Recently, Dean Wesley Smith wrote a blog post entitled Some Days. In it, he said this:
Kris and I sort of have four basic messages to writers.This might seem familiar because it says a lot of what I wrote about last week, and, yes, this was one of the posts I read that made me come to a decision about how to approach 2016.
— We tell writers to write what they love.
— We tell writers to have fun with their writing.
— We tell writers that learning this business and craft takes time.
— We tell writers to not put all their eggs in one basket, let all readers find their work.
My focus in 2015 was all about the money.
Everyone said that you started making good sales numbers when you had three books in a series, so my major goal was to finish the third book in my Community of Faith series. Even when I hated writing it.
Everyone said that KDP Select was the best choice because of the advantages Amazon gave you by being in it. You got an extra boost in the rankings because you were in Select. People not willing to pay for your books could borrow them and you’d get paid for that. You had the ability to offer Free days and discounted days via the Countdown program. So I committed to having all my books in Select.
Everyone said you needed to be on Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest and Instagram and whatever other social media sites came along. So I’ve worked at posting to my author Facebook page and advertising in reader groups and tweeting those obnoxious “buy my book” things.
Everyone said you needed to build your mailing list above all else as a marketing tool, with little practical advice as to how to do that other than to give away fiction. Preferably an entire novel. One marketing guru gives away three novels for mailing list signups. If you don’t have three novels, it’s suggested you come up with something else to give away. If you don’t have that, it was suggested you give away deleted scenes or character sketches or something. My thought on that was always those scenes were deleted for a reason. And character sketches are like a musician playing scales before starting the performance piece. They’re warm-up exercises for the writer, not something for the reader. I have a collection of short stories I give away for list signups.
Everyone said you needed to do Facebook ads and BookBub ads. I tried that. The Community of Faith series is too niche market for Facebook ads to work well. In attempting to target an audience, Facebook didn’t even recognize the authors who write books most like mine. BookBub rejected me, but I did run two paid ads with EReader News Today.
I spent innumerable hours listening to marketing podcasts and going to the free webinars on various promotional topics. I didn’t enroll in any of the paid classes they were selling because the prices on those were too high for my budget. But you will remember I signed up for James Patterson’s MasterClass. Because I wanted sales like James Patterson.
Not to write like James Patterson. Just to have his sales. Or something resembling them.
In addition to indie authors moaning about falling sales, there are been several blog posts which essentially have said The Future Looks Bleak.
Last month as I was totaling up my sales and looking at how the year had gone, I saw that despite all this focus on making more sales, overall I was still in the red. As you might imagine, that was incredibly depressing. All of that effort, all of that change in focus, and I was only marginally closer to earning money from my writing.
Then, as I was writing my NaNo novel, I realized that had become as much of a chore as the marketing was. NaNo is supposed to be fun. For me, it’s all about recapturing the joy of the creative flow. Only this book wasn’t. I was too focused on it being the third book of the new series, and mentally trying to figure out my release dates for the three novels, and how I would accomplish those as quickly as I would need to in order to ride the 30-60-90 day cliff wave.
It appears as if the indie world has set its own set of publishing rules. You don’t dare publish a book without a professional editor, a professional cover, a professional website, a mailing list, a free offer, a Facebook author page, paid advertising, etc. or you’re doomed to failure. In each case, read “professional” as “costs a lot.” And, if you only took so-and-so’s six hundred dollar marketing course, you’d learn the secrets of how they sold a gazillion books. And their course, which seems to be where most of them are making the bulk of their income.
Despite all of my efforts, I hadn’t achieved my goal. In fact, it looked like I was going to have to start spending my retirement money to (perhaps) be a successful author. Because a technique that works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another. So, not only was I not going to earn extra money, I was going to have to spend more and enjoy writing less. Which was when I realized there was something wrong with this picture. In other words, I had reached the “What’s the Point?” phase.
2015 was The Year of Being a Professional. I set publishing deadlines and word count quotas and learned how to market books.
I’m declaring 2016 The Year of Being a Writer. I’m going to follow Dean and Kris’s advice and write what I love and have fun doing it. I’m going to release my books on Nook and Kobo and iBooks. And I’m going to take some writing classes from Dean and Kris, who actually grade assignments and seem to be able to teach that next level of writing.
Oh, and it’s also the year of being a creative entrepreneur. Instead of scrabbling for money to pay for all those “professional” services, I’m going to craft my own covers and create books with nicer interior designs and play with picturing my imaginary worlds. And if all of this means I miss a thirty day cliff or seven, I’m not going to worry about it.