I’ve wondered for some time if the passion driving me, that need to act as scribe for the characters who have such stories to tell… of triumph and tragedy, of failure and persistence, of love lost and love found… if that passion has become self-destructive.
Yes, their journeys are mine, their stories resonate with a long life lived on my own terms, mostly, but not always. I learn from them, something new each and every day.
A writer who questions, who raises the red flag of self-doubt, is forever cursed with insecurity, with the need to hear that the words, the sentiments, the actions and repercussions replayed on that most intimate of stages, that it all has meaning beyond the narrow confines of one’s own imagination.
During these times of self-flagellation, the advice offered is “write for yourself” but they never explain how a vacuum brings fulfillment, nor do they understand that, once recorded, the story’s lifespan most times ends for the author and begins anew in the hands of those who might share the vision.
That type of resurrection is a fickle beast. It’s now a business plan, with branding and a set of imperatives to perform. It’s a hungry monster that consumes not just time, but all too often one’s very soul. The price of admission is steep, in monetary terms, and in less obvious ways as well. The objectives and strategies, the planning and execution, are more in alignment with someone brought up through the MBA ranks than the creative arts.
We drown under the top ten list of things writers must do to achieve discoverability, with the eternal caveat of… ignore at your peril but if you do, then it’s best to just write the next book. And the next one after that. But, don’t forget… do this, do that and the other. Go wide. Chase this opportunity. Wait! Squirrel, oh look here’s the next big thing! It’s easy, fifteen minutes out of your day, tops.
Whoever handed out time turners forgot to stop at my house.
And it’s not just the amount of work to keep your own ship afloat that becomes a crushing burden. You’re extolled to pay it forward, promote on others’ behalf, support, share, read extensively, review, attend cons. Have a website, make it snappy, fill it with new, eye-catching, relevant, value-added content! Wait, even better… have TWO! Blog. Consistently. Daily would be best but whatever you’re comfortable with, three times a week, optimize, stay on message. Sell your book, but heaven forbid you should actually mention the book!
Newsletters, email lists… those are the next big thing. Inundate strangers’ inboxes with tidbits and homilies and extras, special sales, deleted scenes, heads-up excerpts…
Give. It. Away. Build your readership by filling their eReaders with content in the vain and vague hope they’ll ever get around to actually looking at the books, and if they do? Well, some research shows downloaders of free content are hoarders who don’t read the book and most certainly don’t review, tell a friend, or buy the next book on offer.
Give it away so you can be complicit in building a culture of expectations that if the content is on the web, it should be free.
I haven’t even touched on the vagaries of our so-called business partners: Amazon, the aggregators, small publishers, subscription services that come and go. Terms and conditions change at the drop of a hat, often with less than 24 hours notice.
Then there are the pogroms of erotic content, of romance titles (Scribd, others), of getting caught in a moral majority net of censorship that is rapidly returning us to the Middle Ages, if not indeed to the modern equivalent of the Dark Ages.
Need I go on?
I didn’t think so.
I used to offer my new works as free reads, posted a chapter at a time (not drafts, these are well-edited WiPs). I had a small but loyal following who often expressed appreciation in comments but never completed the circuit with a review on Amazon. A book with no reviews withers on the vine.
If you ask me when the next book is due out (the next free read), the answer is probably going to be never. Why expend the endless hours of crafting a tale, then investing in a professional book cover and a professional editing team, when I will never get that investment back?
Authors live and die by reviews, and even if your personal modus operandus is to ignore reviews and judge by the cover and the blurb for your own purchases, that’s all well and good. But the sad fact is, in order for a book to be “seen”, it has to acquire legs via sales and reviews, or by word of mouth (in this digital world that’s via reviews of one sort or another).
The website, A Whisper of Wings, is no longer open to the public to read my WiPs. For now, it remains active, for my use only. The temptation to walk away has been growing. Taking this step is just one reflection of the turmoil I, and many others, face.
Authors acting badly, nastiness inside and outside the community of creatives, plagiarism, piracy, reading a book then returning it as if authors are a lending library, endless demands, the soul-sucking realization that no one cares if you make your mortgage payment or not, that the art of opening a vein is considered a hobby and of so little value any one can do.
I would hate to look back on this date and know this is the day the words died.