Been doing a lot of thinking lately about my writing – how far I have come and how things have changed over these 40 or so years I’ve been writing. I sat down to write a book in 1979, after reading THE PROUD BREED by Celeste deBlasis. I wanted to write a great love story as well as a saga that covered 2-3 generations like that book did, and off I went! Soon as I wrote that first sentence, combined with a dive into extensive research about Native Americans and the American West, the ideas poured into my brain and out through my fingers, starting with a 4-book series that turned into 7 books (SAVAGE DESTINY) and ending with (currently) 70 published novels, including two series and several trilogies. Two more books will be published in 2020, and I am working on novel #73. My goal was 100 books, but at the age of 75, I’ll just have to see how long God allows me the energy, health and the use of my brain to write more.
      A lot of things about publishing have changed over these many years. I started writing when “romance” was hot! Hot! Hot! The big, fat books with bodice-ripper covers packed bookshelves, and the label “romance” was slapped on just about every book published. At first the editing wasn’t all that great, royalties were huge, and the term “politically correct” was unheard of. Over the years romance continues to sell, but it’s not the only topic of conversation among readers anymore. Most of the bodice-ripper covers are gone – at first replaced with lace and flowers – then the slightly more demure couple – and now some pretty hot covers showing nearly-naked men rather than nearly-naked women. Gotta’ love those abs! And, of course, all avenues of “romance” are allowed now, not just stories between a man and a woman. Advance royalties have dropped considerably because of the cheaply-priced Kindle books, and writers have to be more careful in how they handle subjects that were perfectly acceptable 30 years ago but today, if improperly handled, are considered politically incorrect.
   Over all these years I’ve gone through numerous editors and publishers for a host of reasons, and I always wrote under contract for a standard publisher, rather than publishing my own books. When I first started writing, publishing your own book was a big no-no if you wanted to be taken seriously. There was no Amazon back then – just what was called subsidy publishing, where the author paid a “subsidy” publisher to print their book, often for outrageous prices. And all you got was a supply of the printed book and it was up to the author to take the books to stores to sell. I have never heard of one author who ever made it big through subsidy publishing.
     That’s all changed now, thanks to Amazon. And just like when romance first hit it big, a lot of books have been published that are poorly edited or not edited at all, and that puts us romance writers – all writers, in fact – right back into being judged as “she can’t be that good if she published the book herself,” or worse, “There is nothing but junk out there.” The “badly written” books make it difficult for really good writers to get into the market because now there aren’t just thousands of writers “out there.” There are millions of them flooding the “virtual” market. Getting noticed is really hard, and today writers have to learn a whole new way of marketing their books and spend a lot of time with social networking. Even authors published through regular publishing houses are forced to do a lot of their own marketing, but if you write just for Amazon, you have to do a WHOLE lot more!
      Even so, today self-publishing is no longer taboo. It’s just as respected as getting published through the regular medium of a publishing house. Many self-published authors have hit it big, and some have taken the “backward” approach – self-published first, and then becoming so popular that a standard publisher offers them a contract.
      After all these years, I have chosen the self-publishing route. And in doing so, I am realizing a “freedom to write what I want,” rather than having to write a certain book because that’s what I signed up to write. There were times when certain books I wrote were not what I really wanted to do – and there were times when I proposed books I truly wanted (in my heart) to write, but the publishers didn’t want them because they didn’t fit their plans at the time. I was often asked to write something else. Publishers tend to lay out their genre/author plans well in advance, sometimes one to two years forward. Another problem with writing for a standard publisher is that they also plan ahead regarding how many books a month they will publish, and how often they will publish certain authors. I found myself very frustrated because although I can produce 2-3 big books a year, my publisher would print only one every 10-12 months, sometimes longer. I write faster than that, and my readers want to read more Bittner books than only one a year. I ended up writing extra books through Amazon, so I finally decided that is the direction I would take from now on.     
     Now I am free to experiment with those books that have lived in my mind and heart for years but I couldn’t write for one reason or another. It’s really a wonderful feeling, and in the end, because of the out-dated accounting system most publishers still use, I make far more money writing just for Amazon than in writing for a standard publishing house. I won’t go into details because that’s a whole ‘nother subject. Suffice it to say, for the first time in my entire writing career, I am my own boss when it comes to what I write, and I like this feeling. Amazon will not only publish my new works, but they have been gradually reissuing a host of my older titles, with new covers, and all my books, old and new, are available both for Kindle and in print.
     What is most satisfying for me is, after all these years, those old, old books from nearly 40 years ago have realized new life and are still selling in great numbers – some of them in bigger numbers than how many of the same titles sold in the 80’s and 90’s. That, for me, is a real gift – kind of an “I told you so” moment. Realizing nice earnings from those old books I thought were slowly dying into just a memory is a wonderful feeling.
     So, I will continue writing in true “Bittner” form, with no one to tell me what I can and cannot write about or “how” I can write it. My main goal in all these years has always been writing real history, writing the TRUTH and FACTS, and teaching my readers about American history in an entertaining way through my fictional characters, while at the same time being respectful of that same history and of other cultures. Publishing has grown and changed dramatically, and I’ve had to grow and change with it, but my writing voice and my goals will never change. I have never followed popular genres. I have always only followed my heart, which is what I always advise new writers to do – and is why my web site is labeled “Heart of the West.”


Post a Comment