When I'm writing, the first part of my drafts generally clip along
at a pretty good pace. The characters are feeding me their story,
tension is rising, plots are escalating - it's fun and exhilarating.
Then I hit the middle. Like a frickin' brick wall. Or not,
actually...more like a deep mud pit. I can still move forward, but it's
seriously hard work and extremely slow going. And sometimes I really
have no idea how I'm going to ever escape the thick sludge my characters
have dragged me into.
Needless to say, I'm not a fan of draft middles, and the only
reason I drag my sorry fingers through them is because when I get close
to the end, the sludge melts away and it's a happy mad dash to the big
finale. I love that part. And I can count on that every single time.
Well, aside from a couple of recent drafts, but we'll get to that a
Unfortunately, for the last few months, that's sort of how I've
felt with the publishing aspect of this writing gig. I feel like I'm
slogging through thick, black sludge, with no solid ground on the
horizon. I see ropes and branches laying there and assume that if I
could just grab one or two and pull, I could help myself out of the pit.
But every time I grab for one, I end up letting it slip through my
fingers, and I'm slogging through the muck again.
I'm only sort of whining here - and I'm not asking for sympathy or
pity. Note that I *let* those helping branches and ropes slip through my
fingers...it wasn't like they shook me off or anything. Quite frankly,
I've failed at follow-through more often than not on things that I know
would probably help sales, and that's a big part of my problem. So what
am I not doing that I probably should be? Here's a short list:
- More interaction on my author pages
- Review requests
- A more constant/consistent presence on social media
- Publishing on a consistent, frequent schedule
- Embracing the image-heavy digital culture
Note that I *know* all of these things would help...and I am trying
to work on them here and there. My main issues are a lack of motivation
and a serious case of spreading myself too thin - the latter referring
more to publication times and my working on several drafts at once
rather than one at a time. It's the way I've worked for a long time, but
it basically means that instead of having a book ready every 4-8 weeks,
I have four books ready every 6 months or so. That doesn't make for a
nice, steady publication schedule, especially when many of the stories
are in different genres.
It doesn't help either that I don't write in trendy or popular
genres, and due to my relatively low sales overall, I have to assume
that for some reason, my writing isn't connecting with a majority of
readers (obviously it's connecting to some, because my books do sell
fairly steadily, normally and I have decent review ratings on average).
Whether it's my characters, my style or my storytelling, it's lacking
that "tell all your friends about this" magic. I'm reasonably certain
that my grammar and technical skills are up to par, but even that could
be a problem if it makes the writing too stale/boring to read. Hard to
tell, really - all of these are completely subjective things. The
authors who have this just seem to "have it"...it's not like they can
tell us what it is - they don't know either.
Just because I'm a glutton for punishment, I both raised prices
this month, and put half of my books into a free/discount promotion on
Smashwords at the same time. I figured the free thing was going to kill
sales anyway (and I always do a free download day on July 4th in my own
store), so I decided to just do everything all at once. Why raise
prices? Call it an experiment. I'm already only selling a few copies of
each title every month, with the occasional title that sells several. If
I can maintain that slow, low level of sales at a slightly higher price
point, why not make a little more? That gives me more room to do
monthly specials and deals in my own web store too - special discounts
only for...say, newsletter subscribers and such. For some of my books,
the price hike just brought my stories more in line with others in the
same genre/length range. For others it was a nominal raise of a few
cents to make the pricing more "standard" alongside other books on the
Believe it or not, even with sales down, free books flying off the
shelves and the price hike, books are still selling this month. Not
nearly as many as normal, but there are sales, by golly. So I think
there's hope for the future, I think I'm just really impatient with the
whole thing - I want the whole process of building this business to go
faster, instead of slogging along for the moment.
Just like being in the middle of a draft.
In any case, the number one thing I'm working on (and continuing to
work on) is making my writing better. Analyzing my use of description.
Working on my character arcs. Watching for weak plots. Trying new
things. Working only on stuff I'm excited about (ie, no, I'm still not
jumping onto trendy bandwagons).
In addition, I'm also going to try switching up my working method a
bit. Instead of working several drafts at once, I'm going to do my best
to focus on just one or two at a time until they're done. I can't stick
with just one genre, because that would be boring for me, but I can try
to give my publishing schedule more consistency.
I'm also getting my newsletters fired up again, using a very simple
style so they're easier to deal with and take less time to create.
There will be monthly discounts for books in the BSB store as well, and
subscriber only specials.
More interaction on the author social media accounts will be slow
going, but I'll work on it. With any luck, it will involve photos,
though not to the extent many people use them, because that just isn't
me, and it never will be. And that's okay.
But most importantly, I think I just need to accept that like every
draft, this is a part of the business that I just have to keep slogging
through, pushing forward even though it pretty much sucks. I mean,
there isn't any going backwards - that would just be stupid. And staying
in one place would mean drowning in mud, which just sounds really gross
and uncomfortable. So...forward it is.
On the bright side, mud baths are supposed to be really good for
the skin. So when I eventually do get through this stupid pit, I should
be looking like a million bucks. It would be awesome if I were making
that much too...
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