29 April 2011

A Writer's Ponderings

I'll preface this post by warning everyone that I've had a really crappy week personally and professionally, so I'll try really hard not to let it morph into a annoying and whiny pity-party...but if not, you can have your money back.

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I'm always speaking with would-be writers who tell me how cool it must be to have published books and such. Truth, however, never usually meets up to the expectations we place on circumstances before reaching them. This case is no exception.

I do have fans, and I'm extremely grateful for all of them. They truly are why I keep doing what I do, putting out more and more stories and novels. I have no doubt that several of them would buy any book I put out (did I mention, extremely grateful?). The truth of the matter, though, is that the vast majority of these fans have been a result of my own promotional work, personally finding these individuals, conversing with them either in person or on-line, and getting a book into their hands (either by a contest giveaway or persuading them to part with their hard-earned money).

At some point, one would think that momentum would take over, that these fans would tell their friends and they would become fans themselves, leaving me to do the writing with some promotion when I get a chance. Unfortunately, it doesn't ever seem like this takes place. The reasons for this are beyond me, but the fact remains that I appear forever stuck in a cycle of pushing books in front of people in the hopes that they'll become fans. Then, going back over and over to those fans to keep them in the know for my latest work (literally, one of my biggest fans didn't even realize that I'd had a second novel come out, let alone other works since then)...

Is this what publishing is supposed to be? Just one author's experience? Heck if I know...

But perhaps my writing really isn't all it should be, and those I've befriended through my publishing journey are being generous in their praise? This could be the case. Although I shouldn't take any stock in reviews or the lack thereof, it gets a bit dreary seeing so few posted (not just by customers, but by professional sites that presumably received a copy).

Maybe the substandard writing theory isn't so far-fetched.

If you listen to some, one solution is to go it alone, self-publish through one of the free online companies (Amazon and Smashwords), and rake in money hand-over-fist. As a test of this system, I put up a novella on both, setting the price point below the dollar mark (which the experts claim will . Without going into too many details, its first quarter sales were roughly on par (and once I get this quarter's royalty statements, I'll have a direct comparison) with the number for my two "traditionally" published books, but not as stellar as one would have thought, considering the price point was far less.

I've considered putting one or both of my current in-the-pipeline books up as self-published titles to get a few more data points. Admittedly, the first novel was self-edited (the cover art was an exceptional piece donated by a friend), to do it "right" would cost a couple thousand dollars for editing, cover art, etc. That, in addition to several friends admonishing me for even contemplating the idea...

The question at this point is whether the time would be worth the payout in the end, to: a) figure out why sales are so stagnant and remedy the problem, b) figure out whether my writing style needs a huge makeover and if so, work toward that end, c) decide my future plans for my preferred publication method, and d) keep more writing flowing through the pipeline to avoid becoming a historical footnote.

And then again, perhaps it truly is a matter of continuing to push books in front of each and every person on the planet, until every single one of them has laid eyes on them?

Either way, anyone considering going into writing for publication should be asking themselves whether they are willing to put up with this much heartache...because once you're stuck in the system as I am, it's far too late.