Tuesday, June 7, 2022

If The Big 5 Becomes The Big 4, Who Wins?

 What do I see in my crystal ball for the future of publishing? Will the Big 5 become the Big 4 and how would that trickle down throughout the industry?

My crystal ball is hella cloudy on the topic of traditional publishing, mostly because I haven't been paying attention to the latest brouhaha and scuttlebutt. However, because I didn't want to half-ass a post, I did double-check to make sure we're still at 5 major publishing houses. Yep. The merger for Simon's Random Penguin was blocked by the US DOJ on antitrust grounds but, as of December, the parent company of Random Penguin, Bertelsmann, was fighting the decision in court. 

Why did the DOJ block it? Because it would give SRP "outsized influence over who and what is published, and how much authors are paid for their work."

Bertelsmann argues that the merger better positions the company to fight against Amazon's overbearing influence on the market, which would improve distribution and author earnings as a result.

Authors' groups are stridently opposed to the merger because they've seen what's happened as the Big 8 became the Big 5 and the demise/acquisitions of midsized publishers by the 500lb gorillas.

The case is due to be heard in August. 

What is likely to happen if Bertelsmann wins? What always happens with mergers: departments will be consolidated, budgets slashed, staff laid off, and new/renewing contracts adjusted for terms that best suit the company. Never, in the history of capitalism, has a merger resulted in higher pay for non-executive staff and contracted talents. Any gains for contracted talents (authors, cover artists, editors, etc.) have come as a result of labor/talent guilds taking on multinational corporations (MNC). The bigger the MNC, the harder they are to defeat in negotiations. Just look at Bertelsmann's reason for wanting to acquire Simon & Schuster: to be in a better position to take on Amazon. Bertelsmann earned €18.7billion last year. They're not a small company by any stretch. 

No MNC is looking out for their authors. They're looking out for the Intellectual Property they've purchased and how they can maximize profits off of it. Just look at the despicable legal loopholes of Disney refusing to pay authors according to the terms to which they--and the businesses they acquired--agreed. If it weren't for the SFWA, these authors would have no hope of getting what they are due. 

Advances to trad authors have been plummeting for years. Not coincidentally, the timing coincides with the era of rapid acquisitions and mergers in the publishing industry, which also coincided with the mainstreaming of digital books (which rocked the industry to its core). Merger or no merger, this practice will continue.

Anyone thinking the Indie market will be unaffected by the MNC battle is holding to a very short-sighted view. We might see a near-term benefit of being able to raise our book prices while still being cheaper than trad books. At the same time, we will continue to see MNCs invade small-business marketing spaces and drive up our costs of advertising. They're already crowding us out of the few Indie-friendly spaces because those who provide the services are also businesses that need to make a profit, and what profit-generating business is going to leave money on the table? On the other hand, MNCs are utterly inept at adaptability, so any tech-driven advances are still ours to leverage.

How does all this impact readers? Readers will pay more for fewer options with no improvement in quality or diversity.

In short, if the Big 5 shrinks to the Big 4, nothing improves from the author's, reader's, or employee's perspective--unless the courts force industry changes as conditions of the merger. Then things could get interesting. It's super-duper unlikely, but I'm all about fantasies.

If the merger is blocked, nothing changes. Those things that are already inequitable and problematic will continue. Those who are fighting the good fight will continue to do so.  

At the end of the day, Simon's Random Penguin is about prepping for a battle between two Goliaths. The MNCs give zero fucks about authors and readers. As for the DOJ, there isn't much they can do to help the little guys, not with this particular antitrust case.

Saturday, June 4, 2022

What were you supposed to be?

There’s a tweet circling on the Internet that reads:

Going as Former Gifted Child for Halloween and the whole costume is just gonna be people asking “What are you supposed to be?” And me saying “I was supposed to be a lot of things."

That joke always hits home for me. I, too, was supposed to be a lot of things, and none of them was an author.

The list of my intended vocations has expanded over the course of twenty years of school and studies, and includes but is not limited to: professional musician, mathematician, archaeologist, architect, airplane technician, historian, forensic researcher, translator and dolphin trainer. (If that looks like a broad range of interests, I must note that my sister was even more creative: she insisted in kindergarten that her dream job was to be a roadworker).

The idea of being a writer never really made it onto the list of possibilities until a few years ago. Which is remarkable, considering I have been writing since I was old enough to hold a pen and not draw on the walls with it.

I was always the daydreamer of the family – couldn’t fall asleep at night because I was too busy working out elaborate plots, couldn’t walk into a museum without exclaiming “I’m going to use this for a story!”, and always carried a little notebook around to jot down names and interesting thoughts as they came to me. And my parents were not at all unsupportive. My father read my first (and utterly terrible) full story and sat down with me to discuss how I might improve it. My mother gifted me her old laptop so I could spend more time writing. But when I suggested at ten years old that I was going to write a book and earn money with it, they kindly replied that while it sounded like a fun idea, things didn’t really work like that.

I was a good kid; I listened to my parents. So I filed writing under the category of “impossible” and focused on a variety of other career paths.

Oddly, putting food on the table was not a concern ever mentioned when I eventually ended up majoring in the field of Comparative Indo-European Linguistics. If that sounds unfamiliar to you, it’s for a good reason: studying languages that died out thousands of years ago is not the kind of activity that makes the headlines. Nor does it earn anyone a lot of money.

It's respectable, though.

And that, I’ve come to realize over the past few years, was the main thing that held me back even when all I truly wanted to do was get these words out onto the paper, to get these characters out into the world – the idea that writing is somehow not a “real” career. Real adults don’t have jobs that require them to have conversations with imaginary people. Real adults sit in offices and do stuff with spreadsheets and talk about the weather. Somehow, somewhere in my life, I picked up the notion that writing is a choice to be ashamed of, that all that endless daydreaming isn’t something that should be indulged, let alone encouraged.

And if I’m honest, I’m still not entirely sure what eventually made me challenge that thought. Part of it was meeting other people who wrote their stories and seemed to be surprisingly sensible in spite of that. Part of it was discovering the indie book world and realizing there might be money to be made with words after all. Part of it was, unfortunately, being unhappy enough for long enough that I had no choice but to do some serious thinking about what I wanted in life. The answer, unsurprisingly, was that I wanted to write much more than I wanted to be respectable.

So I started publishing.

It doesn't yet make me a lot of money; it might never be more than a rather time-consuming part time job. I’m fine with that. It’s not the idea of earning a fortune with writing that’s made me so much happier since I started this business. Rather, taking myself and my stories seriously for the first time in my life is what has made all the difference.

And that's the one piece of advice I would give every writer struggling with the very respectable expectations of their parents or partners or past selves: take your own wishes more seriously. It’s not always easy and it’s not always fun, but it’s definitely easier than keeping those words bottled up inside.

If you're a writer, you know. And if you have stories to share, I don’t think there’s anything else you’re supposed to be.

Lisette Marshall is a fantasy romance author, language nerd and cartography enthusiast. Having grown up on a steady diet of epic fantasy, regency romance and cosy mysteries, she now writes steamy, swoony stories with a generous sprinkle of murder.

Lisette lives in the Netherlands (yes, below sea level) with her boyfriend and the few house plants that miraculously survive her highly irregular watering regime. When she’s not reading or writing, she can usually be found drawing fantasy maps, baking and eating too many chocolate cookies, or geeking out over Ancient Greek.

Friday, June 3, 2022

Stumbling into What You Shouldn't Do

I didn’t necessarily want to be a writer. Certainly no one ever suggested it. The first person to mention it was a high school biology teacher who told me he’d haunt me if I didn’t end up a writer. I preened, but I also smiled and nodded and dismissed the comment because I'd already had The Talk. 

Writing doesn't put food on the table.

So I didn't want to be a writer. Telling myself stories was just something I did. It was a way to pass the time until I got where I really wanted to go. The Air Force Academy. I was going to fly fighter jets. Yeah, I didn’t care that women couldn’t pilot fighters in those days. It was a stupid ass rule then and it’s changed now. I was confident that if I got to the academy, I could and would change minds. I studied hard.

All the while, I told myself stories. I did that because no one knew my childhood was filled with sleepless nights. I thought it took everyone two to three hours to fall asleep every night. I didn’t question. I just filled those hours in the quiet and the dark spinning unlikely adventures in my head. Finally, one boring summer, I borrowed Mom’s typewriter and committed a few of those unlikely adventures to paper. But it was just a lark. I was going to the Air Force Academy.

Stories were my therapy; a place to dump the angst of the day. I kept writing them down. Got made fun of a few times when people would run across a page and read it. It didn’t matter. I wasn’t going to stop. It was too useful a tool and it was something to do until I got where I wanted to go.

When my father found a page and scoffed at the admittedly terrible writing, I got the dinner table lecture. You know the one. Writing doesn’t put food on the table. I, responsibly, I thought, refrained from asking him who wrote newspapers and magazines and TV shows and movies. Instead, I responded that I didn’t want to be a writer. I wanted to be a pilot. Dad looked disappointed. You should be an engineer, he said. To make him happy, I took technical drawing to see if I could master even the simplest part of being an engineer. No. That answer was decidedly no. I couldn’t. Back to piloting. I joined the Civil Air Patrol as a steppingstone to the Air Force Academy. I joined the Sea Scouts – padding the resume, you know.

And then, at a physical during my sophomore year in high school, my doctor had to sit me down and explain to me why I would never join the military, much less go to the Air Force Academy. It was a medical issue – genetic. Nothing to be done about it except to accept the hard facts. And honestly, if you know me, you already know the military was an epically stupid idea given my issues with authority. I soothed myself with stories, but I still wasn’t interested in being a writer. It was just a past time - something I did to make myself feel better.

I won’t lie. I flailed for a few years. What do you do when you lose the thing you thought you’d wanted? I went to college because it was something to do – not because I had anything in mind. A psychology professor tossed off a comment – Marcella processes the world through writing – that burrowed in, and the thought finally landed. Maybe I could be a writer. Maybe my silly little stories could mean something to someone besides me. What if they could?

Detours ensued. Jobs – because poverty sucks. Life. A few published books under my belt.

And here I am. Proving my dad wrong. I am putting food on the table because I’m writing. Granted. It isn’t fiction, necessarily, though that happens, too. I’m a technical writer in my day job. It’s writing. It pays well. I still tell myself stories. Sometimes, those stories mature enough to make it out into the world for other people to read, though admittedly, it takes longer now with a day job. Do I still dream of writing a great big hit and retreating to the ivory tower of writing full time? Of course. But until that day I pay bills with writing. And I tell myself silly stories. You should do that last bit for yourself, too.


Thursday, June 2, 2022

What We Were Once Supposed to Be

dry grass covered garden surrounded by a black fence and in the middle sits a blonde woman wearing  a large hat, blue jeans, and black hoodie, as she hugs her black and white Siberian husky

what we were once supposed to be

was something we could never reach

and as our souls make their silent plea

we choose that which will make us free

In yesterday’s post on ‘what were you supposed to be—vocational advice writers get because writing isn’t a high-income career’, Jeffe mentioned she wrote poetry when she was young. She didn’t dream of being a writer and ended up in the sciences. 

And it’s nice to not be alone with this background! So often on the socials I see authors posting homemade books they crafted in elementary and how they knew they’d grow up to be a writer. I never had that dream. I grew up with  a lap full of books I adored reading, but I also loved blood and guts and figuring out how things worked. That’s how I ended up in the sciences—clinical laboratory science to be precise. 

My parents raised me to believe I could do anything. Because of that I wasn’t afraid to stretch myself. And I was successful, achieved acclaim, and was fulfilled helping people. Then when my health crashed and I walked away from my career I decided to take a chance on my new dream and embraced being an author. 

I believe it was a knowledgeable decision, even though the mental challenges have surprised me. Before I began writing I’d been interviewing authors for years at Reading Between the Wines book club and had realistic expectations on book profits, or the lack there of. And that’s where I gleaned the one piece of advice I’ll give to new writers: grow a backlist. 

The wise man built his house upon a rock. To translate that into an author’s career: build a solid backlist and your career will be stable. Writing is a long game, there’s no over-night success, so plan ahead, keep feeding your dream, and don’t give up! 

What were you supposed to be?

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Putting Food on the Table™ and Other Wise Advice for Aspiring Novelists

This week at the SFF Seven we're discussing what we were supposed to be - the vocational advice young writers get because writing doesn't put food on the table™.

I really loved KAK's epic tale from yesterday (for some reason Google has decided I'm not allowed to comment anymore), in part because I am also not the author who Always Wanted to Be a Writer.

Not because I didn't love reading and writing - I always, always did! - and I even won a poetry contest when I was eleven or twelve and I wrote poetry (really bad poetry) all through high school. I contributed them to the high school literary magazine, anonymously because I was a weenie. I took AP English and my teachers praised my stories and other writings.

But, dear reader, never did one person suggest that I become a writer. Nobody ever thinks that a career as a writer will put food on the table™. To be fair, it generally doesn't, and it takes a long time to get there, unless you hit the literary equivalent of the lottery. Like all the pretty aspiring actors from the Midwest arriving in Hollywood on the bus, very few of us become superstars. Most of us get really good at waiting tables

Sometimes, though, I wish someone had suggested that as a career for me. Instead, like KAK, when I was told I could be or do anything, those suggestions shaded toward other careers. Science! Medicine! Biology! While I greatly appreciate that so many adults in my life recognized my strengths in the STEM areas and encouraged me to apply myself, I regret that I didn't direct some of that application to writing.

See, when I was headed to college, there was a scholarship offered for someone in English/Literature. You had to write an essay and the winner got... I don't even remember. Free ride? Fame? Glory? I can't even remember, but I wanted it. I had this idea of surprising everyone with my sudden literary talent. So, even though I was enrolled as a pre-med student, I wrote an essay for this scholarship in the lit department.

Now, my mom and I had this back and forth then, where she HATED that I put off schoolwork until the night before. I was a terrible procrastinator - something I had to change about myself in becoming a novelist - and I'd gotten pretty good at gliding by on last-minute efforts. That's what I did on this essay, whipping it out in a frenzy and I still thought it was brilliant.

And someone else - let's call her Brienne Merritt - won the scholarship. You can Google her. She's beautiful, blonde, athletic, intelligent, talented, and she won MY scholarship making her the ideal nemesis for a young me. I'm not tagging her because we aren't friends and never were, though we have a lot of mutuals. I kind of doubt she even knows I exist. I was that gal at the party in Say Anything that comes up to Ione Skye and babbles on about how their competition made her work harder and Ione finally says, "me too!" just to be polite. Brienne was busy doing her own awesome thing and never knew that I thought about her, and think about her still.

(I notice that Brienne is now a nurse, which makes for a funny reversal.)

Anyway, the advice I did get, that was the best vocational advice I received, came at the end of college from my Comparative Religious Studies advisor, Professor Hadas. I was trying to decide between many post-college paths and interests - medical school, it turns out, was not one of them - and he told me to stick with science. 

I know, right? Basically the same as everyone had been telling me all along, but he had wise advice along with it. He advised me to pick a career (and post-graduate education) that would put food on the table™. He told me I was fortunate to have strengths in areas that people would pay me to work on. And that having that income security would give me a foundation to continue to learn and grow, to follow my more esoteric interests. 

It was truly good advice. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

The Young Writer: Society's Expectations vs Happiness

The topic this week: What Were We Supposed to Be: Vocational advice young writers get because writing doesn't Put Food on the Table.

Hehehehe. Zomg. 
Gather 'round, kiddies and fogies alike.
Once upon a time, in days of yore...

I'm very blessed. Growing up, my folks were firmly in the camp of "you can be whatever you want to be when you grow up...as long as it's a college graduate with an advanced degree." I went to college...to get away from high school. It was just a box of Expectations and Obligations that had to be ticked. That was it. That was in the days when the prevalent myth promised a six-figure job and corner office as a reward for graduating. (Ah, to be young and gullible again). Silly me started off as a business major with a second major in Japanese.

No, no. Don't be impressed. 
This is a tale of epic failure.

I'd never listened to, spoken, nor read Japanese before the Dean of Admissions said, "Sure, we'll let you in a year early if you sign up for this pilot program." I wanted out of high school, so I signed up. I was a good student. I could accomplish anything (cue superhero theme song). I hung in there for two years before academic probation made me surrender. I'd walk into the final exams for my business classes with an A and walk out with a C. Do you know what that means? That means I FAILED THE FINAL. (Looking at you, Decision Sciences and Advanced Accounting).  And let's not even discuss my language classes. Even with three tutors, I couldn't. My brain. It wouldn't. It noped right out of there. 

Not wanting to be expelled as an undergrad, I changed majors to the one that accepted most of my credits from The Epic Failure. Guess what it was.

No, no, guess...

ENGLISH with a focus in Creative Writing! It wasn't because I fancied myself as the next Great American Novelist. It was simply a matter of graduating before I was old enough to legally drink. Sorry. I'm not the author who Always Wanted to Be a Writer. I wanted to be an ACTOR. The STAGE. The LIGHTS. The LINES...I couldn't memorize. Remember that language failure I had during my freshman and sophomore years? Yep, I can't remember diddly-squat. Well, let me rephrase that, I can't remember the stuff I want to. I'm excellent at surprising myself with the random, useless tidbits rattling around my gray cells. 

Did finishing my undergrad degree convince me to pursue being an author? Oh hell no. It did the exact opposite. My lit professors assigned books I hated to the point I never wanted to pick up another book. Ever. My writing professors delighted in derision without an iota of constructive criticism. And the whole bagging on genre fiction because it's lowbrow? Yeah, it's a real thing in academia. No one taught a class on reader expectations by genre. Pfft. Ew. Worse? Not a single class was offered on the process of publication, how to write a query letter, or what the hell a synopsis was. Academic bubble vs real-world practical. This, my dear readers, is why I will never say getting a degree is important to being a writer. Admittedly, that was cough, cough decades ago and better programs exist today. Still, the absurdity and bitterness are real.

Now, what I did get during my final years as an undergrad was the rude awakening that a degree in English qualifies you to be...unemployed. I managed to snag a job as a temporary receptionist, then the company sent me out as temp secretary (yes, in those days, we were still called secretaries not admin assistants). Those dreams of being an actor? Fell to my innate desire to eat, have shelter, and--let's go crazy--wear clean clothes. Eventually, I was hired as a corporate wonk and worked my way through community management and product marketing. Yep, my company even paid for me to get my Masters in International Commerce & Policy. (Hello, business degree, I couldn't stay away from theeeeee.)

Man, that steady paycheck was sweet. 
Sweet enough to make me forget what actually made me happy.

How did I find my way to being a writer? Well, remember how I really, really, really wanted to be an actor? I've always loved make-believe. I enjoyed bringing others along on the journey of limitless imagination. Since I couldn't do it on the stage, I decided to do it on the page. Those lines I can't remember are now dialogues I spend days crafting. Those characters I pretended to be are now characters who come to life for me. Sets have become settings. I traded existing in someone else's world to build my own. 

Like Charissa, I was thirty when I had The Epiphany. Yep. The BIG 30. I'd fulfilled most of society's expectations for what a Young Lady should achieve, and I was done being defined by external pressures. My health had suffered greatly and for no great reward. That's when I decided to get real about my happiness. That's when I decided to take my love of the fantastical and turn it into something sharable. I joined a writers' group that taught me the basics of the craft and the business. I practiced. I failed. I practiced some more. I got better. I continue to practice, learn, and improve. I gleefully pursue this passion because it makes me happy. Even when I faceplant.

Happiness, dear readers, is often backburnered whilst in the throes of Putting Food on the Table™.  Once you're fortunate enough to stop scrabbling to simply exist, give yourself room to think about your happiness. Figure out the steps--the realistic steps--to get there. Give yourself permission to take that first step, no matter how scary it might be. Then, take another step. Then another. And another. There will be times when the steps are easy, and times when they feel impossible. Move forward anyway. If you stumble backward, it's okay. 

Keep trying. 
Your happiness is worth it.

Monday, May 30, 2022

What To Be And What Not To Be...That Is The Question

This week's topic at the SFF Seven is about vocational advice young writers receive because of the belief that writing doesn't put food on the table. 

I battled with this more than I care to talk about. I wanted to be a writer from the time I was so small, and the desire only grew the first time I went to a book signing, in high school. Both of my parents were musical and creative. Not writers, though. They also came from absolute poverty, born just after the Great Depression, hitting their twenties in the 1950's and early 1960's. Living just south of Nashville with musical sensations springing up in rural communities certainly had its effect on my dad. He played at the Grand Ole Opry and made it on several radio shows. But the stars didn't align, and though he gave up on that particular dream, he still played music until he passed at 81 years of age.

For me, when I would mention wanting to write a book and see where it took me, the advice was always that success that's enough to live off of just isn't realistic. My parents believed in me, but more so in my ability to sing than write novels. Our entire family is musical, and I love singing, but I am not a performer and never have been. They loved music, though, so that's where they wanted to focus when it came to me. But in reality, my talents funneled toward one path, and that was writing. 

Life happened, and by the time I faced college, I already felt the pressure to do something with the brains I inherited more so than my creativity. I was pre-med at first, but after clinicals, I quickly realized that I couldn't face dying people every day. Then I tried the teaching path--my mother was a teacher. But that didn't hold my interest in the least. I couldn't face five year olds everyday either ;)

So I tried nursing. Respiratory therapy. Psychology. I made it into different programs and went to college FOREVER and managed business and a physical therapy clinic, but nothing ever felt right. Yes, I loved the medical field, and I could easily be a perpetual student, but the bottom line was that I was trying so hard to please people who didn't believe in my creative ability because they stopped believing in their own.

In my thirties, I realized that you only live one life, and that it was time to start the journey toward the career I really wanted. It took a decade to get anywhere, though I wrote, edited, and learned constantly, stealing any time I could at my day job, at night, early in the morning, on weekends. I just didn't know how to balance the career I envisioned with my life: four teen and pre-teen daughters, a spouse who worked out of state and out of the country, and ailing parents who were ultimately my responsibility to care for.

But, now, here I am doing the thing I so wish I'd found a way to do twenty years ago. I wish my entire adult life could've been filled with writing stories. But I was the type of person who didn't believe in myself because others didn't. My husband and kids always believed in me, but self-doubt is a poison when it's programmed into you at a young age. It annihilates motivation and suffocates any thoughts of perseverance.

My youngest daughter is a creative. She sings, plays multiple instruments, can write EVERYTHING, from amazing magazine articles to screenplays to poetry to novels. She even draws and paints. She's in her last year of college for a degree in the recording industry with a minor in songwriting and plans to turn her most recent screenplay into a novel this summer. 

The one thing I swore I would never do was tell her to try another vocational path rather than focusing on her creativity. Right now, that's easier, because she's still at home. But now is the time for her to try all the things. To see where her creativity can take her before life gets expensive, and she has no choice but to settle for a road she doesn't want to take. I want to give her every opportunity to build the foundation for a full, creative life that pays the bills. It isn't impossible. It just isn't easy.

I realize not everyone has that kind of support. I didn't have it. And the truth is, most writers struggle to keep a consistent income, so sometimes, that advice given to young people against the creative career path is meant to protect them from financial difficulty. But steering someone away from what they are best at doing on a day to day basis points them in the wrong direction. 

Again...we get ONE life. And it goes by so very fast.

So here's my counter-advice to all the bad stuff that can cloud your mind: If you want to be a writer, not as a hobby, but to make it your full-time or even part-time career, try to believe in yourself. Realize that it will likely take time to get to the point where writing sustains you, and understand that it is constant work to maintain that income. Being a writer is like having homework forever.

But I believe in you, even if no one else does, and I hope you find a way to follow your heart, your dreams, but most of all, your ability.

 Happy Reading and Writing,

~ Charissa

Sale Begins June 1st

Saturday, May 28, 2022


 AKA, It Took Me Seven Years To Figure Out I Was Writing The Wrong Niche

I grew up on Robin McKinley and Patricia C. Wrede. Tad Williams and Terry Goodkind. David Eddings and Anne McCaffrey. Later I discovered my two favorite authors ever, Michelle Sagara West and Anne Bishop.

Inspired, I began my author career in 2015. . . and in 2018 I burned out.
Part of that was due to external life circumstances, but part of that was due, I now understand in hindsight, to a lack of alignment. See, I was writing shifter romance, then later alien romance. And my alien romance in particular was always slightly off market. It occurred to me in late 2021 why that was.

I kept trying to write my science fiction romance like it was fantasy romance.

I devour Grace Draven and Bec McMaster. Laura Thalassa and Sarah J Maas. In the last year I’ve discovered Katherine Ann Kingsley and Quinn Blackbird and T.A. White, and . . . you get it. See a trend?

These are all authors of fantasy romance, and they are just the tip of my FaRo library.
What I was not reading was science fiction and shifter romance.

Back to #writerlife, it was taking me four months to write a 60,000 word book. To put this in context, once I finally began to write in the niche that I read and most love, I was dictating 4,000 to 5,000 word days. And though I enjoyed writing my paranormal and science fiction romance, it was the fantasy romance that sparked joy.

Suddenly, my productivity went through the roof. The comments I received from alpha readers and editors was that they felt the joy and alignment oozing through my manuscript. Because, duh, I was finally writing the kind of stories I devour on a daily basis.

Why hadn't I started out in fantasy romance?

The short answer is because of a plethora of well-meaning advice to write to market. And when I came into the indie author space, writing to market meant bear shifters. And wolf shifters. And dragon shifters. And every other shifter galore . . . plus vampires. I let myself get talked into writing stories that were adjacent to what I love, but not quite hitting the bullseye.

My current fae fantasy romance series was completely unplanned. I snapped one day at the end of November in 2021 and sat down at my laptop and began dictating a story that had been floating around in my head for several weeks. It was so vivid, the characters coming alive in my head in ways characters had never done so before.

I'm writing faster than I ever have while maintaining the complexity of character arcs, romance arc, opposing force, subplots, and prose.
Now, all of this isn't to say that I've dropped everything else. I am fortunate that I also write in a small niche with a rabid reader base and that niche is helping to support my catalog while I get my fantasy romance profitable, which I project will happen around Book 3.

Being an indie author is a long game. “Write to market” is solid advice, but I would caveat that with, “write to market in a niche you naturally read and love and devour.” In the end your stories will be better aligned with the reader, you'll produce faster (whatever faster means to you) and you'll have more joy, which is absolutely required because we all know this is a grind. Without joy, eventually even the most determined author will break.

Because this is a long game, money will come in time (if caveat: You Did Your Job with Cover/Blurb/Story.) What I have learned, is that for the sake of my business, it's better for me in the long run to write what I love instead of writing what I know will make money faster. I could churn out six to seven sci-fi romance books in a year and make good money . . . but I can't sustain that long term, as I’ve already proven to myself.

When I write what I love, carefully aligned to the tropes of that niche, then I can look down the tunnel of a 5- to 20-year career and look forward to the daily hard work rather than approach my laptop with low-level dread.

So I would leave you with some questions. What do you love to read? Who do you devour? Is your writer self aligned with your reader self? And if not, what plan can you put in place to shift your business slowly, without sacrificing income, in a direction that is sustainable for you long term?

Emma Alysin is a 40 mumble mumble bi-racial American Muslim mom of five who writes SFR, PNR & Fantasy Romance.

Her dragons, fae, and bears will most interest readers who like their alphas strong, protective, and smokin’ hot; their heroines feisty, brainy, too grown to give a *uck, and over the age of 30.

Her stories feature men and women of diverse backgrounds.