Business, Indie Publishing, Inspiration, Life, Marketing, Personal, Publishing, Writing Business

Publishing In 2020: Figuring Out The Next Step

Image via Juanfer_erazo

The past few months have been a whirlwind for me, I don’t know about you. From COVID-19, toilet paper shortages to lost income, this crisis has me anxious and waiting for the other shoe to drop. Granted, this isn’t my first economic meltdown years ago, when I started writing professionally, the Great Recession hit and wiped out a ton of magazines and newspapers. I, along with many writers had to learn a new way of doing business in the digital age. But we managed and I believe we will succeed again.  However, economic disasters have a tendency to bring along change and I believe this new crisis is definitely going to bring about big changes for indie authors and here are just some of the things that I predict:         

More Publishers Will Fold 

Some traditional publishers still rely heavily on paper books and in November of 2019, Amazon, was already reducing the amount of books it was accepting into its warehouses.  Those publishers who relied on Amazon for the majority of their distribution were thrown into a tizzy.  Now ALL major retailers in the U.S. are reducing their focus on luxury items (yes books are considered luxury items) because of their struggle to maintain essential items in their stores. That means hardback and paperback book sales are going down for everyone.  Those publishers who never focused on digital products will be doomed.  Already, several employees got their pink slips at Harper Macmillan, while the CEO of John Wiley & Son’s, estimates they will lose 50 million dollars in revenue due to the COVID-19 crisis. Though the fourth quarter results aren’t in yet, it doesn’t take a genius to know times are going to be brutal in publishing.   

Authors Will Quit

Just as in the Great Recession, many authors will struggle and won’t be able to pivot. Even those who were successful may find it difficult to navigate the changes in this current environment. And those who were hoping and praying for a traditional contract may find themselves out of luck.  In fact, if you do get a contract, you may want to hire a good lawyer to look it over because chances are it won’t be the kind of contract that makes the author money.  In fact, I highly recommend authors be wary of traditional contracts after several authors have reported signing six figure contracts and only seeing a pittance of that. Like it or not, it’s the new math of the publishing industry.              

Authors Will Have To Learn New Skills

Over the past few years, the tech prophets have been preaching about the rise of A.I. and voice technology.  Soon we won’t be using our tablets and phones for entertainment and when that happens everything from blogging to publishing will change.  In fact, we are being warned by marketing experts to start uploading audio and video to our websites in order to make it searchable by the new smart speakers like Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Home devices.  This is similar to what happened during mobile revolution 6 years ago, when website owners had to scramble after the Google algorithms began deranking sites that weren’t mobile friendly.  Dubbed Mobilegeddon, many popular websites had to completely redesign their sites just to maintain their ranking in the search engine.  I predict authors will have to learn how to use voice technology for advertising, and general book marketing if they want to remain relevant in the upcoming years.            

Indies Will Have To Become Pennywise

Experts are warning us that we are not in a recession but a depression which is worse.  That means businesses will have to become lean (frugal) in order to survive.  Sure, you could pay $5,000 for a book cover but is it necessary?  Only you can answer that question. Right now, I would hold off on buying anything unnecessary unless, you had a guarantee of an ROI.   

Authors Must Exploit Their Intellectual Property

It’s no secret that billionaire author J.K. Rowling made her money not through publishing books, but through the licensing of her I.P., Rowling, had her Harry Potter books made into movies, toys and an endless amount of merchandise.  She turned her books into multiple streams of income which built her billion-dollar empire.  We indie authors need to get business savvy like our colleagues and start maximizing our work. If we don’t, this new economy may crush us.    

The Competition Will Be Fierce

In his financial forecast, John Wiley & Son’s CEO announced they were focusing on their digital products like courseware and online education to offset loses.  This means if other publishers focus on their digital products indie authors are going to have to be competitive in price, quality, as well as customer service. Hopefully, you have been working on your brand and already have a relationship with your readers.  If not, now would be the right time to work on that.  The one thing that indie authors have done right over the years is develop their brand. Most indie authors have mailing lists, social media accounts and even beta readers.  Meanwhile, most publishers don’t have any connection to their readers and rarely promote their books.  This might change soon and that’s when the paradigm will shift.  Indie authors may find themselves competing for ad space, social media and even influencer attention. This could drive prices up so high that authors may find themselves shut out of certain opportunities.  Remember work on your brand, if you want to thrive at a time like this.  

There Will Be More Disruptions

Even if they find a vaccine or therapy for COVID-19, the damage to the economy worldwide has already been done.  People are already losing their jobs after returning from quarantine and it’s being predicted that if a vaccine isn’t found there will be more waves of infections. So just as we are emerging from quarantine, we may have to return if another wave hits.  For those with children, health problems and family members who rely on them, this will be a challenging time financially, as well as emotionally.  I recommend if you have a line of credit or can secure government loans or financial assistance, you may want to start looking into that now BEFORE things get dire.      

There Is Hope

Before you quit and crawl into a hole, remember if you’ve been slowly building your business, you can ride this out.  Some authors are reporting strong sales because people are stuck at home bored and reading more books. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to go hard on the marketing right now if you have the time and financial resources.  Another approach would be to keep your head down and write more books.   

However, if you are having a difficult time during this uncertain period, you should step back and take care of your own emotional and physical needs first. If your family or community needs you then your responsibility is to them. Your work will always be there when you come back.    

No matter what you decide on, remember you can survive this.  Your career isn’t over, the publishing industry will find a way out of this mess like it always does and life will go on.  Granted, it won’t be anytime soon but we will see better days, and this prediction you can take to the bank.     

Life, Personal, writing

Gifts for Indie Authors

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Pic via Pexels

It’s the holiday season and everyone has their list of wants. Knowing that many indie authors are living on a shoestring budget, I knew those: “What to get a Writer for the Holidays” articles just won’t do.  Let’s be honest, many of them are silly and rather unrealistic. I mean, who wants a $25 t-shirt with literary quotes that will just wear out in 6 months? I don’t. Besides, you could get some pretty sweet stuff that can help with your writing career for that same amount.

I’ve considered the problems the typical indie author has like; social media, cover design, and proof reading, so I went on a mission to find things that could make our lives better.

P.S. I am in no way affiliated with the companies or products mentioned.

Anti-Social Media Software

Social media is a big problem for a lot of authors because it often becomes a time suck. For years your solutions were either to unplug your modem or disable the wifi on your computer. But what if you’re a writer who needs to do research and interview people online? Disconnecting from the entire internet is irrational. Luckily, there is now software you can download that will temporarily block social media sites and other places you like to linger and it won’t cost a lot of money. Here are just a few of places to check out:

Freedom: This software is for both Windows and OS operating systems and can block up to 8 hrs at a time and only costs $10. There is a free trial version and a 60 money back guarantee.

Anti-Social: Anti-Social is an app that allows you to block websites that you find distracting for $15. However unlike Freedom, it cannot be turned off, which is supposed to keep you honest. Also, Anti-Social has a 60 day money back guarantee. It also works with Windows, and Mac including, Yosemite.

Stay Focused:  is an app on Google Chrome which limits the amount of time you spend on social media.  You can set it up yourself so that you only spend a specific amount of time on social media per day.  It gives you a countdown to let you know when you’re running out of time.  P.S. You’ll be asked to donate $15 once you’ve downloaded the app from the Google Chrome store.

Focus Writer: Focus Writer isn’t necessarily an anti-social media piece of software but I’m including it anyway because it gets rid of all distractions on your computer by clearing your screen so you can focus on just your writing. It has all kinds of features like; a daily word count, type writer sound effects, even timers and alarms. This one is a pay what you can type model and runs $5 – $20.

Art/Photo Editing

Many indie authors like to create their own book covers and that’s awesome, I know a lot of indies who are actually talented in this area. Many of them use PhotoShop or InDesign by Adobe but I found their new cloud service too buggy.  I was also disappointed with their customer service which comprised of a FAQ page with little or vague information.  However, if you’ve drank the Adobe Kool-Aid and love it, they have a monthly subscription service that costs $19.99 for just one app, or $29.99 for all the apps.  Be warned though, you can cancel after 30 days but after that, you’re locked in for a year.

Don’t worry, there are many other types of software out there that are similar or even better than Adobe and they won’t cost you $359.88 annually.

Pixlr is a free online photo editor that is similar to Adobe Photoshop. I’ve used it myself to edit photos for social media and this blog.

Sumo Paint is another PhotoShop like photo editor that has a free and paid subscription service.  The paid service includes cloud storage, new tools and updated apps which cost only $4 a month.  Not a bad deal either way, but try the free version first before committing to the subscription.

Scribus  is often called the free alternative to Adobe InDesign which tons of professional graphic designers use to create digital magazines, web pages, and yes, even ebook covers.

Corel PaintShop If you must have software installed on your computer, there is Corel PaintShop. It’s often compared to PhotoShop and runs around $39.00 – $49.00 on Amazon. *Warning* They do have a popup ads which is why it’s so cheap.

Grammar/Proofreading Software

I’ll admit it, I make plenty of grammar mistakes, and sometimes that hurts my work. I mean, who will take a writer seriously if they’re constantly screwing up? But have no fear, there is software that can check your work much better than MS Word and some of them are cheaper.

White Smoke
White Smoke has advance grammar, punctuation and even alerts you to repetition. They have a basic monthly subscription of $9.95 and a lifetime premium subscription of $299.99 (flat fee).

Grammarly
Grammarly is an online program that checks for misspellings plagiarism, and misused words. They have a free trial if you’re interested. If you end up loving it, it’s $29.95 a month, $19.98 quarterly, and $11.66 a month for year subscription.

Right Writer (CD)
Right Writer is another piece of software that comes in CD ROM and offers grammar, punctuation, with syntax checker. It also comes with a free video grammar course and it all costs only $29.95 not including, shipping of course.

Well there you go, some gifts indie authors need and actually want. If you know of any more useful services for authors tell me about them in the comments section.

Inspiration, Life, Personal, writing

An Indie Author’s Serenity Prayer

The past few months have been rather crazy for me, so I decided to offer up this prayer.  You can share it if you like.

 

Oh Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the bad reviews I cannot change
Courage to look at the sales graph and the wisdom to know that success never comes easy
Lord bestow upon me the sanity to write one book at a time and humility to accept editorial changes
Don’t forget to light the pathway to my desk with guardian angels who vanquish telemarketers, needy family members and those wishing to raid the candy stash
Bless me Lord with an abundance of caffeine to help me rise in the morning and to carry on through the night
Also help me to know that this is a journey and things will only happen when they are meant to be

 

The Indie Author's Serenity Prayer
Pic via Pexels

 

Life

Why I Still Apologize to My Parents for Being a Writer

Writing Books
Photo by Dullhunk via Flickr

Occasionally, I am forced to question my life and all the decisions I’ve ever made and after reading this disappointing article about the plight of authors in the U.K., I was ready to throw in the towel.  I’m just not cut out to be the next James Patterson or J.K. Rowling, I can’t mass produce (or pretend to mass produce in the case of James) books.  Noticing I was having a crisis, my mother did what any reasonable person would, she encouraged me to call my aunt who was an H.R. specialist about any openings at her company.  See, problem solved.

Just the idea of lying, I mean, exaggerating my way through another interview was not an option.  My last job interview ended in disaster, when I was asked by the HR manager what my dream job was, and I answered: writer.  P.S.  I was applying for an admin job.

Instead of arguing with my parents, I have learned to just apologize.  It saves time.  Here are just some of the things I have to apologize for…

Reason #1:  I Walked Away from a Good Okay Job

I’ll never forget the look on everyone’s face when I announced I was going to be a writer.  The forced smiles and the crack in my mother’s voice when she asked, “So who you gonna write for?”  When I told them I was going to start freelancing, those smiles became even more strained.

You see, when I was 17, I thought I wanted to write and even took a few adult writing classes but was told it was impossible to make a living as an author.  So, after high school, I took computer classes (to everyone’s relief) and learned everything you could about Microsoft products.

P.S. I never bothered showing up on graduation day.

P.S.S. I still couldn’t find work even with my new skills. Apparently, you need to have 5 years of experience to get an entry level job.  Funny, they never mentioned that in school!

I wound up getting a crappy office job making $1 more than the people at McDonald’s.  Whenever I would complain, my dad would say, “Well, it’s better than nothing!”  But in actuality, if I had just crunched the numbers, I would have discovered that I’d been better off on unemployment.  At least then, I could’ve had 24hrs I needed to build my business and would’ve been paid by the government to do it!

Reason #2:  I Can’t Even Sell My Own Book!

Not long ago, I found myself telling someone not to buy my book even though that person was my target audience.  Keep in mind, I’ve created online ads, done book tours, and even did interviews but I just can’t bring myself to scream, “Buy my book!” at unsuspecting people like a crazy old bag lady.

Reason 3:  I’ll Probably End up on Government Assistance 

Recently, on Facebook the question was asked, “What one piece of advice do you wish someone had shared with you before you started to write?”  Answers included things like:

1.     “Don’t do it for the money”

2.     “Run!”

3.     “Don’t quit your day job”

4.     “Have a backup plan career wise.”

Notice how it was all money related?  Even authors who were doing well decades ago, are having a hard time making money these days.  With no advances, small royalties, and no control, traditional publishing is becoming an impossible environment.  Back in the day, authors were selected and groomed for the industry but now, I face the same mentality I did during the recession, which is: “What have you done (sold) already?”

Reason #4:  I Talk Like I’m Crazy!

This past summer I was interviewed on a podcast where we discussed character development and intuitive writing.  The host asked, “Did you ever have one of your characters just take over?”  Me being me, answered, “Of course, sometimes I have to fight with them.”

Yeah, nobody will use that one against me in a mental competency trial!

In Closing…

There’s plenty more I need to apologize for like blogging when I should be working on my novel.  However, the fact of the matter is, I’m not sorry, never was.  If this turns out to be some silly pipe dream then I’m okay with it.  The biggest crime any dreamer can commit is wasting time, whether it be in a cubicle in corporate America, or in relationship that’s long dead.  Forbes did an article called 25 Biggest Regrets in Life and most of the people surveyed regretted not trying things that really matter to them.

Granted, no one wants be Don Quixote who comically fought the windmill, but don’t forget, he originally set out to restore chivalry.  Yearning for the days of knights, damsels and dragons he left it all behind to search for something he felt was lost.  And like Don Quixote, we all long to be something more, right?

So back to you, what are you apologizing for?

Life

Happy 2014! Enjoy Some Laughs & Inspiration