Friday, February 10, 2012

Guest post: Successful author says be prepared for change

Here’s another guest post from another author, Ty Johnson. He’s a step up from the likes of aspiring authors like me: he’s actually earning enough to work full-time as a novelist! Congrats, Ty! I’m guessing all my readers are looking forward to that day. I know I am.

Fantasy author Ty Johnston is touring the blogosphere this month to promote his new e-book novel, DemonChains. His novels include City of Rogues, Bayne’s Climb and Ghosts of the Asylum, all of which are available for the Kindle, the Nook and online at Smashwords. To learn more about Ty and his writing, follow him at his blog

I’ve been writing fiction for more than two decades and I’ve been an indie writer for going on three years, which is a longer time than some. None of that makes me an expert or a guru, nor does it mean I’m rich and famous. You won’t see my name listed among the stars of indie publishing. But this is how I make my living nowadays, which makes the wife happy because the bills are paid and I get to stay home instead of going to an office somewhere.

Still, I’ve been around long enough and feel I’m experienced enough, that I can offer some little advice to fellow indie authors.

One piece of advice I feel today’s fiction writers need to hear is, “Always stay on your toes.”

What does that mean? That writers need to be prepared for change.

There has long been a tradition that fiction writers can write and that that’s all they have to do. That tradition is a lie. Even before digital publishing, writers had lots of work besides simply writing. There were editing and formatting, then query letters to be written, contracts to be considered, literary agents and publishers and editors and sometimes intellectual property attorneys who needed attention. There were conventions to attend, anthologies to edit for editor pals, communications with fans, slush to read for a friend’s magazine. It could go on and on. And again, all that was before digital publishing came along.

Today, indie writers are just as busy as traditionally-published writers, maybe even more so. I won’t go into the lengthy laundry list of things that can legitimately take up an indie author’s time, but let’s just say there is a lot to do other than writing.

Which brings me back to my point: Writers need to be prepared for anything. Part of this means writers can’t stick their head in the sand and ignore the rest of the world, especially the publishing world.

Everything is in flux in this business, especially in this day and age.

Writers who think they are immune are fooling themselves. Digital technology combined with today’s economy are bringing about daily changes in book publishing, both in the traditional business and for indie publishers.

An independent who ignores those changes will soon find him- or herself not only behind the times, but backpedaling to retain their readers, to be published, to be noticed.

I’ve been vague so far, but what kind of changes am I talking about?

Well, for instance, there’s the new KDP Select program that allows Amazon Kindle authors to give away their e-books for free up to five days during a three-month period. To some this might not seem like that big a deal, but KDP Select is already bringing about change in the publishing industry. If nothing else, all those free e-books have brought some upheaval to the Amazon rankings, not that that’s necessarily a bad thing. Another thing KDP Select has done is it has caused many authors to pull their books from other digital publishing sites because Amazon demands exclusivity for the months an e-book is enrolled in the program. That means thousands upon thousands of e-books are temporarily not available for e-reading devices other than the Kindle. There are both good and bad arguments for all this, and here I’m not voicing an opinion, but let it be said this is the kind of change I’m talking about.

KDP Select is just one example, and the most noticeable recently, of developments that can affect indie authors. Technology, legislation, the market, all can have an effect. If we don’t keep up, we risk losing out. We could lose sales, readers, fans ... and possibly a career.

I don’t mean to scare anyone. I don’t mean to sound all doom and gloom. But indie authors need to pay attention nowadays. We are not just artists, but also entrepreneurs. We need to watch our world as it spins, or it will spin away from us.

Derek: Thanks a lot, Ty! And good luck with the latest book!


  1. Derek, thanks for hosting me today!

  2. Ty, and Derek too, thanks for the post. I agree, now that you've brought the thought to the front of my mind. And, as one of my own characters says when asked about change:
    “Our society teaches that the only constant is change – as one of our writers said: ‘… Man’s yesterday may ne’er be like his morrow; Naught may endure but mutability!*’” ... “Change is ubiquitous in each of the four dimensions we can sense. We dislike it.”

    The key may be the last three words. However, like it or not, we have to deal with it, and it's good to be gently reminded of that.
    I appreciate your comments.
    Thanks for sharing.
    (*The attribution to Mary Shelley appears in the ellipsis.)

  3. Very much so. Good job laying out the truth of the industry.

  4. Great post, and well-timed. Just like Derek (and many other Indies) I've had to reevaluate my business plans several times over the last year. Some of that had to do with promotions, marketing, covers, etc., but mostly it was about price. What I've learned is that when Amazon says "jump" we say "how high!" Because they're the ones that sell our books. Most of my major changes in business model have come directly after changes made by Amazon.

    After a price increase on most of my titles at the beginning of the year and a couple of trials on the Kindle Select program, I've increased my income from about $200 a month to what amounts to a full-time salary. I've made over $1,000 a week for the last two weeks and my sales are holding strong. My concern now is to keep new titles published fast enough to maintain this momentum and build a loyal readership.

    It's an exciting time, but we have to stay on top of the changes in a big way or we'll look like Borders when the smoke clears.