Sir Richard Francis Burton: Explorer, soldier, poet, writer, diplomat & more

One of the more intriguing people in history. It’s said he could speak 29 languages. He translated the Kama Sutra and 1001 Nights. Here’s more on him in a slideshow:

Publishing: Everything old is new again.

publishingA couple of weeks ago I had a startling realization about publishing. You’ll have to excuse my tardiness, I’m a bit slow.

I was chatting with some of the writers here for our Write on the River Retreat about the current state of publishing. How the golden age of the indie author was over, how the golden age for every writer seems to be over, and I said: reminds me when I was surviving as a midlist author in traditional publishing. Everyone said I couldn’t do what I did, but I did it.

And it hit me.

Everything old is new again.

Most things go in cycles. We end back where we were, we just see it differently. Publishing has gone through a cycle. I don’t see blogs any more from indie authors crowing about how much money they’re making and how many eBooks they’re selling. I don’t see much boasting coming from anywhere in publishing.

Why? Everyone is heads down working; or they’re looking for a job. There are a number of indie, traditional and hybrid authors who were doing really well three years ago. Not so much any more.

The marketplace is saturated. Over a half million titles uploaded to Amazon last year. 95% sell less than 100, but still, there’s a lot of good stuff. Then there are so many cheap eBooks. Between Bookbub, first in series free, Kindle Unlimited, you name it, it’s never been a better time for the reader. Bookbub used to be the province of the indie/hybrid author but now we see #1 NYT trad author populating it consistently. You want to have someone pay $4.99 for your eBook against a .99 John Grisham backlist they haven’t read?

What are indie authors doing? Writing faster, trying to put out more titles. But unless they have a dedicated following, they’re part of the content flood. Colleen Hoover had an interesting blog titled What Happened to This Industry

She mentions an important thing: she sells 1/10th of the books she used to sell, but has a much larger audience than she did. I don’t think she’s alone in that. A dedicated readership is key.

I started thinking about the two decades I spent in traditional publishing pursuing a path that the gurus and pundits all said couldn’t be followed: being a mid-lister. If I wasn’t supposed to exist, how did I succeed?

Sorting through all the ups and downs, the bottom line was: I worked really hard.

I never believed I “had it made”. Every author I knew—the moment they thought they had it made, they were gone. I think that’s happened to a lot of indie authors who saw that monthly income stream and thought it would continue forever.

Even if I was under contract for three books a year, I wrote four. I always stayed a spec manuscript ahead. In that way, I stayed a publisher ahead. 12 books with Random House, over a million paperbacks sold, and they say “Later dude. You’re not frontlist any more. We didn’t spend any money or time promoting or marketing you, but you failed.”

But by then I had a new series going with a different publisher. And thus it went.

And we’re back there again. Consistency. Hard work. Keeping a positive attitude when you fall into what I always called the “black pit”. Where all the news is bad, nothing good is going on, but you just keep doing it. You change things, you re-evaluate. You modify your business plan. Most importantly, you learn to be a better writer. Or is that gooder writer?

I recently wrote a blog reference an article titled “I published my debut novel to critical acclaim—and then I promptly went broke.”

The title tells you everything you need to know—who cares about critical acclaim? That doesn’t equal sales. The author thought that she had it made before her first book even came out. I mean, seriously? She isn’t alone; she was just brave enough, or foolish enough, to put it out there.

Colleen Hoover was brave enough to say publicly what other indie/hybrid authors won’t say: sales are down. Mine are down, not anywhere near as much, but that’s because mine are spread across over 70 titles in several genres. I’ve got a lot of eggs in a lot of baskets so things are good; not as great as they were, but I’ll take it. And it’s going back up because I’ve retooled, re-evaluted, and adjusted.

nick-rowe_0008When I had this realization that things were back to where I was in some ways, it made me feel good. For several reasons:

  1. I’d succeeded where others said I’d fail. Sort of like all the tough military school I went through where they’d say, look to you left, look to your right, one of you isn’t going to be here in a week. It never occurred to me that the person was me. I was thinking, well, hate to see ya’ go fella. Actually, honestly, I didn’t think that; it just sounded good when I wrote it. I was actually focused on what I needed to do to succeed. Their success of failure was their deal. I can’t waste time worrying about other writers and their success or failure. I try to help writers with this blog at times (slideshow every Saturday on the craft of writing and other things), with my workshops and presentations, but everyone is in their own unique situation.
  2. Don’t listen to the gurus and pundits unless they’re doing it themselves. I’ve seen several pundits try their hand at making money with something written on line and seen them fail. But they’re still punditing. I read them, evaluate, take what I need, leave the rest.
  3. I’m in a much better place now because I’m indie. I don’t have all those people standing between me and the reader. The readers determine my fate and my paycheck. I determine what the readers get. So while I have less help, I have total responsibility. I value that responsibility because it means control, especially since I can remembers all those years when I had no control.
  4. I can reach readers via the Internet. One time, during my trad career, I mailed out 3,400 letters, individually addressed to every indie bookstore in the country. I included sign book stickers in every letter. Means I signed a shitload of stickers. I heard back from 3 stores. Now, I can reach readers directly and with a message I can tailor.

While everything old is new again, there are some changes. I still believe it’s the best time ever to be a writer. But if you want to succeed in this new world, it means doing the same thing it required to succeed in the old: Be serious, work hard, be professional, and remember the most important person is the reader.


PS: 8-9 October is the last Write on the River Workshop for the year. Limited to four, I’ve got one slot left. Email me more info and a cut rate at this late stage.

Cool Gus Book of the Week: A hot romance to warm up your fall day…

Welcome myself to the house!

There is something very special about the first book an author writes. Doesn’t matter if that manuscript went in a drawer, or eventually published, there is an overwhelming sense of satisfaction to have written “the end” for the very fist time.

In Two Weeks was the first book I ever wrote. Also the first book that was ever published. I was lucky that way. Trust me, I have my share of manuscripts hidden away in a drawer, but this book and these characters mattered so much to me that I had to re-write and re-write until it was ‘good enough’.

It all started one day at the lake… I had finished reading just about every backlist title for the tenth time by Nora Roberts and Sandra Brown. The ones from back in the 80’s. While my kids were playing in the lake, I picked up a pen and notebook and just started writing. See, I couldn’t pull them out of the water yet again so mommy could go buy another book. The Kindle did not exist back then. I though perhaps thinking of my own imaginary people might be fun. I had no laptop, so I’d write at the lake, then come home and type in what I wrote. I literally fell in love with these characters. So much so, that Jared makes an appearance in the 5th book in the series coming out in December: Murder in Paradise Bay.

You know its good when the characters inside you head just won’t be quiet. These characters spent over a year with me. And they keep popping up here and there, showing their faces as I write more books in the series.

In Two Weeks is currently free on all platforms right now. Below is links to all the platforms and a book trailer to give you a little taste of what the story is all about. Enjoy!

Two Adirondack chairs

Amazon | Nook | iBooks | Kobo | Google


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