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Saturday, December 13, 2014

Changes in Publishing - Part Two

By Maggie Lynch

***If you missed Part One, click on this link Changes in Publishing, Part One

What does all this mean to the individual author?


It means you have to think in terms of the long game. You don’t write a book (or even a short story) for next week’s or next month’s sales spike; and there’s no way to even see a trend before it’s gone. 

One could read all of the above and simply throw in the towel and say “I’m not writing anymore. I can’t make any money.”  However, I would suggest the author’s response to this should be NOT to play the short-game. 

Don’t count on book launches, short-term velocity, or deciding the value of your book on the first month’s or quarters, or maybe even year’s, earnings. 

Stop practicing or seeing answers to the short game. Instead focus on the long game. What is that title worth in two years? Ten years? How can it be re-used, re-purposed, re-made into new products? Duets, short stories, boxed sets, series. 

These are all thinking about long-game products and thinking about each product being more than a stand alone.


On the marketing and discoverability side, the long game approach is also very different. For example, there is no point in jeopardizing your long-term business over something that isn’t going to last. Too often authors check their sales every day and then react by trying some new latest fad to give it a boost: a Facebook or Twitter ad, a Pinterest post, a Tumblr blog, a … you name the latest new multimedia. Some subscribe to a tweet buzzer, or blast their fans with “buy, buy, buy, ” or frantically search for the secret “make millions now” scheme.

These are all temporary boosts with diminishing returns. Yes, the first time you try it you might see a few more sales, but the next time is less, and the next time may be nothing. While chasing those spikes, you’ve failed to write the next book or take into account the long-term sales results for that title.


Joanna Penn has coined a popular term for the type of author who can learn to thrive in this new publishing environment. It is: “author-entrepreneur.” I like this term because it joins both the creative and business sides that successful authors must embrace today.  Let me quote Joanna’s thinking on building an online presence.

“The author-entrepreneur” takes the long-term view, plans accordingly, and thinks ahead. For example, this is why I think relationships with other authors are so important. Some people consider social media a waste of time, but if you have a long-term perspective, you know it’s not about this one tweet, or a single blog post, or this one podcast interview. It’s about building social karma over time, about generosity that comes back to you in unexpected ways, about making friends and supporting each other on the journey. None of that is possible with short-term thinking.”

Embrace Change
Finally, I think the biggest change in publishing is the fact that it IS changing constantly. 

We are nowhere near stability or even heading toward equilibrium in the publishing game. 

We will continue to see changes in both traditional and indie options. 

We will continue to see a plethora of software solutions to speed the production cycle. 

We will continue to see power shifts among companies, countries, genres and formats. 

Authors who can find a way to continue to write great stories while being buffeted by change will be the ones to succeed, long term. 


Authors who don’t become obsessed with the latest gadget, marketing campaign, or promises of riches, will be the ones more likely to succeed in the long term. 

Authors who are willing to take chances, to experiment a little but always verify results, are the ones who will learn to be on the leading edge of change instead of hanging onto the tiger’s tail and bouncing between the earth and the sky.


Like most things in life, authors who can find some semblance of balance of creativity, business acumen, and a match with their core will now be more successful. Learn how to exercise control where you have some power and to let go of control where you do not.

And remember what brought you to writing in the first place. It probably wasn’t riches or fame. Get back to that person—that person who wrote because she had a story that wouldn’t leave her alone, or wanted her voice to be heard in a medium that has long-term staying power, or simply loved the shape of words and sentences and paragraphs. Don’t lose the core and all that flows from that will help you adapt as matches your need.


MAGGIE LYNCH
Maggie Lynch is the author of 15 published books, as well as more than 35 short stories and numerous non-fiction articles. She is also the founder of Windtree Press, an independent publishing cooperative.
Visit her online at http://maggielynch.com
Maggie's love of lifelong-learning has garnered degrees in psychology, counseling, computer science, and education;  and led to opportunities to consult in Europe, Australia, and the Middle East. Since 2013, Maggie has enjoyed the luxury of writing full-time. Her adult fiction spans romance, suspense, and speculative fiction titles under the name Maggie Jaimeson. She writes young adult fiction under the name Maggie Faire.  Her non-fiction titles are found under Maggie McVay Lynch. 

6 comments:

Judith Ashley said...

Wise advice, Maggie. While I'd be thrilled to shoot to the top of the charts, I'm in it for the long game - running the marathon nor the sprint.

Having that perspective makes it easier for me to focus on finishing this book and looking at the next one so I have a back list of titles for when I am more visible.

I've heard several numbers relating to visibility - you'll begin to see an increase in sales when you have 6 titles, 9 titles, 15 titles published. What's your take on that in this current publishing environment?

Diana McCollum said...

Another great blog post, Maggie! EVery thing you've said makes sense! I started last year slowly building my on-line presence and have seen a huge increase in traffic to my web and blog pages. Still I continue to write, because I realize the more I have available the more likely I'll have more sales!

Sarah Raplee said...

Thank you for the reality check, Maggie! It's hard to avoid getting sucked into the whirlpool of constant promotion.

Stying true to your core: that's the ticket. Knowing yourself, what makes you happy, enjoying the journey.

Echo Ishii said...

I'm a new writer and I felt (still feel) completely overwhelmed by so many 'do this' and 'do that' promo. I'm going the slow and steady route and working on improving my writing craft, networking, and thinking long term.

Maggie Lynch said...

Thanks everyone. I'm glad you have found this helpful. In answer to the question of when do you start to be discovered, I say (like everything else) it depends. It depends on the genre--genre-centered erotica, contemporary romance, or historical romance moves faster such as five or six books. However, that means you are writing exactly in the center of the genre (which hardly anyone does). If you are writing thrillers (not romance) then it could be three books or seven books -- again depending on what part of the thriller genre is hot. If you are writing cozy mysteries, it could be ten books. If you are writing paranormal, magic it could be six or seven books. You see, it's really hard to come up with one number that makes sense for everybody. And for each of those numbers above it means you are writing in the CENTER of the genre--not veering away from tropes, not changing it up or adding in a second genre. It depends on what else you've written.

It also depends on if you came with any following at all. I have several friends who wrote for Harlequin before and had a following of 5K-7K readers. They went indie in exactly the same category type books they were writing before and dropped initially to about 3K readers and to build from there. Why the drop? Prices. A significant number of readers bought the monthly packages of four category books (which is the equivalent of about $3-5 per book. I know some people who are so networked with work colleages, women's groups, etc. that will buy everything they put out.

For me, I had none of that for my fiction. I have a large family--maybe 100 relatives actively talk to me. On my first book about 50 of them bought. On my second book about 30 of them bought. By my third book it was only ten (that means my 8 siblings and my mother). So even relativces who love you don't buy every time because they don't read as much as I do.

For me, I started to get some traction after my fifth book. But some traction means I went from selling 50 books in a year to selling 500 books in a year. I really saw a jump after my 11th book. I believe that is because I then had two series going. I suspect that when I complete those two series in 2015, I'll see another huge jump. You would be surprised how many readers wait until a series is completed before they buy.

Also, for those who write in multiple genres, it takes longer. Even though there are some cross-over readers, it is not significant. For me, it is like having three different careers. My adult romances are one audience. My YA fantasies are a different audience. And my non-fiction is yet another audience. So, even though I have 15 books out, the reality is that in one career (adult romance) I have a 5 book career. In YA Fantasy I have a three book career. In non-fiction I have a 5 book career. In SF, I have a 2 book career and lots of short stories.

In reality, though saying I have 15 titles is true, my career right now is really a five title career at the most because that is the highest number I have in a genre slot.

These are all decision points in a career. A lot of wonderful people told me "pick one genre and stick with it." They are right. It would have made it easier. I may have made more money earlier. But that is not who I am. I need to write in more than one genre. I need a break after finishing a book and that break consists of writing a book in a different genre. Perhaps I have paid a price for that, but in the end it will all work out. It keeps me fresh and excited and wanting to sit down and write every day.

It's the long game--and I mean years long. If you are in it for short-term gain (to buy your mortgage that month, to buy a car, to take that vacation, to get your husband off your back because you are spending so much time writing), you will be disappointed again and again. Less than 1% of authors make it big. Hang in. Keep writing what you love. Keep improving and keep putting out books on a predictable and regular basis, and you will start to make money.

Christy Carlyle said...

Thank you, Maggie. I am always inspired and informed by your words of wisdom.