It isn’t something smart business people do often. In fact, some of us downright hate the idea. Yet, again, I find myself giving away books to people who may or may not read them. It is marketing, they say, and necessary. The people who encourage me tell me that it takes a while to build an audience.
Yes, well, I’ve been “building” one for two years, without much success. In point of fact, I’d go so far as to say I’ve failed at it. That’s not an easy admission, as short of a marriage (or two) I’ve not failed at many things in my life. I won’t call myself a failed writer, however. That would imply my work has no value or is at best, mediocre. I’ve never been accused of being mediocre and I won’t put that label on myself. In truth, if I were to add up all of the reviews of my 5 published works (only 4 of which have been reviewed) the average comes somewhere north of 4.3 out of 5. Not bad.
Still, no one’s tearing my door down to purchase my work.
I can look at a photo, like the one above that I digitally enhanced, and easily envision an interesting world of interesting people. I can write sharp, witty dialogue. I can weave plots with twisting subplots and heartbreaking surprises. And still, at the end, it will be a party with few guests. I’m not the only one, not by a long shot. In fact, of the books published, even via traditional publishers, only 10% will cover their costs.
My latest book, Hard as Roxx, had at least half a dozen early readers. I’ve had sales and given copies away. After almost a month on sale, I’ve received 2 reviews. At least one of those two people almost certainly didn’t read the whole book before reviewing. It’s tiresome.
So, I toy with the idea of being free. I will never just give all my books away, however. I’ve been a businessman for too long to make dumb business decisions. Therefore, what I must make free is myself. I must free myself from the burden of trying to convince people to read my work. I’ve started along that path, as I’ve finished my 1st mystery, which I like more than my previous books. I’m not feeling at all compelled to seek publication, however. Likewise, I’ve begun work on a 2nd short story collection. There’s no rush to publication, since few have discovered the first collection. I am free to write. I’m free to price my work as I please. I’m free to ignore what editors, agents, publishers, or critics think of my work or themes. I’m free to cross genres, merge genres, and invent my own. I’m free to enjoy the process of writing, without worrying about the end result.
With no (writing) support system except my online friends and God, I have 1 of 2 choices. I can give up writing, or give up my faulty support system. I choose the latter. All those people who think I’m their friend, but who have made no attempt to read my work, to quote the Anita Baker song, “Just because I love you, it don’t mean I won’t disappear.” I am free now. Free to find friends who understand this is the career I care about, the work I value, the thing that expresses who I am. As an artist, if you do not care about my art, you cannot care about me. That is because, simply, you have never met me. Therefore, with much
ambivalence love, I bid you all, fuck off adieu.
My choice was hammered home by meeting someone new, a neighbor. Within minutes of finding out I was a writer, she said, “I’d like to read some of your books. I’m a reader.” Ah, so there is such a thing. I met another neighbor, who walks the 2-mile circuit around my neighborhood, reading her Kindle. This week, I’ve been surprised by a few people who’ve told me they’ve read a few of my books.
The moral of this story is, if the people you love don’t support who you are, love the people who do.
Maybe there is still time to build an audience before I die. If not, perhaps my grandchildren will discover my books and be able to do something with them. Until then, I shall attempt to remain … free.