Did you know my latest book, The Broken, was published back in April? Did you know it’s been available now to buy, download and read for almost five months? If not, don’t worry – you’re not alone.
This is the problem I tend to face every time I finish writing a book. I complete the draft, edit, edit some more, send it off for professional proofing, and then drop it on Amazon and wait for it to take off. And, to my eternal surprise, it never does. In five months I’ve garnered four reviews on Amazon and five on Goodreads – most of them from the same people. I don’t know if it’s taking off slower than 22 Scars – that was four years ago and I can’t really remember – but it’s hardly bestseller rankings.
The problem, largely, is that I write for myself. I write the stories that I want to read, and I really don’t think much about an audience. I don’t think about who else would want to read my books, and I don’t think about the best ways to get it out to them. I’ll usually make some half-baked attempt to send out review copies, but no one ever replies and no one ever actually buys the books. The vast majority of reviews come from free giveaways, and most of those come from my friends over at Voracious Readers Only, who I’m glad to partner with because at least they give out my books – even if no one actually reads them.
Without an audience, how would I ever get my books noticed? How can I make money from selling copies of my books, if I don’t make any effort to get noticed? And for that matter, how do you even go about getting noticed in the first place? It’s not exactly an easy task, distinguishing yourself from the tens of thousands of other authors out there all vying to make a name for themselves. I know one author who makes a living off writing – she writes 3-4 books a year! (I’ve managed 3-4 years between books.)
The bigger issue, of course, is that for the vast majority of my daily life, I also just don’t care. I have a job that pays reasonably well, I go to work and come home, I don’t have to worry about food or a roof over my head, or medical bills, or any major life issues … and so I can quite comfortably become complacent to the needs of my creative soul. I just don’t care if my book makes a million dollars or not, because my life doesn’t depend on it.
At the same time, it makes the whole process seem ridiculously futile at times. Why am I writing books? Who am I entertaining? Whose lives am I touching? I love to read reviews of my books, especially from people who tell me it made a difference to them personally, but realistically, I have around 130 reviews of 22 Scars over the past four years, with an average rating of 3.7 out of 5. Decent, but hardly groundbreaking.
And when I then have to contend with my natural depression, piling itself on top of my disappointment at not becoming a best-selling author in the past ten years, it all just fizzles out and I collapse in bed, wondering what the point of any of it is.
I write because I have stories to tell, but I don’t sell the stories, which means no one knows about them. And if I sold the stories (which by all accounts I’m woefully inept at), I wouldn’t have time to write them.
In the end, I know I’ll probably continue writing, for better or for worse. I wonder sometimes what my legacy will be after I die. The saddest part is thinking that I have these incredible, touching tales to tell and that no one will ever be touched by them. That my stories – not me, but them – are doomed to an eternity of obscurity, along with so, so many others of their ilk.
But it doesn’t help the depression to think that all the time, effort, blood, sweat and tears that go into my books make absolutely no difference to their success – or lack thereof. It’s all about selling yourself, and I’m really just not very good at that.