There are signs that after the dramatic 2009 digital disruption that brought in the self-publishing tsunami, the publishing industry is stabilizing. And Kristine Kathryn Rusch, a best-selling author and dispenser of cool, much sought-after advice has even decreed on her blog in a year-end post, that 2016, is going to be "The Year of the Writer".
|Kristine Kathryn Rush's blog, click here|
Hooray! Or is it too early to celebrate? KK Rusch notes that in 2015 a lot of indie writers suffered from burnout (disclosure: my case too). But she has words of wisdom to soothe the pain:
If you’re destined to be a career writer, you’ll come back to it—or rather, it’ll come back to you. One day, a story will pop into your head, a story that needs to be told. I just got an e-mail from a long-time published writer who said that very thing. For the longest time, he thought he was done writing, and now he’s turning his attention to a new novel.So nice to hear I'm not the only one (and yes, now too I'm turning my attention to a new novel).
So why this high rate of burnout in 2015? Simple: because of marketing pressures:
- You have to market your book in every possible way, Twitter, Facebook, book tours, Goodreads, you name it - exhausting;
- You have to write your next book in the series - yes, it's a series of course, the best way to keep your readers glued to your books - and you have to do it as fast as you can, you've heard that best-selling authors come out with a new book every three months (yikes, how do they manage that?) - even more exhausting, especially if coupled with (1) above.
No surprise then that authors collapse.
But as KK Rush says, why do it? The solution to burnout is simple: write what you want. And, as she notes:
Ready to be courageous? Ready to do your own thing?
Well, maybe not quite yet. Also, there are many ways to deal with burnout. For example, you could step sideways - move into non-fiction. That's what I did: since 2014, I've moved into a lot of non-fiction writing (mostly articles about the United Nations) and working as Senior Editor for Impakter - and it's been a wonderful experience, I've come across a lot of new, hugely talented young writers contributing exciting articles to Impakter.
|Impakter - The United Nations section, click here to see.|
Meanwhile the number of readers on Impakter has grown exponentially, to the extent that it has become a lead magazine for Millennials, even exceeding the New Yorker...That has made my experience with burnout as a fiction writer a lot easier to bear!
But KK Rush does not stop there in her predictions. She has just published a fascinating analysis of what went wrong: "Business Musings: The Reactive Business Model". What she is arguing is that traditional publishers, starting in the 1970s, have been "reacting" to surprise best-sellers by imitating them. In order to survive commercially, they've churned out as fast as they could books that are as close as possible to the surprise best seller. And now, indie writers have fallen in the same trap, writing in the genre that supposedly "sells", following as closely as they can the example set by best-selling authors. And you get a slew of would-be Hunger Games, slavishly applying what KK Rusch calls the "reactive business model". And she predicts:
And of course, the "old model" - the reason writers abandoned traditional publishing and went down the road of self-publishing in the first place - is exactly that:
More and more indie writers will leave the business if their business plan is based on the Reactive Business Model.Traditional publishers have forgotten that they used to partner with writers. Writers created the material and publishers published it to the best of their abilities. Because traditional publishers are owned by large corporate entities, the pursuit of profit has become the mantra, and if an imprint isn’t profitable in the short term (five years or so), it gets absorbed, replaced, or dissolved.
Indie writers don’t have to follow that model—and shouldn’t. They need to go back to the old model.
Write what you want to write. Don’t think about marketing until the project—whatever it is—is done. Then consider how to market the project. Be creative in the marketing too. Don’t just imitate what was done before.Wise words, no doubt about it. And when writing your next book, she warns:
"Don’t act like traditional publishers and manipulate your next book to be like someone else’s success. [...] Move forward in your career. Don’t look back. Following the Reactive Business Model is by definition looking backwards.Definitely good advice.
I would only add: don't worry about marketing at all.
I know, this may sound counter-intuitive in a time when book discovery has become incredibly difficult given the large number of available titles - more than 4 million in the Kindle store alone.
The theory that the "cream rises to the top" and that the best books will be inevitably discovered has proved wrong time and again. A book, to be properly launched, needs strong marketing. A push. And of course, be ready to do it when the time comes but don't overdo it, and especially not at the expense of your writing time.
You can always do some more book promotion later, if and as needed. It may take longer for you to be recognized, but at least in this digital age, indie writers have an advantage over traditionally published authors of the past: their books don't disappear from book stores after three months, digital versions stay in the cloud forever, they have a so-called "long tail" that is (eventually) working for them.
This simple technical fact ensures that your books remain available on Amazon and other platforms as long as you, the author, don't retire them.
So hang on in there!
And Happy 2016!