The last few posts I’ve hinted at coming changes in the way I write, blog and publish. It’s time to stop hinting and lay out the new normal.
The last nine months or so have been rough in a lot of ways—unemployment, financial worries, ups-and-downs in the personal space, some health issues which, despite being minor, nevertheless dragged on for some time. When I got a new job, it turned out to be very demanding, rather frustrating, and with a long daily commute. I spend a lot of my time tired and distracted, and all of this has affected my writing.
The period has not been all bad—in that span of time I re-edited two previously published novels, published a third, and made significant progress on a fourth. I also started writing more short fiction, mostly for flash fiction challenges, and found it an enjoyable exercise, especially since I have previously told myself that I couldn’t do short fiction. Even so, the last three-quarters of a year has seen a lot of wasted time, frustration and second-guessing.
I also recently passed my third anniversary as a self-publisher. I’m big on landmarks in my life, so this seems a good time to step back and assess where I am with this part of my writing adventure. And there is no point in beating around the bush.
By most measures, my self-publication effort has been a failure.
Certainly it’s a failure in financial terms—my sales have been typically just one tick about non-existent. Forget paying the mortgage, I’m nowhere close to paying the electric bill. Last month, when some wonderful individual in Germany bought all three books in the Divine Lotus series on the same day, it instantly shot my monthly sales up by about one hundred percent. And, believe me, I was grateful.
Consequently, self-publishing is also a failure for me in building an audience. Very few people know of my work. I’ve gathered only a few reviews, albeit mostly positive. My books haven’t made a splash at all; in fact, there hasn’t been even a noticeable plop.
Whatever the reason for this failure– lack of marketing skills, bad writing, not writing in a hot genre, an Illuminati plot– it’s become apparent that one of the hopes I entertained when I started self-publishing, to earn at least a supplemental income, is not in the cards and probably never will be.
As a result, there have been moments in the last few months when I’ve gotten pretty blue over my self-publishing, to the point that, once or twice, I’ve considered abandoning the effort altogether. Worse, in my darkest instances of self-doubt, I wondered if I should be writing at all. Each time I have managed to talk myself off the ledge—but I am ready for a change in direction.
The plain fact is that, whether I am paid or not, I still want to write. Story-telling is one of things I do, one of the things I care about. And I still have a lot of stories in me, whether or not I have the skill to tell them well, and whether or not anyone will ever want to pay me for them.
So, here’s the new plan.
First, for the time-being, my Divine Lotus novels will remain on Amazon, and I will publish Princess of Fire and Princess of Stars there when they are complete. I don’t anticipate publishing them on any other platform in the foreseeable future (Princess of Wonders was on Smashwords for a time, but the returns there were even worse than on Amazon, so I pulled it). My best guess at this point is that publication of Princess of Fire is nine months away, and that of Princess of Stars at least three years, and I have no clear idea what project will follow them.
Whatever novels I commit to writing after Divine Lotus will probably go on Amazon, as well. I certainly have no plans to start submitting them to agents or publishers again. I have been down that rock-strewn, washout-riddled road too many times before, and unless some agent/publisher comes looking for me with a truckload of money, I will not consider it. Instead, I have decided to try my hand at writing short stories for traditional publication.
This is where I started writing for publication, years and years (and years) ago, and I was a miserable failure at it. Part of the problem was my native tendency to write long; the other problem was that in those early days (BCP—before cell phones. I’m not kidding) I had not learned the basics of telling a story. Since then a huge amount of prose has passed through my word-processor. I have also made a conscious effort to study writing, both in my reading and by sitting at the feet of some very talented people. Now I want to try my hand again.
Whether or not that effort pays off, I also intend to expand my fiction on this blog. I have been doing a fair amount of flash-fiction lately, and the response has been encouraging. Dinosaur Planet, sadly, appears to have petered out (I couldn’t quite capture the B-movie quality I was looking for), but I may rethink that story line. More to the point, I’ve discovered a great deal of freedom in blogging. Somehow it gives me implicit permission to try new things. I might try publishing in serial form some of the other ideas romping around in the back of my head. I might even do—not too loud, now—more poetry.
Okay, that may be going a little too far. Forget I said anything about poems. Just us prose authors here….
But that’s the new plan. I’m kind of excited about it.
More bulletins to follow….