Sunday, November 29, 2015

Twelve Reasons Why Authors' Incomes Are Dwindling

Last week, I received my annual check from Access Copyright. For those who don’t know, Access Copyright is a national, non-profit organization here in Canada that represents thousands of writers, visual artists and publishers.(There are similar organizations in other countries). Access Copyright licenses the copying of the creators’ works, collects the proceeds, then distributes it among the writers and visual artists. Once a year, all participants receive a base payment. Over the past two years, the payment has dropped from $146.18 in 2013, to $112.75 in 2014, and this year was $79.48. This is possibly due to licensing battles with some educational institutions. Not every post-secondary school wants to pay to copy an author’s work. (I’ll save that ethical discussion for another time).

I’ve also been read interesting blogs from mystery author Hope Clark. She’s been in the writing biz a long time and recently discussed the number of emails she’s received from disillusioned writers who aren’t selling nearly as many books as they’d hoped, and who want advice. In Nov. 20th issue of her newsletter, Hope makes some great points, all of which address why readers shouldn’t expect to make money.

Overall, writers’s income are dwindling for several reasons. Here’s my top 12:

1)      As Hope states, readers expect to pay less for books. There’s a glut of free books and $.99 books enabling anyone to fill up their Kindles by spending very little.

2)      As a mystery writer, most of my readers are women in their 40’s to 70’s, who are downsizing their homes and learning to live on fixed incomes. Print or full-priced books have become a luxury that an increasing number of readers can’t afford.

3)      Ebooks can be borrowed from the library, and one can now read award-winning fiction from established authors free of charge.

4)       The growing number of published books far exceeds the growing number of readers.

5)      As Hope has also indicated, authors are selling fewer books. Not so long ago, an author could reasonably expect 500 sales. Now, many writers are lucky if they sell a 100 copies.

6)      Some authors are falling into the quantity is better than quality trap. In the rush to increase the odds of making sales, they are writing at a frantic pace without stopping for proper editing. Ultimately, this will harm their reputation.

7)      Amazon’s ever changing and mysterious algorithms changes visibility for some authors.

8)      Authors whose books can be borrowed through Amazon’s subscription service are also  finding that the shared pot is shrinking.

9)      Authors under contract with larger publishers are receiving smaller advances than their counterparts from a few years ago.

10)  Self-publishing, done properly, can be expensive. A good jacket designer and an editor could cost hundreds of dollars.

11)  I can’t speak for other genres, but the number of established mystery reviewers who write for major publications has shrunk. Print space is becoming almost non-existent in Canada, and this has impacted sales.

12)  My final reason will be the least popular, but it’s true. I’ve talked to wannabe authors at workshops who have neither the time nor interest in marketing their work. That doesn’t make them bad people or lazy people, just people with other priorities, i.e. day jobs and family members to care for.

I’m sure there are more reasons than the ones I’ve covered and, of course, there are always exceptions. If you read Kindleboards, you’ll know that plenty of authors appear to be making more money than ever through self-publishing. My advice is to study what the successful ones are doing. Read their blogs and follow their strategy. It takes a great deal of time and energy, but with patience, tenacity, and adaptability, it can pay off.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

A Hard-Won Milestone

Today, while selling my six mystery titles at a Christmas craft fair, I hit a milestone. I sold my 1,200th print copy of my first self-published mystery, Taxed to Death. When most unknown authors barely sell 100 print copies of their novels these days, (or so I’m told—I don’t know the actual number) this may seem like quite a feat, and it is, but not for the reason you might think, i.e. making money. You see, this didn’t milestone didn’t occur easily or quickly, and that’s the point I want to stress.

I’ve talked with a lot of writers and crafters over the last five years who all want to sell their products and make money, understandably. But I’ve also come across too many people who expect quick success. My craft fair season, which is from early November to mid-December involves both small high school craft fairs plus large three-day events. Time after time, I listen to vendors complain at the six-hour high school fairs (table rentals are $35 to $40) about not having cleared a $600 profit. I average $150.00 profit at high school fairs, and I’m happy with that. Hey, I don’t have lofty expectations. Craft fairs and, dare I say all bookselling events, are unpredictable. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in life is that tenacity pays off.

As I mentioned, selling Taxed to Death hasn’t been an easy ride. Would you be surprised if I told you that the book was published twenty years ago? I still sell it because I believe in my work and because the story’s centered around fraud, a more timely topic today than it was when I was first wrote about it.

Here’s the thing, though. I had to overcome a lot of hurdles to sell that book, and to be honest, there were years when I made little effort to sell Taxed to Death at all. I remember 1997, when we filled an order from the Chapters chain that necessitated a second print run (and this is before the POD days), only to receive over four hundred  returned copies months later and learn that our distributor, who owed us $1,000, had gone bankrupt. I had to make cold calls to independent bookstores along with personal visits, asking managers to consider carrying my book. Happily, over twenty stores did. All but two of them are gone now. I spent many hours doing a massive mail-out to nearly 1,000 libraries (which resulted in nearly 200 sales), and then I found Christmas craft fairs and summer farmers' markets. 1,200 copies later, I’m most proud of the fact that I made the effort and stuck with it, That, to me, is the big accomplishment.

Wise writers know that the writing biz is a long-haul journey. For the vast majority of us, there is no easy money or instant fame and fortune. But there is belief in your work and opportunity and tenacity. It’s up to you to decide what you want to do with it.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Sword and Sorceress 30

I just got my author's copy of Marion Zimmer Bradley's SWORD AND SORCERESS 30, with my story, "Temple of Chaos," in it!

Women of Enchantment and Valor... 

Adventure featuring strong female protagonists. Yes, the 30th in the series!

So rush on out and buy you a copy! Makes a great gift, too!

Liars' Tournament Pauline J. Alama
Temple of Chaos Marian Allen
The Sea Witches Robin Wayne Bailey
Grave Magic Steve Chapman
Diplomacy in the Dark Suzan Harden
Phoenix for the Amateur Chef G. Scott Huggins
The Piper's Wife Susan Murrie Macdonald
Admissions Michael H. Payne
Four Paws to Light My Way Deborah J. Ross
An Old Dragon's Treasure Robert Lowell Russell
A Fairy Tale of Milk and Coffee L.S. Patton
Death Among the Ruins Jonathan Shipley
Jewels on the Sand Catherine Soto
Dark Speech Michael Spence & Elisabeth Waters
Possibilities Julia H. West

Available at Amazon in print or for Kindle and at Barnes & Noble for Nook.

Marian Allen, Author Lady
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Introducing Guest Blogger: Kat Flannery

I’m very happy to introduce Kat Flannery, a dynamic, versatile author with plenty of wisdom to share. I’ve already learned a lot about hosting launch parties and the importance of blogging from her.

Kat’s bio states that her love of history shows in her novels. She is an avid reader of historical, suspense, paranormal, and romance.  A member of many writing groups, Kat enjoys promoting other authors on her blog. She’s been published in numerous periodicals throughout her career. Her debut novel CHASING CLOVERS has been an Amazon bestseller many times. LAKOTA HONOR and BLOOD CURSE (Branded Trilogy) are Kat’s two award-winning novels and HAZARDOUS UNIONS is Kat’s first novella. Kat is currently hard at work on her next book.

Today, Kat offers some great tips on writing novellas. Enjoy!

I love to write novellas. They give me a refreshing break from the heavy plotting I do for my full-length novels. However, just like anything we write there is an invisible guideline when it comes to hammering out a novella, and I’ve shared mine below.

Five Tips You Need to Know When Writing a Novella.

1.      Start your conflict in the first sentence. Unlike a novel where you build toward your main plot. Your goal is to bring the reader into the action from the first sentence and take it from there. This will set you up to keep the novel going at a fast pace, and keep your reader engaged.

2.      Fewer Characters. You do not have the word count to bring in a broad range of characters. Stick to the main ones with a few minor. This enables you to develop your characters providing your reader with three-dimensional personalities they will love.

3.      Your novella should not span more than a week; in fact I’d say five days max. This is a quick telling of a story and if you spread it out over weeks, like you could with a novel, you will lose your reader do to an unbelievable timeframe. Get in and get out is how I like to describe the novella writing process.

4.      Stick to one plot, and if you have to one subplot. I don’t advise more than that. You haven’t the time to flush out subplots when choosing to write a novella. Your plot is the driving force of the novella, trying to incorporate subplots could pull the reader from the story if not done right. A novella should be read in a day, thus a reminder of how fast the pacing needs to be for your story. Snap…snap…snap…keep the rhythm going. Do not put in filler. There is no room in a novella for useless wording.

5.      Word count. Novellas range from 15000 – 40000 words. This can be difficult for those writers who are used to pounding away at an 80,000-word novel. Writing something with fewer words will challenge your creativity and editing skills. Remember keep it crisp, quick and strong.

On SALE for $1.99

Twin sisters separated by war, bound by love…

After the death of their father, twin sisters Maggie and Matty Becker are forced to take positions with officers’ families at a nearby fort. When the southern states secede, the twins are separated, and they find themselves on opposite sides of America’s bloodiest war.

In the south, Maggie travels with the Hamilton’s to Bellevue, a plantation in west Tennessee. When Major Hamilton is captured, it is up to Maggie to hold things together and deal with the Union cavalry troop that winters at Bellevue. Racism, politics and a matchmaking stepmother test Maggie’s resourcefulness as she fights for Bellevue, a wounded Confederate officer and the affections of the Union commander.

In the north, Matty discovers an incriminating letter in General Worthington’s office, and soon she is on the run. With no one to turn to for help, she drugs the wealthy Colonel Cole Black and marries him, in hopes of getting the letter to his father, the governor of Michigan. But Cole is not happy about being married, and Matty’s life becomes all about survival.

Two unforgettable stories of courage, strength and honor.

Can one woman heal the heart of a lawman?

A gardener who uses plants to heal, Fern Montgomery is an outcast who refuses to be pushed out of town. When her friend is murdered and all fingers point to Fern as the only suspect, she must find a way to prove her innocence while fighting off unwanted feelings for the sheriff.

Sheriff Gabe Bennett has his mind set on arresting Sarah Fuller’s killer. But his key suspect isn’t what he expected. He soon realizes there is more to the quiet gardener than he’d first anticipated. As passion blooms, Gabe is forced to face his feelings—and the woman who has stolen his heart.

Kat’s books are available at:

You can find Kat here:

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Bookstore Signings Still Work

I’ve taken part in my fair share of book signings over the years, and have to admit that I often found them a little disappointing. It wasn’t because the store didn’t promote or I wasn’t bringing a positive attitude, but because I was an inexperienced introvert. I’ve slowly learned over time to bring things like bookmarks to hand out, and to engage with people, although this is still a challenge. I’ve also learned to quickly assess which shoppers might be interested in mysteries or not. It’s a gamble, but I’ve found that the more people I talk to, the greater the chance of sales.

I had the good fortune to take part in joint signings these last two Saturdays with mystery authors Allan J. Emerson and Cathy Ace. Both are extremely personable and Cathy excels at drawing potential customers to our table. Because Allan’s book is called Death of a Bride and Groom, he also created a faux wedding cake. What a great idea! As you can see from the photo, yesterday’s event took place on Halloween, so they got into the spirit and dressed in costume. (I still can’t find my old box of costumes…).

As you can imagine, all types of people dropped by our table, and we sold books! Cathy is also Vice-President of Crime Writers of Canada, so we handed out brochures that lists other Canadian crime writers whose work may interest readers.

A large part of any author’s success comes from collaborating with colleagues. It’s about working together and sharing expertise and experience. With book signings, it not only increases the chances of sales but can be a lot of fun. These last two signings have renewed my enthusiasm for bookstore events, and increases my belief that we’re all better off when we work together.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Why Story Length Changed My Reading Preferences

When I was younger, I read lots of long novels that ranged from Crime and Punishment to The Raj Quartet. As I grew older, I began to prefer action-packed, shorter novels and found myself shying away from anything over 350 pages. Perhaps a hectic life contributed to my preference for shorter work, but there might have been something else at play.

As a writer, I’ve always found it appealing to write mysteries in the 70,000 to 75,000 word range, but even that takes me a long time to rewrite and edit. Those who follow my blogs know that I’ve been writing novellas in recent years. The first, Dead Man Floating, was released by Imajin Books in September. Aside from finding a wonderful way to stretch creativity with new characters and word length challenges, there may be another reason I’m gravitating toward writing and reading shorter books. In fact, a blog by Rebecca Rogers Maher on why she prefers to write shorter fiction really made me stop and think.

Maher writes and reads a lot of contemporary romances, but she’s often found herself skimming over sections because the emotional anguish and conflicts are mentioned seven or eight times. It disappoints her. She wants to be pulled into a story right away and absorb every word. In other words, every word needs to move the story forward, not to provide frequent reminders. This is why Maher believes that most 90,000 word contemporary romances don’t need to be that long. She may be right, and I have to say that the same is true for mainstream novels.

With the two mainstream novels I read recently, I found myself puzzling over a paragraph and thinking, but I already know this. It was mentioned three chapters ago. Is it possible that the publisher is driving the word length? Do they and the author think that readers have painfully short-term memories? Publishers' minimum and maximum word length requirements isn’t necessarily a good thing. Wouldn’t it be better to tell a story the best way possible and let the word length land where it does? Isn’t that doing yourself and your readers a favor?

I know many readers who love full-length fiction and that’s great. But how many of those full-length novels could have been pared down a little or a lot? Rebecca Maher is writing 50,000 contemporary romances these days instead of the publisher-preferred 90,000 words. She wants to write the type of story where readers aren’t skipping over the slow or repetitive bits. It sounds like a good plan to me.