I’ll be famous after I’m long dead.

I know this sounds really self-centered, and I swore I wouldn’t talk about my books over here, but I’m beginning to believe I will remain unappreciated in my lifetime.

Not by my kids or my parents or my husband, of course. I’ve cooked and baked up a storm this Christmas and I was spot-on with the Christmas gifts. No shit. Spot. On. And you know, my mom and dad would love me even if my writing was crap. (I can do no wrong in their eyes.)

But it ain’t crap, my writing, I mean.

I’ve been re-working a few books… Just fixing scattered bugs. You know, those little flaws that manage to mar the narrative and continue to reproduce themselves despite a thousand readings. I’m re-working my books because, you see, I’m leaving KDP Select and Kindle Unlimited and expanding my work to all outlets.

Why am I doing this, you ask? I’ve been luckier than many Indie writers. I heard the complaints about falling sales, but for a time I hung in there, made more money every month than I had the previous month. But then the other shoe dropped and my royalties, rankings and readership tanked. New readers are not discovering me as they’ve done for years. I can’t  ignore reality. Things might could pick up, but I doubt it. And I’m not taking any chances.

When Russell Blake tells you to run; when J.A. Konrath jumps ship, oh baby, you run and/or you’d better learn how to swim real quick.

I don’t know what will happen. I do not. I am no more a prognosticator than Professor Marvel from the Wizard of Oz. But I will say this– the Indie world is in a fight for its life. We are, or so it seems to me, moving back toward a model of traditional publishing but this time the Traddies have learned a lesson (from us) and they are gonna pub on the cheap, co-opt us, force us to the thinnest of margins, and, in a very real and very large sense, this will screw every writer, from the tallest to the smallest. Kind of like The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.

I feel like Cindy-Lou Who, but I don’t expect the Grinch to bring back my presents.

I’ve tried to convince myself, tried real hard to convince myself, that the cream will rise to the top. I am no hack. I’m a damn good writer. And I’ve made some decent money over the past five years, but subscription services are a major game changer. Without a money machine behind me I don’t know that I can achieve success, let alone survive as an Indie writer.

How do I gauge success? Readership.

How does one get readers? Used to be easy on Amazon. But it’s a new day, babies. A new day.

I have no plans to stop writing. In fact, I’m busy writing away. But I swear I feel as if I’m writing for posterity. As in, years from now someone will discover me and he or she will say, “Hey, this is a good book. Who is this author and why have I never heard of her? I’m gonna tell all my friends to read her work.”

And perhaps I will be, i.e., my work, will be loved posthumously.

It’s cold comfort.

But damn, I sure made some amazing Christmas cookies this year! (Along with Roasted Cuban Pork Shoulder which then became carnitas– my mother’s brisket and latkes– smoked duck breast with a puree of Rancho Gordo Heritage Royal Corona Beans and black kale– shirred eggs and flaky buttermilk biscuits with a selection of homemade larcenous jams.) Yum! We’ve eaten well.

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24 thoughts on “I’ll be famous after I’m long dead.

  1. anny cook

    Yep. I believe you’re correct. Of course, that means there’s no rush to meet a deadline. If I could figure out a way to do it, I would just post my stuff on my webpage and sell it to those who’ve already ‘discovered’ me…

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      1. anny cook

        Hah. My royalties this last month amounted to less than $10. Good thing I don’t depend on royalties for groceries. And of course one particular publisher didn’t pay me at all. However, the last check I received from them was under $20. So there ya are. The high finance world of the romance writer.

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  2. Jaye

    Hang in there, Julia. The writer’s life has always been tough, even before self-publishing. We’re not just asking readers to shell out a few bucks, we’re asking them for their time and full attention. Money is easy; time and attention are not. One great thing about independence is flexibility. When a trad pub makes a mistake, the writer is helpless before it. When an indie makes a mistake they can fix it, learn from it, and make improvements that stick. As rough as indies have it right now, the ones I feel for the most are trad pub authors. They are writing for pennies right now and with every attempt by the big pubs to compete on price, the writer’s cut gets smaller and smaller. Where only a year ago I could see valid arguments for going with a trad deal; right now, today, I see zero advantages for any writer. The contracts are too horrible and the pay is too bad. (I saw a Harlequin author bitching on twitter the other day that she had to take time out from her writing in order to write a blog post for her publisher–lousy pay and slave labor, too? Outrageous!)

    As has always been true, the writer who makes a plan and keeps moving forward is the writer who will find a way to make a living. You’ll do fine. I have all the faith in the world in you.

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    1. juliabarrett Post author

      Hi Jaye. That’s what I mean about this hurting authors from the smallest to the tallest. Subscription services impact everyone – Indies and trad pubbed authors. When pubs are asking rock-bottom prices, nobody makes money and it pushes Indies to the brink– good Indies and bad Indies alike.
      I suspect I’m making more money than many mid-list trad pubbed authors, but all I can say is wow– my royalties were under $100 this past month and that has NEVER happened to me, except with one small pub who shall remain nameless.

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  3. Diana Stevan

    Julia, ah what can I say? I know from what I’ve read, the marketplace has changed dramatically since the self-publishing industry took off. As you say, gone are the days when even free books can build an audience. I came into this, as you know, just a few months ago. What helped me deal with this change is the fact that I had very low expectations. I’ve done well locally, through my paperbacks in my town. Word is out that I’ve written a good book, but we’re not talking about large numbers. As far as the masses go though, it’s an upward climb, one step at a time, and who knows how far I’ll get.

    But having said that, i know you’ve written many books and you know your talent. You need to hang on to your truth despite low sales. And yes, I believe like you do, that cream rises to top, but in a book market with 8 million books out there and counting, there’s also a lot of sour milk out there, it’s hard to blame the readership for being cautious about where they put their money, time, and attention. I don’t know about you, but I have many good books on my shelf, waiting to be read.

    You’re a beautiful writer, one of the few blogs I consistently visit. Wishing you much success with your books and writing in the coming year.

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    1. juliabarrett Post author

      Hey Diana – yes, a rapid and rather unwelcome change. Freebies do nothing right now. They don’t encourage readership nor inspire loyalty. It is just bloody weird! Makes you feel helpless.

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  4. Pingback: I’ll be famous after I’m long dead. | The Passive Voice | A Lawyer's Thoughts on Authors, Self-Publishing and Traditional Publishing

  5. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt

    Listening, learning, and thinking. I’m heading into the final stretch of writing – for Book 1 – and my ears are perked up to the immediate marketplace. And I still have no idea what to do. Konrath implied new people ought to stay with Kindle; it’s the people with backlist who need to move. Backlist! When I’m 90. Maybe.

    Keep writing – you’re good.

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    1. juliabarrett Post author

      LOL! You make me laugh, Alicia. No, IMO not even the new people should stick with Kindle. You’ll languish in Never Never Land. Get your stuff in all outlets. 🙂

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  6. Mit Sandru

    Hang in there Julia. The bad thing is there are so many writers and competition is fierce. The good thing is that books, paper or eBooks, will not die of a slow unforgotten death as it happened to paper books of the past, once out of print.
    As far as the Trads, yes they adjust and learn, but slower than us. They are trying to create two “bins” of books, the premier releases priced high, and the “back-list/once-new-but-now-old” books priced low. Where do we fit into this? Anywhere we want to be. But, one thing is sure, Trads must sell their books at high prices, at least the new releases. The readers will learn that the books don’t have a limited shelf-life like it used to be. The readers will wait out until the prices will drop, and consequently in the long run, they will be starved of profits.
    The second thing they will try very hard to do, and the Trad-authors will cooperate with them, is to differentiate between Quality-them and Dreck-Indie Authors. Some readers will buy that notion if the high prices won’t scare them, other readers will rely on critique/promotional outfits like BookBub, and other readers could care less and buy what they want.
    This is a long range game. It may outlive us through our creations, our books. And that in itself is an accomplishment.

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    1. juliabarrett Post author

      Hi Virginia. Promo. What an animal is promo. Once upon a time I did a great deal of promo but then I didn’t need to do so much. My books sold themselves. My promo hasn’t changed over the past year. However I’m looking at new ways to promote without overtly promoting. I’ll let you know when I figure it out.

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  7. jpkenna

    I started writing in my early 20s, but soon put pen and pad away. There was a whole life out there to be lived, and I couldn’t simultaneously live it and write about it. I picked up the pen again in my 60s- have two self-published historical novels out, two more in the wings. I’ve had 5-star reviews from Readers’ Favorite and was a book award finalist. And a very positive review from Kirkus. I know the books are good, but it seems like a bad time to get into writing. Especially if you are not a fan of social media, don’t have a taste for self-promotion, and don’t write for a mass market. So some books have sold through our local bookstore–but not enough! Then, with reluctance, I put them on Kindle this fall–so far, a near-total flop!
    I’m now working on something smaller and faster-moving, more suitable for Kindle–only to find out that it may be too late even for that.
    The excitement of seeing my first book in print has turned into depression, Two years ago it was a half-joke when I said I was writing for posthumous recognition. Now it’s no joke at all.
    Thank you for sharing your experiences and brutally honest insights.

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    1. juliabarrett Post author

      Oh honey, I get it! I too am only half-joking! I began my career in my early 20’s. Couldn’t make a living so went back to school and got a second degree in nursing- a BSN. Worked as a nurse off and on for a long time – long enough to get all my kids through college. Even then I was writing. Managed to get pubbed for the first time in 2007 but still didn’t make much money and fortunately got back the rights to my books.
      I understand how a writer can write great books yet sell next to nothing. I am so in your corner, jpkenna. Wish I had more words of wisdom to offer. I can only say if you love writing, keep writing and damn the torpedoes!

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    1. juliabarrett Post author

      Oh my gosh! Sort of a pretty face??? You are so much more than just a pretty face! You are smart, beautiful, talented… Hey, I realized when I was a kid that we all end up in the same place- dead. That’s mortality for ya. Once I came to grips with it I stopped worrying so much.

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