The Best of Times and the Worst of Times

faulknerquote

Forgive me for borrowing the title from Dickens. As you may have guessed, the context, however, is entirely different. I’m talking about publishing.

Truly it’s the best of times for those of us who burned out trying to find a commercial publisher. I remember how excited I was when I found out you could publish your book on Kindle and even more excited when Create Space came along so you could actually hold your book in your hands. Long ago I discovered that, like so many other parts of life, finding an agent, much less a publisher, was quite political. I’m sure you’ve encountered books that were commercially published that sucked worse than a day-old calf. Just the memory of a few I remember is enough to make me shudder. So bringing the DIY world to self-publishing without the thousands of dollars required for a vanity press was like a gift from Heaven.

However, there was definitely a downside. First of all, there’s the competition. In the days when books were only available in, well, bookstores, there was limited shelf space. Thus, most books had a shelf life of about six weeks with a print run of a few thousand copies. Then they were remaindered, i.e. sent back to the publisher, sold to the highest bidder or perhaps the covers ripped off and tossed. Bookstores could only hold so many books and your chance at fame were thus limited.

Now, thanks to e-books as well as print on demand (POD) publishing, books are available ad infinitum, both in time and number. This is a good thing because it gives you all the time in the world to hawk your book. It’s a bad thing, because now there are literally millions of books competing with yours.

Of course when a market is saturated, that also drives down the price. It’s never been easy to make a living as an author and it’s even more difficult now. Readers have come to expect their books to be free, maybe 99c for an author they love. Even if they pay more, especially if it’s someone who prefers print books, selling a print book via Create Space’s “expanded distribution” usually earns you something in the neighborhood of $0.18.

Yeah.

And if the book is used, the author won’t even get that. Bear that in mind the next time you buy one.

As if that’s not bad enough, it costs money to be an author. Having a computer and word processor software is assumed in today’s world. But unless you can do everything yourself, there’s a matter of line editors, content editors, copy editors, book interior designers, and cover designers, perhaps even voice actors. Then there’s the expense of maintaining a website and a presence on social media, which seem to be spawning new platforms like mushrooms after a spring rain. There are book promoters, book fairs, and marketing classes, plus, to maintain your sanity, you may need to hire a personal assistant to keep up with it all. The bad news is that everyone makes money but you. The good news is that it’s a good tax deduction. Just don’t ever make the mistake by referring to it as a hobby with the IRS.

blackboard_writer2So why on Earth do we write? Because we have to. It’s something inside us that needs to come out. It’s that creative spark of self-expression that makes us feel alive. If we can share it with others, all the better. But the fact is, it’s something we’re born with and can’t deny.

Yes, it’s the best of times and the worst of times.There’s a whole lot to bitch about. But when all is said and done, being able to hold your book in your hand is priceless. The only thing better is finding a five-star review.

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14 thoughts on “The Best of Times and the Worst of Times

  1. I agree with everything you wrote! While it’s great writers can get their work out there without dealing with publishers, it’s still a pain to promote. In an effort to promote my work, I get pictures of my characters done, make my own graphics, and I want to find someone to make a book trailer for me. I’m on WordPress, Wattpad, DA, and Twitter. Honestly, it’s too much. I don’t see any payoff.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly. Most of us have to spend so much time promoting and maintaining a social media presence there’s no time to write. I wrote a blog a while back on how to make a book trailer using Power Point. You can find it here: https://marcha2014.wordpress.com/2014/09/02/tips-for-indie-writers-how-to-create-your-own-book-trailer-with-power-point/

      There are also some places that will create them for a reasonable amount. They’re fun but I’m really not sure they make that much difference, like everything else. As noted, everyone is making money in this business except the authors. What’s wrong with this picture?

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      • Thanks for links and information! Yes, I honestly feel I spend too much time promoting my stories and not writing. In fact, I’ve taken a break from the social media sites because I want to write again. It bothers me thought that readers won’t glance at an author’s book without nice graphics, shiny book cover or an already established fanbase. I’ve been writing original stories for a year and a half now and I still haven’t gotten the same amount of readers as other authors. Something is very wrong with that picture :/

        Sometimes I wonder why I bother to keep writing. My whole life revolves around my stories and I haven’t gotten any payoff =(

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      • You’ve been writing for a year and a half. I’ve been writing for around 40 years, though I suppose I should only count it since I first self-published around 2011. Clearly, it’s not an easy profession, especially if you expect to make a living from it. Starving artists represent a cliche that has been in effect for centuries. I’ve heard it takes at least five years to establish a platform and begin to see progress. Remember you’re competing with millions of other writers. MILLIONS! I haven’t gotten anything close to monetary payoff, either. I make more money in an afternoon as an astrologer than I do in a month with my books. You have to do it because you love it. Expecting overnight success and fame which happens to very few opens you up to profound disappointment. There is so much to learn about this business and for the most part it takes a lot of time, sweat, blood, patience and love of the craft. I am still learning how it works after all these years. Starting with your local markets and building a fan base within your community is one way to move forward as well as networking with other authors. We all read as much or more than anyone. Re-examine your expectations. They may be unrealistically high and setting you up for discouragement. You have to believe in yourself enough to keep trying. Very, very, very few make it overnight.

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      • Oh, believe me; I don’t think I’ll ever make it. My expectations are so low I wonder why I even bother writing anymore. I mostly write because I love creating new worlds and characters. Writing and most any kind of art is a disappointment. I have friends who are artist and barely make any money. It makes me sad, but such is life.

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      • So true. Artists have never received what they deserve, save a select few. People think any form of “art” is a “right” and don’t want to pay for it. There are those few who make millions, but the majority of us do it only because our heart would wither and die if we didn’t. The artist’s lament is as old as time.

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