It is an honor to be invited back to RTG. A few years have rolled by since I met the Genre-istas in Portland, OR at the Rose City Romance Writers. I still remember the awe I felt sitting in the same room with real published romance writers … I want to touch the nearest one, lol.
Now I am one! And 22 romance books & novellas later, it's been grand … but things change.
I was first published in 2007, just past the age of 50. I experienced the hey-day of digital publishing, when the small pubs like Samhain were rocking the romance reading world. Wow, my first paychecks were big! They continued to grow as I wrote more books, until … more publisher fish swam into the sea and they had new ways to grab their share of readers.
This thing called self-publishing happened. Market share of the publishers, large and small, began to shrink even faster as readers shrugged and said, 'I don't care where the book comes from, as long as I can load it on my e-reader and enjoy it.' My paychecks from Samhain shrank too.
I leapt into the self-publishing ocean. It was delightful! Those big paychecks returned, with a larger percentage coming to me since there was no publisher in the middle to take their share. Woo-hoo, life was once again grand.
Then, more and more and more writers began to self-publish. Wow, getting crowded out here in the romance ocean, even for those of us with marketable names. But paychecks were still big, so with some advertising and a newsletter, no worries.
Next, Amazon rolled out a feat of marketing genius (or an evil sledge-hammer with which to destroy writing careers, depending on one's perspective), the Kindle Unlimited subscription plan. My sales plummeted again as hordes of voracious romance readers leapt like sharks onto this new unlimited reading plan—and stopped buying as many books.
All the while, more writers published their works, meaning more competition. I was so discouraged … if I didn't love writing so much, in the winter of 2015, I would have quit publishing altogether and gone back to work at a library or in education. I'm still selling books, still have loyal readers, and I know I'm doing better than the vast percentage of authors now, but not making the BIG paychecks.
But I seem to need to write nearly as much as I need to breathe.
Thus, I listened to a friend and mentor, Maggie McVay Lynch who said, "Many people who are making money now in publishing aren't just writing. They're diversifying, offering services to other writers." She herself is a shining example of this, teaching on All Writer Workshops, helping writers decipher promotion and other facets of publishing. I'm taking her class on maximizing newsletter/email lists right now.
Diversification. Great idea, but what services could I offer? Hmmm, I love writing ad copy/blurbs/cover copy, and often volunteered to write it for friends and colleagues, who expressed undying gratitude for my services. So, perhaps other writers would pay me to do so?
Turns out they will indeed. In February—just as I turned 60—I opened up shop as The Blurb Queen. In that time I've acquired many clients. I'm now being paid to do another facet of the publishing biz—helping other writers highlight their stories in a few, exciting words!
Like writing good stories, writing good ad copy is hard work, but I enjoy it just as much. So I can now afford to keep writing my beloved romance, and working from my home office, which is exactly where I want to be. Now that I've relaxed a bit about the income stream, writing is once again joyous.
As George Eliot may have said, 'It's never too late to become who you might have been!'
Wonder what new marketable skill I'll discover when I'm 70??
What do YOU do to subsidize your writing career? I'd love to hear. We're all in this together, my friends.
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