The Comings and the Goings

So, I had a thought.

My first novel Nothing: A Tale of Terror was published in 2005. It is 13 years later, and somehow, I’m still around in the publishing industry. Granted, Nothing did horribly, but that did not stop my perseverance and dedication to my craft. A few decent selling titles along the way helped.

My thought was not so much about my career as it was about the careers and futures of others. In my 13 years, I have watched many new publishing companies appear, and fold. I’ve watched a number of authors achieve a debut book – maybe a sophomore follow-up – and then disappear from sight. Even many cover models have come and gone with the increasing wave of more to take their places.

This surge of creation and recycling of publishing companies, authors, and models was – without a doubt – brought on by the emergence of internet publishing and self-publishing. The numbers of these entities skyrocketed over a small amount of time, opening up brand new doors for publishing and brand new ways for people to read books. As this is all very exciting and a great boost for literature, it created a mass of competition so large that to turn a profit – or even to get noticed – became an impossible challenge for all many involved.

After a few years of trying their best, many small publishing companies folded. With that, many authors found themselves without a home for their books. Finding a home for a book that has already been published by another publisher is a tremendous, and often unsuccessful, job, as is offering a publisher a piece of work that has been previously self-published when the writer decides to seek higher ground.

Authors that have found higher ground – whether with new works or republished works – have found that to continue existing in this modern day of “there are thousands of books in this category; which do I choose,” they must be active in all forms of social media. They must make connections that were not possible to achieve 10 or 15 years ago. They must self-promote to the point that their name is recognized and that their books are desirable. This self-promotion takes time away from writing, which can cause the author’s creativity to suffer.

This is called adaption. We adapt to the new ways of doing things, and we adapt to having less creative time and more time for talking ourselves up. For some of us, adaption is easy. We go with the flow and do what is needed for success.

For others, adaption seems impossible. There are authors who are set in their ways – who have been doing for decades what many of us have been doing for much less – and they know what has worked for them in the past. For these people, adaption is difficult and they have realized another way to survive in this world: through original production.

Every book must be new. Everything must be different – broader… better than the book before. Each character, more lively. Each plot, more complex. If the readers are clamoring for a sequel, you give them a sequel. If it has been a long time since you’ve had a hit book, then you re-read that hit book, and you give them a sequel. You hold on to the readers that you have, as you push toward new eyes with new pocketbooks.

The ultimate authors – your Stephen King’s or your Dean Koontz’s – do both. They maintain social media accounts (or they have someone maintain them for them) and they try to offer something new, yet sometimes familiar, to their fan base. Sure, for them it might be easier. Their names are already permanently implanted into the brains of millions of readers, and for us, it is a little harder.

To keep fresh – both with stories and with new readers – here are a few tips.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. I know you’ve heard this before; it’s a common saying in this industry, and for today’s emerging authors, there is truth to it. Produce with a publisher, but if you are not under contract solely with that publisher, constantly seek open calls for submissions that are asking for the types of writing that you are skilled at. There is nothing wrong with taking something new to another publisher. One reason for this is – with social media – today’s small presses have their own followings, and this will allow your name and work to branch out to new readers. Those new readers, if interested enough in your writing, will then seek out your other books. Both of your publishers will benefit, and so will you.

Don’t be afraid to creatively explore. By this, I mean venturing into different genres and discovering what all you’re good at. You might have written three historical romance novels, but there might be this bit of paranormal or fantasy in your head, ready to emerge. Don’t feel like you are stuck in a genre. Let go of that inhibition, write your heart out, and see where it goes. It is also safe to say that you can combine genres and create something truly new and special that your fans will adore.

Hold contests. People love free stuff. Free books, gift cards, a chance to appear as a character in a book (I did this one recently)… readers LOVE being interactive this way and being rewarded for it. Just remember to keep your contests legal and legit.

Cover reveals are the bomb! People love first looks at upcoming books, and cover reveals are a great way to do this. Build up the hype. Get people curious and excited. Then, announce a cover reveal event or social party where you finally show the world the cover for your upcoming book. When people are truly anticipating something that has been build up in a way that excites them, they are more receptive to it.

Don’t ever give up. So many authors give up because their first or second book didn’t sell well. Sometimes, even the third doesn’t sell well either. Continue to produce. The more you produce, the more people will recognize and notice your name. It can take years – decades – to make it in this industry. The ones that make it are the ones that don’t quit. Remember, it’s possible to have a dozen failed books, and then have a best seller. It’s all about the content, the promotion, and yes, the cover and blurb.

Try not to start with a series or trilogy. On your first venture out, give your new readers something original and stand-alone. The reason for this is that the market is so flooded with new series popping up every week, that you risk being overlooked for a more familiar name.  Worse yet, what happens if you ignore the tip in the paragraph above, and after the first, or second, book in a series, you find you aren’t getting the massive response you had hoped for and you quit. You either quit writing all together, or you quit the series and move on to something else. What happens is that you have left the few that had enjoyed your series hanging. You have not fulfilled them. You have given up on them, and they will know.

Hang in there, writers. The market is infinite, but I promise, if you write originally and well, and you stick around long enough, you are certain to see results.

Until I have another thought,

Jae El Foster

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