I… am a writer.
This is something I’ve been struggling with lately. And damn y’all, I wish I didn’t struggle so much with so many things, especially when it comes to this writing business.
At the same time, with each struggle, whether internal or external, mental or emotional, I learn something new about myself. This is a really good thing. And… by the time I’m 100, I should have my path pretty much figured out.
In all seriousness, though, I have been struggling with relevance in regards to book length. Can I still call it a book if it’s a novella? Do I call it a story? Is it worth publishing? Charging for? Is it worth even bothering at all?
I have written short short stories before… 3000-5000 words.
I have written longer short stories, too… 10000-15000 words.
I have written many novellas… 18000-40000 words.
I have also written 45000, 50000, almost 60000 words.
That novella line though… more than 25 of those in the years I’ve been publishing.
There are some authors who make a really good living writing novellas. They publishing 10 or so a year. They charge $0.99 for them most of the time. And they’re usually part of a series, released in quick or at least methodical succession. This is something to learn from. Something to watch closely for someone like me who writes novellas.
My writing productivity has fallen off the last few years as all of you know. Self publishing has made me incredibly uncomfortable and doubtful in my ability to write. While it’s giving many authors a sense of power, it’s given me a great deal of anxiety and stress and way too many ‘what the fuck am I even doing anymore?’ moments. This has to change. There is no choice, no other option but for it to change.
And as the two big small press publishers have closed their doors in the last 60 days and the books that had been published with them revert back to me… It’s the majority of my catalog. 15 titles between Ellora’s Cave and Samhain Publishing. I have several titles that have reverted to me from Loose Id as well. All of them… there’s 18 in total… They’re novellas.
It’s my preferred length. That’s obvious.
I can write longer. I can write shorter.
But there’s a lot that can be done with novellas. It’s something I’d forgotten. It’s something I’d pushed to the back of my mind in the face of conversations that talk only of the success and desire for novels of 70000-120000 words. I don’t write that. I don’t even read that most of the time anymore.
Then, I began looking again at those who do write novellas and who do find success with them. And I remembered a conversation I had with someone in Amazon’s Kindle Worlds division about the success that writers are having writing novellas in different worlds.
I suddenly felt foolish at having doubted myself and what I wrote. For years I made money and wrote a lot of words in a lot of different stories that touched a lot of different people who still talk about those characters and want them.
So, yes… I… am a writer.
And that’s pretty damn awesome. It took me a long ass time to come back around to that realization. And it’s a strength, not a weakness as I was trying to convince myself it was, as others tried to convince me it was. Maybe for those writers, it is their weakness. But it’s not mine.
I know you’re shocked. Two blog posts in a row. There will be a third tomorrow for Snippet Saturday so… It’s crazy! Kind of like the NFL Draft last night. Three Alabama Crimson Tide players drafted back to back to back. But really, there’s no surprise there. Just look at them… They’re tough. There were also three of my FSU ‘Noles drafted last night, two were back to back. One was a complete shock and surprise and I’m thrilled… I also digress.
The title of this is “I’m not writing fast enough”. It’s true. I’m not. You’ve also heard me say I’m pretty much starting over with this writing gig. It’s harder the second time around to boost the career than it was the first time. Why? Especially if I have some readers already? Because there’s competition. Lots of it. And there always has been, but it’s different now. Every Tom, Dick, Harry, and their sister Sally can self-publish. There’s also the knowledge of what the numbers or lack there of on rankings means. When I first started out, I didn’t know. I just knew I was thrilled when someone talked about my book or mentioned my name. Now, if anyone mentions either one, it’s lost in the sea of other names fifty different people are talking about constantly. There are favorites…among publishers, readers, book bloggers. So, knowledge can work against a writer and ignorance being bliss is sometimes the way to go. Just not paying attention, just burying your head in the books you’re writing. But even that doesn’t work for everyone anymore. Being visible is a key for some and not for others.
I know now what the numbers mean. I know when a book is selling. And when it’s not. But, what’s left to do? What works and what doesn’t in getting the word out so enough people go after it, especially if you’re not writing in a genre that everyone is buying? It’s easy to want to jump on the BDSM, the M/M, the New Adult bandwagon just so you can maybe get a sales boost.
Then of course there is the not writing fast enough. Day jobs. Kids. Home schooling. House cleaning. Exercise. Family. Sleep. Down time. I can comfortably write four thousand words a day. But sometimes that means ignoring everything else, especially if the words are having to be etched in blood with a razor blade. And I don’t have a husband who picks up the slack. Kids help, yes, but it’s still primarily me. Super mom. Super homemaker. Not so Super writing. So no, I’m not writing fast enough. I’m trying to hock my books on the street corners of the internet. But, when I see authors who do write fast enough, who are churning out books left and right, saying they desperately need sales, begging for them, or authors starting fundraisers in order to continue writing a series… This bothers me. Why aren’t these authors selling? What is it readers are looking for that these authors of multiple genres aren’t giving them?
I haven’t jumped on the street team bandwagon either. I’m not much of a bandwagon jumper anyway, but… Are the street teams worth it? Do they help boost sales? A writer can only write as fast as she or he can write and still write a good book. When readers are reading 3-4 books a day… Maybe this world of Buy Now With 1-Click is killing us… ( I know it kills my bank account)
It’s always been a crap shoot. If a writer is trying to make a living at this, they write. A lot. They publish. And they talk about their book constantly, but when the sales never take off, when the book sits stagnant, what’s a writer to do? Write something else. So they do and still the book sits, stagnant. They advertise, blog, beg for reviews, have giveaways, get swag printed up, and still… Nothing helps, nothing changes.
Some publishers have much better sales than others. But their wait times are a year or more for publication. Is it worth it? I don’t know. I’ve been pondering that question for months as I write. What I turn in this year to one of my publishers, won’t see the light of day until Spring of 2014 and on into 2015. Hard to make a living that way.
Some can make a living self-publishing. Some can’t.
And writing to make money is always the biggest crap shoot of all. When there are words that need to be written, not because readers are (hopefully) waiting, not because you need money to pay the rent or insurance (these are important no doubt), but just because the words need to get outside your head and on to the paper (or screen)… Writing is not a get rich quick thing for most writers. Most of us never see rich or even making ends meet.
So, is it that we don’t write fast enough? Is it that we don’t write the right thing? I write. I put out books. I doubt every word. But I keep at it. I don’t get the multiple contracts or the offers to submit on proposal, but I still keep at it. There’s a lot of what I don’t get. There’s a lot of what I don’t understand. There’s a lot that frustrates me. There’s a lot of second guessing and trying something new. There’s a lot of envy, some jealousy, some plain ‘ol dislike at the unfairness of things and the favoritism and the preferential treatment. In the end though, there’s a lot of writing. A LOT OF WRITING. A lot of putting words down. It might be in a blurb, a synopsis, but it’s getting the words down in order to get the book out. It’s writing and though I want to make money at it, though I want to sell thousands of copies, though I want to make it to a best seller list, though I want, I want, I want… What I need, what I started out to do five years ago, is write. And it might not be fast enough for readers or publishers, but I write. I might get distracted by what I don’t have, but I write. I might get bad reviews and swear I’m never going to write another word, I still write.
This is my job. It pays for the plumber, the transmission, the races, the concerts, the brakes, the tires, the cats, the birthdays, the holidays, the vacations I don’t get to take, the conventions, the promo, the groceries in the house, the gas, the golf lessons for my son, the porch railing, the cell phones, the coffee, the desperately needed night at the movies, etc… But even without a dime, I still need to write. I’ve been doing it since I was a child. It’s a compulsion, it’s an addiction. Just like coffee. Just like reading.
Maybe I don’t write fast enough. Maybe I don’t write what someone else wants me to write. Maybe I don’t write what everyone else is writing. Maybe I’m not writing to suit the reader’s preferences. But, I’m still writing.
And speaking of which…