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.