Friday, May 10, 2013

The times they are a changing

So I loved Stephanie's post from yesterday, and how she verbalized so wonderfully what almost all writers want. Because success means readers loving your books and acknowledgment, proof that we are good writers.

And you really can't 100% percent go after something until you admit you want it, so that is the first step.

But the route there has become a lot more fluid, and it requires writers to be fluid along with it. We've been hearing for many years now about the death of the midlist, and for the longest time I'd hear that pronouncement and shrug, and think no way. I've read mid list authors my whole life and I'm not stopping now. But now I think it might actually be happening.

A writer on one of my loops asked about her New York published book, thinking maybe she'd missed some sales numbers, because she got her statement and it didn't make any sense, the numbers were too low. A few other authors have expressed astonishment with how low their numbers are with their NY published books, so I know this is a common complaint.

And part of this is the reduction of the number of book stores out there. Walmart and Target are reducing the number of titles they buy, and so the retail outlets for the mid list authors have greatly reduced. But as an author, if you're lucky enough to be one of the books chosen for distribution into all the majors, then you can almost be guaranteed bestseller status.

But then there's the rise of self-publishing which has created breakout bestsellers and something of a mid list, but where most authors are lucky to sell a few hundred books.

Promotion is now something done mostly by the author, unless again, they are one of the chosen authors, and from what I've heard, the authors doing the best financially, are the ones doing a cross of self-publishing and traditional publishing.

I know for many years, my idea of success in this industry was being chosen. By an agent, by a publisher, by readers and that is still a measure of success, a really important one. But some really smart authors have adapted, they have chased, they've found other routes and found readers and success and I'm really impressed at their ingenuity.

so the point is that as authors we need to know what our version of success is, because it varies. For some authors it's still being chosen, for others it's readers, or great reviews and for a few others, being on a bestseller list, and not all happen simultaneously. Not any more.

I'm trying to figure out my version of success right now and I'm honestly not sure what that is. I think it's readers, but that could change, because you can get readers and not make any money, as many self-pulished authors are discovering with books given away for free or priced at $.99.

What's your version of success? It is one thing, or a combination of all?


Eileen said...

This is something I struggle with, Sinead. I had an interesting talk a while back with a friend. I told her that I felt like a failure and she said that I simply needed to redefine what I considered to be success.

Great advice, but easier said than done.

Maureen McGowan said...

I think most of us are confused about this right now. It's so hard to define.

It still might be a pipe dream, but I think I'll consider myself a success when I'm earning what I consider a reasonable living. Do I still want to reach for the brass ring of bestsellerdom and, perhaps, a very comfortable living? Sure. But I'll be happy if I can just earn a living.

Anonymous said...

Eileen, it is really hard, but I think the people who have been fluid with even their definitions of success have capitalized on some really interesting opportunities within this business.

I've been terrible at all of it, figuring out what I want, what success I'm looking for, being strategic in what I write, but I'm trying to fix some of that now...

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