07-14-18 Cassandra O’Leary

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Cathryn Cade: Re-Inventing Myself as a Writer

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.

Cathryn Cade
Red Hot Sci Fi/Contemporary/Paranormal Romance
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Cathryn Cade
Keep Calm and Let the Blurb Queen Fix It!


Sarah Raplee said...

It's so good to hear from you, Cathryn! Reading about your career has been interesting. I don't feel so bad about getting discouraged when I find out you've been in the same boat! I'm gathering ideas for diversifying. Haven't decided yet. Illness and family commitments have kept me busy for a couple of years.

You hit on a winner with the Blurb Queen!

Tammy Palmer said...

Hi, Cathryn. I'm glad that you found a way to supplement the income so you can focus on writing. Clearly you are far too passionate about what you do to give up. I find this inspiring. I know I'm too slow of a writer to ever make a living at it, and finding readers in a saturated market is very difficult, but not writing is not an option. Good luck with the blurb writing. It's a great idea!

Judith Ashley said...

Thanks for guesting with us, Cathryn, and sharing your journey. I'm grateful you've added The Blurb Queen to your resume because I love what you've done for me!

Barbara Rae Robinson said...

Looks like I'm getting in at the wrong time. Oh, well. I'm like you, Cathryn, I can't stop writing. Even if I never earn a penny from it. But since I've spent so much money "launching" this career, I will have to try. Another income stream--that's an interesting thought. You've definitely started me thinking.

Good luck to you in the future.

Diana McCollum said...

Thanks for sharing your journey, Cathryn! I can certainly say I'm glad you opened the Blurb Queen! You did a wonderful job with my blurb. Thanks so much. As far as extra income, haven't figured that out. I've tried selling jewelry on Etsy, didn't earn anything. Now I'm painting furniture for resale, but it is slow going and takes away from my writing time.

Paty Jager said...

Hi Cathryn! Great post! I'm glad you found a way to supplement your writing. I've had people suggested several things to me, but at this point, like you I can't not write. It makes me happy. If I make a enough to buy a saddle or things I like for the house, I'm happy. I would never be able to support myself on my writing and I've been lucky my hubby has been supportive of that. Though he wouldn't mind if I could become his "Sugar Mama". ;) You are good at blurbs. I'm glad you found a way to use your strengths to help others and yourself.

Cathryn Cade said...


You should never feel badly about getting discouraged at times. All we can do is decide Why we're writing, What we're going to change (attitude or practices) and Write On.


Cathryn Cade said...


I'm just glad you're going to keep writing! Love your stories, and always look for more of them.

But yes, we are surely not alone in supplementing our writing income majorly with other jobs.


Cathryn Cade said...


Thanks! I'm grateful to have you as a client.


Cathryn Cade said...


I continue to believe there has never been a better time to be a writer. We have so, so many options open to us with publishing, and we can write any kind of story we can imagine, and know that we'll find at least some writers for it.

You have a true dedication to craft, so don't stop now!


Cathryn Cade said...


Thanks for your kind words. I am grateful to have you as a client.

I hear you - it can take time to find other viable income streams. Best wishes in your search!


Cathryn Cade said...


Your life as a ranch woman adds such a wonderful flavor to your writing, I'm glad you have that too. Can't beat being able to buy a new saddle - they are such a beautiful and important tool for horsing around.

Thanks for your encouragement!


Anonymous said...

I'm just so PROUD of you, Cathryn. You've stuck with it through thick and thin. You've learned new skills when you've had to and you've always kept on writing. I agree with everyone else that you are a good Blurb Queen. It is a gift.

Thanks for the plugs, too. Diversity has sometimes kept food on the table for me, too. It is a different world in publishing today. For many people, myself included, there had to be a grieving process for what we thought/wanted publishing to be. But the one thing we can guarantee in our technological world is that it will change...and change regularly. Technology changes about once every 8 - 12 months. Because publishing is now very technology driven, it means to keep up we all have to grow and change at that same pace. It's not big change. It's incremental change. That is it's incremental if you do something a little different each year.

If you refuse to change for four or five years and THEN try to catch up it is quite painful. But it can be done. I see it happening all around me as authors like you, who used to have good careers with traditional presses from small press to NY big companies, join the indie publishing world.

You are a wonderful example of sticking to it, learning when you have to, or biting the bullet and getting help form others so you can keep writing. And all the while you still find a way to smile.