December will mark six and a half years of being an author – of writing for my supper instead of dancing for it.
Along the way, there have been astounding years like 2013 and 2014, and decent ones like those thereafter, as the market has changed, and as Amazon has modified their algos to favor some titles over others. Especially telling has been the invisibility of free titles for about a year now – if you do a search, for example, for JET, you will find all the paid books listed, including the audiobook of the first title, but not the free book – you have to select the audiobook to then see it in six point script listed as free.
I’m not annoyed or surprised – I predicted that once Amazon had its way with the big 5, once indies had served their purpose as a stick with which to threaten trad pubs, it would go back to business as usual, where the lion’s share of sales went to trad pubs and Amazon imprints (a variation of trad pub), and indies had to generate far more content and work far harder for a much smaller slice of the pie.
Which is where we are today.
Oddly, I’ve never been more excited to be writing. I have several new series ideas I intend to launch next year, and am looking forward to another Ramsey’s and JET, as well as the conclusion of The Day After Never’s final arc.
This, after having penned about sixty novels since starting my career.
Anytime you can do what you love and get paid for it, you’re a lucky man.
I’ve never been luckier, even if it’s harder to make the same buck.
Nothing remains static in life, and especially not in the entertainment biz. You’re only as good as your last sale, and there’s no guarantee you ever have another one. Such is the nature of the beast. I find it keeps me on my toes, and pushes me to improve my craft and storytelling. Some find it depressing. Shrug. I’ve done a lot of things in my life, and this, while one of the hardest to succeed at, is by far the most rewarding at a self-actualization level, which offsets the peaks and valleys of income all artists must be prepared to endure.
My advice from six years ago for budding authors remains the same as it does today: write well, write a lot, and always keep your eye on the next one, not the last. Up your game every time you sit down to put pen to paper, and don’t waste your time with mediocre stories – write compelling accounts of interesting characters faced with impossible obstacles they somehow manage to overcome.
Because life’s too short for mediocrity, and there are no guarantees how many stories you are able to tell before your number’s up.
Most of all, recognize that the odds are against you, and don’t be delusional or resentful about it. Making a living from being an author is a long odds game. It is what it is. But the chances of doing so on a sustained basis have never been better, and my sense is that if you are delivering work that is exceptional for your genre, that readers can’t get from other authors, you will prosper, or at least will never starve.
In the end, that’s not a terrible deal.