I planned to do another travel photoblog today, have decided to do a little thinking out loud instead. Well, not out loud exactly, but you get my meaning.
I got my October Royalty statement from my publisher today and I guess that’s what has prompted this introspection. My novel came out the end of June and it had a small (and I emphasis the word ‘small’) flurry of sales that month and in July. Then it all dried up. Last month it came out in print and my October statement reflects those print sales. Kind of pathetic, but I know who purchased every single one of those books.
I never entered this proposition to become a best-selling author. I didn’t expect, or even want, that type of success. But I did hope that people, lots of people, would read my story and enjoy the experience. I wanted a small measure of success, and to a degree I got it, because being published is a success in its own right. But is that enough for me? Is holding my own book in my hands, seeing my name on the cover (I honestly can’t wait!!!), good enough for me? I used to think so.
When I first started writing, almost fifteen years ago, I did it for me, because I’ve always loved writing and I wanted to write a book for myself. I still remember how fun that was, how exhilarating. I threw myself whole-hearted into the project. And I’ll be the first to admit, the end result was not good. That story was definitely not publishable. I still have the original version of it tucked away somewhere and one day, when I need a laugh or a confirmation of how far I’ve come, I’ll pull it out and read it.
But writing that book gave me a direction. I loved the entire process from researching, brainstorming, getting the words down, then editing those words, over and over. I loved taking courses and hanging out with other writers on various message boards. I loved learning the craft and applying what I’d learned. I didn’t even mind getting ripped to shreds by over-zealous contest judges, because my entries generally did well, and I usually gleaned some useful information from the critiques.
I never did love the submitting part though. The synopsis, the cover letter, the painfully long wait for the inevitable rejection letter. Receiving several ‘good rejection letters’ (what an oxymoron) that suggested where my work was lacking and how I could improve, gave me continued hope of having my publication dream come true. Then that changed, publishers got busier, or maybe they had to cut staff, I don’t know, but suddenly I started getting short and not so sweet rejections that apologized for being form letters and offering no reason why my work wasn’t accepted.
And I gave up. Right in the middle of writing my sixth story, I simply stopped. I can give lots of reasons why. My day job was getting busier, my boys were growing up, my husband and I were travelling more. I fell in love with digital photography (taking photos has always been one of my passions) and I directed much of my creative energy in that direction. But honestly, the main reason was because I felt discouraged and I decided not to waste my time doing something I wasn’t good enough at.
Fast forward several years, and I unexpectedly started thinking about writing again. I pulled out a couple of my old manuscripts and gave them a look-through. They were out-dated, but not that bad. So I chose my favourite story and set to work bringing it into the 21st century. Writing became fun again.
The publishing world has seen a huge upheaval in the past decade and the face of publishing is very different from when I’d last been involved. E-publishing is big business, and there are now countless small publishing companies. If you choose, you don’t even need a publisher, anyone can go the self-pub route. As a result, there’s an incredible amount of work on the market, some offered for little or no money. Some novels are of excellent quality, some not so much, but it’s all out there, available to the masses.
I’m not nearly bright enough to offer a comment on whether this is good for the industry or not. But I do know that, while it might be easier than ever to get published, it’s much more onerous for new authors to become successful and with the market so highly saturated, it’s easy for an unknown debut novel to get lost in the crush.
But I digress, back to me and my story.
When I was given my first contract, I should have been jumping-up-and-down ecstatic—a long held dream was about to come true. What I actually felt was apprehension. Part of it, I have to admit, was childish. In my dream of being published, there was supposed to be the phone call from the editor, a contract offer including a small but exciting advance, then the anticipation of seeing my novel in the local book store. None of that is today’s reality for most new authors. I got an email, I was offered a generous enough royalty rate, but no advance, and while my novel is now available for print-on-demand, it will never see the inside of a book store. Boo hoo. The other part of my apprehension had to do with the marketing aspects of today’s publishing world. More than ever, promotion and marketing falls on the author. I always knew I would not be good at self-promotion. I suspected I would suck at it, and my suspicions have been proven correct.
But it’s my nature to try. If I’m going to do something, I’m going to try to do it well. So I set up a Twitter account, this website, a Facebook author page, an Amazon author page. I tweeted, I blogged, I guest blogged. I asked for likes, I gave out likes. For several months I whipped myself into an anxious, exhausted frenzy, and I saw little to no results for my efforts. This might sound like whining, probably does sound like whining, but that’s not what I’m doing. I’m trying to figure it all out. I put in so much time and energy into ‘doing the right things’ and it didn’t help. My sales are flat-lining.
And then in August I started a new job. It’s a great job, I love what I do and I derive so much pleasure from helping the less fortunate in my community. But by its very nature, the job is emotionally draining. I come home every day exhausted. I’m so lucky to have a wonderful, understanding boss who does whatever he can to make things better for me. I write during my lunch hour now and I’ve severely limited all social media. I don’t have the time or energy anymore.
So I guess I have to accept the fact that if I can’t or won’t put in the time to promote myself or my work, I can continue to expect dismal royalty statements. And that leads me to my next thought—is it worth it? All the long, long hours of researching, writing, editing, re-editing, and then going through the arduous publishing process only to see my precious baby languish, unsold and unnoticed. That, for me, is worse than not being paid for all my hours of blood, sweat and tears.
Looks like I’m at a crossroads. My next novel is this close —> <— to being ready to submit and I’m wondering if I should bother. I’m tired. I’m really, really tired, and I have to be careful about where I direct my energies.
It makes me sad. And that’s all on me.