If you’re looking for a feel-good writerly tale of unexpected success, financial solvency or bestseller lists, you’ve come to the wrong place. On the other hand, this is not a rant, either, but simply a few facts on what I’m doing and where I feel I might have gone off-track recently.
The Culture Wars series has never been huge. It seems that readers aren’t so big on homophobia stories, and coupled with science fiction elements, the second book in the series, Written In The Snow, didn’t sell bucketloads. That’s fine. I wrote those books for me, because I wanted to write them. I was starting out, learned a lot of lessons, and improved my craft.
Then came another book, Written In Stone. It was more of a political spinoff of the Culture Wars series, centering on people more than sci-fi/military romance. I spun it off into its own series because it was a prequel to the events of the Culture Wars, and I thought it would make for one hell of a confusing third entry in a series.
Looking back, it really was a vanity project, with not a whole lot of sales potential. That didn’t stop me from spending the best part of a year on it. I rewrote parts of it, cut entire sections, wrote out characters and enlisted a very helpful and generous beta who assisted me greatly. I really did feel satisfied with the end product, right down to the cover. But it took a hell of a lot of time, I’m talking a good 1000 hours easily, getting it to that place. Probably closer to 2000. I sank months on end into hammering out every little detail.
The problem of course is that it was still a self-published side story to an already limited-interest series. And it flopped. I sold perhaps a dozen copies at launch, totaling around $50 in royalties. Then… nothing. I haven’t sold a single copy in two months. Nothing else from my backlist has been moving, either.
The question at this point, is, do I want to continue to indulge myself, and write a few novels I’m happy with that may never find an audience? Or do I still cling to the lofty ideas of someday making a living as a writer?
It’s a very tough question. I know what my heart says. My heart says that last April I wrote an F/F/M bisexual novel when very few publishers see any sales potential in menage with F/F content. And I love it so much I sent it to a publisher anyway. I’m not sure if I want them to accept or refuse it, because I fear losing my publishers money, I really do. I see so many small presses going under and I don’t know if I’m just wrong for this corner of the web, at least if I want to be what one would consider a “successful” writer.
I’ll be honest, I looked at the M/M Goodreads Book Group’s Member Choice Awards winners this year and I saw a lot of books that aren’t my cup of tea at all. That doesn’t mean they don’t deserve awards (and congratulations to all the winners!), but just that when I see what my audience wants and what I want, I see two different paths… I’m not into contemporary romance, and I feel like that shows when I try to write it, yet I still feel that inexorable pull from a well-told, plotty fantasy or sci-fi romance. There are stories I want to tell, but I’m not sure people are waiting to read them. I don’t want or need to be popular, but I worry that I’m not connecting with anyone at all, no matter how hard I try, and what use is writing if nobody reads it? Even the extremely rough and unedited F/F fiction I put out on the web years ago seemed to attract an audience.
On a more positive note, I do have some great releases coming out this year, that represent my very best work. Reunited, from Totally Bound Publishing. Nami, from Wilde City Press. The Dragon’s Curse and The Forbidden Zone from Less Than Three Press. I’ve received some great feedback from editors. I think if there was ever a year that will spell my future, it’s this one. I have a lot riding on a few works that I really poured everything into.
The other choice is writing for money, and… I’m not even sure that’s an option. The secret with me is that I’m very inspiration/Muse based. If the soul isn’t there, the magic doesn’t happen. I do have a very rough M/F novel still sitting on my hard drive from 2010 which could be fixed up and expanded into a series, but I’m reluctant to leave my genre. With a full-time job, leaving LGBTQ writing really would mean leaving, and I don’t want to go anywhere else. I like it here. I love that there are books about all colors of the rainbow. I’m so happy to see F/F fiction finally getting some appreciation.
And maybe that’s the secret – not to court mainstream appeal at all but to simply write, and perhaps find a niche where I can be happy and make others so. That’s why I’m going to start an F/F novel right now, because I’m feeling it when I haven’t felt the desire to write since November. And damn the numbers, screw the odds.
I’m not selling out and I’m not leaving. I’m here to stay with all the weird and wonderful ideas floating around my brain.
With infinite love,