I just finished Zoe York’s Publishing How To series, and I really enjoyed the books, her thoughts and experiences on publishing romance, goal setting for your author career, and so much more. She’s been writing and publishing for years now, is a full-time author, and has made a bestselling list or two.
What I’m about to say doesn’t have anything to do with these books–I’ll circle around to them–but lately I’ve realized that when it comes to writing, publishing, and marketing, you can consume all the marketing advice in the whole world, but you won’t get anywhere unless you have a good product, and more importantly, a good product people want to buy. That’s part of the reason why I haven’t purchased Mark Dawson’s Ads for Authors course (comes in at close to 1,000 dollars, and SPF offers it twice a year). If you don’t have the books to back up your ads, your ads aren’t going to do anything.
When I take a look at my publishing history, I was writing good books. I received the odd 1-2 stars most authors do, but on the whole, I’m writing good books. That’s important to me because I do most of the editing and production alone. But something was still off because over the past few years, I didn’t find any traction. One mistake was my newsletter, or lack of one, I should say, and the other was my lack of direction with the books themselves. (I also didn’t understand author brand, but that’s an old discussion we can have on another day.)
It was just this morning when a woman in a writing FB group was talking about this very thing. She was sub-genre hopping and couldn’t figure out why she wasn’t getting any traction. Maybe she’ll believe me, maybe she won’t, but I told her I had the same problems with my own books and decided to niche down.
My issue with pivoting is that it took me a long time to realize I had to do it. Some writers who struggle may never understand that it’s not their marketing chops, or their covers, or their blurbs, but simply what they are writing in the first place. Depending on how fast you can write, that can take years. Years that can feel wasted because if you had been writing the right thing in the first place, you wouldn’t still be at ground zero wondering where it all went wrong. But that’s like a chicken and egg scenario–how do you know what’s right or wrong until you put it out there? And what are the metrics you’ve decided to pin that on? Sales? Reviews? I’m nowhere near making a full-time author’s salary–I checked my dashboard yesterday and made 2 cents. (That tells me someone borrowed the book in KU and opened it to make sure it borrowed properly, then went off to do something else. Or they read the first page, didn’t like it, and returned it. If I think to check back, I’ll see if that person read it or not, but that micro-level of caring is not in me and never will be.) Admittedly, those books are old now, and even dropping 10 cents a click in ad spend to those books is probably a waste of money because as we’ve determined, Amazon loves consistency and relevancy, and I won’t be writing any more of those books for the foreseeable future.
So what will make you decide that it’s time to pivot?
At the beginning of the post, I brought up Zoe’s book because in it she says knowing when to pivot and niche down is a personal choice, and it is. You have to look back at your books, where you are, and decide if it’s enough for you. I see indies making money. I want that, too. It’s not a driving force, but financial security is important to me, and who doesn’t want to get paid for doing what they love?
When we talk about pivoting, what does that even mean? It means taking a look at what you’ve been writing, looking at that lack of success those books are bringing in, and deciding to try something new. It can be as simple as what I did–turning from writing “Contemporary Romance” to Billionaire, or doing a full 360 and changing from Christian Romance to Horror. But then that begs the question too–will the pivot be in the right direction? I have no idea. I can’t even say if these new books will resonate with readers until I put them out. I THINK I’ve taken a step in the right direction: billionaire, first person POV. According to Alex Newton of K-Lytics, Billionaires are like vampires and will never die. So, that’s a good thing. But there are a lot of other things that can turn against me: writing style, the tropes I chose to write about, the issues (backstories) I’ve given my characters and decided to tackle in my writing. Changing from Contemporary Romance to Billionaire might not be the magic bullet I hope it is, and right now, I don’t have a plan C. I’m not even sure how long I’m going to give this pivot a go before I decide this writing business isn’t meant to be. I have enough books saved up to publish 4 a year for the next 3 years, so at least until then (because why not publish them since they’re written), but I’ve been skating financially since my divorce, piecemealing paying my bills with scraps of income from various places while giving my writing career a chance to do something, and I can’t do that indefinitely. As Kristine Kathryn Rusch says, there are easier ways to make money. Less stressful too, I bet.
So, if you’ve been banging your head against your laptop trying to figure out why you’re just not seeing the success you want, maybe it’s time to pivot. What is selling right now that’s close to what you’re already writing so you don’t go out of your mind? I’m not saying be a slave to the market, or to trend, though I’ve seen Alex Newton’s indie reports, and trends don’t change nearly as quickly as we like to say they do. I’m saying find something different to write that’s hotter, more niche than what you’ve been writing and see if that works.
All those who wander are not lost, but sometimes you think you know where you’re going and end up not knowing where in the hell you are. That was me before looking at my backlist and choosing to write Billionaire. All of Nothing has made more than all my other books combined, so I feel this pivot was a good choice. Now all I have to do is publish, wait and see.