When the Business of Books Steals the Joy of Books (#Profession2Passion)

It started two years ago–a disappointment here, a disenchantment there–and bit by bit, it seeped into everything: the writing groups I quit, the associations I ended, the decisions I avoided making. My natural inclination was to put my head down and write. And I did. I wrote, and wrote, and wrote. I wrote what I think is the best book of my career. I wrote new and different things. I wrote things that were a challenge, and things that were just for fun.

But then the writing part would end, and the rest would flood back in–I’d be faced with the other half of my job, the business.

I began Indie publishing five years ago, and I loved it. I studied it and practiced it and I was decent at it. Not phenomenal, but decent. I learned things that worked, I wrote books that sold, I got better. I was never bored, and I never dreamed there would come a day when I would begin to loathe the business I was so committed to.

But somehow in the last few months what I thought would never happen, did–I fell out of love with Indie publishing.

It’s not news to most devoted Indie readers, and certainly not to any Indie writer, that there have been tremendous changes in the industry since it first exploded in 2011. The market flooding, the advent of KU, the monetization of Facebook, algorithm changes, more KU–the list goes on and on.

Any author will tell you it’s exhausting. And more than that, it’s demoralizing.

There are plenty of authors who have weathered these changes and come out even better–selling more books, earning more money, gaining more fans. But there are also many who, like me, find themselves losing something at each one of these turning points–sometimes it’s income, sometimes it’s self-confidence, sometimes it’s the ability to master the newest skill needed to succeed. And I don’t use the term “lose” lightly. Because it’s a refrain that plays in my head a lot these days: you lost, you’re losing, you’re a loser.

Those incremental losses really caught up to me in the last few months. I woke up one day and my first thought was: I don’t think I can keep doing this. That’s when I knew I couldn’t ignore it anymore. It’s been a difficult few weeks, and I’ve faced some very hard choices. I don’t have all the answers yet, but I do know this: for me, the business of books has stolen the joy of them. The frenetic pace of publishing and marketing, the intensely competitive market, the unyielding social media pitfalls and online vigilantism, the constant barrage of new road blocks to cross, new tools to master, new rules and fads–all of it has eroded my love of this industry. After five years, my workplace is filled with conditions and demands that I am supremely ill-equipped to handle, and even more ill-equipped to enjoy.

So now I’m faced with yet another incarnation of this journey. What that looks like isn’t entirely clear to me. It doesn’t mean I’m going to disappear, I’ll always write and I’ll always put those stories into the world to entertain others, but where I do that and how I do that is something evolving (after I complete my contracted works during the remainder of this year of course). My initial thought is it will mean options and platforms where the parts of the business that crush my soul are handled for me. I am certain it’s going to  mean other sources of income because this was my full-time job and I have a kid in college. And in the end, I hope it means a lot less time online, a lot more time outdoors, and a life where books mean reading, writing, and friends, rather than ads, algorithms, and lawsuits.

5 thoughts on “When the Business of Books Steals the Joy of Books (#Profession2Passion)

  1. I too have grown tired of the noise. I have two books almost ready to publish, and two short works to get out after that. Then I’m taking a break from the craziness. I will keep writing of course, because it’s something my soul requires, and I’ll publish those books eventually, but I will no longer be driven. 😀

  2. I’m sad to hear that you’re dealing with burnout. Because you’re a bright person, a great writer, and an asset to the writing community, I hope you take a break to refresh yourself and return. But I do understand, since I’ve pulled away from systems that didn’t serve me after putting a lot of time and energy into them. Maybe you can help bring about some supportive change, also, with the perspective of deep breaths and time away. At any rate, good joss in your endeavors. Keep writing.

  3. Yep. This is where I was a year ago and I have since developed an IDGAF attitude about everything. I’m surprised to see this coming from you though since your change in genres seemed to go well, from the outside. But then again, appearances can be deceiving. I told a FB friend at the Sell More Books Show that I have never, ever made more than $1000 in a month, and she was shocked. “You seem to be doing so well!” Probably because I just don’t complain. But I’ve also never shouted out success either, so I thought that was a dead giveaway. Anyway, do what you need to do for your sanity. I have and it’s been good for me.

  4. These have been my thoughts exactly these past few months. I’ve been struggling with the same debate, as I’m sure many of our fellow authors are. Every time I log online I feel overwhelming anxiety, which has resulted in me avoiding Facebook and social media altogether. It’s not much consolation, but know you aren’t alone in this.
    Take care, Jackie

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