Friday, April 19, 2013

Double Edge


Michael W. Davis

There’s a double edge to this thing we do. From the surface, the world of being a published author reflects nothing but stars and smiles, happiness and accolades. Yet at the core, not all is positive. Many, no, make that most suffer from being dipped in the reality of writing in today’s fiction industry. Forget about spending six months in a dungeon, slaving on each sentence of a 90,000 word child that burgeoned from your soul. Pass over the weeks of non creative activities like working with the editors, preparing the marketing package, the cover data sheets, or the mind numbing repetition of promotion. Ignore the excruciating fear of waiting for the first review. There is a faction of this new existence that waivers your foundation, makes you doubt the decision to take that first step into the demanding life of being a published writer.

I speak of the explosive awakening when you discover how hard the “Selling” part of the equation is. Need proof? Did you know that out of about 1 million titles released each year the average number of copies sold is roughly 200. Yeah, not much given the thousands of hours you spend in creating that masterpiece. When the royalty checks roll in the first reaction is, “What the hell. There’s supposed to be more digits on this thing.” First you doubt yourself; perhaps the book isn’t as good as you thought. Maybe it’s actually a piece of crap. Wait a minute. What about those five star reviews, those awards you received. Couldn’t be the story. Must be that damn publisher. No, more likely the outlets like amazon, BN, etc. The buggers are intentionally keeping your sells down and pushing the big stars.

Sounds stupid doesn’t it. That the sources that contracted with you, benefit from your success would plot against you, yet I’ve heard authors subscribe to those very theories of culprits and demons holding them back from their destiny. If you’ve had similar doubts or frustrations, you’re not alone. In the last three years half a dozen buds and budette author friends I’ve chatted or worked with have dropped out, some because they needed food, warmth, money. Others out of shear disappoint with the dream that floated away. Another dozen discuss being at a cross roads. Should they turn left and drop the hope of a career in actually earning a living at writing or stay the course and keep doing what they love so much.

Yeah, even a big dude like myself has bumped head long against that wall every 6 months or so. You’d think after having sixteen stories contracted/published, those dark shadows would have been vanquished, no longer haunt my thoughts, but they do. Last week, an author budette shared her frustrations about diverting from the course and taking down her writing shingle. Week later she send me an interesting link to a blog post that discussed the same crack in our goal to be read by a five or six digit audience. Here’s the link ( Point is, I’ve read twenty plus articles discussing those same emotions, the realization that what you though the dream would be was wrong. So if you’re experiencing the same dilemma you are definitely now alone.

So what could cause so many talented authors to be delinquent in sells. Well, I know it’s not quality. I read many of these buds and budettes stories. Most are really good, some great, so its not talent. I’ll venture a theory, one you might disagree with, and that’s okay, but it’s based on what I’ve observed. See, I think there’s a reverse correlation between average individual author sells and the number of writers with published/released stories.  Readers are willing to spend only so much money on a discretionary item like books. Add to this three negative trends in the fiction world: (1) Statistics show the number of people who like to read is declining,  (2) the economy is going south making mere survival in our jobless society increasingly difficult (thus less money to spend on entertainment items), and (3) E media has cut a double edge impact in the market. It is now quite easy to self-published, which means the number of titles out there is increasing big time, and that’s good for those who have yet to get the call (a contract with a publisher). Down side is there’s SO much more competition for the declining dollars to be spent on a non-essential piece of the spending pie for the struggling customer.

So, if your suffering the double edge sword of the modern fiction market, you’re not alone, don’t take it personal. Ref the decision rather to continue or call it quits, afraid I have no advice there. How can I help you at the crossroads when I can’t decide which path to take myself (g).


Julie Eberhart Painter said...

You've got that right. I'm between bridge playing and this hard place!

Liz Fountain said...

Well-described. My book's been out less than a month and I've already caught myself saying to friends "I can hardly wait to get back to writing instead of selling." Maybe this is why in the old old days artists had patrons. 'Course I also long for a butler, ladies' maid, and housekeeper... *grin*

Big Mike said...

Then ya get a letter like the one I received from a reader today. Makes ya rethink your doubts:

"I wanted to let you know that I finished your book ‘Righteous Fury’ this week and thought it was fantastic. With so many novels more fluff than depth, I was truly impressed with your writing. You, Sir, have a great gift for seeing, not just the surface, but the core of people. Thank you for the exceptional work. I look forward to reading more from you."

Boy oh Boy

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)

Rhobin Lee Courtright said...

Good post, Mike.

I've faced this wall, too, but decided I just liked writing too much to give up.

Luckily, skill with writing can lead to many great job opportunities, because the decline in reading interest seems to correlates with a serious lack in writing capability.

Big Mike said...

Yeah Rhobin

For those of us whose mind is constantly flooded with story lines and fictional worlds when ever we're alone, not sure we can stop. Kind of like an obsession to get em down on paper.