One of the things that I’ve been thinking about, and that I’ve seen, in some discussions is the talk about longevity – about the author’s career. Building a long-term, sustainable career as an author.
Depending on who you ask, that could be 5 years. 10 years. Or 30+ years.
That’s a very long time. The last major career change I had, I was running that business for just over 13 years before I changed. So, 10 years itself seems huge.
But. I’ve been writing / been a published author for 2 1/2 years already. How insane is that??? That puts me a quarter of the way to the 10 year route.
Ups and Downs
One of the aspects of the discussion has been that author careers will have big ups and downs. Failures, if you will. Making sure ot build out a career path, being willing to figure out how to keep going when you fail is a bg rite of passage in a way.
This is something that resounds for me, because I got lucky. I’ve managed to make a career of writing from the get-go, basically hitting a homerun with the System Apocalypse series. To a lesser extent, my ‘bad’ series often do better than a lot of other author’s ‘good’ series.
This isn’t a humblebrag. Well, maybe a bit. But it’s a realisation that I’ve been really, really lucky to find the readers and audience that I have. That there’s a huge community that has grown up around LitRPG (and now, the cultivation genre) and that I’ve managed to tap into.
But… what happens when the community goes away? Or more likely, when the market floods to such an extent that a new series has a hard, hard time to break through? There are so many great new series (and continuing old series) that new authors have a hard time breaking through. Not as hard as some of the other, more traditional, genres, but still hard. Some authors are already seeing the effects how each new release even in a formerly popular series are doing less well. The Adventures on Brad series sees some of that effect too.
The System Apocalypse will be done in about 4 more books. Would a new LitRPG by me do as well? Maybe. Maybe not. That might be my next ‘failure’.
So, it’s something I’ve been thinking about. Not because it’s going to happen anytime soon (I have like, 2 years before I’m done with SA). But because my brain always plays things out like that. But 2 years is a long time in some ways…
A Changed Environment?
For all that… I wonder how big a fall there is these days, or can be expected if you are an indie publisher.
Here’s the thing. A lot of the traditional authors saw a decline in their careers for a bit as a series, or multiple series, didn’t sell well. For one reason or another (bad release date, bad marketing, because it was Tuesday). The moment they stopped selling well in a series, their advances declined, the demand among the other publishers disappeared. Career dived, maybe add a new pen name, write in a new genre and hope that eventually, you’ll get picked up again. Or something along those lines.
At the same time, royalties from backlist might decline or disappear. After all, back then, there was no ebooks. If a book went out of print, it was out of print – no more sales.
But these days, indie publishers have books that are pretty much ‘eternal’. Your backlist is always there, always selling (hopefully) if you are publishing. Each new publication gives you another option to get new readers, to push up your backlist and sell a little more. You can still market and make money from those books because print-on-demand, ebooks and audiobooks are forever.
Mind you, books stop selling after a while. Just short of a year after publication, book 2 of the Hidden Wishes series (A Squire’s Wish) is in the 248k ranking of Amazon and has made me a total of… $45 this month. So, books drop after a while, especially if there’s nothing else coming out in that series.
But, that being said – is there a bottom? If you have… 20 books making $45 each, that’s $900. Is that the ‘floor’? Probably not. Some of my other books sell even worse than the $45.
But, again, if you are a long-term writer and build up your books, is the floor lower now? Is there a minimum you hit?
We’re only 10 years into the ebook revolution. Only, what? 4/5 into serious audiobooks by indies. Print is shrinking while global markets keep opening up. Kindle Unlimited has seen 2 different versions in 5 years or so.
New forms of writing (web serials) are becoming more and more popular. Perhaps it’s not so much of a fall, but a slump as we have to change to adapt to the markets.
Planning for the Slump
It’s stuff like this that makes me wonder. And makes me consider how I build out this business. If ebooks slump, does that mean audiobooks slump? Maybe I should have multiple sources – ebooks, audiobooks, print and (yes) even comics.
It’s why I’m looking at translations. Another market, another group of people who might not be affected by how my series do.
It’s why I write multiple series at once, so that I can test / play around with the potential of each series and see which ones catch.
Well, that and I have a hummingbird brain that wants to get stories out.
Anyway. Time to get back to actual writing. Which, at the end of the day, is the most important part of this. Putting words to the page.
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