What happened to this industry?

There has been a lot of divide recently in this writing industry. Many have noticed and many have not. A lot of very serious accusations, a lot of arguing, a lot of “he said, she said” going on. Most of it has been between authors, which is sad for the readers. I’ve been seeing a lot of comments and posts in my newsfeed lately from people who are saying it didn’t used to be like this.

You’re right. It didn’t.

When I first got into this industry at the very beginning of 2012, there wasn’t much of an online reading community. There were a handful of indie authors and a handful of readers who interacted with us. It was all new. It was exciting. It was surreal.

A lot of us had huge things happening in our lives. We were experiencing life changes that took us from being poor to actually making a decent living with the books we were writing. If you’ve been in this industry for a few years, you know that 2012 and 2013 were beautiful years to be an indie. Amazon had yet to introduce Kindle Select and other avenues that promote free books, and piracy was barely even an issue back then. The market wasn’t flooded and I could actually name on my fingers and toes all the indie authors who were writing contemporary romance.

When an indie author published a book, it was likely the only book being published that week, so it got pushed by everyone. The business was growing exponentially. The authors who were in it at the time were getting more and more publicity. We were all flying high and it was great and the world was at our fingertips. It’s easy to not feel jaded or respond negatively to life when everything is going right with your career and the sky is the limit.

And then 2014 happened.

The industry was such a great place to be, everyone became a part of it. Longtime readers were now becoming authors. Bloggers were becoming authors. Readers were becoming bloggers. And authors started seeing more and more competition. Books stopped getting as much individual focus, because in 2014 when an indie author released a book, twenty other indie authors were now also releasing books.

Our loyal readers were becoming loyal to more than just one author. They now had many authors at their fingertips and what a great thing for readers. Pricing and marketing became more competitive.

There was money to be had, and so many people wanted a piece of the pie.

When I look at this indie industry now, I am blown away by how much it has grown. There are so many releases each and every day, it’s impossible to keep count now, and that’s a beautiful thing. There are more blogs than we can keep up with, but even with that many blogs, there are more authors than bloggers can review. Every day it grows and every day many reminisce about “the way it used to be.”

I assume we’re all struggling now, but I’m just going to use myself as an example here.

I have a much larger audience now than I did in 2013. I probably had about 20,000 followers on Facebook back then. Now I have over 300,000. My signings in 2013 saw about 20-30 people in attendance. Now I sometimes draw crowds of hundreds, and even upwards in the thousands.

Yet, I sell maybe 1/10th of the books I used to sell.

My readership has multiplied exponentially, but the purchase of my books has decreased tenfold. And while I’m using sales as an example to get into the point I want to make, I am not saddened by this change. I am grateful I have been a part of it.

From speaking with friends in the industry, mine is not an isolated case. It’s across the board for most authors. And this is in part because of the detrimental effect piracy has had on the industry, but it’s also in part to the flood of new and much cheaper books on the market. Now, the same authors who once could sell their ebooks at $5 or more are being forced to sell at .99 just to make a return on the investment it takes to write a book. I can’t imagine how hard it must be just starting out.

I’m not shocked by this. Since the first week I started selling books, I knew I was riding a wave. Everything is a wave. I knew there was no way that what was happening in the industry in those first two years could continue at the rate it was happening. It was inevitable that it all would begin to even out soon, and even out it did.

The thing is though, the industry has grown, but it hasn’t changed and neither have the people in it. It’s just that when you’re riding a wave and everything is new and fun, it’s easier to be positive and happy and not take life so seriously. But sadly, the positive and happy is wearing off in our newsfeed because a lot of people are having a hard time finding the positive that’s still here.

I look at this whole industry like I look at relationships. In the beginning they are new and fun and couples overlook things they wouldn’t normally overlook.

But the longer you’re in that relationship, the harder it becomes to maintain. The butterflies don’t flutter as often. Those habits that were once so cute are now a little irritating. The things you once overlooked in your partner are now impossible to ignore. You argue more, the attraction isn’t as strong. And this is the turning point. The love you have for your partner morphs into something different and it goes one way or it goes the other.

Sometimes that love becomes deeper and the relationship stops surviving on attraction and promise alone. It now needs commitment and respect and understanding to survive. But sometimes, depending on the people in the relationship, those things are hard to come by, so the relationship begins to dissolve.

That’s where we are right now in this industry. We’re in that seven-year-itch. Some of us have realized that maybe we aren’t a good fit. Some of us are struggling with how to make it work using the same tools we used in the beginning.

People keep saying that the indie world has gotten ugly and it’s not fun anymore. That’s true in a sense, but the ugliness has always been there. It was just easier to hide when it was all so new and we were at the top of the wave. But those waves are puttering out and we’re all struggling to survive in ways we didn’t have to a few years ago. And to some, our responses to this growth have become unattractive.

People don’t lose their dignity in the rise. Dignity is lost in the descent.

It’s a scary industry, and the passionate responses that are emerging aren’t happening because people are full of hate. They are happening because people are full of love for something that is falling apart. When someone loves something as much as many love this industry and their careers, it’s terrifying to see it imploding. For readers, bloggers and authors alike.

I’ve never been one to put a lot of faith in things, or even people. I may appear positive online, but it isn’t at all because I see the glass half full. It’s because I’m a pessimist, surprisingly enough. I always see the glass half empty.

When I’m disappointed, it doesn’t hit me as hard as it may hit others, because in a way, I expect disappointment. When people hurt me, I don’t want revenge on them because I know they are human and everyone hurts people now and then. I excuse it very easily. Some see this as me being a pushover, but I see it as a strength in myself that I am proud of. When my books stopped selling as wildly as they used to sell, I wasn’t shocked. I expected it. And when negativity started rearing its ugly head in this industry, it didn’t make me think differently of people, because I already knew it was there. We’re human. We can’t always be perfect.

For that reason, I accept the growth in this industry and I embrace it. I didn’t write my first book to make friends, I wrote it because I loved to write. So no matter what happens with the people in this industry, I’m still going to write. That’s why I’m here. And if you’re an author, that’s why you should stay. Because you love to write. And if you’re a reader, that’s why you should keep reading. Because you love to read. Friendship is a nice bonus to what is truly important to us here.

I have made so many great friends in the past five years I’ve been involved in this industry. Some of those friendships have grown into relationships I am convinced will last a lifetime. Some of them have dissolved. And you know what? It’s okay. It’s life. Relationships begin and relationships end and all we can do is figure out why they ended and do our best not to make those same mistakes.

The negativity is rampant right now. People are frantic and panicking and trying to figure out where they belong, who they belong with and we’re all grasping at the same lone life raft that is too small to fit us all the way it fit us all a few years ago.

I find that I cope better when I respond to this industry with humor. I don’t take things too seriously and sometimes I forget that others do. And that’s okay. Who am I to tell someone else to stop being who they are? I can’t stop employing the tools that work best for me. Some will appreciate that, others will not. But the most important thing for each of us is to be completely true to ourselves.

If your true self responds passionately to the things and the people you love in your life, then be the passionate person you are and don’t change because some don’t mesh with your personality.

If your true self responds with humor, then laugh your ass off, even if others tell you that your response is inappropriate.

If your true self responds through fear, then be scared to death, but surround yourself with people who are willing to calm you down when you need it.

Just don’t be something someone else wants or expects you to be. Even if the majority of people are telling you that your reactions are wrong, they are your reactions. If your attitude pleases you and that is how you cope best, then own it.

Issues aren’t found in the people who don’t know how to act appropriately. The issue is found in the fact that we expect people to be just like us. We want our newsfeeds catered to our liking. We want people to behave and react the same way they behaved a few years ago, or the same way we ourselves would react in their situation. And that’s understandable…but it’s absolutely impossible.

The problem with the online world and the real world is not found in the differences between the two.  It’s found in the similarities. In the real world, you don’t surround yourself with people you dislike. You don’t invite friends over for dinner that you have absolutely nothing in common with. Why force yourself to be different in the online world than you are in the real world? It’s all the same. We live in one world, we just access it in multiple ways now.

Surround yourself with the type of people who compliment the world you want to live in, whether that’s online or in actual face-to-face interactions with people. If you need passionate friends who are going to defend you until the end, then surround yourself with those people. If you need friends who are going to make you laugh, then surround yourself with those people. If you hate everyone and nothing anyone says pleases you, then adopt some cats. If you love everyone online and you wish they could ALL be your friends, then max out your friend list with a variety of people and enjoy your life!

The biggest disservice you can do for yourself is to expect those around you to cater to who you wish they could be. Instead, cater your surroundings to what YOU want them to be.

I like humor. I want to log on to my newsfeed and see a lot of things that make me laugh. I want to post things that make other people laugh. And if this offends people, then so be it. And on that same note, if I continuously find myself irritated with someone’s personality online, I am not going to shame them for not being who I wish they were. I’m going to accept them for who they are and make the conscious choice to no longer subject myself to that behavior.

Yes, it’s disappointing when we find fault in those we once thought hung the moon. It’s disappointing to see an industry and the people in it changing and becoming something different. But it isn’t all ugly now. We can all still find our own beauty in it. Don’t give up on it. This canvas has grown and there are many, many more people involved in it. It is unfair to paint each individual with the same paintbrush.

We can’t change the personality of the whole world, but we can certainly make our immediate world one that we still find beauty in.

You just have to find your people. They’re out there. I promise.