by Janis Susan May/Janis Patterson
When do we say enough, good-bye, farewell, I can’t do this any more?
Sometimes the decision is made for you. Contracts are cancelled; series are orphaned; editors leave, abandoning you to uncaring monsters who hate your work… Or on a more basic level, sales tank, your books sold goes into negative numbers (yes, this can happen!), you can’t even get a guest blog…
Worst of all, your heavily advertised, well-written, factually correct books over which you have slaved are totally eclipsed by a shoddy piece of trash that reads as if it were written by a semi-literate third-grader.
How hard do we have to be hit over the head to realize that it is time to move on? We’re working horrible hours to produce the best books we know how. The traditionally published among us struggle with agents and editors, each of whom have a totally different view of our story than we do – and demand that it be reshaped to fit their vision if it is even to be considered. And, after you have done all the work, your advances shrink to chump change - if they manage to exist at all.
Those of us who self-publish have to lay out money to editors, formatters, and cover artists as well as doing our own publicity until it seems that everyone gets paid except the author – but isn’t that sort of traditional, whether trad or self pubbed? Everyone expects to be well paid for their time and skills invested – except the writer. It’s either that or learn to do it all yourself (not necessarily recommended) which takes away from your writing time. Then of course you’re advised to give some books away for free – ‘to get your name out there’ in the expectation that the reading public will rush to pay full price for your next book. I will admit that this has worked big time for some authors; for others, no. The only guaranteed part of it is that it seems to be training readers that books should be free if they are on the internet – hence the proliferation of pirates who take your book and hand it out for free to anyone who wants it. Either that, or they sell it, of course keeping the money for themselves. Once again everyone – reader and pirate – profits except the writer.
To add insult to injury, it makes no difference if you are trad pubbed or self pubbed you are almost completely responsible for your own publicity – unless, of course, your last name is King or Steele or Roberts or Koontz or a couple of other mega-million sellers who don’t really need it. Something else for the writer to do besides write…
How many of us remember why we became writers? I do – it was because I delighted in creating entire worlds and populations out of nothing more than imagination and caffeine. I loved escaping into another life, one that was so often so much better than my real one. Feeling the elation of creation, the joy of constructing a plot and characters that actually made sense. The pure pleasure of working with words, molding them as if they were living clay to create exactly what I wanted.
In the push of publishing today (both kinds) that joy is dimmed if not altogether lost, and that’s sad. No, it’s more than sad, it’s heartbreaking. It’s not only in the corporate world of Big Publishing that books have ceased to be concepts of joy and reverence, valued for their own selves, and have been debased into products whose very existence has been regulated into a thing shaped for commerce.
So why do we as writers continue to let ourselves be relegated to the bottom of the pyramid? Perhaps it is time to revolt, to go into some other form of creativity such as quilting or painting or whatever happens to make your heart sing? Or just to go on writing for your own amusement and fulfillment with no attempt or even thought of publication?
Frankly, with over twenty books out there and over nine straight days of no sales at all on any venue, that option is looking more and more appealing. At least quitting writing to sell is a viable and occasionally appealing option, perhaps one should embrace.
That’s what I tell myself I will do. The thought is as seductive as the prospect of making a big bestseller list.
I will quit writing.
Of course, I have done so at least once a year for a long time now. I am a woman of my word and once I decide to do something I do it.
Once I even kept it up for almost a month.
Sometimes I don’t know why, but I’ve always come back. I’ll be back.