Thursday, September 7, 2017

My book drops tomorrow, and I feel a little lost

There have been two sides of me writing for the last few years. One knows I'll never make money off this, and does it because there is something burning inside me that has to come out. So he writes because he has to. To this person, writing is its own reward and its own curse.

There is another side of me, though, that I can't quite get to hush. It dreams of somehow, miraculously, in spite of all the facts about publishing these days and how unrealistic it is to dream of ever making real money at this, somehow turning writing into what I do for a living. Part of that is just that I want to leave my current job. I don't hate my job. I probably have it better than most working people in America. It's just not always a great fit for my personality. I feel a lot of anxiety, mostly because I'm afraid of what happens if I fuck it up.

95% of the time, I manage to squelch the voice that would beguile me into thinking of making a living out of writing literary fiction. But 5% of the time, that voice breaks through, makes me dream unrealistic dreams, and then I'm all the more crushed when reality inevitably settles on me again.

For the last few years, I've been using writing as the thing that makes my day job bearable, the thing that shows I'm not just what I do at work. But writing also keeps me from doing what I sometimes think I ought to do--get another bachelor's degree in something other than English and find another career in life. I'd have to give up writing for a while to pursue a new field that would allow me to do something new with my life. But writing is also kind of what sustains me in the here and now. Which is why I sometimes fall into the foolish trap of dreaming of making a living off writing.

I didn't expect my book of artsy short stories to sell a ton of copies. But right now, I'm a little bit humiliated--I don't know another word strong enough for it--by the lack of sales. For Chrissakes, I know a lot of people, even though I'm a heavy introvert. But unless Amazon's sales tracker is very, very wrong, almost none of those people I know bought a book, in spite of my uncharacteristic, unpleasant self-promotion of it on Facebook and in person. And nobody who doesn't know me has bought one yet. I refused to give up and self-publish all those years, but there are plenty of self-published books outselling me by a wide margin.

At least one of my brothers hasn't bought the book or said anything to me about it. Lots of friends seem to have not realized that this was a big deal to me, and I really needed them to step up, buy a book and maybe write a review. I don't get paid for them buying a book--not unless 1,000 copies sell, at which point I start to get a share of the sales. It's not about money. It's about legitimizing what I do so it feels like a real thing.  It's about making a strong showing with this book so I have a chance of selling the novel that is my real goal here.

I worked hard for years to get a book published. Tomorrow is the official drop day, and all I'm thinking of right now is how I want to put this whole stupid midlife crisis writing phase behind me and do something practical with my life. People seem to need HVAC repair more than they need artsy stories about death, poverty, and male identity.

10 comments:

  1. I've been debating whether or not to tell you in advance, but you sound like you need some positive reinforcement. I'm greatly enjoying your book - I ordered my copy through my local independent bookseller, so that probably doesn't show up on Amazon (unless that's where they get their stock). Add one to the total? I'm about halfway through. Really great work - Brokedick cracked me up, Berbere made me cry. I haven't gone googling for background for a post yet, though we've already talked about a lot of things I'd normally be wondering.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't know if Amazon captures that or not. They claim that most sales hit their counter. In any case, I appreciate you making room to read it when you've got so many other projects going on.

      Delete
    2. So I'm pulling together notes for a post on your book (which is great - you have every reason to be proud of it) and I want to know if you'd like to be included at all in the post - I've done these different ways, sometimes just including quotes from a casual email q&a, once a full-blown "interview", sometimes just including what I find on the internet w/ no contact. I have one insight I'm dying to ask you about, but I'm almost afraid to - I think you've done something completely brilliant, and I don't want to find out it isn't what you intended at all (there was a Pushcart story like that a couple of years ago, a string of characters, I thought they had significance that added to the story but turned out they were just random; I was really disappointed).
      There are a couple of quotes from your blog I'd like to use; is that ok? It seems more invasive somehow than pulling quotes from author bios or published interviews, a blog feels more personal.

      Delete
    3. First of all, thanks so much for reading the book, for applying your usual care and attention to that reading, and for being willing to blog about it. You're welcome to use whatever you find to write it. If you go to "contact me," then click "about" when it brings up my Google page, you can get my email. You're welcome to send me any questions you want to ask that way, and I'll do my best to answer them. I hope I don't disappoint you. Maybe on the story you're talking about, you should just ask me "Did you mean to do X?" and I'll just say yes no matter what so you aren't disappointed.

      Delete
  2. Due to my personal situation, I have been so out of things that I would normally do. Sorry.. guess I cannot even buy one now.

    Why not do all - continue good paying secure job until you fuck up :), keep writing, and sustain the debate whether you should do it for living or not. I guess publishing is almost close to performing on a stage for musicians. And if that's the case, don't we all struggle in that gambling? I have seen a world famous musician sitting in abrupt silence on stage due to sudden memory loss... I can't even fathom what it would have been like if it had happened to me. You have made a first step and that was a great /grand step. Hope you can enjoy all these developments made by you - feeling very proud.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I told you one of my free copies is for you. No worries. I actually understand most people not buying a copy. It's kind of a lot of money at $17 for a paperback book. I just thought it would do a little better.

      I wasn't sure I ought to post what I did. I know it sounds entitled and whiney, especially when there is a giant hurricane coming and some people have bigger worries. Furthermore, in addition to the disappointment, there were also a few people who really, really surprised me. Friends from the Marine Corps I haven't seen in decades bought the book and said nice things about it. So there have been some positives.

      But since I've committed on this blog to being transparent about all the honest highs and lows of writing so that others might profit from them, I thought it would be dishonest if I didn't share what I was really thinking the night before the book officially "dropped." Which was a whole lot of stormy thoughts.

      I also have waves of happiness where I realize that getting a book published at all is a pretty decent accomplishment, even if nobody reads it at all. I just didn't happen to be having those waves of happiness last night.

      Delete
    2. Good Lord. I said "last night," but it's only 1 AM now. My daughter just came home and made a bunch of noise and woke me up, and I thought it was closer to time to get up than it was. What am I doing here?

      Delete
  3. But you won't even do what you're supposed to in order to promote it. I'm good for one, of course. I'm just waiting for the Folio Edition. But seriously, you can't refuse to engage in any meaningful promotion and then lament the fact that not much has happened. Those people who self-publish often go around flogging their piece of crap.... That is how it's done.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I did do a couple of things to promote it, mostly sending it out to be reviewed. I think one reviewer is actually going to come through. Other than that, you're right. I haven't done much to promote it. Although a lot of the promotion advice I've read comes down to "bug your friends to buy a book." That's why literary agents are so big on wanting people who have a platform.

      Delete
    2. i've told you very specific steps, derived from being on the receiving end of this stuff when I worked in the retail book trade.... i even offered to help.

      Delete