Vintage typewriter on a desk

The Status Quo is Destroying Creators

It’s hard to believe that it’s been over a decade since I hit the publish button and released my first book into the wild. The publishing landscape was completely different back then. Self-publishing still had the negative stigma attached to it. Traditional publishing was still going strong, and it was still considered the premiere club if you managed to get past all the gatekeepers and land a trad publishing deal.

I’ve dabbled on that side a few times. I once sent a book proposal to a very high-profile agent and was absolutely floored when I received a personal response from them. But the agent was asking me to change my story completely and make it told from another character’s perspective. But doing so would change the entire story and series. I couldn’t do it and still give the story the justice it needed. I was not connected with that other character the agent wanted me to write, as much as I was with the original main character I had intended. If I would have changed that story completely, it wouldn’t have been genuine. I would have been faking my words just to appease the status quo. I couldn’t do it because I valued my creativity too much. From that point on, I knew traditional publishing wasn’t for me.

Who knows? Maybe if I would’ve changed the story to the agent’s desires, I would be a seven-figure author by now. But honestly, even with all that money, I wouldn’t be happy knowing that I faked my way to it.

I’m sorry, but I’m selfish. I hate telling stories I hate to read, if that makes any sense. The only reason I got into this writing gig was to write the stories I wanted to read. The stories that I liked. Over time, if other people enjoyed the stories that I loved writing, then that was a bonus. As I grew as an author, I began to compromise a little. I started adding small bits and pieces of things that I didn’t particularly care for, but other readers might enjoy. But 98% of the story is still things I enjoy reading and writing.

I tried the ‘write to market’ thing, and all it did was give me burnout. I’m an eclectic reader, and I realize a lot of the things I like are considered very niche. There was a time I told myself “I probably won’t be a seven-figure author because I write too niche,” but I’ve put all those negative beliefs behind me and I’m thinking ahead, thinking outside the box, and building my business slow and steady until I can reach my goal. I don’t believe in Law of Attraction (I can write a whole novel on why), but I do believe in having a positive outlook. Anything can happen on this writing journey, and I’m ready.

I want readers to enjoy my books and escape into my realm of storytelling. Because during these crazy times in the world, we all need an escape.

It took me a long time to realize that I’m just killing myself trying to keep up with the status quo in publishing. Or selling my soul to some of these retailers who see you only as a dollar sign, a sweatshop, and/or an experimental guinea pig for their next big moneymaking project.

Vella and Radish are two platforms I recently left because of this.

I joined Vella at its inception and put up a short serialized story. I saw the writing on the wall when I got bonuses for my story almost every month for a few months. It was the most money I’ve ever made on Amazon since I first published in 2011. I already sensed that money wasn’t going to last. It just seemed too good to be true, so I anticipated a big change was going to happen that was going to end up screwing over authors. This was no different than what happened with KU and some of the other programs. It took a while, but it came a few months ago when they announced significant changes to how authors were compensated, and bonuses were calculated. Basically, only the top 1-2% authors would see a dime, and they expected authors to give away large amounts of their work for free. While this is great for readers who can read a bunch of stories without paying, this recent change has been detrimental for authors who were relying on Vella as a source of livable income. I pulled out of Vella as soon as the announcement went out. That was the last straw.

Now that the rug has been pulled, authors are scrambling to figure out what to do next. Many authors are new to the publishing scene and only just started publishing when Vella came out. I feel sad and angry for those who were hoping that they would not be affected by this change. But again, many of them are new and have no idea how some of these larger entities work. It is a harsh reality of the publishing industry. We cannot put our entire livelihoods in the hands of someone else.

Radish was another retailer I severed ties with. Authors are not paid a dime until they reach a $50 threshold, and then they are only paid per quarter. It took me almost a year to reach the $50 threshold to cash out. That is unacceptable. I took part in promotional opportunities, but many of them were advertising free stories and episodes. I got plenty of traction on my free reads, but little to no unlocks. Radish also changed the way they promote their authors, and they seem to take higher precedence on never-ending stories, and stories that update multiple times per week. I am not that fast of a writer and cannot commit to such a rigorous schedule with the hopes of getting selected for one of their promotional opportunities. In all honesty, I felt like a sweatshop author.

I am not a sweatshop author.

I am not working for free.

After leaving those two platforms, I swore I would never get involved with commercial serial platforms again. That was what gave me the idea of creating my own serial platform on my own website. I moved my Vella story to my Anneli Jensen site, which is an entire subscription platform. Readers can join for free or subscribe and get perks. The platform works pretty much like Patreon, only I have full control of my content. All the stories I write under my Anneli Jensen pen name are housed there, so readers can read the books as I’m writing them.

By the way, I do also have a Patreon site, where I also have other books I’m currently writing and sharing with subscribers. I have been on Patreon for a few years now, and decided to keep it going for the time being, because I have subscribers, and I want to reward them with new and exclusive stories I am writing. Patreon is also a well-known platform that many people use and trust, so I wanted to have a presence there.

At this point in my author career, I have spread myself across multiple platforms, putting my eggs in multiple baskets. I’m no longer relying solely on other corporate entities when it comes to my livelihood, and I wish more creators would do the same. Creators are no longer seen as valuable. We have to think outside the box and make ourselves valuable again. That is where building a community of readers who know, like, and trust you goes a long way.

I’m on a mission to build 1000 true fans.

I tell weird stories. I tell fun stories. I tell stories in a way that I can relate to that others may not. I’m weird, and I’m okay with that.

In this ever-changing publishing industry, being weird is going to be the new cool, and I’m totally here for it.

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