16 Jun

Someone Asked: ETA on the next book

Q: You said [alarming thing], and now I’m worried there might not even be a next book. Will there be, and if so, when can we expect it?

A: I’m currently 23,000 words into the rough draft of another contemporary. Judging by the position of the Act I/II break, I guesstimate the full rough draft will run about 56,000 words, so I’m pretty well into it and committed. (Full sentences are a rare sight in my rough drafts, so 56,000 will easily become a standard 100,000-word novel after revision.) If the guesstimate is close and if I maintain current production speed (either of which might not be the case), I might be finished with the rough draft before the end of July. If revisions went fabulously well after that (which they might not), a late 2018 release might be doable in November or December. That’s a lot of ifs and mights, but there is definitely one more book coming.

After that? Depends. I’m sick about how badly Silent Song tanked on release. 1/12 the preorders of 10KH and 2% of the month-one revenue and downhill from there is… not sustainable as a business. If only the people who gave 10KH a 5-star rating on Goodreads had bought it during the first two weeks at the discount price, it wouldn’t have been a good release, but I wouldn’t be thinking about pulling the plug right now. Sadly for me, the interest just isn’t there, even among readers who have historically liked my writing. If something doesn’t change dramatically by the end of the year, I’m done with contemporary romance and probably self-publishing in general. Despite the scar tissue from the last time traditional publishing burned me, it’s looking like the best bad option at this point. I’ve already reached out to a former agent to see if he or anyone at his agency might be interested in a side project that as of now is only in the outline stage, and if anyone wants to nibble, I’ll be devoting myself to that. Since trad pub deadlines are bruising, I won’t have time to dick around with no-reward contemporary romance as a hobby, even in the unlikely event I felt masochistic.

So… good news/bad news. I’m going to finish this current book regardless of whether anyone wants to read it, but after that, I’m not going to continue sinking time and money into books I can’t sell. The market has spoken, it’s currently telling me to fuck off, and I’m not betting the few pennies left in my self-publishing account that the market’s affections toward me will improve in the next six months. It is welcome to make me eat those words, but I’m planning for the future like that’s an impossibility.

This isn’t a “poor me, save me” whine. I’m well aware that there are things I could do to improve the situation but won’t for various reasons. I’ve known for 20 years publishing is not a kind, supportive mother, and every year she punches a little harder, so this is not a devastating surprise to me. I’m going to be just fine because I duck and weave like I’ve been dodging hits since birth. I’m just making it known, as a courtesy, what can probably be expected from the future, based on current unfavorable data.

13 comments on “Someone Asked: ETA on the next book

    • Probably not. Linking a new business with an old business is a good idea only if the old one didn’t fail. Standard agent/editor advice for moves away from much more successful failures than this one has been to cut my losses and get a fresh start. I’ve heard “let’s just reinvent you” moving from historical romance to historical romance, so I doubt there will be a lot of support for associating failed contemporary romance with an entirely different subgenre trying to get a foothold. A year ago, I could have argued I was doing respectably enough to warrant an attempt to lure crossover readers, but an optimistic crossover percentage of what I’m left with now wouldn’t amount to one whole person, so it’s probably best to just burn it to the ground.

      ETA: I also might not be offered anywhere to move for a fiction home. I may very well be doing nothing but ghostwriting memoirs, fad diet books, and merchandising tie-ins for toys/cartoons after pulling the plug here.

        • Ghostwriting and content mills are often conflated. Both involve writing that is credited to some entity other than the person who wrote it, but the similarity ends there.

          Content mills churn out text with minimal or no quality requirements at labor rates as low as cents per hour. Because it’s not even minimum-wage money, it’s often offshore work. The objective behind using content mills is to occupy as much shelf space as possible at the lowest cost possible to create the appearance of market dominance because consumers assume if there’s a lot of something, it must be popular, and everybody wants to keep up with the Joneses (at least until they catch on that more doesn’t mean better). It’s purely a marketing tactic. The product itself is irrelevant.

          Ghostwriting has several tiers of service, but the goal is always to produce a professional quality product. If I’m ghostwriting a product tie-in, I get a packet that includes a summary of the series to date, an outline of what’s expected plot-wise in my project, and a writing style guide that must be adhered to so readers can’t tell every book was written by a different person, and there’s editorial oversight. If I’m ghostwriting a memoir, that may mean beating the subject’s own writing attempt into shape or interviewing the subject, drawing out their story, and writing it from scratch, and there’s editorial oversight. If I’m ghostwriting a diet book, my duties may extend to fact-checking and citations, and there’s editorial oversight. There are different rates for different expectations, but even the easiest clients won’t bat an eye at $40 an hour because they’re paying for a quality product readers will want on its own merits, not because they’re confused by optics.

          The people doing the writing for content mills are just trying to earn a living, but the practice of using them to flood the marketplace with mass-produced pap is bad. Writing a quality book that has somebody else’s name in big letters on the cover has long been standard practice in several sectors of traditional publishing. They’re two different things entirely.

    • Well, this makes me SAD,SAD, SAD. I so loved “Silent Song”, as well as both the others. You are easily one of my top 5 writers. I know, everyone has to make a living, but it’s really too bad that sometimes it means you can’t write what you love. In this respect, I hope to never give up my day job (because that is pretty fun as well) and keep writing what I love to write, even if it doesn’t sell a damn thing.

      • Don’t be sad! *consults notes written on hand* This is an exciting opportunity for… donuts? *squints* Oh, all of us. An exciting opportunity for all of us.

        Damn, that’s too bad. Donuts would have been more cheering.

        Yeah, if you can have a day job (especially one that you like!) and still find time to write, that’s definitely the way to go in the current environment. I no longer have the mental energy to give 8+ quality hours a day to an employer and then have anything left for creativity. It would take me 50 years to write a book on weekends.

        I’ll still “write” what I love, but it will be more like scribbling elaborate outlines to satisfy my imagination without the months of agonizing over making the words pretty for anybody else or investing thousands of dollars in making them presentable for publication. The Trunk is real. (And has overflowed into a box, actually. I need Trunk II to annex my idea dumping ground.)

        And there’s still time to get a Bookbub or something that will change this pseudonym’s life. Five months is nothing in trad pub, but it’s an eternity in self-publishing. The whole business turns upside down overnight. It was to my favor once, and the next one kicked my ass, so maybe it’s time for another break? I won’t plan my life around it, since the prevailing trend seems to be “rip off the creative monkeys at every opportunity,” but anything can happen.

    • There’s a lot going on environmentally right now. For one example, ads that used to work blazingly well at 17 cents per click now require at least 75 cents to get shown to anyone. If it takes 10 clicks to make a sale, it costs me $7.50 to sell a book when I only earn $3.39 for the sale, a net loss of $4.11 on every book sold that way. I can’t advertise at those rates, and if nobody knows about the book, nobody’s going to buy it. Why ads have QUADRUPLED in price since September is a whole other discussion that I’m not going have here.

      Visibility difficulties (which go far beyond ad affordability) aside, I look at what is visibly successful and have to acknowledge I’m not writing what people want to read. *shrug* Rejection is ever the consequence of doing what you want instead of what you’re told. Then again, my off-trend writing was doing fine until last year, so there’s only so much blame I’m willing to force upon it. Bottom line: whatever the reason, there’s not enough demand for what I supply.

    • NEVER

      Of all the possible solutions, “put your entire business in the hands of a corporation that openly states their goal is to reabsorb every cent you earn from them and then reach deeper into your pocket” makes the least sense. If every other bookstore folded and Amazon was the only outlet left, I would unpublish my entire backlist of 40-some books rather than go all-in with those predatory bastards.

      Just in case my feelings about the current state of KU weren’t clear previously…

        • With over a million other selections in KU, it’s curious that you sought out a particular author rather than choosing any other book that remains available to you at the tap of a button. If you can’t find anything you want to read out of over a million books, the lack of value you’re receiving from your subscription is a problem between you and KU. Write to THEM about how unhappy you are that the authors you want to read are leaving. Use names! I would LOVE to fill out another survey about why their program is bad for authors so they can ignore what they’ve been told again and again and again by countless dissatisfied publishers who have already left or plan to leave soon.

          When you get a “thanks, we’ll look into it” response and none of the books you want come back to KU, perhaps you’ll finally realize the way Amazon treats publishers has a direct effect on what you get to read and begin to care a little bit about the fact that content creators need income in order to keep producing the content you want. The authors you want to read leaving writing so they can earn a living some other way will only make your nothing-I-want-to-read problem worse.

          • I hate this shit, by the way. Writers and readers shouldn’t be on opposite sides of a middle man who makes money from both of them and casts them in adversarial roles. I know who the bad guy is, and it’s not readers, but that middle man whispers “I’ll give you UNLIMITED value at practically no cost to you” and suddenly the person on the other side saying “uh, the cost is coming out of MY pocket” is the enemy pissing on your treasure, which is not a book but the LOW PRICE at which it is acquired. The book is meaningless, the work involved in creating it is economically devalued, and then that one special person shows up to demand more of the free labor they’ve come to expect, and suddenly the animosity flows both ways.

            Meanwhile, the middle man is getting money from both sides, squeezing every cent possible from this conflict of interests he’s orchestrated. The middle man is the only winner, and the losers blame each other while he counts his money.

            Sorry to everyone other than “anonymous” for bitching. The entitlement behind “entertain me in my preferred fashion no matter how badly it hurts you” will always get the same response. If that’s not you, the dragon breath is never directed toward you. If you’re a disappointed KU reader who doesn’t demand I submit to an abusive overlord to suit you, the dragon breath is never directed toward you.

Insert comments below. By submitting a comment, you consent to have your personally identifiable information collected and used in accordance with this site's privacy policy, as stated on the Info page. All links go to moderation; non-spammy ones will be approved.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.