Lately I have been feeling pretty discouraged about publishing. Book sales have been steadily dropping for most authors for the last three years or longer, as we’ve reached the plateau where everyone who was going to convert to an ereader and buy up a big library all at once has done that. I’ve never been a huge seller, but I did make some money. For instance in 2012 I made $1,800 just from Smashwords and the places they distribute to. Last year I made $600 from Smashwords* – and that was with two book releases instead of the normal one. If it continues to follow the trend, 2017 will see even less.**
Sure. Sales aren’t supposed to be why we’re writing – it’s supposed to be for the sheer love of it… well, that kind of petered out back in 2013. I’m going to make a confession: I am NOT a writer. I don’t NEED to write to feel happy, to feel complete, or to feel release. I find drawing 600 times more stress relieving, and if I am asked to define myself, it is as an artist, not an author. I’m not saying I hate it, I do enjoy it, but I enjoy it the way the average person enjoys knitting. They don’t want to spend 6.5 hours a day knitting, advertising knitting, reading about knitting trends, doing knitting takeovers, etc for 300 days a year for 9 years to wind up making $.63 cent an hour.
And yeah, it is about money. When you are sacrificing things you love (like going places, spending time with people, making real money) to do something you love, it’s called priorities – which do you love more? But when You’re sacrificing things you love for something you just like, or are even don’t like (some of the promotions) that’s not love, it’s work, and work needs fair compensation, or else you might as well be in one of those third world countries working for a bowl of rice. (Can I even buy a bowl of rice for that?)
Though, to be honest, it’s not the writing itself I’m tired of giving up for, or even the editing. I’m tired of all the selling. The fighting for someone to just LOOK at my book, the begging for them to please, please read it. The advertising, the pushing, the posting, the looking for places to advertise, the researching, the scraping up money to try to get a promo spot in the hope that someone will download the free book and maybe – just maybe – read it and then – an even bigger maybe – get the next book in the series. I’m tired of having to bribe readers to share my book*** or do a review. I’m tired of thinking of prizes just to make someone take a look – because it seems the only way a majority of readers will is if I give them free stuff (much like Mark Coker’s April Fool’s joke about paying readers to read our books). I’m tired of hearing from some newbie how they are selling sooooo many books, and they didn’t lift a finger, and if we’d all just do what they did we could make it.
Except what they did (usually) was write hot, sexy romance.
Oh yeah, romance sells. Sex sells. It creates rabid fan bases of hundreds of women who will post non stop, vote in contests, and tout the author everywhere they can. I can hardly scrape up anyone to vote for me*** – I have never won an award that took votes. I get nominated because I have some amazing fans, and then it stops dead in the water because even with those fans, I can’t compete with the triple digit army the romance writers have – and it doesn’t matter what genre you’re in, there will be some half-naked-man cover stuck in that genre to whisk away all the votes.
Bitter? No. Tired. Tired of fighting for nine years to compete in a market that doesn’t want stories, but just wants sex. Think I’m being melodramatic? Here are some numbers from AuthorEarnings.com regarding 2016 book sales (both indy and traditional):
156,101,000 – romance
.64,065,000 – thrillers/suspense
.37,857,000 – Mystery/Detective
.21,332,000 – Science Fiction
.21,072,000 – Fantasy
If you add up the total for ALL the listed genres excluding romance, you get 144,326,000, which is 11,775,00 LESS than TOTAL romance sales.
Now before I go on, I need to say this: I love romance – but when I say romance I mean REAL romance. Stephanie Beaman and Ruth Nordin write some great romance, for instance (there are others, of course). It’s romance with good relationships, characters you root for, and enough steamy scenes to keep the people who are reading for that purpose interested. BUT – and there is always a but – that’s not the kind of books I’ve been seeing lately. While doing any authory thing – or even just checking Facebook – I spend all day looking at book covers slathered in half-naked men and women, titles about private body parts or that have to have twinklies marking out half the words, campaigns with tag lines like “Banned from Amazon for being too HOT!”, teasers where the hero runs his tongue over the heroine’s body, bends her over tables, or where the heroine carries on about being so horny she needs to go home and play with her dildo because she needs some c*** – Just O.M.G. I wouldn’t TALK like that, let alone write it. But check their sales. Check their reviews. They have piles of both, all carrying on about “OMG! This was so HOT!” As if hot is the only reason that books were ever created.
Yeah, it’s petty, but I’m just tired of it seeing someone bust on the scene, write two books, sell hundreds of hot, hot copies, then run around telling everyone that they know how publishing works, and they put in soooo much hard time for all those months… Pffft. I’ve been at this for nine f***ing years (there’s my twinklies!). I don’t even know how many things I’ve had to miss out on, how much of life I have not gotten to live, all because I am busy promoting, working, promoting, working, promoting, etc. Not to mention I am beyond sick of trying to keep up the author facade. I am tired of not being able to give my political opinion, or my opinion on ANYTHING (this blog is even a huge risk), for fear of pissing off some troll who will then rally their troll friends to bomb my books with one star reviews. Think that doesn’t happen? I unfriended a person on Facebook just yesterday who had a call to action asking everyone to do this to a romance author because said author “admitted to voting for Trump”. Yep.
Now before you say, “Well, if you don’t like it get out,” – which would be my reply – I’ll tell you: I’m thinking about it. This is the last book in my series, and I’m taking a year off after that****. I’m planning to write some short stories during it – I have a collection I’m 1/3 of the way through – because those are still fun to me, and they are free, so I don’t need to try to promote my ass off for them. After that…I don’t know. I have three stand alone books and a trilogy (all in the same Amaranthine universe) that I have ideas for, but we’ll see what happens. I may decide I’d rather learn to animate and leave Amazon to all the hot, hot sex books.
If you think I’m being bleak, take a look at Mark Coker’s predictions. Sorry folks, but it’s not getting any better, any time soon. It’s the time that separates the wheat from the chaff, and after nine years, I am starting to feel pretty chaff-y.
Have a wheat kinda day!
*I do realize that I’m still doing better than a heck of a lot of authors out there, though after 9 years at it, I probably should be doing better than someone who just started out a year or two ago.
**If you add in my “amazing” Amazon earnings of $551, that means in a year I made just $1,151. I can’t say for 100% how much time I spend on my books – between writing, editing, advertising, author takeovers, street team, website updating, blogging, making teasers, banners, advertising graphics, covers, formatting, creating free content to supplement the series (with the hope people will read it and then pay for the rest) …. it’s safe to say at least three hours a day and then ten plus on others. If we average that to 6 hours, multiply it by 300 days (we’re going to assume I’ve taken 65 days off, though I doubt it was that many, but it’s easier for the math) that makes a total of 1,800 hours, divide that into what I made and that equals $.63 an hour…and that’s just a rough guess. As I sit here thinking about what I *could* be making at a “real” job – or hell, even by taking my cover hobby seriously… yeah. Let’s just say it’s very discouraging.
***That’s not to say that I don’t have a few awesome fans, because I do, and they are the only reason I’m still writing book 9! Without them I wouldn’t even bother!
****From my own books, I mean. I have some with co-authors, that take place in different universes, that I’ll still work on.
About Joleene NaylorAn independent author, freelance artist, and photographer for fun who loves anime, music, and writing. Check out my vampire series Amaranthine at http://JoleeneNaylor.com or drop me a line at Joleene@JoleeneNaylor.com
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