We are almost twenty years into the twenty-first century.
What are you waiting for?
For the time to be right? Well, the time is now. It is time for you to stop subjecting your writing to a twentieth-century time frame.
If you are serious with your dream/wish/goal of being a published author, you need to treat your writing the same way you would your retirement fund. If you plan to make any money from it, you need to get it working for you now—not later.
When it comes to publishing, the digital age has accelerated the entire process and the industry. The big publishers know this because they are too big to move around with any kind of agility. Meanwhile, small independent publishers and (gasp!) self-published authors are making gains that are impossible to ignore.
The longer it takes for you to write and/or publish your work, the harder you are making it on yourself in terms of finding your audience and making any money.
To make it as an author today, you need to keep up with the industry and your readers. If you spend fifty years writing your novel, by the time you finish your first (or next) magnum opus, your groundbreaking novel will be trite, tired trash.
Six to twelve months. In an industry that use to rival glaciers with regard to movement, these days you can practically expect change every six to twelve months. I’m talking about changes in reading tastes/trends, marketing and promoting strategies, and even more importantly—income.
Am I alarmist? Possibly, yeah, but I should know from my own experience how dragging my feet has stunted some of my growth and income as a published author.
For example, over twenty years ago, I had an idea for an erotic romance short story. I trotted it out in a writer’s group and got good feedback. I submitted it in places and got rejected because it was too taboo at the time. What was the taboo?
Sounds totally mundane and crazy today, but in the mid/late 1990s, this topic was considered too controversial and too hot to handle. I didn’t push the issue because we were years before ebooks became mainstream and indie/self-publishing became a viable option. Both ebooks and self-publishing were considered equal to vanity publishing at the time.
But attitudes and business models change. Now, in 2019, authors can have a lucrative (or at least sustainable) career and can do it going the traditional route (i.e., through a publisher of any size) or by self-publishing.
There are three areas you should pay attention to concerning your writing aspirations and staying current with the publishing industry.
Amazon is the Daddy
Whether Amazon is good or evil in general is a topic beyond the scope of this article. No matter your opinion, you need to treat Amazon as an important part of your strategy whether or not you plan to sell your books there.
I think there’s another “Amazon Correction” on the horizon this year, akin to the great Kindle Unlimited 1.0 to 2.0 change. In case you missed this bit of high drama roughly three years ago, a lot of indie authors were making A LOT of money on Kindle Unlimited—until Amazon changed its payment structure. Some authors saw a huge if not devastating decrease in their income because of it. Other authors—and those who have come along since—made adjustments and moved on.
Bezos divorce, AMI, and Trump Administration notwithstanding, “Amazon will fail.”
To be honest, I believe Jeff Bezos was trying to give everyone a subtle hint late last year. He’s not suggesting Amazon will fail in the near future, but you cannot take anything for granted in business, and businesses that are alive and kicking today can be dead tomorrow, no matter how long they’ve been around or how big they get.
Amazon is still a good place to get established and make decent money, but the longer you wait to get started, the harder it’s going to get because your competition is growing and publishing every day.
Here’s another area where waiting too long to get your work published can go against you. I’m sure you have dreams about what your cover will (should) look like. Don’t get too enamored in your vision.
By the time your book is ready to publish, chances are the trend in book covers in your chosen area will have changed. It sounds counterintuitive, but when it comes to attracting readers, you want your cover to look similar to everyone else and not out of place.
People do judge books by their cover, and if your cover goes too much against the grain, people will pass you over.
Again, I’ll use myself as an example. A few years ago I released an erotic romance novel with a very saucy—but tasteful—cover. But I was soon put into the “adult dungeon” where my book would not appear in general searches; therefore, I had no discoverability. Why? Because Amazon—and other retailers—changed their guidelines about what type of images they want easily accessible to the general public. This type of censorship was spurred on by the major credit card processors, and if there’s one thing an online retailer cannot afford to anger is its credit card processor. There’s more to this issue, but this is the effect it has created.
If I had published this story one or two years before, the cover would not have been a problem, and my book would have had much more visibility.
Years ago when I wrote my first erotic romance—it fell solidly into the subgenre of “erotic romance.” As a result, I considered myself an erotic romance writer…until recently. What passed for “erotic romance” ten, fifteen, twenty years ago merely passes for “steamy” or “dark” romance today.
When I released my most recent novel, I was out of touch and labeled my work with words like “erotic” and found my novel in Amazon’s “adult dungeon” and my sales suffered.
Look at what you’re writing today and find out if you’re writing in the genre or category you think you’re writing in. Do your market research and make sure you are current.
Knowing what I know now, I have sped up my writing schedule, and I’m in the process of rebranding some of my work so that it is current with market expectations.
So, again I ask: What are you waiting for? It’s a myth if you believe that you have to sacrifice your writing quality for writing quantity. Think of it this way. When you were learning to type, you typed very slowly. But as you continued to improve, you got faster, and your accuracy (quality) improved.
Some of you could be Amazon, USA Today, or even New York Times bestsellers by now—if only you would finish writing something and get it published!