Thursday, February 26, 2015


Recently I came across a clever saying attributed to a mystery writer. “Crime doesn’t pay... enough.” To me, this was more than just clever word-play, because I’ve just signed a contract for my first mystery novel and, after fourteen romance novels, and twenty-some years as a member of RWA, I dropped that to join Mystery Writers of America. Imagine my disappointment, therefore, to read this:

“In a rapidly changing publishing industry, it is harder for all writers to make a living from our craft. The sales bar for midlist and beginning writers has been steeply raised, while advances and promotion budgets have dropped just as steeply. Everyone is suffering, but for African-American, LGBT, Asian and Hispanic writers, the suffering is more acute. Disproportionate numbers of... those crime writers have been forced into self-publishing or have left crime fiction altogether.

“As a woman...I’ve been acutely aware of the marginalization of women’s voices in society and in the industry during...the last thirty years. We are more likely than men to lose contracts, to lose print options and to lose marketing and promotion opportunities. The marginalization of writers of color of both sexes and of LGBT writers is even more egregious. It is my hope that...we can start raising consciousness in the industry about these problems, offer ways to address them, and also provide support to more writers on the margin.”

The above article was an eye-opener even though I’m already self-publishing many of my titles and thought I knew all the reasons why so many authors do the same. Now I find that self-publishing is better than Traditional not only because of superior royalties, control over titles, covers, book prices, publication dates and royalty payments, but also because self-published women writers are doing fine, thank you. No one is denying them contracts, print options or marketing opportunities.

Just last week I read an article about publishers allowing writers to avoid agents and go straight to editors, an obvious tactic to attract more manuscript submissions. Self-publishers are already bypassing agents and even publishers, and Amazon welcomes them. Besides their own imprints, Montlake Romance, Thomas & Mercer, and 47 North, the latest program is Kindle Scout where ordinary readers, visitors to the site, can nominate books they think should be published. It would appear the Number One retailer in the country will soon be the top publisher of most of the books in the most popular genres.

This, on top of the recently-published fourth Author Earnings report, reveals why traditional publishing is hurting. Unlike Trad publishing’s authors, more and more self publishers report quitting their day jobs because they can finally make a living doing what they love to do. And, once those “crime writers forced into self-publishing” learn they can actually make more money and have more control on their own terms, they won’t be back. And they won’t be alone.


  1. Hi Phyllis,

    It's mind boggling to me. I've only indie-publsihed because I keep nearly missing an agent/editor. Making money off my stories is not yet in the cards. I could do other more lucrative things like sell more homes as a realtor but writing is just too fun to neglect. Luckily i'm semi-retired with a good pension.


    1. Bob: Thanks for your comment. If I'm late acknowledging it, I had a good excuse. My computer crashed first thing Saturday morning, so I've been without it for five days. No e-mail, in or out. The book I wanted to send to an editor is still here. Writing is more than fun. It's great you have no financial pressure, but having an editor who likes your work is a step toward a book that brings in a few bucks a month or even one on a bookstore shelf. So, hang in there.


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