There are very few drawbacks to indie publishing. Challenges, certainly, but the independent author tends to thrive on challenges and prefer it that way. Hard work aplenty, too.
Downsides, not so much.
Most of the “downsides” you see reported elsewhere, we consider positives: Having no one else to rely upon but ourselves is a good example.
But there is one downside I have been aware of for a while, and last week it reached crisis point.
I write in six different romance sub-genres. I also write science fiction, but romance makes up the vast majority of my sales because I have more romance books out there, and have been writing it much longer. I’m established in romance.
I have one sub-genre in particular which sells 60-80% of my romance titles. Historical romance.
Naturally, I have been writing more historical romances than any other genre. Lately, in the last production schedule revisions go-round, I moved that rate up to 2:1. For every other genre book I wrote, I also wrote an historical romance. In other words, every second book I write is historical romance, from the same series.
Readers love the frantic pace they get new titles in the series. They’re invested in the characters and my sales keep sliding upward. My sell-through rate hovers around 90%, which is out of this world (the norm is close to 50%).
As I reported in Tuesday’s work log, I hit a wall that refused to let me through. I could not get myself to sit down and write the bloody book and couldn’t figure out why.
I’ve set you up for this. By now, you should be ahead of me and have figured it out: The book I’ve been trying to write is the next one in the historical romance series.
By Saturday I was silently screaming at myself. I simply couldn’t settle into writing. It was day three and my writing schedule was blowing out of the water all over again, and there’s only so many times one gets to reschedule before the schedule actually implodes from the front-end pressure applied to catch up.
In an effort to uncork the blockage, I dived into some motivation books for authors. Well, I lined up a half-dozen of them and was going to leaf through all of them, looking for inspiration to get back to work.
The first book I read, which was new to me (the author is not, though), was Motivation for Creative People by Mark McGuinness. (See sidebar)
It was also the last book I read.
I usually don’t have an issue with motivation. I write full time and the bottom line is, if I don’t work, I get to find a day job and pay the bills that way.
As that possibility fills me with horror, getting to work every day isn’t an issue.
Only, I couldn’t make myself write the damn book. I found out why when I read Mark’s book.
I’ve written so many historical romances I can virtually write them in my sleep.
In particular, Mark pointed out that creatives thrive upon challenges.
And there is zero challenge left in historical romances, for me.
Oh, I can change things up, make the stories and settings fresh, create new and ingenious conflicts…yaddah, yaddah. I’ve been doing that for years.
I don’t think there’s anything left in the genre that would be even mildly challenging. Just different, and being just different really isn’t enough, anymore.
This is the realization I reached on Saturday and to say I was gob-smacked would be a mild understatement.
The problem with being indie, is that often, you have to self-analyze when you would really be better off with a third party perspective. Mark McGuinness gave me the perspective, and I took it from there.
After some heavy thinking, I settled upon a solution that I suspect only writers who are very prolific would be able to use.
My writing schedule until now has always been 6am to noon for writing, each day, for six days a week. With my corresponding increases in speed through sprints and dictation, I could work up to having each weekend off, and only writing five days a week.
Only, that involves writing books that bore me and gives me no challenges except those of churning out words and breaking personal bests in word count. There’s nothing super-creative in that.
I have wanted to write science fiction, properly and seriously, for a very long time. It’s a complicated story why I haven’t written it to this point. But on Saturday, I decided that SF would present the creative challenge and novelty I was looking for.
Only, I can’t stop writing the historical romances, because they’re the money earners.
My new schedule is now 6am-10am for the “money earners” – romances, including every second book being historical romance.
10am to noon is for writing science fiction. For that, there is no pressure, no production schedule or advertised release dates. I’ll be writing a lot of short fiction to begin.
And I don’t get to write SF until I’ve hit my word count for romances.
This is seven days a week. Once I have hit my romance word counts on the weekends, I can choose to do nothing else each day…but I’m betting I won’t.
I know this will work, even after two days.
On Sunday, I blazed through my romance word count in just over three hours.
On Monday, I was just on 3.5 hours, and was done and could roll over into SF.
And I felt absolutely no pressure at all. Getting the romance counts down was a doddle.
Mark’s book, Motivation, is one of a series of books for creatives that I highly recommend.
He has a unique way of looking at creative work and combining it with interesting productivity hacks.
The series includes:
- 21st Century Insights for Creatives.
They’re all worth picking up. You can find Mark McGuinness on Amazon.
Are you growing stale?
The most powerful strategies for indies these days involve writing a great many books in the same series, and definitely in the same genre. If you’re established in that genre, and started off loving to write it, staleness may set in without you noticing. (It certainly caught me by surprise.)
If you really have to push yourself to write each day, especially at the start of a book when the characters and story haven’t yet grabbed you, try examining your internal (intrinsic) motivation.
Do you still love writing that genre/series as much as you used to?
Would you benefit from setting different challenges:
- Writing a completely different genre in your spare time?
- Setting a challenge to write more words or more books (Dean Wesley Smith is particularly good at coming up with mind boggling challenges for himself, including, recently, 10 books in 10 weeks.)
- Putting the genre aside (if you can afford it) for a while, to develop a secondary genre or subgenre.
- Starting a whole new, wildly different series in the same genre, and writing a book in each, in turn.
Or you can do what I’m doing: piling another layer of writing upon my day, in a completely unrelated genre.
There’s a number of ways of shaking up your ouvre, to make it fresh for you, and not disappointing your readers, too.
Give it some thought.