Thursday, February 27, 2020

A Paradigm Shift?

First, let me thank the readers who have reached out over the years, many of whom I've been lucky enough to maintain a correspondence with. (For the record, all unmaintained correspondences are wholly my fault … I'm terrible at that sort of thing.) Readers generally email with the same question: when will the next book be out? More particularly, readers are usually asking when the next Eddie McCloskey book will be out.

The answer is: I don't know.

I love that series and I've got more stories to tell about Eddie, but the last couple years of self-pubbing have been absolutely brutal. For me and for many others I know. Wayyyy back in 2014 (that year seems quaint now, in 2020) when I first hit PUBLISH on The Unearthed, it felt like all you had to do was write a good book and people would find it.

Not so anymore. The indie author market has matured and continues to mature at a steeper and steeper rate.

On the whole, Amazon has been great to us indie authors. They gave us a means of putting our work out there and connecting us with voracious readers. But it's becoming becoming increasingly difficult to make a buck self-pubbing on Amazon. There are a variety of factors at play here and many arguments to be made about why, which I won't go into here, but what all this means is desperate writers (like me) are looking for new ways to reach audiences and build our (chokes on the next word) brand.

I don't know how to get noticed on Amazon anymore. Ads are hit or miss. Mailing lists aren't the Holy Grail everybody made them out to be. I've tried to "write to market" but that hasn't worked out. Genre readers prefer series--which I totally get--but if you spend a year writing a four or five book series and nobody buys it, that's a year of your life you'll never get back and you haven't made any headway in your publishing career.

I've thought about quitting more times than I'd like to count but here's the thing: all I've ever wanted to do was write novels. Sure, I've picked up other life skills along the way and had a decent corporate career for a time, but writing is why I get out of bed in the morning.

I've considered being more of a hobbyist, writing for myself, and publishing every once in a great while if the mood struck. But I don't write just for me. I write to be read. I want to give readers that otherworldly experience that is the novel, where you're transported to another time and place and meet interesting people and learn a thing or two along the way. I believe literature is important, I believe the written word is powerful. Reading should enlighten and edify. Reading should make us a more sympathetic people, a more well-rounded species. It should illuminate. It should show us the way. It should argue, it should deconstruct, it should pierce.

Anyway ...

Where does that leave things for me? My latest crazy idea: write a thriller and post it chapter-by-chapter on this blog for free, in the hopes it's good enough to build significant word-of-mouth and get me back on readers' radars. Maybe I can then self-pub that book on Amazon (a course of action other indie authors have taken in the past with great success), or maybe a production company will option it for film, or maybe it will just turn people on to my writing in general and they'll check out my other stuff.

If this sounds like a throw shit against the wall and see what sticks strategy to you, then you're not far off. But this is where I am now. I've grown tired of banging my head against the wall, wondering what makes people buy a novel and wondering why well-reviewed books don't sell or even spark much initial interest, wondering why some books launch and others don't, wondering why books of similar quality produce such shockingly disparate sales results, wondering why this ad site works for some people but not for others, driving myself crazy trying to figure it all out. Writing has always been a difficult business. And, for a brief, beautiful moment, it was a little less difficult.

That's all for now. More to come.