The Sky Is(n’t) Falling

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.


20 thoughts on “The Sky Is(n’t) Falling

  1. Nice post. It’s difficult, being on FB and seeing the success of others and still searching for your own place. With that said, supporting other authors and creating friendships is important and you must learn to “keep your eyes on your own paper.” Write what you want to write. And keep doing it. The readers are out there. They will come. (At least that’s what I tell myself!) Staying positive isn’t always easy, but it’s necessary!

    1. There are readers for everything and everyone, and yes, it’s hard finding them sometimes. But it sounds like you have the right attitude, and when FB starts to get me down (because it can and does), I banish it!

  2. I hope you can hear my applause from here. At some point, talent also kicks into the equation, and while everyone wants to say they have it, that’s not always true either. The marketplace weeds out. Every. single. time.

  3. This. Last year I saw a plummet in sales. It was scary and kinda depressing. But when I stopped comparing myself to others and obsessing over numbers, and started focusing on writing and tightening my brand, things started improving. They’re still not where they were in Spring 2015, but every month is better and I keep consistently releasing new books. I think, in the indie community especially, we tend to panic easily. But I also think that employing long-term strategies rather than short-term tactics is key.

    1. It’s definitely not an easy market right now — for anyone. But yes, once you’ve been through a couple of rounds of the horrible drop, you get less freaked out by it. Lol And it is for sure a long-tail game, so you’re doing exactly the right things!

  4. I’m so low in the rankings that it will take me a few years and more books to be a midlister, but this post came at a critical time, so thank you. I talk about this with all my author friends who are struggling with sales. While I’m always questioning my sanity for being in this business, I can’t see myself doing anything else. I will keep writing and learning the craft. I’m hopeful that things may turn around, and thanks to this post, I can continue working towards it.

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