Monday, December 8, 2014

Back to the Beginning

It's that time of year for me again. Happens every year, the time when I find myself thinking about what I've accomplished, and conversely what goals have not been reached. I've been writing since 2007, which I realize is, relative to many other writers, not a long time. And in that short time I've managed a certain level of success. Many short stories published in magazines and anthologies ranging from very small-time online-only indies to internationally-in-print like Chicken Soup for the Soul. Two novels published through a small press. Two self-published novelettes. I've been invited to speak and teach at several conferences and local workshops, as well as present at multiple writers' and artists' groups. Finding Angel made finalist in three contests, and now has 64 reviews on Amazon.

But I've also hit some major bumps in the road:

Being an "indie" author has meant I can't get books into bookstores. The only one that was willing to take my books on straight consignment was a small used curriculum store in our local homeschool resource center, and that bookstore has since closed. My area has exactly one independent bookstore that sells new books rather than used, and I had to pay a fee to have my books on consignment there. They did nothing to bring attention to the books, placing them spine-out amongst large-press YA novels, so I sold none and had to pick up my copies after six months.

I've tried making contact with local schools in order to speak, and for the most part have hit a wall. While I did manage to get invited to speak twice for the Great American Teach-in, I've yet to be able to go to a school for a true author visit.

I've participated in every author event I could get into locally, as well as renting space at craft fairs in order to sell books, and found that author events are generally not attended well, and those who attend usually want writing advice and are not there to buy books. Craft fair attendees all but run in the opposite direction when faced with a table of books for the most part.

I still find online marketing to be frustrating and impossible to figure out. I've taken classes on it, picked the brains of fellow authors, read innumerable articles...and am more confused than ever.

So, what is my point?

The fact is, all of the above negative issues have been sucking the joy of writing right out of me, and I need to decide what to keep going with, and what to let go.

The first to go will be craft fairs. They're too expensive to participate in, too time-consuming, and have been completely un-profitable.

Next, I will stop stressing over the places I can't get into right now. Bookstores are closing left and right, and the ones that are still around are so filled with non-book junk. Also, the authors I know locally, both small press and large, who have done signings all say they're not worth the time. The latest story I heard was from a friend who wrote the most awesome children's book. She had a signing at B&N, where they'd advertised and set up a beautiful area for her to sell books in the children's section. She sold not one single book because all the moms and little kids were in the TOY section. As for schools--if they don't want me, then fine. I'll do what I should have been doing all along and focus on my fellow homeschoolers. I intend to find homeschool conferences to participate in, and teach creative writing locally.

Speaking of teaching--I've found that I really enjoy teaching about writing at writers groups, conferences and workshops. More of that in the future.

Ah, but that's all book-selling and marketing, or at least platform building. What about my writing?

Well, yes, that's the point. If I can get rid of all the distractions and stresses, maybe I can get back to my roots and spend more time with my butt in the chair and my fingers on the keyboard. The thing is, my focus there will be different too...

I know that indie authorship is on the rise. And there are some benefits to it. But it's simply not working for me. I need help with marketing, but no, I can't just run out and hire someone. I'm finding that all the stuff indies keep telling me about how publishers never help with this...totally bogus. The authors I know who have bigger publishers have people who set up events for them. They also have the creds to get into more places as speakers. Unless an indie is a HUGE self-made success, we're simply not taken seriously. Sorry, that's been my experience, and I simply want more.

So, I"m starting over. I'm going back to the beginning, working on manuscripts that can be shopped to agents. Yes, this means that Toch Island 3 and all related stories will be put on the back burner. Of course Toch Island is the most precious thing to my heart, but to add more to an already nearly unknown series seems fruitless to me. Harsh? Maybe. But you're not the one taking time from MY kids and husband in order to make NO money. HUGE gratitude goes out to all the fans of Toch Island--more than you can possibly know--but until sales increase I have to put my family first.

I also want to get back into short story writing so I can get work out there in the meantime. I loved writing short stories, and frankly loved selling them to markets, and I think I need more of that again to stoke the writing fire for me.

Overall, I need to go back to the way things were at the beginning, back when I was writing and loving it, back when I had hope of someday being a success at this, back when I wasn't distracted and dismayed by all the weight carried by an indie author. Back to the beginning.

19 comments:

Kessie said...

Simplifying is always better. And let's face it--the best way to sell books is to write more. Toch isn't even a complete series yet, and I know lots of people who won't read a series until it's finished.

So, what will you aim at tradpub? Your paranormal romance? :-)

Kat Heckenbach said...

As far as the series thing, I totally get you. I know there are people who start a series unless it's finished. But far more will start that series, so I don't see that as my issue. My issue is that most people just don't know about my series. I can't invest more into it knowing it's just going to be book three of a series that's not selling.

Yes, I want to try and tradpub the paranormal. Also, I have a MG ghost story in the works.

Caprice Hokstad said...

Of course Toch Island is the most precious thing to my heart, but to add more to an already nearly unknown series seems fruitless to me.

Been there. Done that. I know exactly how you feel. The thing about putting a pot on back burner is that the front burner is never that far away. It's not abandonment. It's waiting for the right time when the passion is there because it deserves nothing less.

I also know how much it hurts. How the virtual "rejection" (being ignored and feeling obscure) eats away at you. How you feel like you have let your characters/plot/creation down.

Good luck finding the joy again. That helps, if you can find it.

T. Wilhelm said...

Thanks for this transparent update. I am hoping to photo illustrate and publish some public domain works as children's stories this year. I really appreciate hearing the real deal from someone with experience! You are right to focus on what is working and drop what is not. Wasted energy is one of the biggest problems for artists of all walks.

T. Wilhelm said...

Thanks for this transparent update. I am hoping to photo illustrate and publish some public domain works as children's stories this year. I really appreciate hearing the real deal from someone with experience! You are right to focus on what is working and drop what is not. Wasted energy is one of the biggest problems for artists of all walks.

Kat Heckenbach said...

Caprice, well said. You're so right about it not being abandonment. And love how you put it, that it feels like you've let your creation down. That's exactly it. Not disappointment because I'm not the next JK Rowling (read: rich and famous), but that all that work is going mostly unappreciated.

And thank you :).

Kat Heckenbach said...

Thanks, Tonya. Yes, wasted energy is the problem. I have no problem working hard. I only have a problem with working hard for no results.

And can't wait to find out more about your project--I love your photography! Exciting!

Unknown said...

I could no more stop writing my fantasy series than I could stop breathing. I would totally do it as a hobby. But you gotta do what you gotta do. Ultimately, what matters is whether it brings you joy. If the joy's not there, you have to turn your efforts to new projects.

cherylbethjohnston said...

I enjoyed reading this post, Kat, because I know how much effort you've put into your writing, promotion, teaching and trying to help other newbies. It's always good to take a fresh look at how we spend our time, energy and money. You are definitely a realist and I respect your experience. Thanks for sharing such an honest post. I have a feeling that back to the beginning may yield a whole new harvest!

Kat Heckenbach said...

Kristen, I don't really see this as stopping--more like taking a breather to work on other projects. I *will* someday finish Toch Island, and it may very well be a "hobby" at that point. If this time around it becomes more abundantly clear that this is never going to turn into a profession for me, then so be it. But I won't just stop writing! I'll simply shift to doing it the way I do my art--all for ME. ;)

Kat Heckenbach said...

Thanks so much, Cheryl. I am always so happy to have your encouragement!

Susan Lower said...

I just read an article by Book Marketing Buzz Blog about the Avalanche of Books and how it's growing with indie authors. Even if we read everyday we'd only be able to read 1% of all the books out there. I appreciate what your feeling. It took me nearly a decade to find an agent, then realized we weren't the right fit. Sometimes taking a breather, stepping back and looking at things in a different way can help re-visualize where you need to go. Looking forward to seeing what the future brings you.

Kat Heckenbach said...

Susan, you have hit on a point that's really been bugging me lately about the whole indie thing, and why I'm finding it increasingly futile. The advice to everyone is to write more, more, more....but the market is already flooded. This focus on market yourself silly, write just to get stuff out there--it's just turning the writing world into a circus, and making it harder for readers to find books they can really love.

Unknown said...

A courageous thing to do. The joy of writing is why we all got into it in the first place; pursuit of that joy is never bad, right? :)

Kat Heckenbach said...

Thanks, Katie! And yes, that's it exactly :).

Jill said...

I think you should do whatever it takes to bring the muse back, frankly. :) Someday, I might have a third book in your Toch series. But I can wait.

Kat Heckenbach said...

Thanks, Jill!

Daniel E. Trosper said...

It's important to take stock, find what is working and what isn't, and move forward. Thanks for being honest, you hear so much stuff about how it should be done, so much crap, so this post was helpful. I think the Indie road remains difficult and people had better you'd better be aware of that. Your new/old strategy sounds like the best play for now, and hopefully at some point we'll return to Toch Island.

Kat Heckenbach said...

Thank you so much, Daniel.

I agree--there is so much crap out there, so much conflicting information and conflicting advice. The only advice that can truly be followed is to find what works for you :P. WAY easier said than done, though! It's what I'm trying to do. This may or may not work, but at least I can let go of some of the stress over marketing which is definitely NOT working.