Not to be all doom and gloom lately folks, but now that 2019 is half over, it's become plainly obvious (or maybe I've just woken up to the sad reality), that what I once was able to count on as a steady, almost passive income from my indie books is rapidly eroding.
The big question is why.
The simple answer is ads (and this only one part of the answer, but for now, let's focus on this).
I've been using paid Amazon ads for a while now. I've also used Facebook and Book Bub ads. In fact, I just spent over $200 on a Facebook ad that ran just last week for maybe five days (don't tell the wife. Oh wait, I'm not married), and it hardly moved the needle. I'm not entirely sure what distinguishes a good ad from a bad ad, but if I had to guess, successful ads are the ones authors pour tons of money into (I'm talking thousands), as opposed to the ones authors put only hundreds or less into.
In other words, if you're not breaking the bank by upping your ad spend by thousands each month, your books are going to go unnoticed. My guess is that indie authors are also competing with ad budgets of medium and major publishers. For the first time in a long time, I'm beginning to think that what was once the savior of the fiction writing industry--the one thing that could provide an author with a steady income stream that would keep him writing for a living forever and ever, proved but a dream.
No way can I compete with the ad budgets of those who can afford to spend five, six, or even ten thousand per month on ads. Ain't gonna happen. I suppose I could invest in one of those $600 courses some authors are offering up for learning how to use Amazon Ads, but I can bet this will only serve to confuse me more. Besides, if an author is really doing that great with the ads, why go to the trouble of creating time consuming courses? Maybe the question answers itself.
So where does this leave me (us!)?
I guess I could go wide, and move all my indie books back over to Draft2Digital. I already have all my short stories there. But, lets face it, iBooks, Barnes & Nobles, Kobo, and the like don't have nearly the selling power of Amazon, even without the ads.
I could invest more in monthly promos like KND and Book Bub. I already spend hundreds per month on a marketing dude, and he does a great job getting me all sorts of promos. But even during a year where I've enjoyed several Book Bub promos, you can only go to the various wells so many times with your $0.99 promo books. You can only give away so many free books, and believe me, I've given away hundreds of thousands.
Maybe I could increase my subscriber list. I'm steadily doing this, but now Mailchimp is charging even for those who unsubscribe which is like tossing salt in the wound and then viscously pinching it.
I could write more books and just try to win the battle with the power of numbers. But producing a great book not only takes time it takes cash, and now that the return on investment for said book isn't half of what it was even three years ago, it's a speculative gamble at best.
Or, I could make a profound return to the traditional way of doing things, and once again rely on advances and the marketing prowess of a publisher. I'm already doing that, but rather than place a major portion of my energies on the indie side of things, I might concentrate more on the traditional. Like I said, I'll soon have news of a new deal in the making, and without that, I might be ready to pull my toe nails out.
2019 has definitely been a watershed year thus far for the indie publishing world. I predict thousands will drop out, hang it up, and look for work. Luckily, the economy is booming. Luckily I invest in Bitcoin!
I also predict many will once again go back to seeking out an agent who will hopefully nail a book deal or two. Personally, I'm going to stick to hybrid publishing, and continue trying to take advantage of both systems. I do this in the hope that eventually, things will change for the better. Hope is a four letter word, folks.
These are the times that try writer's nerves and separate the men from the boys, the women from the girls. Who's got staying power? Who will survive the storm? Methinks the casualties will be staggering.