say, “you can do it for free” then someone will call out my writing or my covers or my blurbs or my book rank.

But here’s the thing: You can do it for free. Or at least close to it. It just takes time.

I’ve published two books so far this year. One non-fiction title in an area of expertise I have. One cozy mystery.

I used GIMP (a free software) to create the covers myself. Will they win awards? No. Do they achieve their purpose? I like to think so.

The non-fiction cover had one stock image, the cozy cover had three. I’m still working through a DepositPhotos package I bought that came with something like 100 images for $50. So, let’s say one cover cost me 50 cents. The other cost me $1.50. And time. It maybe took me an hour, probably less, to create each cover.

(Keep in mind at this point I’ve created well over a hundred covers in GIMP. Probably more than triple that if we start counting paperback covers as separate.)

I also self-edit.

Yes, that means that there are people out there who will read one of my stories and tell me it could’ve been better. But every story can always be better. Every single one ever published. And no story will appeal to all readers. Ever. But the stories I publish are me. They are consistently mine. People may not like what my characters do or what they value or the level of action/emotion/exposition/etc. in my novels, but for those who do like my worldview they know they’ll get a novel that delivers what they like.

I did have three subject matter experts read the non-fiction title to make sure I wasn’t saying anything dramatically controversial but at the end of the day that was my take on a field where I have twenty years of expertise. It was delivered in my voice and with my opinions based on my experience.

And, sure, maybe I could pay a few hundred dollars and have someone find five extra typos, but I don’t think it’s worth the expense. It’s certainly not worth it on the fiction side to find someone who may not know any more about writing than I do to tell me what they think is wrong with my story.

I format my own files as well.

Nowadays I use Vellum for ebooks and for fiction print books. But before I purchased Vellum a well-formatted Word file worked just fine. (Styles are your friend.) I still use Word to format my non-fiction print books using the free template from Amazon. I’m not trying to deliver the most beautifully formatted book out there. I’m just trying to deliver my words in a way that lets the reader absorb them easily and without distraction.

I also upload the files myself.

And write my own blurbs.

(Again, my blurbs may not be the best blurbs that could possibly be written for each book, but they’re mine so they fit perfectly with what someone will actually get when they buy the book.)

Because of all of that I was able to write, prepare, and publish two books for $2.

And my time.

The reason you might pay someone to do these things for you instead is because there’s a learning curve. My first-ever cover was absolutely horrid. I did not know how bad it was. I thought I’d done a good job with it.

But that’s the beauty of self-publishing. A cover can be changed out in a day. It will only live on on Goodreads if you were unfortunate enough for it to make it there. (Which for that book I was not.)

As a new writer I had that time. And really, honestly, if I’d paid for those services back then I would’ve been throwing my money away because I didn’t know enough to judge what I was paying for.

I have no doubt there are “formatters” out there right now charging a couple hundred bucks to run a file through Vellum because there are authors out there who don’t know better and will pay them for that.

Now, of course, in any discussion about this someone will inevitably come along and argue that six-figure authors don’t do it all themselves and give that as proof for why new authors should pay for all of this, too.

But that’s a fallacy.

Because the decision a six-figure author is making is very different from the decision a new author is making.

My most successful title has made me a profit of $725 per hour it took to write. If I knew that every title I wrote would be that successful then I’d be a fool to do everything myself.

Better at that point to pay someone $250 for a cover than spend an hour (which is worth $725) creating my own.

This is why a number of the very successful authors I know pay for editors. Not because they can’t do it well enough themselves, but because that time they’d spend on editing can be better spent writing the next book. They can publish a couple more books a year by using an editor.

They have the ideas and the audience for that to make sense.

But for a new writer? It doesn’t.

The sad truth is that for most new writers that first book will not be a resounding success no matter how much money you spend on it. You can get the best edits, the most beautiful formatting, the perfect cover. You can even spend on blog tours and hire a publicist (which, really, honestly does not make sense for 99% of self-publishers). And you can put thousands into ads and develop a launch strategy and all of that.

But at the end of the day that book will still not sell.

Because most first efforts are simply not that good.

And what they generally do have going for them are the things that extensive inappropriate editing can destroy. (Voice, a unique perspective, etc.)

So remember: You really can publish for free. And if you’re new, that may really be the best choice to make.

Take the time, learn how it’s done. Get that first title out there. See what happens. Rinse. Repeat.

(And if that title does have legs, if you’re one of the rare early successes, then use your profits to buy a prettier cover or some paid ads. Just be sure you know by then what will work for the type of book you published.)

 

Author Vulnerability

In response to the latest author blow-up (RWA-related), Nora Roberts made a post. There were two things she said in there that I wanted to share here because I agree with them and she says them better than I could myself:

Writer…is a word without gender, a word without color or race, a word without sexual orientation, without creed.

This first point is essential to me. Anyone can be a writer. Anyone can choose to tell their stories and if they do so then they are my peer, no matter what they choose to write or who they are.

(I can choose not to read them. Or not to agree with them. Or not to interact with them. I can even choose to call them out for what they write. But my personal opinion doesn’t make them less of a writer and it doesn’t make them less than any other writer. There is no group of writers that is less worthy than any other. You write, you are a writer.)

She also said,

Let me add, as a personal note, that over the course of my life, the course of my career …I may have–most likely have–said or done or written something that was offensive, racist, homophobic. Without intent–but intent doesn’t mean a damn to those hurt. So I’ll apologize without qualification.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how writing, especially fiction writing, is a career where we as individuals publicly express ourselves more than in almost any other career. Our job involves writing hundreds of thousands of words and putting them out into the world for others to consume.

Doing so puts our unquestioned beliefs and biases on display for the world to see. In the stories we choose to tell and the characters we choose to focus on, we show ourselves.

It’s a vulnerable place to be. For all writers. Because none of us are perfect.

I will say for myself personally that I have never written a word of fiction (there might be an email or two I’ve sent) where my intent was to cause harm to another.

But I know I haven’t been perfect. And looking back now I can see that there are words I’ve written that could hurt some readers. Words or tropes I used at the time that I didn’t know were hurtful when I used them.

I try to listen and learn so I can do better the next time.

But I also know I will never be 100% perfect on these things. Because of who I am and what I don’t know or the themes I focus on as a writer (which mean I neglect others) I will never be a safe space for all readers.

I don’t think any writer is.

That doesn’t mean I won’t listen and try to be better. It just means I won’t always succeed. (Or sometimes may choose to disagree. There is no way I can agree with 100% of people in this world. My goal though is to avoid unintended harm, words that mean nothing to me but do to someone else.)

The good news for today’s reader is that there are so many authors out there publishing great work (maybe self-publishing, maybe trade publishing) that you can find those authors who resonate for you. Who love what you love. Who value what you value. Who tell the stories you want to hear.

They are out there. Find them. Support them. Lift them up, because that is how you will get more of the stories you want from them.

They are being vulnerable by writing their stories, let them know that you value what they created in whatever way you can.

 

A Reality Check Moment

I recently had a conversation with an author privately that prompted me to write this post. Now, first I want to make it clear that I’m not trying to call out this author and if they read this post I hope they won’t feel that way. But what they were saying was out of sync enough with what I think the reality of publishing is that I wanted to post about it publicly.

Essentially we were talking about submitting a book to a trade publisher. And the comment this author made to me was that because any well-written and well-packaged book that wasn’t written in some niche genre could make them six figures through self-publishing that they would not be willing to accept any advance that wasn’t seven figures.

Now part of my problem with discussing something like this with another author is that I am constantly scanning for information from a number of sources, but I don’t tend to bookmark or index those sources so that I can refer back to them and pass them along as needed. For me, knowledge is one big mulch pile and I take what I suck in and process it in ways that get me to conclusions that I probably can’t tick and tie for another to follow.

But I’m going to make some sort of attempt to do so here, because I want this post to be educational not just opinionated.

So let’s unpack that person’s belief starting with the belief that “any well-written and well-packaged book that wasn’t written in some niche genre could make them six figures through self-publishing.”

Yeah, no.

But this belief is out there. And I think it exists for a couple of reasons.

First, I avoid these conversations myself because I know it’s just an invitation to be criticized. As soon as I say, well, no, that’s not really true someone will respond with “Oh, well you didn’t do it because your cover sucks, your writing sucks, you’re in a bad subgenre, you don’t know how to market, etc.”

No book is perfect. Every book has flaws. So when someone is trying to win this argument they will find those flaws and poke at them to prove their point. And I’d add here that a writing style that works perfectly fine for a majority of readers (cough, cough, Dan Brown) may not work for a picky group of writers debating quality.

So no one tends to push back on these statements that are made because they don’t want to be publicly called a loser.

And, two, generally only the people who do really well talk about how they’re doing to any great extent. I remember at one point posting about how thrilled I was to have 500 audiobook sales and having some very successful author come along in that thread and say, well I have 50,000. Gee, thanks, way to crush me. Maybe they didn’t mean to do it, but the message was sit down and shut up. Which many authors do.

I still talk about numbers here on occasion because I want people to see how the journey looks for someone who wasn’t an instant success but is making steady progress, but I almost never post numbers on that forum or discuss them there in any way for those reasons.

So over time authors get a really good glimpse of the lower end of the high range (because the really high end of the high range tend not to hang out and talk publicly about their numbers) and the lower end of the low range (where things are going so badly they’re begging for help). Everyone else in the range between those two groups tends towards silence, which can create a really skewed view of the realities of the situation and lead to someone believing the sort of thing I quoted above.

So let’s try to walk through this and see what we can actually determine.

In my opinion the Author Earnings Report was flawed in a number of ways and, of course, no longer exists. But it gets us some sort of ballpark to start with. The June 2016 report, which is discussed in this post (https://publishingperspectives.com/2016/06/author-earnings-more-data-profitable-authors/ ) estimated that there were 1,340 authors earning more than $100,000 from Amazon sales at that time.

That was trade published and self-published. All authors. 1,340 of them earning more than $100,000. Total.

Now understand that number is gross earnings. It doesn’t account for covers, editing, or advertising, all of which are costs on the self-publishing side. Also, some of those author names were the same individuals writing under more than one name, but that’s probably balanced by the authors who weren’t listed but could have hit that level across pen names. And it was just Amazon, not wide, but for most authors Amazon does still dominate their sales even when they’re wide so that probably offsets the costs that aren’t account for.

Compare that number, and this is a bit of apples to oranges comparison, to the current membership on Facebook of the 20BooksTo50K group which is at 36K. Or Self-Publishing Formula, Mark Dawson’s group, which is at 45K. Presumably these are people who want to make money from their self-publishing efforts.

Okay, so flawed as the number is, right there we have that only about 4% of “serious” self-publishers are hitting six figures.

(Now we pause while I question all of my life choices….)

(Okay. Done. Let’s resume.)

So getting to six figures at all is not a given. But let’s break down another part of that statement above, the notion that it can be done with one book.

Here is a survey that Written Word Media published earlier this year. It’s not a perfect article (is it really that hard to list right up front your sample size and the percent for each category), but it’s a start: https://www.writtenwordmedia.com/author-income-how-to-make-a-living-from-your-writing/

And what I want to point out is that first graph that shows that the median number of books published by an author grossing six figures or more is 28.

These authors are in the six figure range based on sales of all of their titles. Not one title. ALL of them.

(Now here’s where I pull a number out of my ass.)

Let’s assume that the median net income for those over-six-figure authors is $280,000. I think that’s probably way too high but it’s nice math and no one is going to yell at me for being too stingy with the number.

Okay, then. So if the median net income is $280,000 and the median number of titles published is 28, that’s $10,000 per title on average in a year.

Sure, a new release might take up the bulk of that, but the few six-figure authors I’ve heard throw around actual numbers for new releases talk about earning $30,000 with each new release or having about 7,000 sales at release.

So, $30K to each new book. Three or four books per year released. That’s $120K if it’s four books. The other $160K for the remaining 24 books in the backlist.

And, honestly, that’s not even how it works. The 80/20 rule is alive and well with publishing. Most authors are going to see that only 20% of their titles really perform well and that those titles make up 80% of their income.

So in a given year an author with 28 titles earning $280K will have five of those titles that account for $225K of that income. Note: still not six figures for an individual title.

And it’s not like the $30K/7,000 sales on release are numbers that author saw with their first release. Most authors only get those kinds of numbers when they’ve built up a sufficient audience and backlist. (I looked at the top 100 authors in my genre on Amazon at one point in time and want to say that the ones who were on there long-term had at least a dozen novels out.)

There are exceptions, sure. I know an author who sold something like 5,000 copies on the first day their first novel published. But thinking that anyone can self-publish one book and make six figures on it is not accurate thinking. Especially depending on the price involved.

Assuming a title needs 20% spent on advertising to sell, how many copies would an author need to sell to make $100,000 net on that one title?

At 99 cents they’d need to sell a little over 360,000 copies.

At $2.99 they’d need to sell about 60,000 copies.

At $4.99 they’d need to sell almost 36,000 copies.

Those are not small numbers. Bookbub which is the god of mailing list promos, has an average of about 3,600 sales for its biggest category. So if Bookbub can get you 3,600 sales at 99 cents where do the other 357,000 sales come from to hit six figures?

Also, I doubt this number is true anymore because of so many authors selling at lower price points, but the number I used to hear thrown around was that the average published book could expect to sell 200 copies.

Compare that 200 (which I think was a trade-pub number) to 36,000 copies. That’s a lot of difference.

And if that 200 number was accurate and was derived from trade publishing that’s for a well-packaged product (in general) that was written to a standard that passed muster with multiple levels of professionals. That’s a product that is supposed to sell.

So. Summarizing point one: Yes, there are authors who make six-figures. And they may even do so on a single novel over the lifetime of that novel. But most authors at that level have many novels to their credit and are making money across their entire catalog as opposed to from one single title. Also, the number of those authors as a percent of all authors trying to self-publish is probably far smaller than most people want to believe it is.

On to our second point. The myth of the seven-figure advance. I don’t even know where to go for this information. I tried. And I found an article on one YA series that attracted a seven-figure offer. And another article on some literary novels that had done so as well. And one on an established fantasy author whose books have been made into movies who was given one on their latest series. So those offers do happen. And if I were willing to pay for a subscription to Publishers Weekly I’d probably find more.

But they don’t happen often.

I am pretty sure that some of the self-published authors who did really well with self-publishing have been offered that much, but it was after doing really well with self-publishing already. To the point where the offer probably seemed like less than they could do for themselves financially and they only considered it for exposure to a new audience or access to markets they couldn’t readily access themselves.

But for a new author going the trade publishing route to expect seven figures? Oh no. Last I checked average advances for new authors were somewhere in the $5,000 to $10,000 range and maybe heading lower. And that’s for the publishers that even pay that kind of advance. A friend of mine signed with a smaller publisher and I think their advance was under $1,000.

(Now that’s where you say, I’d be better off self-publishing, thanks.)

So, summarizing point two: A seven-figure advance is going to be very rare. It is not something to expect in any way, shape, or form. It is certainly not a reason for turning down a six-figure offer.

And a further note here. There are many paths to publication. Trade pub is one. Self-pub is another. There are definitely authors who have done well as hybrid authors. Ilona Andrews is one who comes to mind. But when starting out it is best to pick one and pursue it exclusively.

The two paths are different beasts that have different rules and different challenges. And in a sense different tastes and expectations. At least on the fiction side. I like to say, and maybe it’s not 100% true, that on the trade side they’re always looking for “same but different”. They’re asking, “How is this book different from the hundred others I’ve been shown this year? Why would someone get excited about this particular novel?”

On the self-pub side a lot of the readers want more of X. They don’t need an author to change things up or advance the genre in some way. They liked X, they want more of X. (Not always, yada yada, but there’s certainly a component of readers that self-publishers “feed” by giving them more of the same.)

Which means a book that could make an author good money on the self-publishing side at 99 cents and in KU quite possibly would attract no interest at all on the trade publishing side.

So wrapping this up. I think one of the biggest challenges to being a writer is to learn enough to have realistic expectations. I certainly failed at this early on and it’s probably why I’m still here. But the other challenge of being a writer is remaining confident despite knowing enough to have realistic expectations.

There’s no harm in hoping or aiming for that seven-figure advance. Or that title that just breaks out and sells more copies than you could’ve ever dreamed it would.

Just try not to let it ruin you if the reality is closer to the norm than you’d wanted.

Learning To Put Up A Wall

I just responded to a post on another blog that was asking for some how-to-write book recommendations and earlier today I had a Strengths coaching call (I’ve stepped back from coaching for WBF, but I still do private coaching), and I realized that one of the essential skills I’ve had to learn and am still learning as a writer is how to put up a wall against well-meaning advice that doesn’t fit me.

One of the key benefits for me of taking the initial Write Better-Faster class with Becca Syme was that it walked me through how I was a specific type of writer (an almost complete pantser) and how other writers were not.

That let me put up a wall against advice that would work for a plotter but not a pantser.

So, for example, the presentation I watched where an author pulled out their two-inch-thick, three-ring binder that they spend six months preparing before they ever write word one, was not a presentation for me. I was able to put up a mental wall and let that just flow right on by.

But for someone else, that could be an absolutely great approach.

Same with advertising advice.

I’m a huge advocate of using AMS ads. It fits my Strategic Strength and makes my anti-social Relator happy. But it’s become clear to me that there are some people who are not well-suited to using AMS ads. Just like I am not well-suited to throwing book birthday blog blasts or (shudder) live-posting a video in a Facebook group.

I’m convinced that part of the journey of finding your successful writer path is learning how to put up a wall against the bad advice that isn’t going to work for you.

The author I was coaching today can write a novel a month without breaking a sweat. And those novels are good enough to sell tens of thousands of copies upon release. So that author needs to put up the wall against the “you can’t write fast AND good” crowd.

But other authors I’ve coached need lots of time to ruminate on their plot and polish it until it’s a shiny jewel before they ever start writing, so they need to put up a wall against the “just sit down and write and the story will come” crowd.

There is no one true way to do this. And sure there can be room for improvement here or there, but honestly the biggest struggle I’ve seen in my coaching is the author who is working against themselves because they can’t put up that well against well-meaning but bad (for them) advice.

So find who you are and then build your walls and move forward doing what works for you. (Unless you’re high in Woo or Connectedness and the idea of building a wall to keep others out is horrifying. Then don’t. See how that works?)

 

 

Almost 2020 – Ten Lessons I Learned

I keep trying to write a post about how it’s almost 2020 and a decade has passed since I left my last full-time job but those posts keep getting way too deep for what I wanted to put up here.

So let’s try this again, with just a focus on the writing and some numbers. That should be safe enough.

A decade ago I hadn’t even written my first novel. But in 2011 I finally did. And then in 2013 I wrote a non-fiction book I knew I’d never query traditionally, so I self-published. There were some interruptions in there, like a seven-month consulting project when I didn’t write at all, but six years after that first self-published title…

I currently have two romance novels, four cozy mysteries, and a YA fantasy trilogy published as well as a series of billionaire romance short stories that continue to sell despite my efforts to ignore them. That’s on the fiction side.

On the non-fiction side I have way too many books about Microsoft Excel as well as books about Microsoft Word and PowerPoint. I also have a book on budgeting, a cookbook, a series of books on dating, another on puppy parenting, and a handful of books on self-publishing and/or writing. There’s also a book on data principles that probably needs to be renamed but won’t be.

I had also published but have mostly unpublished at this point a large number of short stories and a book on grief.

Maybe not surprisingly given my background, my most profitable titles have been on the non-fiction side. Six of my top ten most profitable titles are non-fiction. But there are two fantasy novels and a romance novel and those damned billionaires rounding out the top ten.

I didn’t do any of this right. I spent far too much time writing short stories when I should’ve just gone for novels. I had way too many pen names to be sustainable. I didn’t try advertising to any real extent until I was four years into this journey and when advertising would have been far more effective if I’d tried it in year two or three. I didn’t focus in one genre let alone one niche in one genre. I didn’t follow-up on my successes the way I should’ve. I changed direction too often.

But after all that mess I’ve found some small success the last couple of years. I just hit 45,000 units sold as of November and $50,000 in profit. (Which if you do the math is not a full-time living even when concentrated in the last couple of years, but we won’t go there. I should clarify that that’s not enough for me. Some people would be happy to earn $25K a year. I’m not one of them.)

But it taught me a few interesting lessons along the way.

One, you don’t have to write in the biggest market to make money. My romance sells, but it costs a lot more to sell than other titles because of the level of competition which means either rapid release or low profit margins.

Two, writing to a hot market or hot genre will get you more organic sales. I don’t advertise those billionaire stories, but the collection still hit my top twenty-five most-profitable titles this year, and when the first one released (in 2014) it really did sell itself.

Three, I believe in advertising. Others may not have to (although why you’d see initial success without advertising and not find a way to exponentially increase that success by advertising is beyond me), but for me advertising is essential. It gets my books in front of their potential audience.

Four, I personally can’t write what doesn’t interest me. I wrote that first billionaire story as a lark. Wrote and published it in a day. But it was like pulling teeth to get myself to write the next one. And when I did write the rest of that series, I didn’t follow the tropes. My girl from the wrong side of the tracks went and started her own business so that when she finally got together with her billionaire they were on an equal-ish footing.

(I’ve recently come to believe this might have something to do with archetypes. I think the billionaire romance scenario often, but not always, is exploring the orphan archetype and I think I’m more in line with the warrior archetype or the seeker or sage archetypes. So adventure fantasy? Yes, please.)

Five, while being laser-focused helps–I’ve certainly seen more authors find success by writing in a series or in a specific niche–it’s also worth trying something else. I wrote the first Excel books because I was annoyed that authors didn’t know how to use pivot tables and I was tired of hearing people say they couldn’t figure out how many books they’d sold on Amazon. I expected the generic books about Excel to sell less than the one for self-publishers. But that series has been ten times as profitable for me as any other series even though it turns out not many authors bought the book that was written for them.

I’ve also seen a number of authors level up by switching to a new genre. I can count at least three that I know of that did it this year.

Six, when you write in a smaller niche competition can destroy your profits. I was so happy to see the success I had with the Excel titles that I blogged about it. Within a year at least three other “authors” had entered that same small space. They didn’t find the success I had initially. They just took some of a very small pie for themselves and drove up advertising costs so that every single sale was less profitable than before.

Seven, whatever you write you have to satisfy that readership. And what each readership wants is different. For non-fiction my books satisfy readers when they meet them at their current knowledge level and move them forward. Those who don’t know enough yet will be dissatisfied because the book starts too far ahead for them. Those who already know most of what I’m sharing will also be dissatisfied. With fiction it depends on what genre you’re writing. Cozy mystery readers are more concerned about getting the facts right than contemporary romance readers, for example.

Eight, you have to focus on your readers. It’s easy to see a negative review and think you should change the book to satisfy that reader. But often doing so loses you the readers you already have. Obviously, if a book only has negative reviews and they all say the same thing, there’s probably a craft issue there that needs to be addressed. But if ten readers say they loved the X in the book and one says they hated it, don’t change that. Not every book is for every reader.

And keep in mind that there is a very vocal minority in some genres that make it seem like everyone cares about X. They don’t. The average reader is just out there buying the books they like and keeping their opinion to themselves or sharing it with people they know in real life.

Nine, attitude matters. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. And I triple-majored at Stanford while working full-time. And got an MBA from Wharton while working more than full-time. Not to mention growing up with a terminally-ill parent. It’s not like I haven’t faced challenges before. But writing almost seems designed to erode your self-confidence. You have people very publicly commenting on everything you do.  (If you’re lucky enough to do it well enough for someone to care at all.)

As an author you’re struggling for one of a very limited number of spots at the table. Most writers do not sell. Actually, most writers do not even finish their first novel. Those who do and get it published in one way or another, generally don’t sell all that well once they do. And even for those who do sell and do sell well, you’re never certain it’ll last. And even for those who get to the point where it will last or where they’ve done so well the mortgage is covered for life, well that just opens you up to a whole new level of criticism where people say you can’t write or are biased or complain about what you chose to write about or didn’t choose to write about.

Some days the only thing that is going to save you and keep you moving forward is your attitude. So make sure that you surround yourself with those who believe this is possible. Not probable, you don’t need Pollyannas around you, but possible. If you are struggling and those around you all say, “Well, it’s not like you could honestly expect to make a living at this,” that’s the wrong group of people to listen to. You want the ones who say, “Well, you knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but people do it every day. So what can you change?” Or maybe, “You’re closer than you think, just keep going.”

Ten, because I already have nine, so why not make it ten. This is a marathon. You have to find a sustainable pace for yourself. What you can handle day in and day out. There’s nothing wrong with sprinting to get started, because backlist is powerful and so building up ten novels fast is going to really help you, but at some point if you’re operating in the red you are in trouble. Don’t sacrifice your marriage or your relationship with your kids or your friendships or your sanity for your writing. And do not jeopardize your health for it.

Yes, for some writing is a passion they can’t imagine not having in their lives. But really, it’s not enough in and of itself. You need more. Make it a priority, but don’t make it everything.


So there you have it. Onward to 2020 and the decade it brings with it. I expect change of some sort or other. Then again, I always expect change. It’s the one constant in life.

 

 

 

 

A Talk Worth Listening To

KKR posted the footage of the talk she gave at 20BooksTo50K this year and I think it’s well worth listening to for every aspiring creative. The link below is to her website which has the YouTube link because I also think her business posts are worth following as well.

https://kriswrites.com/2019/11/30/my-talk-on-perfection-at-20books/

One of the two quotes I wrote down from the talk is worth mentioning:

“If everybody loved your story, it’s mediocre.”

I will admit I make the mistake of reading my reviews. Even though I have seen time and time again that they don’t drive my sales. They might convince someone on the fence one way or the other, but honestly I do not believe that most people buy or don’t buy my books because of the reviews.

And I think the myth that a certain number of reviews gets you Amazon promotion is wrong. That’s misunderstanding cause and effect. If you organically get enough sales to generate a certain number of reviews then sure that may catch Amazon’s attention. But the reviews without the sales? No.

Anyway. Because I make that mistake, one of the things I have to remind myself of is this:

My books are not for everyone. This is especially noticeable in fiction. Theme, voice, style, all of that plays into whether or not someone will like a book. (With non-fiction it’s more a question of whether the book met the person’s knowledge level although style still comes into play.)

And in the same way that not everyone likes me as a person (I’m a licorice personality, you either like me or you really don’t), not everyone will like my books.

Which means it’s dangerous to look at the negative reviews and act on them. Because those are not my readers. Those are the people who’d meet me in real life and want to change me. They’d tell me I’m too loud or too opinionated or too full of myself. Or that I shouldn’t follow my own path. Or that I should dress more “appropriately” according to whatever standard they live by.

In real life I’ve long ago dismissed those people. You don’t like me? Eh. Okay. Life is too short to try to twist myself into someone else’s ideal. I like who I am. I like my life. I’ll keep on it with it, thanks.

But with writing it’s harder to be dismissive because I’m trying to sell what I write to other people. And there is this temptation to write something that makes you likeable. That everyone can agree is “good.” Even though I know from my own reading that there are hugely successful authors I love and hugely successful authors I can’t stand.

I know the world allows for a vast range of writing (and people) to succeed. But the struggle to keep other people’s opinions away from my writing is very, very real.

I don’t do critique groups anymore for that reason and am very comfortable with that decision because most are the blind leading the blind, and I’ve seen talented writers rewrite a novel every single time someone else offers an opinion to the point that they never make it past that first novel, which is a tragedy.

But ignoring the reviews is one I still struggle with. Someday I’ll get there and stop reading them. In the meantime, the other quote I wrote down from that talk was, “My book. It’s good. Screw you.”

Haha. Easier said than lived, but a good reminder. The reason each of us has a chance to succeed at this is because no one else can write what we write in the way we write it. As long as we embrace our individuality, that is.

 

Good Advice from Patricia C. Wrede

As always, Patricia C. Wrede has wise things to say. If you’re a writer or interested in pursuing your passion in some other way, I highly recommend reading her blog post from today, Getting Into It.

Basic idea of the post is that you have to embrace all aspects of your chosen path if you want to succeed at it.

The last few Strengths coaching cohorts I handled had a lot of authors who were high Relators but not high Woo or Significance or Competition. What that basically means is they were people who don’t derive energy from interacting with large groups of people. There’s no desire to win others over (Woo) or to be in the spotlight (Significance) or to win (Competition). They have the few people who really matter to them, maybe another dozen who they’re close to, and that’s basically it.

They just want to write their books and have enough people love those books so that they can make a living at it. Which means that a lot of the very vocal self-publishing advice doesn’t feel comfortable for them. They don’t want to spend hours of their day on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and all the other places that authors can go to interact with the world.

They don’t want to build a base of superfans. At least not the type who want to know everything about them. (And honestly the idea of people who are that interested in their lives is a little uncomfortable to them.)

But that doesn’t mean they can avoid publicity.

So when you’re one of those authors (like I am), you have to find other ways of reaching your audience that are sustainable for you.

Click ads work well for me. (They’re a good choice for someone with high Strategic or Analytical Strengths.)

It’s basically like saying, “Here’s a book I think you’d like” or “Here’s a book that solves your problem” and then getting out of the way and letting the customers buy it.

My readers don’t buy my books because they like me as a person, they buy my books because the books meet their need. At this point I’ve sold over 7,500 copies of Excel for Beginners and not received a single fan mail on that title. The few emails I have received were asking for additional advice or information. And that’s okay with me. They had a need, I met that need. And I met it well enough they went on to buy other books by me if my also-boughts are any indication.

For other authors click ads won’t work well because they won’t have that ability to analyze or adjust as the ads change. But that doesn’t mean they have to establish a Facebook group of fans that they interact with every day and send a weekly newsletter.

They can instead form close relationships with other authors who they then work with on joint promotion. Or they can turn it on for a few days and go to a conference where they charm people one-on-one.

And in self-publishing there are even more options available to that type of author that aren’t available to trade published authors.

Like rapid release schedules. Release often enough that you stay visible to new readers and keep the interest of the ones you’ve already found.

Or price promotions. Let Bookbub be the one that attracts all the readers and then occasionally pay to use their list to reach new readers. That works, too.

You can’t avoid the need to market your product if you want to do this as more than a hobby. But you can do that marketing in ways that fit with your personality. (And, yes, maybe that means the path is longer or slower. But at least it’s one you want to be on.)