Everyone’s talking about it–the decline of the romance community, particularly the Indie world. Writers are lamenting the loss of someplace they saw as supportive, full of possibilities, encouraging. They are mourning the loss of the Golden Era of Indie publishing. Sales are down, tempers are flaring, and all the things that worked last year (and sometimes even last month) are broken. Some writers are questioning whether they want to continue doing this at all.
But things aren’t always what they seem: Because even in the Golden Era, things weren’t golden for everyone. As is the case in life in general, Indie publishing was a booming success only for a certain percentage of people. In 2011, 2012, and 2013, that percentage of people was much higher than it is today, and there were people who had never written a book before, never had a critique, never even spoken to an editor, who made money–lots of money. And they made lists–lots of lists. And they became celebrities–real, honest-to-god celebrities. People still find insta-success in Indie publishing today, but it’s many fewer people, and it’s often because they’re the besties or products of other authors who are bestsellers. The new currency isn’t a publisher, or the right blog, or even guerrilla marketing, it’s who you know.
Things have changed, no doubt about it. But there were plenty of us in 2012 and 2013 who didn’t hit a list or earn a few hundred thousand dollars. And there were plenty of us who didn’t feel all the fabulous “Indie Author love” that everyone keeps waxing poetic about. We weren’t featured on that blog that could send you to the New York Times list, we didn’t have people traveling across the country to see us at a signing, we didn’t sell thousands of books a day.
But we might have sold hundreds, or dozens, or even twenty, and that was a heck of a lot more than we would have sold if there hadn’t been Indie publishing, so we were happy too. And because we didn’t have as far to fall, we might not feel the decline as poignantly as some of the bigger stars are. My earnings are down too. My books are pirated too. I get rude readers also. But what I have to compare it to is so vastly different than the biggest Indie authors, that it doesn’t look all that awful. Because four years ago I wasn’t published, and three years ago I was only earning $100 a month, and two years ago I only had four books out, and one year ago I hadn’t hit the USA Today list yet. So hell, I’m having a hard time getting on the doom and gloom bandwagon here.
I’m a solid midlist author, and for us, the highs aren’t as high, and the lows aren’t as low. We’re the majority of writers in the business, and we always have been, prior to the Indie revolution, and today as well. We’re able to earn enough to qualify as professional, we publish books routinely, we provide the backbone membership for organizations like RWA. We’re the bread and butter of the industry, and while we might not be as glamorous as the cupcakes everyone’s more familiar with, we aren’t going anywhere, and we can provide some much needed perspective at times like these when the sky is supposedly falling (it’s not, by the way).
So authors, pull your heads out of the terribly stunted world of Facebook, and take a long hard look at your careers: are you able to write and publish what you want? Do you know other writers who you can talk to and get advice from? Have you sold a book in the last week? Then things haven’t really changed all that much, have they? Because as the old adage says: The more things change, the more they stay the same. And publishing, in all its forms, is no different.