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Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

I try not to, but often I find myself dwelling on the changes that have taken place in the romance writing industry in recent years. Back when I first started seriously pursuing writing, we had never heard of an e-publisher. The RWA chapter I belonged to wasn't on Yahoogroups. The internet wasn't the end-all of communication and information it is now. Man, how times have changed. 

The question is, have they changed for better or worse? I guess the answer depends on who you ask.

Let's look at the negatives first, because I'd rather wrap this up on a positive note.

The economy is a big factor. Mass market sales are down. Therefore, advances are down. The authors who've been at this for a while are forced to write more and more to make the same money they were pulling in a few years ago. Midlist authors and those even farther down the ladder are being dropped like hot potatoes. Many are resorting to alternate avenues of publishing--small press, electronic, and even self-publishing. It's become commonplace to me now to run across authors who used to publish with the big, mass market publishers and find them on the lists of the small electronic/pod publishers. What many wouldn't even have considered doing a few short years ago has become the norm. (and we all thought this e-publishing stuff would never catch on) With more and more authors publishing with the small electronic presses, the competition for sales has grown fierce, and the contracts with the big boys in New York are more coveted than ever and increasingly harder to get.

Sounds pretty bleak, doesn't it? By all accounts I've seen and heard, the entire industry is in a tailspin. I'm curious to see how it all ends up, and yet I'm almost afraid to watch.

Okay. I said I'd end this with the good news, so here it is, for what it's worth. With the influx of all these electronic and/or print on demand publishers, nearly all of us can now be published. Yippee. Right? Well, the downside is that the money is nothing to brag about. There are quite a few exceptions, of course, but on average the electronic and print on demand published author will spend more on trying to promote her book than she will earn in royalties. Maybe the numbers will improve with more time and a few more e-readers. Most of the authors I know have built themselves a list. The more books they have out, the more money they make. One of the pluses of being e- and pod published is longevity. Your book stays on the market until you or your publisher decides to take it off, which means the royalties do add up over time. My own experience has been that after more than three years on the market, my sales are pretty much the same now as they were when my book was first published. After the initial friendship sales, it's now all casual traffic looking for the kind of book I've written, and when I go looking, I'm always amazed at the number of places on the internet where my book is listed for sale.  How much you make depends greatly on the genre you write and the degree to which you can spread the word around. It also doesn't hurt to have an entire army of family and friends who are willing to help drum up sales.

I'm interested in hearing your opinions. Is this wild west, anything goes era of publishing we've embarked on good times? Or is it the pits? Give me your perspective.

Devon

6 comments:

  1. It's pretty astounding, when you think about the changes the industry. Sometimes I think it's exciting, other times it's unnerving!! Either way, it has been interesting to see where these changes take us!

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  2. I never can find time to finish a complete novel to send to the mainstream publishers or once I start working on a book, I decide I want to write it the way I want to and not worry about fitting into a mold. So I contract with an e-publisher.

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  3. Amy, for a while the whole thing threw me for a loop. It is pretty exciting, if you think about it. We ALL have a shot now. The only downside is the money issue. Most of us are writing for peanuts.

    Thanks for stopping by!

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  4. Hey, Jan! Long time, no see. We need to catch up.

    I know exactly what you mean about writing the book you want. Which is another attractive aspect of e-publishing.

    Thanks for checking in and leaving a comment!

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  5. Irma:
    I'm into a year long wait to hear back about a manuscript that's been on 2 editor's desks all this time. And I'm tired.
    Since one of them is Dorchester, who is having trouble paying their authors, and they want either a sure thing, which will be a multipublished author or someone willing to take a chance, I may get an offer from them. But who wants to step into a situation where you won't get paid.

    I'm looking into several e-pubs. I still want a print book. Not just an ebook. And since my current publisher is phasing out doing the print books, I won't submit my work to them again.

    Decisions, decisions. Being on the uncertain end of this is no fun at all.

    Wish I could be more positive.

    Teresa

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  6. Teresa,
    I don't remember exactly what the conditions were about going to print. I'd have to go back and read the email (if I could find it). But I would think your record of previous print sales would count for something. Why not ask?

    Yes, the waiting absolutely sucks. Been there and spent several years waiting to hear back from the various NY publishers on a single manuscript. Years. On one manuscript. It was ridiculous, but it taught me a lesson. In future, I will submit to all targeted NY pubs simultaneously, regardless of what their guidelines specify.

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