Seriously, we've had maybe 20 hours of sunlight in our little corner of Ohio since Halloween. I have friends in Alaska who are getting more sunshine than I am. And if I'm not getting some regular sunshine, it makes the SAD so much worse.
So I'm not writing about anything earth-shattering today. I'm going to get out to run errands, do the last bit of holiday shopping, mail the packages I've already wrapped, etc.
And try to get a short story finished that I promised my readers months ago!
I feel I've been on the bench too long. I only released two books under my name in 2018. Alter Ego hasn't released anything in over two years. (She says it's hard to feel and write smexy when we're surrounded by pain, disease and death.) So neither of us are surprised our sales have dropped like the proverbial stone this year after coasting on fumes for the last five.
However, I'm hearing whispers that other indies are seeing huge drops in sales this year, drops they claim aren't due to the usual fall school/holiday downturn. And those that use internet ads (such as Amazon and Facebook) and book deal newsletters (such as Bookbub) are seeing lower returns than ususal. But if they stop advertising, their sales plummet.
From what I'm observing, there isn't any one problem. Here are the situations I'm seeing:
1) Amazon's Latest Updates
Amazon has rolled out updates to their online platform every year between the months of July and August since I started indie publishing. And every year, there's been bugs. In fact, there's a cadre who refer to the following month as Glitchtember as the bugs become known and obvious.
This year's Glitchtember has extended into the rest of the year. Amazon's efforts to force users to go to their country's associated store has led to a slew of books disappearing from the retail platform. What's more unusual is Amazon's admission that there was a problem!
But hey, if you're only selling books on Amazon, and Amazon isn't showing your book as available, you've lost that sale.
2) Online Advertising
It used to be that for a few bucks a day, you could advertise your wares on Google and make a ton of money. But Google uses an auction system for their ads, and as time went on, they sold more and more ads at higher and higher prices.
Then Facebook and Amazon jumped into the online ad business, using the same criteria as Google, and now the same problem is occurring as they, too, saturate buyers with ads. Even worse, more computer users are employing ad blockers to keep the multiple ads from slowing down their machines. Or from annoying the hell out of them.
Now, indie publishers are paying more and more to advertise and seeing less and less returns, but if they don't do ads at all, their sales crash. Resentment at the pay-to-play issue is building, but unfortunately, we're not going to see the free advertising we had in the beginning of the indie revolution again.
3) Bargain Book Newsletters
Amazon cracked down on reviewers and their bargain book newsletters years ago by eliminating their ability to monetize the freebies. As a result, many of those review/newsletter proprietors had to close up shop.
The handful left, like Bookbub, are charging more money to advertise through them and making it tougher to get a spot. And even when an indie publisher gets spot, they're not seeing the long-tail with their other books like they used to. Unfortunately, indies aren't just competing with each other for those newsletter slots.
4) Trad Publishing Copying Indie Methods
Nope, we're competing with trad publishers for those BookBub slots. They pay more, and they have a huge backlist to advertise. If you see a $1.99 book on BookBub, it's probably a backlist trad book.
But trad publishing is copying indies in other ways. Their covers are becoming simpler with titles and author large enough to read in thumbnail size. Backlist formatting is getting better rather than throwing up a cheaply, and shittily, OCR-scanned copy of the mass market paperback. In other words, the trad publishers are starting to get their act together when it comes to e-books.
5) Reader Fatigue
How many of you have downloaded hundreds, if not thousands, of free/cheap e-books? *raises hand* Yeah, that's coming back to bite us writers in the ass. Why buy a new book if a reader has a zillion still waiting to be read on their devices? We have to publish something so unique and brilliant they can't resist us, and that's a damn mountain to climb.
On the other side, something that's personal for me and other middle-age people I know--we're rereading old favorites. Between dealing with elderly parents, our own health issues, and launching our kids into a world that seems to headed for disaster, we reach for the comfort reads from childhood. I know I've been going through the Katherine Kurtz/Barbara Hambly/Mercedes Lackey novels from my teens and twenties while dealing with cancer this year.
So what does this all mean?
It means we have the level playing field we claimed we wanted when the indie revolution started. It means we need to step up our game when it comes to storytelling; we can't rely on gimmicks to sell our wares. It means that the e-book market in finally maturing, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.
My attitude may change when I get back to publishing in January. But for right now, I don't think it's the end of the world.
While DH was on his staycation last week, we hit a couple of movies we really wanted to see. I'm going to review Robin Hood first because it may not last in theaters much past this week.
My overall view is it's not as bad as the critics would have you think, but it's not as good as it could have been either.
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1) Taron Eggerton and Jamie Foxx's sheer charisma and chemistry carry a good chunk of this movie. Unfortunately it's not enough.
2) Some interesting twists in character stories, including a revamp of Morgan Freeman's Azeem from the Costner vehicle Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.
3) Jamie Dornan trying so hard that he's unintentionally hilarious. (And I don't mean in a Alan Rickman chew-the-scenery way either.)
1) The script's plot needed to tightened. Oh, Cthulu, does it need to be tightened.
2) Even my libtard snowflake tendencies couldn't handle the heavy-handed preaching aimed at modern culture: 1% overreaching, the Catholic Church's child abuse scandals, the treatment of POWs, government treatment of returning vets, etc.
3) Treating the Crusaders as a modern SEAL team.
4) I don't mind them not setting the story during the reign of Richard I of England, but for the love Thoth, don't mix so many incongruous temporal elements together. It just makes a mess.
5) Some chemistry between Robin and Marian would have been nice. Robin sleeping with his Muslim buddy would have made more sense in this flick.
This is one of those movies I had great hopes for. It stumbled, but didn't fall flat on its face the way Star Trek V: The Final Frontier or Happily Never After (the two movies by which I measure all badness) did. Save your money and watch Robin Hood when it hits cable next year.
Overall, I have to give Robin Hood 6 stars out of 10.
We writers have enough problems focusing on whatever we're currently writing. Invariably, our muses like to tempt us away from the current file/page with some awesome new idea.
The temptation often happens when we've hit a sagging middle, or worse, when we're near completion of the current work-in-progress. My muse is no different than any one else's.
So of course, I dream a story last story. I mean it's tons better than the nightmares that have plagued me for the last three months. But still, the last thing I need is another story when I've got a ton of partially finished manuscripts THAT I MUST FINISH! I mean, the readers have been patiently waiting for these stories for the months I've been dealing with my cancer.
What's worse is this idea is not even fantasy. It's a weird combination of This Is Us and A Million Little Things, two TV shows I don't even watch.
Normally, I write a page of any new idea, just to get it out of my head, before I return back to my wip. But this crazy idea isn't even in my wheelhouse! And worse, the muse cast the idea with several actors from the cast and guest stars of Friends as a further method to tempt me. And no, it wasn't funny, not funny at all, but the type of serious drama the other two shows I mentioned above would do.
And this idea will not leave me alone!
GAH! I wasn't joking when I've said my muse/subconscious was a bitch!
How do you keep going when you've hit a bad spot or a low in your writing career?
I'm not the only one who has had health issues this year. Some folks have had financial problems. Others have had family troubles. It's hard to concentrate on writing when your life is going to hell in a handbasket.
But to remain a writer or be a writer, you have to hang in there. You have to keep going. You have to persevere.
That's not to say you can't take a break. It's not any different than the yearlong leave I had to take from law school when DH was diagnosed with cancer. But you have to keep your eye on the prize. I knew I was going back to school as soon as DH was back to work, despite what a couple of my professors thought. You have to believe in yourself. In your skills. In your vision for your art.
It's real easy to get caught in the trap of comparing where you are and where other writers are. But as both Kris and Sherrilyn have pointed out, they've had their ups and downs. They've even had major downs after they both became bestsellers.
However, in any business, hell, even in life, there are cycles. No low is permanent. Neither is any high. But so many writers hit a low that is so bad, they think it will never end. They let the down kill their creative spark, and they quit writing. Or painting. Or playing their guitar.
That's where your determination has to kick in. You don't know how long a downturn will be. You don't know when it will turn around. If you have the power to know this, please contact me. I'll front the money for a ticket and split the next Mega Millions jackpot with you.
In the meantime, I'll persevere and keep plugging away at my writing. I need to write fifty more books to catch up with Sherrilyn.
NaNo is usually a major blast for me, but with the insanity of Thanksgiving last week, I've stumbled getting anything done. I realized I've been writing like crazy for the last four months, and despite loving my projects, I was on the edge of burn-out.
Since DH has this week off, I took off a day. We slept in, got some breakfast at Starbucks, and headed to the Lima mall. I'm not a mall person, but the Monday after Thanksgiving is usually pretty quiet. Today was no exception.
DH wanted some sweatpants, and I needed a couple of long-sleeve overshirts since the weather's finally getting colder here. I picked up some peppermint bath gel because the store at home only had lotion left. I raided Yankee Candle for holidays scents. At DH's eyeroll, I pointed out I hadn't been there in two years. And I bought him a Christmas Cookie-scented candle as a bribe.
Finally, we put in our pre-order for cinnamon rolls at Cinnabon for the holidays. Well, we also got a six-pack to take home today. Those rolls taste so good, but are so bad for you at the same time!
GK ordered a 32" TV for himself on Black Friday. It wasn't supposed to arrive until tomorrow, but apparently, USPS has its shit together. It arrived while we were out and about, so the postperson left the box with our complex manager.
Not long after we picked up the TV and unloaded the rest of the car, the UPS guy showed up with the books I ordered, which weren't supposed to be here until Wednesday.
I'm impressed the delivery people are on top of things this early in the season!
It's snowing, and we're settling in for the night (though I really should go out and walk off that Cinnabon I just ate). I'll make cheeseburgers and steamed veggies for dinner. We'll watch the Texans play the Titans.
It's been a necessary mental health day. I'll jump back into my imaginary worlds in the morning.
It's the day before Thanksgiving here in the U.S. We have a bizarre relationship with holidays and family in the country. All the pressure and weirdness and lack of manners comes out, often causing problems with the people we claim we love the most.
Even though I publicly stated I have breast cancer on this blog a few months ago, I hadn't told anybody else beyond a close circle of friends. And DH's family can be...a little clueless.
Even though we've had dinner with the extended family more than once, they didn't notice I'm missing a body part. It's funny and a little sad at the same time.
Seriously, we had dinner at a local Mexican restaurant two weeks ago, and DH's youngest sister, aka Princess Cindy, tells me I can use her kitchen to cook Thanksgiving dinner.
No, she didn't ask. She stated.
Now, Princess Cindy and her husband have hosted many holiday events. I don't have a problem contributing, but I had no plans to cook this year. Not even for my own household. I'd already told DH I was playing the cancer card for the holidays this year.
So I told Princess Cindy I'd bring chicken tenders and a veggie tray from Kroger. (I love their deli section! So many delicious choices!) Since she was planning a game day (the family loves board games, and not the usual Hasbro ones), I said finger food would be the perfect accompaniment. We placed the order on the 15th.
And DH got text from her on that same day, asking again if I would cook.
I'm still not sure what's really going on. It wasn't like they are huge fans of the traditional turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, green bean casserole, yadda, yadda, yadda. The in-laws' idea of Thanksgiving is ham loaf and a store-bought pie.
So guess what Princess Cindy did yesterday? She ordered a ham dinner and pie from a local restaurant.
We'll have more than enough to eat tomorrow, but if Cindy wanted ham, why did she ask me to cook? She knows I don't make typical holiday foods.
This is what I mean about pressure and weirdness. I though I'd escaped the psych games with my side of the family, but apparently, every family has them. Cest la vie!
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