Dear Indie Annie,
It seems like as soon as I have a handle on my career, something about the industry changes drastically—the rise of AI, changes in marketing strategies, a new program everyone’s suddenly using. How do I keep up with it all … and keep from drowning?
Trying to Tread Water
Dear Trying to Tread Water,
Oh, honey, I feel you. This industry is a fickle mistress, that’s for sure. One day you’re using TikTok to promote your book, and the next everyone’s moved on to Triller or whatever app the youth are gabbing on these days. But here’s the tea: you can’t control the waves of change. You can only learn to ride them.
The secret, my dear, is being adaptable while staying true to yourself. Don’t just jump on every hot new marketing trend because all the other authors are doing it. Remember your mother’s taunts when you were young about jumping off a cliff if all your friends were doing the same? Mama always knows best.
Take the time to educate yourself, and choose only the strategies that truly align with your goals and strengths. Stay open and keep learning, but don’t spread yourself too thin chasing the next shiny object. Focus on building meaningful connections with your readers.
Change is as constant as the tides. As Heraclitus said, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” (I know, my darling one, a classical reference! I sometimes even surprise myself.) But just as the shore remains while the water flows, you must remain grounded in your core values while being adaptable to new ways of doing things.
Change is a necessary part of life. Think of Darwin’s finches, adapting their beaks generation by generation to best suit their environment and food sources. These changes took place over hundreds, even thousands, of years. Human adaptations tend to be quicker. Consider how novelists like Jane Austen, Louisa May Alcott, and Alice Walker reinvented their writing while staying true to their visions.
Jane Austen wrote during a major transition in the publishing world, as novels were gaining popularity and prestige. Although she experimented with different literary styles, Austen ultimately crafted stories with her signature wit and insight that resonated with audiences. Despite the limitations for female authors of her time, she published innovative novels like Pride and Prejudice that are still beloved today.
Louisa May Alcott rose to fame during the American Civil War, when people viewed literature as a political and social tool. Though publishers and readers had particular expectations, Alcott drew on her own experiences to write Little Women, which broke conventions. She played with sentimental and subversive themes in children’s fiction to create a new American classic.
Alice Walker wrote The Color Purple amid the racism, sexism, and violence faced by Black women in the early twentieth century. Though these issues were not considered mainstream literary material, Walker unflinchingly portrayed them through her powerful protagonist, Celie. She gave voice to marginalized groups and birthed a Pulitzer Prize–winning novel.
These women pushed creative boundaries and reinvented themselves as times changed. But their commitment to storytelling paved the way for countless future writers. They adapted and took advantage of changing times, and so can you.
Keep observing which tools and platforms your readers are flocking to, and be willing to tweak your approach accordingly, but never lose your unique authorial voice. Choose change when it suits you, and ignore the rest. Lay aside strategies that no longer bear fruit, but don’t abandon the roots of your success.
And don’t forget to come up for air once in a while! Take time to rest, recharge, and reconnect with the passion that drew you to writing in the first place. This work can be draining, but it’s also deeply rewarding if you let it feed your spirit.
You’ve got this, sweetie. Just keep paddling, stay flexible, and keep your eye on the horizon. The tides will change again, but you’ll have the resilience to ride out whatever comes next. Now go grab that life jacket and write! The world needs your stories.