This is going to be a rambling post. You have been warned.
Furthermore, this post is being written after seeing commentary by readers, by other authors and a recent article about success… Or lack of it. It is not necessarily a well thought out post, just… honest.
And lastly, this post is about me. Not everyone else.
So. Here we go.
The Ever Growing Demand for More
Let’s be truthful. Readers always want more books. I want more Miles Naismith books from Bujold. Or more Discworld. Or the next book in the Kingkiller Chronicles. Or the next Good Guys or Earth Tactics Advanced or…
You get the point.
We all want more books. The pressure to produce and keep producing is never ending. For someone like me with the brain (and training) that I have, it means I’m often projecting a minimum of 6 months ahead, sometimes up to 18 months ahead of where I’m writing. I have a writing schedule that I try to hit, come hell or high water.
Worse, when it comes to writing, I can ALWAYS put more words down. If I write 2000 words in a day (my mental minimum); I’m always thinking – I could do more. Let’s hit 5k. 7k. 10k.
It doesn’t help that other people are doing more and putting out great work. And sure, I know you’re not supposed to compare. But we all do it.
Then, readers are asking for the next book. Sometimes literally the next day after you release one (or in a few cases, the very same day!).
It’s a never ending clamour for more, more, more….
It’s a bit insane sometimes. The pressure, both internal and external means you’re always trying to get more work out. Trying to turn that off, to make sure it doesn’t affect you isn’t that easy.
What it means, at least for me, is that even taking time off is hard. Unless I’m totally disconnected (camping, on the water, etc.) or totally involved (getting punched in the face used to do that…) I’m thinking about my series, about my work…
I recently was very ill. The first time I was down that sick in ages (seriously, I was this close to having to go to the hospital for a fever). 4 days, so sick I couldn’t even think about working…
Even though right now, I’m still recovering, my body half-exhausted; I’m pushing. Getting edits that are delayed done, writing short stories I owe, doing promos…
Any sane person would say… stop. Take a few days off.
But that hamster wheel of doubt and need in my brain? It doesn’t stop. It quietens if I work, so I work…
The Need to Improve… (Craft)
Except, I’m not doing the things I need to improve. Taking the time to do writing classes, read craft books, fill the creative well by watching TV, reading books, enjoying movies. Sure, I do some of that… but not enough.
And it is a creative well. You NEED to fill it. I know I burn out sometimes, and do nothing but read or watch TV for a few days because it’s necessary. Because I’m suddenly just… done. It’s the same when I finish drafting a long book often – there’s a week when I’m just… kaput. I can do some editing, but my creative side is just gone.
This need to keep processing, keep writing – it can’t be good. At least, not for me…
Burnout and the Fall and FOMO
One of the reasons I wrote this is the article by another writer who was doing well, and then just… wasn’t. Isn’t. From selling decently to just not.
And… there’s a lot of fear there. It was my major concern when I went full-time. It’s still a major concern now (of sorts. I know I can always find another job, but…).
What if everything changes? Will I see the decline? Will I be able to change it? System Apocalypse is ending, and once it’s over, will I ever have another hit that big? Like seriously – I’ve released like 3 other series, none of which has done anywhere as good. They weren’t bad (some of them); but…
All that kind of fear drives a fear of missing out (FOMO); that if I don’t write more now, release faster, get ahead of the curve, I’ll fall. That if I stop peddling, I sink.
But then you end up working while sick and tired and you put out books maybe that aren’t the best but you got to do it and…
Where does it end? When do you burnout completely? I’ve tottered on the edge a few times, of just being tired and exhausted. It’s why I stopped releasing 7/8 books a year, and got down to only 4.
Except, of course, I have my co-author projects. My side stories. The projects I work on that haven’t released yet. The plot bunnies that go nowhere…
Do I need to say anything more? We’ve all been hammered by it. I’ve gotten off easier in a way – I haven’t had to stop working. Not a lot of my work environment has changed. Except…
A lot of the things I used to do for fun aren’t possible anymore. My methods of blowing off steam are curtailed and of recharging that tank is harder. It’s not impossible, and it is getting better, but it is just another strain….
Let’s not forget that Indie Publishing, in the format and form that we know it is a very, very new industry. It’s only bee around since 2011 or so, and even then, it’s seen so many changes (Kindle Unlimited in its multiple versions alone has seen wide changes. Audiobooks are another).
Our ‘veterans’ in the industry are like ten year veterans, because no matter what they preach, no matter their background before that (in trad pub, etc.); no one has done indie publishing longer than 10 years.
And no one can guarantee that the next big change doesn’t throw everyone for another, bigger, loop.
The Longevity Question
Which leads me to the question of longevity. We all want books, but so many people I talk to have talked about authors disappearing. After 5 years. After 10.
Whether it’s burnout from writing, or lack of sales or exhaustion or just, inability to market anymore because the world has changed so much, they just aren’t part of the milieu. And sometimes, it all comes back – vampires come in and out of style constantly for example.
But where does that leave me? Or any other author?
Mostly, floundering in a sea of chaos, desperately paddling and hoping we aren’t sinking, all the while realising it’s not necessarily healthy.
I don’t have answers in this post. I don’t even have suggestions. I’m floundering as much – if not more – than most. I do think learning to balance things, and yes, that means sometimes telling readers nope – that’s all I’m writing – is going to be part of the solution.
As for longevity? Who knows. I’m trying to plan for it, the Patreon, being wide, writing shorts, writing multiple series, having audio and paperbacks and.. and… and…
And maybe I should just breathe and enjoy where I am.
Like the business blog post? Want to support me writing more of them? Want to read ahead (2 weeks) of others? Become a Patron and choose the $2-tier to be able to read the business posts only and ask questions about the business side of writing.