KingMidget's Ramblings

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It’s Been Four Years

On this date in 2012, I published a novel, One Night in Bridgeport.  Back then, the whole self-publishing craze was still somewhat new and developing.  I think.  Maybe it wasn’t and I was just late to the game.  But in my memory, it seemed like self-publishing was still an experimental concept.  Earlier in the year I published two collections of short stories to give the process a try.  To see how it worked.  And then I moved on to Bridgeport.

Originally written a number of years before, I put it through two edits, cutting out over 20,000 words.  And I published the thing.  My sister designed the cover, a cover I like.  I no longer remember the details of my marketing efforts, but I sold a few dozen copies and downloads and then offered it free for a few days and something like 6,000 or 7,000 people downloaded the book.  And then I offered the download for .99 and sold a couple thousand more and then there was this and then there was that.  And overall I made a couple thousand bucks on the book.  I got some really good reviews on Amazon and Goodreads from people who don’t even know me.  And I got some really bad reviews, which I value just as much as the good reviews because in each bad review (well almost all of them) there is a kernel of truth.

A year later, I published Weed Therapy, my second novel and I had plans to publish another novel the following year and then another and another.  But something happened with that plan.  Weed Therapy completely and totally flopped and I learned something.  In the world of self-publishing, genre sells, literary doesn’t.  And then there was the little problem with Weed Therapy being an incredibly personal story and the act of publishing it caused a little bit of strife.  So I de-published it.

Ever since, I have struggled in many ways with the art of writing and the business of publishing.  While I have written a number of short stories over the past three years, completed a novella, and started several novels, I have not been able to convince myself of the right approach to publishing.  And, ultimately, I have convinced myself that self-publishing is no longer a real option for what I do.  My heart lies in literary fiction, not in genre fiction.  I value the challenge of writing different stories in different ways and most of what I’ve tried over the last few years is most decidedly not in the genre category.

But I actually want to make some money doing this thing.  I put a lot of myself into my writing.  A lot of effort.  A lot of sweat and tears and I believe I deserve more than “free” or .99 cents per reader.  The world of self-publishing has developed into something where if you want readers you basically have to give your work away.  And I’m not interested in that.  I want an audience but I also want to earn something for my effort.

There are plenty of other things I can do with my time if nobody wants to pay for the product of my efforts.  Plenty of other things.  There are a lot of writers who claim that they “cannot not write.”  For a period of time, I probably put myself in that category.  But, again, something happened over the past few years.  I’ve taken to referring to it as “somewhere along the way I feel like I’ve forgotten how to write.”  I think there’s some validity to that statement, but there’s also some truth to the idea that I’m not sure I see the point in it anymore.  I’m beginning to see a world in which “I can not write,” no matter how many stories continue to bubble along in my head.

As a writer or artist, once you think you’ve attracted an audience that makes your effort worthwhile, it’s hard to go back to a world in which you don’t.  I thought that maybe those thousands who got Bridgeport were the beginnings of my audience.  I’m not expecting that I’ll ever achieve best seller status, although it would be nice, but I thought that each book would build upon the other and eventually, I’d have a real audience that followed me from book to book.  From book one to book two, that definitely didn’t happen.  (Yes, that’s a small sample size.  Very small.)

When I first set out to write Bridgeport I never expected to publish it.  That was only a dream that was really beyond my comprehension of how it could actually come true.  I just wanted to see if I could write a novel.  That was it.  That was my objective.  I had no concept of whether what I was writing would attract an audience, whether readers would enjoy the story.  I just wrote a story to see if I could do it.

Once I did that and then started writing other stories and coming up with all sorts of ideas for more and more stories, something changed.  And when I published Bridgeport and people started downloading it, something else changed.  I started caring about what readers might think.  I wanted to make sure I wrote stories and novels that could grow my small audience.  Kind of.  The reality is that I have these ideas for stories and novels.  They are mine.  They are stories that speak to me and I have no idea if they will appeal to the masses.  Although I think they have the potential to.  But the allure of a paying audience is strong.  So strong.  It keeps me second-guessing what I write when I can force words onto a page.  It fills me with doubt and uncertainty.

I need to get away from that.  I need to get back to the simple idea of this … an idea for a story, can I write it.  From beginning to end.  Screw an audience.  Screw publishing.  Just write.  Or not.

That’s where I’m at.  Four years later.  Depending on how you want to count these things, four or five half-completed novels.  Some short stories that could be the starts to even more.  And I’m trying to focus on one of them now.  To just write it and see where it takes me.  Without consideration for publishing or for you, my readers.  It’s time for me to write again free of those types of thoughts and challenges.



10 responses to “It’s Been Four Years

  1. S.K. Nicholls July 15, 2016 at 10:40 pm

    Good for you. Rumor has it that so many people who self-published one book over the past five years and never published a second have gotten out of it simply because it did not offer them their grandiose expectation of becoming a best-seller with that one story they had to tell. Most of those books are floating out there in Amazon Oblivion. I’ve run across across a few them. Books published for four or five years with one review and sitting way low in rankings. I’m surprised that RC&R has held it’s place below just above the half million mark, but I’ve sold none in the past few months, so that may slip higher in a short while unless I actively start promoting it again…which is hard to do when I’m trying to get the new series off the ground. When you get it all figured out, let me know. 🙂 I want to get the next couple of Naked Eye books out in the next couple of years, so that’s where my energy is now. There’s still other half written books on my puter…in a scattered unfocused sort of way.

    • kingmidget July 16, 2016 at 7:44 am

      Oh, not “good for me” yet. This is still a long struggle. Trying to figure out how to re-wire my brain to get back to where I was 5-10 years ago. We’ll see how it goes.

  2. Audrey Driscoll July 15, 2016 at 10:44 pm

    You’re right. It is hard to succeed at writing, whether you just want your work to be read, or especially if you want to make money from it. I certainly have no glib suggestions, but I admire your frankness in this post. If a writer comes to a point where writing is just a job, or the whole success thing (i.e., lack of) crushes the joy out of it, then stopping is a reasonable thing to do. There are other creative pursuits. But it doesn’t seem you’re at that point yet.

    • kingmidget July 16, 2016 at 7:45 am

      There are so many thoughts that swirl in my head about my writing. I enjoy the idea of the stories that are in my head and the idea of trying to put them down on paper in a way that readers would enjoy. But there is a lot of “work” involved in doing that and I’m struggling with focusing on the joy of it as compared to the work of it.

      • Audrey Driscoll July 16, 2016 at 2:51 pm

        That’s true. There is a lot of slogging needed just to get something coherent written. Then you pass the thing to a beta reader, critique group or editor and have to do more work. And all that is long before publishing, marketing, etc. Although as you said in your post, literary fiction still fares better in the trad pub milieu. So if you do enough work in the creation of a piece, you may get published that way. Hopefully.

  3. Kevin Brennan July 16, 2016 at 9:42 am

    Ditto, in many ways. It’s very clear that genre is what self-publishing is all about, and while it’s possible to sell a few copies of a literary novel, we’re never going to see something “take off” by word-of-mouth. Like my current 99 cent promo on Occasional Soulmates — I’ve sold seven copies this time out.

    I’m in year four of a five-year plan. Looking at the light at the end of the tunnel, and actually starting to anticipate the end … happily.

    • kingmidget July 16, 2016 at 9:54 am

      I ran several 99 cent promotions for Bridgeport. The law of diminishing returns suggested not to do it again. The reality is that self-publishing only works if you can attract somebody’s attention. The self-publishing industry that has developed just feeds on itself in a cannibalistic way. To break out of that a self-published author needs a review from somebody outside of the s-p industry. Or to get in on one of Amazon’s focused promotions. Otherwise we are each just one of millions now.

      Patrick O’Bryon self-published a WW II spy trilogy. He put the second book into one of Amazon’s Kindle Countdown promotions. The book got featured by Amazon in the top group in the genre and he sold a lot of copies and not just at 99 cents. The third book got featured in a Summer Reads section of a major publication. That’s really the only way to breakout.

  4. Bruce Thiesen July 17, 2016 at 8:11 am

    Hats off to your persistence and to your commitment to your goal.

  5. Trent Lewin July 17, 2016 at 12:13 pm

    That’s the trick for me, anyway. Any time I try to write for a purpose, I lose the thread. Any time I just blank my mind and let it go, for no reason other than the exhilaration of writing, I come away feeling satisfied. Good fortune to you Mark, in getting back to that stage.

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