So You Want to Quit…See full issue for 2015 11-02
The ReviewerRenee Miller‘s website.
UBR receives a lot of feedback from authors. Some of it is wonderful, bordering on unicorns and rainbows fantastic. Who doesn’t like that shit? Am I right? Of course I am.
But I don’t want to talk about the wonderful feedback. A disturbing amount feedback shared by authors is sad, depressing, and even soul shattering. I want to address this, because it never hurts to know you’re not alone. It’s time we all not only accepted the reality of book publishing, but also took some responsibility for our success and our failures.
I’m going to be honest with you all, my gut reaction when I read that an author wants to quit publishing is, “Oh, quit your damn whining,” and I want to walk away from this appalling display of weak-kneed cowardice. But it’s not because I’m disgusted with you. It’s because this attitude reminds me of the thoughts I’m embarrassed to admit I entertain way too often.
Full disclosure: I want to quit publishing at least once a month. When I was querying publishers and agents, I wanted to quit almost daily. As an indie author, I don’t face the constant rejection I did with the traditional industry, but I still have days where I wonder what the point of it all really is. Why do I keep doing this? My books are selling, but they’re not selling enough to pay the bills. Hell, they don’t even sell enough to keep me in new shoes. I’d love some new shoes, man.
I’m constantly frustrated and my confidence is fragile. Every single day I stand on a metaphorical high wire, my legs trembling from the exertion of trying to keep my balance. Every single day my tenacity wavers, and I wonder if I’m good enough to be up there with the professionals. I feel small and weak, and yes, even scared of this challenge I stupidly accepted. Every single day, I know it’d take one thing, just one tiny event (not sure what that is yet, but I know it’s coming), for me to stop hoping I’ll make it to the other side and freefall to my metaphorical death. There. I admitted it. Also, I’m a drama queen.
While I will not judge anyone for wanting to quit, because I’m a coward too sometimes, I will judge you for using these moments of weakness as a reason to stop doing something you love, simply because it’s too hard.
Now and then, an author cancels his subscription to UBR’s newsletter. Now, when you do this, UBR provides an opportunity for you to explain where UBR failed to meet your needs. Recently, an author explained that he feels like the publishing industry is a losing business and not worth the effort or money he’s spent thus far. The newsletter is a reminder of his failures, so he’d rather not receive it anymore.
This author is not alone. Many of us, particularly those who experienced mild success in the traditional industry before shit got real (and by real, I mean when the Internet took over the world), feel the same way.
The asshole in me says, “Pfft. Fine. Quit. More readers for me,” but I don’t let her out much. She’s usually wrong. The better part of me is begging you to give this industry one more shot, because there are so few truly talented or skilled authors out there. The more we lose, the more readers become discouraged. When a reader gets tired of reading, or feels like there are no quality books available from this industry, we all lose. I think a lot of you are thinking emotionally, not like the business people you need to be in order to succeed. By that, I mean you’re going into this with unrealistic expectations of yourselves and the market, and as a result you’re becoming discouraged, resentful, and even angry. You’re allowing your perceived failure to eat away at your confidence and your motivation. You quit because your feelings are hurt and that’s both sad and wrong. Stop thinking emotionally.
It’s not easy, and I sure as hell haven’t figured it out, but I'm not here to give you a solution. There's no magic bullet. What works for me probably won't work for you, and I've hardly achieved what I view as success, so there's no point in telling you what I did right or wrong. I will tell you that I love writing. I love publishing most of the time. I’ll be damned if I let a little shaky self-esteem force me off the roller coaster. If you love it too, then start focusing on the writing and your readers. Forget about the money.
But, Renee, there just aren’t enough readers out there. How are we ever going to get noticed in this clearly oversaturated market?
Saturation sounds scary, eh? Well kids, I’m tired of this phrase. Market saturation isn’t something you should fear, because it’s not relevant to your success as an indie author. It's an excuse, and excuses are annoying.
In business terms, market saturation the point at which a market is no longer generating new demand for a particular product. For a market to be oversaturated, it would mean you have far more product than demand. Is this true about books? I don’t think so, but we need a reason for our lack of success thus far, so we tell ourselves there just aren’t enough readers.
There is a shit ton of readers out there who are desperate to find new authors to love. Yes, the market is saturated with crappy books by crappy authors, but that’s not the market you should worry about. The demand is high for quality books by skilled authors. Forget about the rest of it, and focus your efforts on meeting that demand.
Simply put, the book market doesn’t lack readers. It is, however, full of authors lacking creativity. The publishing industry is changing constantly, as are readers and their demands. Successful authors satisfy the changing needs of readers by writing stories and characters that are different from the rest of the slush out there and by building an author platform readers want to get behind.
Easier said than done, I know, but it’s still possible. In the publishing industry, saturation isn’t the obstacle we have to overcome. Competition is. That’s not a bad thing, though. Competition challenges authors to push boundaries, to explore new territory, and to keep trying to be a better writer than the other guy. And that's all you have to do. Be better.
Readers don’t want a whiny ass quitter who begs for sales or lashes out at things beyond his control. They want a confident, engaging, and interesting author. They want someone who views failure as an opportunity to learn, and who improves his product constantly.
And yes, sweet writer, you’ll have to put yourself out into Cyberspace in order to let your reader know how good your product is. This means blogs, social media activity and creative marketing tactics. Instead of rolling around in your cozy pit of self-pity and loathing, get brainstorming. Find your market. Find your reader. Then get yourself noticed.
Hey, I said it wasn’t easy.
I hear many of you saying it’s impossible to make any headway in this industry unless you’ve got a ton of cash. You believe the only way to get ahead of those lackluster authors and their craptastic books is to pay for ad services or publicists. Sometimes it seems impossible to make money selling our books because we’re spending all of our earnings, and then some, just trying to reach new readers.
It’s true that writing a kickass book isn’t good enough anymore. However, indie authors don’t have to spend a single dollar to market effectively. Paid marketing can give you an edge, but it’s not the only way to be successful. Those craptastic authors who seem to make all the money are paying for services too, but they aren't keeping new readers, because readers aren't stupid. Trust me. I’m the cheapest bitch you’ll ever find. I loathe spending money on anything, so I can tell you from experience; you don’t have to go broke to sell your books. You just have to be smart and innovative.
The simplest way to market is to build an Internet presence. I went over this in a recent Miller Time article. A strong Internet presence, also known as author platform, doesn’t have to cost a single dollar. Get yourself a free blog or website, a mailing list to send out newsletters, and build a social media presence on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, etc.
Does that seem too hard? Still want to quit? Fine. Stop writing. Stop publishing. Whatever. But before you do, examine your reasons for giving up. If you find yourself saying words like unfair, too hard, or anything relating to a conspiracy against little guys, take off the fairyland glasses and join the grownups. Don't quit.
Publishing books should be hard. In my opinion, it’s become far too easy for the average, barely literate Joe to publish his masterpiece of awful. That’s discouraging, but remember, the Universe self-corrects. When it became easy for all the crap to be published, the Universe found a way to make it hard again. It said, “All right then, smartasses. It shall be virtually impossible to get said shit to readers. How you like them apples, bitches?”
In my head, the Universe is sassy and wears pink stilettos.
What I’m saying is indie authors don’t have to make it past agents and editors anymore. We have to wow a gatekeeper who is far more critical than those jokers: the reader. It will never be easy. If you think publishing should be easy, you clearly live in a land of candy farts and shouldn’t be allowed to roam unsupervised.
Book marketing never ends. Your journey to becoming the best writer you can be never ends, because a writer NEVER stops learning. You must try and fail again and again before you’ll see success in this industry, and that success will most likely be fleeting. This is depressing, I know, but quitting isn’t the answer. Feeling sorry for yourself accomplishes nothing and blaming others won’t improve your situation.
The point of my rambling is I want to tell you to have more faith in yourself and your writing. You’re not a loser because your books aren’t selling. You’re not a talentless hack because you have to keep your day job. All hope is not lost because you can’t afford a Bookbub campaign, or you’ve gotta choose between eating and paying for a Facebook ad. Think outside the box. Take the creativity you pour into your writing, and put it into your marketing efforts. You’re struggling, yes, but you’re still making progress. I know you can’t see it, but it’s happening. Every single sale is a step forward. Only a small percentage of us make this journey in one giant leap. The rest have to take slow, steady, baby steps up a steep hill, while being pelted with giant, fiery balls of shit, without any shoes and a broken umbrella.
I’m saying, you haven't failed until you quit trying.
Renee Miller‘s website.