The Problem of Publishing Burnout

Elizabeth McKinney is a published author who does not actually publish anymore. Despite the fact that she still writes prolifically, she no longer wants to publicly share the stories that she creates. McKinney suffers from a very common affliction among authors: publishing burnout.

Elizabeth still image
Elizabeth McKinney

“One of the main reasons that authors succeed is that they have the personality and drive to market their books,” said McKinney. “But that’s not my personality.”

McKinney published one book in 2011 and her second in 2014. For a few years afterward, she toured around her home state of Texas marketing the books by attending events and hosting book signings. She estimates that she sold more than 1,000 books during that time. However, she quickly realized that the life of a published author was not for her.

“I enjoyed doing book signings and events, but I don’t have the passion for marketing myself that a lot of other authors do,” McKinney said.

She loves writing, but the publishing and marketing process was too tedious. Part of the reason she burned out so quickly was because she published with a self-publishing company. This meant that she had to do all of the leg work of marketing her books by herself.

Unfortunately, even authors who are traditionally published are not getting a big push from the publishing houses. The attentions of the so-called “Big Five” publishing houses, Penguin Random House, Macmillan, HarperCollins, Hachette, and Simon & Schuster, are focused on their big name authors.

“Unless your name is Stephen King or Jo Rowling, the days of writing a book and letting the publisher do your marketing for you are long gone,” said Gary D. Robson, author of over two dozen books.

This is likely a big reason for publishing burnout in authors. With the rise of independent publishers and the proliferation of self-publishing, more and more authors are being forced to become their own marketing team. Unfortunately, many are beginning to realize that they cannot do it.

“It’s just not what I want to do,” McKinney said. “I thought it was, but after doing it for a few years, I realized that I don’t have the personality or the passion for it.”

Thankfully, McKinney’s publishing burnout did not kill her love of writing. She is currently in the process of writing three different books and is over 1,500 pages into one long epic fantasy story. She is still writing, but the difference is that she now only writes for herself.

This is likely a path that many writers will travel. In a fast-paced and busy world, not every writer has the time or inclination to publish and market books. It is all too easy for authors to burn out when they have to balance a writing career on top of day jobs and caring for their families.

As for McKinney, she is not completely opposed to publishing again, but this time, it would only be for fun.

“The book is loosely based on Celtic mythology,” McKinney said. “I thought, you know, some people might like this, so if I finish it, I might just throw it up on Amazon, but I’m not going to try to market it like I did the others.”

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