Times are A’Changin’ by Debbie Bennett

2015 or thereabouts, and I was four years into this self-publishing lark. Four years seemed like forever at the time; it was in early 2011, after my dad bought me a kindle for a birthday present, that my life as a writer changed forever. From a collection of short stories which had already earned their word count, through a young adult fantasy which had only narrowly missed acceptance by a couple of big trad publishers and into a six-book dark crime series – and I thought I was there. Summer 2015 and I’m making a respectable second income …

… and suddenly everything changed. I can't even pinpoint when it was when sales tailed off, when the Facebook posts became less frantic, when twitter stopped dominating out lives. Was it the advent of Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited Lending Library, KDP Select or just changes in algorithms? Or maybe the bubble just burst, but things seem very different now in early 2019. From the authors I knew a few years ago – the group of independent writers trail-blazing through this new ebook world with no regard for the gatekeepers of yesterday – people seem to have fallen into smaller, different camps now, each pursuing a different path through the literary world:

Many have simply given up. From poor sales, reality-checks or just falling back in love with other aspects of their lives, some authors have moved on. Their books may still be out there on Amazon, but they no longer obsess about ranking and reviews, or commit the price of a weekend break on a BookBub advert in the hopes they will get the breakthough they once craved.

Others have hitched their wagons to the trains of the new breed of publisher. Bookouture and Bloodhound BooksAccent Press and other companies which rose from the ashes of the self-pub fires. Many of these authors are making a good living now – enjoying the writing without the hassle of the marketing and advertising.

Lots of authors have backed off from the frenzy of Amazon and social media – the buy-my-book spamming, the constant effort of trying to stay afloat, never mind swim in the ebook waters. Now they write for themselves, instead of the elusive, capricious and impossible-to-please market. They’ve found joy in words again, in writing what they want, when they want and how they want. If other people like it too, that’s fine; if not, well, there’s nothing lost. The pleasure is in the creation, not the sale.

And there are some – through luck, being in the right place at the right time, or simply sheer bloody hard work – who are still reaching those stars all by themselves. They work long hours; they know their audience and they know their market. And they produce the goods. Constantly. Kudos to them.

Kudos to all of the above, in fact. Everyone finds the path that's right for them. The literary press would have you believe that ebooks are on the decline and that the reading public has returned to print in droves. I don't believe that's strictly true as these surveys never take Amazon sales into account and we all know that Amazon rules the world. Doesn't it? Many people are polarised in opinion - they read only ebooks or only paperbacks. Why be that prescriptive? I read anything and everything and more choice can only be good.

Everything changes. The ebook and self-publishing revolution changed the literary world forever, but things are settling now, finding their own pattern.  Who knows where we will be in another five or ten years?


Jan Needle said…
Brilliant piece, Debbie, thanks.
Bill Kirton said…
Heartfelt - by all of us, I'm sure. Thanks, Debbie.
janedwards said…
So true. Write what you want to write and of people want to read it - bonus :-)
Umberto Tosi said…
I am heartened by your worldly wise wave to fellow travelers like myself along the winding, sometimes baffling, self-publishing path. I've encountered much same ups and downs, twists and turns. I may be selling less now than in those early, heady e-publishing days, but I am enjoying it more. I'm more focused on writing new stories and books - where I want to be - instead of obsessing over frenetic social media promotions and marketing mania. I don't hide my works under a bushel these days, but it's not my main focus (and distration). More writing and less push work better for me. Over time, "chi va piano, va lontano," as my 96-year old grandfather used to tell me. When I focus writing, I actually do focus on reaching my likely readers, by default - and vice versa, maybe. Anyway, you're so right. I admire your lively writing as well as your hard work.

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