18 June 2019 by Published in: Uncategorized 7 comments

June, 2011, I released my first novel, Fatal Exchange.

Now, eight years later, with sixty-something novels out, it’s hard for me to believe how quickly the time flies.

I just reread a draft of one of my first blogs, from January, 2012, wherein I was celebrating the fact that I’d hit my first four figure month. My tone was hesitant, and I stated that I was taking nothing for granted, as the mighty could fall as quickly as they rose. Wise counsel, and it applies to this day. I’ve always felt a cautious optimism when it comes to this craft, consistent with my observation of other branches of the arts, where the vast majority toil away for starvation wages while a few bright lights make fortunes and are well publicized.

Looking at the bestseller ranks in romance, for example, I see some of the biggest names from 2012-2015 languishing with rankings that say they’re making considerably less than during their heyday – some, fractions of their prior earnings. This isn’t surprising. Anyone who’s followed pop music, for instance, understands the phenomenon of the fad curve, where you’re super hot for X number of months or years, and then, suddenly, nobody cares. That’s just how it is in pop culture, and there’s nothing to be done about it.

I’ve been fortunate, in that my readership seems stable to growing, and seems to have an unending appetite for my work. 2013-2015 were huge income years, and even the so-so ones that have followed were sufficient to afford me my bad habits. 2018 and 2019 have trended considerably higher, entirely due to advertising, and even after paying the ad costs and associated maintenance, 2019 looks like it will be one of my better years. That’s reassuring, because I haven’t released a book since end of February, and won’t release Day After Never #9 until end of July – an almost impossible to imagine hiatus during which I caught up with life and life caught up with me. And yet sales continue to climb. This proves that Amazon ads, which I openly mocked two years ago, can not only rejuvenate, but can sustain a career during lulls.

Every year I threaten to slow my production to 5 or so novels. 2019 is the year it happens, and ironically, it will be in my top 50% of income years. I’m grateful that the market still consumes my content, and am optimistic for the future given my investments in infrastructure companies like AMSAdwerks.com and Bestsellerblurb.com, which focus on author solutions to increase visibility and sales.

So, does the prediction that books are like opera still ring true? Kind of. Books have never had more competition from other forms of entertainment – TV, Netflix, social media, YouTube, blogs, Reddit, etc. etc. There aren’t sufficient hours in the day to keep up with it all, and with shorter attention spans as a byproduct of an increasingly connected world, books face a tough uphill climb. Does this mean reading is dead, or that it’s impossible to make a living writing novels? Not at all. Will it get harder moving forward? Sure. Welcome to all businesses everywhere as they mature. Can new talents find an audience and break big? They always have, and always will.

But the good old days are long gone, and even the new new things like ghost writing pulp to market and churning out content at rates that boggle even my mind are stumbling and seem to have hit their ceiling. Self-publishing is no longer the gold rush it was, the get rich quick scheme that those who’ve never succeeded at much could dive into with a reasonable expectation of success (even if illusory for the vast majority). That’s fine. The market will continue to evolve and mature, and smart authors will adapt as necessary.

It’s never been easy to be a writer. But it’s also never been easier, given the complete lack of barriers to publishing one’s work. The only difference now is that expectations are coming back to ground, and most understand that it’s a difficult road to travel, and an even more difficult career, where nothing’s assured, and today’s lightning strike can become tomorrow’s footnote.

I’m still loving every minute of it, and hope it continues.

So far, so good.

Now back to writing the next one.

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Comments

  1. Tue 18th Jun 2019 at 11:27 am

    You’re right about the attention span thing. My publisher has a chart that tells me the ages of my purchasers. Over 66% of my readers are aged 65 and over! It seems the younger generation are just more interested in the short-term fix of TV box sets.

    Reply
    • Mel Odom  –  Sat 10th Aug 2019 at 5:41 pm

      I agree, but most of the young audience is skewing into podcasts (audio AND video). That’s why I’ve been watching serialbox.com and seeing how they’re doing. They should have seized a big market share, but I don’t think they have. They’re definitely doing enough to stay in business, and editor Marco Palmeiri just got hired to manage the fiction. I’ve written over 200 books and the audiences changes almost overnight.

      Reply
  2. Tue 18th Jun 2019 at 12:02 pm

    This is a great summary that also describes so many authors and the industry. We knew there’d be a shake out at some point a few years back, and instead of complaining about vendors changing rules, we just adapted to and tried to stay “slightly” ahead of the curve. You nailed it! This is business and like the teams that refused to adopt the forward pass in football, they still have space to play, but not a hope of winning (thought I needed a football analogy in here somewhere)
    Thanks for sharing ~ Scott

    Reply
  3. Andy holloman
    Tue 18th Jun 2019 at 12:49 pm

    Bravo Russell – following your saga is inspiring,
    prospering in artistic endeavors is not for the weak, or those that don’t imbibe with gusto. Rock on superstar

    Reply
  4. Zarayna Pradyer
    Tue 18th Jun 2019 at 1:03 pm

    Thank you for this update – always uplifting to hear good news.
    Of course, timing is an important factor, but you knew how to exploit this quality, whereas many would not.
    I celebrate your success because you work hard, intelligently and undertake much research to create a polished product that hides your efforts. In other words, you are a true professional. Long may it continue and that you enjoy your career while bringing joy to your readership.
    Cheers.

    Reply
  5. Tue 18th Jun 2019 at 1:44 pm

    Glad you are writing again. I will always be interested in your books but prefer listening to audiobooks to give my eyes a break. I’m hoping you get more books in audio format down the road.

    Reply
  6. Alan R. Smith
    Sat 22nd Jun 2019 at 1:15 am

    G’day From Downunder!!
    You have such great insight into world of writing and publishing it’s scary!! No wonder you’re such a fantastic author!! That still seems to be the key to me!

    When you’re good you’re good, but when you’re great you’re fantastic! I can’t imagine your vast hoard of dedicated readers ever passing up the opportunity to read one of your sensational works!

    I can empathize with the comment about TV/Netflix/etc. but the GOOD NEWS is I’ve become so (dare I say) jaded with the whole free to air and pay for view streaming services, that I find reading a good book much more enjoyable!!!! So get busy!!!! LOL!!!!!

    Cheers
    Alan Smith
    Melbourne, Australia

    Reply

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