Friday, April 27, 2012

Why I Hate My Publisher

In theory, a book update should be the easiest thing in the world.  I’m doing this, and writing this, and, and, and…

And then it should be over.

And yet, I’ve been writing this post, and wiping it out, over and over and over for about three weeks now.  And I can sum up why in two words:

I’m tired.

A couple weeks back, I went to see New York Times bestselling author Patrick Rothfuss speak.  He was hilarious, and his books are great, and you should read all of them.

But he hit on something.  He said, roughly, that writing is like having a garden.  If you do it for fun, it’s a win all the way around.  You get out in the sun, you have some fun planting seeds and watering and such, and at the end, maybe you get some yummy eats.

But, if you get into gardening with the expectation that you must get a certain amount of yummy eats, the whole endeavor is stressful.  Too much rain, not enough rain, bunnies in the vegetable patch, and suddenly all your hard work (not fun, work!) provides little or no reward.

And that’s writing.  If you do it for fun, you get to de-stress and create, and at the end maybe you have something cool you can show to people.

Unfortunately, being an indie author means that you double (or triple) the work of being an author, but with a strong chance that you’re not getting much in the way of a harvest at the end.

Consider: When Patrick writes a book, he finishes it, then send it to his publisher.  The publisher finds someone to make art for the cover.  And brings in an editor or two or three.  And tries to figure out how to get the book in front of as many people as possible.

When I finish a book, I have to do all that stuff myself.

Right now, books and the stuff that goes with them is Patrick’s only job.

I, on the other hand, have to work at a regular job at least 40 hours a week.

We’re both dads, so Patrick gets a pass on that one.

In the last year, Patrick put out one book, and he didn’t have to publish it himself.

I put out eight.

(I say none of this to fault Patrick.  Having met the dude, he’s nice and funny and a good egg.  He’s just at the tip of my brain because of his metaphor.  I mean him no harm.)

And so, to sum up?  Here are those two words again:

I’m tired.

The fact is, I’m still working pretty steadily.  I just finished writing what was supposed to be a short story, but turned out to be a novelette, and I hope it fits into a compilation a friend of mine is putting out. 

Of course, I have to get it copyeditied first.

That’s been holding me up quite a lot, lately.  If you don’t know already, copyediting is my wife’s super-secret ninja power.  And she generally enjoys my writing.  But trying to find enough time to sit her down and edit something I wrote?  It’s easy to put off.  It’s too late.  She/I/We are/is too tired.  There are two-dozen things in our household that need to be taken care of (as in all households) and editing often gets tossed to the bottom of the pile because, frankly, it can.

It can because there isn’t a publisher, or thousands of readers, clamoring for it.

And that’s where it gets even more complicated.  Patrick finishes a book, it goes to the publisher, and they take over a big chunk of the work from there.

In my case, I’ve pushed the rock up the hill, and finished the book, and now?  There’s another hill.  And it’s a marketing hill.  And I am not a brilliant marketer. 

Which makes the second hill ever more of a slog than the first hill.

That’s the issue, really.  When I finish a book, it’s an object, and I generally feel I know when I’ve done good work.  So I feel good about that.

Then I put out my book, and it just kind of does okay, and then I’m not really able to feel as good about the book.  It is actively difficult to separate my inability to market all that well with my ability to write an entertaining read.

See, I’m also working on a new novel called Frank, the Lonely Unicorn.  I let a Twitter buddy of mine read the first third of it, and she really likes it.  And that makes me happy, so I’m pushing through with it, and already the marketing side of my brain is going, “Why bother?  It’s not like anyone is going to BUY the thing.”

Some will, yes.  But it’s like the opposite of the Old Testament story where the guy bargains with God, and says, “If I can find one good man in the town, will you spare the town?”  Only it’s, “Do I write this book is only twenty people want to read it?  How about fifty?  A hundred?”

That same issue has held me up editing But the Third One Was Great.  I’ve edited 583 pages of manuscript so far.  But I still have several hundred pages to edit, and probably another 50 pages to write.

Then I’ve got to get my editor to edit it, and she’s not a horror movie fan.  So pushing to finish it, my brain is fighting me the whole time, like so:  “It’s going to take forever to edit this, and then it’s going to come out, and you’re going to have a bear of a time selling it.”

The movie-making book?  We’re 80 pages form finishing the edit, and we just keep pushing it off for other stuff.  It’s been that way since Christmas.

In all honesty, I’ll probably get all these books finished by a year from now.  But it’s all been getting held up by the part of my brain that’s supposed to be a publisher.

And that’s why it’s taken so long to write this post, I think.

Because when you type all this stuff out, it sounds kind of whiny, and I’m not really a complainer by nature.

What I am is tired.  Because I write and write and write and I get to feel happy for ten minutes and then?  Everything after that is even more work, on top of the writing and on top of being a dad and on top of working 40+ hours per week at a real job.

I see people I know who sell 10,000 copies of their book, or start making more than they do on their day job, and quit their day job, and I’m happy for them, and I think, “Why not me?”   And I know it’s that my marketer isn’t very good.

And that’s me too.

So that’s it, really.  I’ll keep writing, and stuff will come out, and the people who like my stuff will be happy, and I’ll get that little hit of happiness from that.

And then my sales will slow down again, and I will sigh, and decide to write another book, and try to figure out why my marketing efforts are for naught.

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