The Long, Slow Death of a Writing Career

I last put a book out in October. Almost a year ago. Used to be, writers put out a book every 1-2 years, sometimes more, and that was not unusual. Even “fast” writers took a while because the publishing process was a long one: write a draft, send it to your agent, who would send it out to publishers (or, if you had a standing publishing contract, just on to your editor)… Sell the book, rounds of editing, production/design, the marketing team gearing up, advance review copies sent out, and then finally the book would be published. And then the author might do a book tour or something, which took time away from writing the next thing, and so the next thing waited a bit longer to get written, and the cycle started again.

No longer. Particularly with self-publishing, authors are now expected to be content mills. Churn, churn, churn. Never mind quality; quantity is what matters. There are so many more authors now, too. Our names and our work get lost in the neverending pile. If you don’t put something out every 3-6 months, you’re easily forgotten. Even those who claim to be fans won’t wait. It’s a bit like running a marathon and not having anyone to cheer you on. After a while, you’re tired, you’re sore, and you’re wondering why you even bothered. Sure, maybe you like running, or maybe you think of it as healthy, but there are plenty of other things you also enjoy and other ways to be healthy that aren’t as painful or spirit breaking.

I’ve watched my sales slowly decline over the past few months. Part of the reason is that I’ve given up trying to market my work. It’s expensive, it’s time consuming, and the results are often disappointing. It was very fortunate that Publisher’s Weekly reviewed Brynnde; it’s become my best-selling book to date, and I can directly draw a line between the PW BookLife exposure and that success. Alas, they declined to review Faebourne, my latest, and that book has struggled. I’m sure I could pay BookLife and other outlets to review it, but paying for reviews feels sketchy to me. And, again, any outlet with significant impact charges a lot of money.

I also downsized my social media recently, which probably contributes to my decrease in sales, but so much of it was too toxic and bad for my mental health. If I have to value something, my personal wellbeing will be a priority every time. I needed to cut out the people who were always asking for help but never supporting me when I needed it. There were an awful lot of them.

Amazon continues to make it more and more difficult to be seen, and their ads can be expensive too. They have authors over the proverbial barrel, and I no longer trust them.

All in all, the collective situation does not motivate me to write. And since we know that authors these days need to churn out content faster than ever before in order to be successful… It just isn’t going to happen. It takes me a long time to write anything even when I’m excited about it. Now that I no longer am, I’ll finish the next book in, oh, never. And a day.

3 thoughts on “The Long, Slow Death of a Writing Career”

  1. I feel you, Rachel.
    I have a lot of theories about advertising and books.
    Most things out there are a loss of money, but you won’t really know unless you try them.
    I mostly agree with you and ended up thinking I am only writing for a handful of people. If I can change the life of one person for the better (in term of ability to write or personally make it easier) that’s all I ever wanted.
    Of course, that means pushing aside the financial aspect. Not everyone can afford that. I guess you could always teach other writers.
    I also know that people are bombarded with info. We need to invite people to our books like you would invite someone to buy a product. Buy my book and you will have whiter teeth. Buy my book and you will be able to get your kids to behave, etc. Find what your book is adding to someone’s life. Maybe they will lose themselves for a few hours in a world totally magical and reading is the best relaxant around. And then we need to create content that proves this. Re-create the world of your novel online and I bet more people will be interested. It’s amazing you’ve been able to publish and have a great review. Why not try events where people who like reading your books would show up? I feel like people want to meet ‘you’ in person. I hope you find your way. We are so many in the same struggle. Chin up!

    1. Thanks for the pep talk.

      My name isn’t Rachel, though. I can see why you might think that, but the name under my photo is credit for the photographer.

  2. I’ve been feeling the same way. I’ve done very little marketing and social media lately, and it makes me feel better not to do it, but my sales have dropped. I found some joy in working with covers, but it’s hard on my eyes, and I don’t want to do that instead of writing.

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