A chance in the spotlight

I’ve been doing my accounts over the holidays, which has been slightly depressing.

I first published just over two years ago, and here are my figures for the entire period to 31 December 2016.

Total downloads from eretailers, all books: 78,700

Approximate number of words published: 470,000 (around 200,000 a year)

Approximate number of hours spent researching, writing, editing, or proofreading: ten hours per week on average

Total income after all expenses: minus NZ$1,500.
(I’ve paid for developmental editing, professional proofreading, photos and cover design, advertising, and a whole heap of other things.)

So that’s it. I’m losing around $1 for every hour I spend writing stories.

I didn’t expect to make an instant success

Which is just as well, really. Like everyone, I hoped I’d be discovered the day I published my first book, but I knew it is an overcrowded market and I’m an unknown living on the edge of nowhere. I figured I needed to get four novels out there before I began to  make an impact, and the fourth is almost finished, and still several months from publication.

Big hugs to all the wonderful readers who have joined me this early in the journey. Your comments, emails, and reviews have given me the rewards and the confidence I needed to continue.

I have a publishing plan and a marketing plan, and the hope that sooner or later my writing will actually pay enough that I can do it full time, instead of fitting it into the gaps of a busy life.

Little known authors face some disturbing trends

  1. The book market is crowded, and becoming increasingly so.
    Books never go away. Ebooks and print on demand books cost nothing for the retailers to carry, and so they remain on the lists.
    The lists at Amazon abound in silliness like 50 page 99c books that finish with cliffhangers and are followed by four more of the same kind. And authors who apply keywords with every regard to finding a little populated list, and none to accurately representing the story.
    Anyone can publish, and — with the loss of traditional gatekeepers such as purchasing agents and editors — many people serve their writing apprenticeship right out in public, without any more editing than their Mum provides, and with a spellchecker their only proofreader.
  2. Amazon will dominate the market for the foreseeable future, and they serve their own interests, not those of readers or authors.
  3. Many readers expect books to be free or no more than 99c, and will complain at paying more. I say this with some trepidation I saw a comment just a few days ago from someone castigating an author for commenting about people signing up for a newsletter to get a free book then unsubscribing. “Authors should be grateful people are reading their books,” this reader said.
    Here’s why you should consider buying at least some of the books you read.
    On the other hand, I give away a lot of free stories, always have at least one free book, and post weekly on Wattpad so I can share at least some of my stories with those who can’t afford to pay. I agree with Shannon Thompson on this one.
    On the other hand, if you download pirated books, on your head be it.

What does this mean for readers?

You might not much care. Writers will continue to write, no matter whether, in the balance, they are losing money. So you’ll always have new books to read. The greats will keep writing, and you can always save for their books or get them from the library. And a few authors will persevere and have the good fortune to be picked up by libraries and prominent reviewers so you find out about them.

I’ll soldier on, too, doing my 200,000 words a year until I can retire and write full time. I’ve published three novels (and almost finished writing a fourth), five novellas, and a number of short stories, so if I could triple my output, I’d be doing that each year, once I write full time.

But remember that, in one sense, readers do pay for every book an author gives away, or every book sold at 99c (for a 35c royalty). They pay in the books the author doesn’t have time to write, because of the day job.

Can you help the authors you love?

You can help the authors whose work you most enjoy, and it doesn’t have to take much time or money. Read our books and tell us what you think of them
. Write reviews, even a couple of sentences. Tell your friends about our books. Ask for them at your local library. The world has many undiscovered authors worthy of a chance in the spotlight. And in the new world of independent publishing and ebooks, the power to direct the beam lies with you, the readers.

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14 thoughts on “A chance in the spotlight

  1. I can see how it would be so disappointing to do all that work and research and have no financial profit from it. I am a new follower from a free group book giveaway. I just read your short story sampler “Hand Turned Tales” and loved all of them except Kidnapped to Freedom. It was just too confusing to follow with so many names of people who I had no idea who they were. Which leads me to a question I have always wanted to ask an author: Do you really want reviews if they are less than 5 stars? You all ask them for them but I really hate to lower your ratings, so usually only write one if I will give it 4 or 5 stars. I notice that a lot of the free books don’t have many reviews yet so I’m sure the authors are hoping for more readers and reviews. A lot of them need a good proof reader, or editor to tell the author the truth, and could then be improved before publishing. I did not notice that about your book however. So what do you say about my review question?

    • I think people have different views, Lynn. I value all reviews, even the negative ones. I can learn from any thoughtful review that says what a person thinks. And any review adds to a book’s visibility, for two reasons. Amazon counts the number of reviews in its algorithms (or so people suspect — no one really knows). And people are suspicious of a book that has only a few reviews and those all good. Maybe it was the author’s mother and sister?

      That said, I will only give 4 or 5 star ratings, and won’t write a review if I can’t do that honestly. But I’m an author, and I’ve seen other authors accused of trying to run their competitors down by writing critical reviews. (I also don’t review all the books I do love, because I run out of time.)

      I wrote a blog post about reviews early the year before last, giving five reasons to be grateful for bad ones. http://judeknightauthor.com/2015/02/03/what-to-do-with-a-bad-review/

  2. Pingback: 8 Reasons for a Slow Start | Caroline Warfield

  3. People would never expect a free book in a bookstore. Getting free books on line is fun and exciting. But when I discover an author that I enjoy reading, I don’t have a problem
    Purchaseing their books. Yes it would be great, but totally unrealistic, for all books to be .99. Having worked in a bookstore most of my life, I love that ebooks are such a bargain. Keep writing, your wonderful books.

    • I love to give away books. But I need to sell some, too, or I can’t afford to pay the editor and the proofreader, and I won’t publish books that have not been edited and proofread. Thank you for your comments.

  4. I too love your books. I find that I will buy a book I really love, even if I have read it for free from the library or Kindle Unlimited. I feel the author deserves to have his/her book purchased.

    Your books are intelligent and well written. I sometimes wait to read one of your books when my life is not so hectic so I can savor.

    I see such idiotic books gobbled up by people and can’t understand how they are drawn to such empty nonsense. (In my opinion).

    Please keep writing.

    • I will Ann, and thank you for your comments. I have to write. My characters make pests of themselves till I need to write them donw to get them out of my head.

  5. Please keep writing. Your books are marvelous. I promise that I will continue to read, review and promote.
    I am always amazed that people will pay $5.00 for a cup of Starbucks coffee and only want ebooks for free or $.99. It has never made any sense to me.

    • Teri, your comments are always a joy, and you are one of the people who keeps me writing on days that the characters are recalcitrant and the plots get snarled and won’t go anywhere.

Love hearing from you