So, I think I broke my brain. I am currently working to fix it.
Over the past four months since I indie-pubbed my first novel, Leather to the Corinthians, I have been spending considerable energy using social media (read: all my free time) to market and promote the book. Prior to its release, I had done a sizable amount of research and created a massive, multi-tabbed spreadsheet filled with competitions, communities, reviewers, Facebook Pages, distributors, and so on.
Prior to completing the novel (which in itself was an excruciatingly long process, some of which was documented on this blog), I spent a considerable amount of time learning how to publish the book (this was after many months of query letters and rejections), as well as hiring professionals to polish the manuscript, format the text, and illustrate the cover (money well spent). I read page after page in book, on websites, etc. I was consumed with figuring it out.
NOTE: I have an obsessive personality. I wasted two years playing World of Warcraft. Serious players spend as much time reading about the game and how to play it as they actually play it.
I had created a pressure situation. I knew I could spend years knocking on agent’s doors and submitting small pieces to lit mags. That’s one classic model of building a writing career, and it is advisable. It’s respectable. However, I’m 43 not 23 and I am feeling Father Time sitting on my chest.
Plus, I’m big on DIY and kind of Punk Rock in mindset.
I jammed my brain with information about writing and publishing. Perhaps too much. I knew I needed to get it out. It was driving me crazy. My Facebook newsfeed is filled with well-meaning indie authors squawking about their massively successful books (I am becoming more dubious as time goes on). I have made many, many trips to the post office to mail out books for review, and I sent requests to easily 10 times as many who never responded. I know it’s all a part of the process, but it’s exhausting.
It became clear to me that I had to flush my brain. Purge it of all the advice, all the thinking, the spreadsheets, the self-doubt, the endless patrol of my Amazon and Goodreads pages. (Why, that asshat gave me two stars!) Promoting the book had become more important than the writing.
I realized it was time to move on and let the damn thing breathe. However I am a completist (you gamers know what I’m talking about) so I felt that I had to at least get through what was in front of me.
I had the last week off work and spent a few hours each day trying to get through what was left of the resources I had gathered. I still have a few to go, and the week has passed.
I am desperate to finish off my list, as I want to move on to my next novel. Plus, I want to drum up some freelance writing gigs (on top of my full-time job teaching) and I have been mulling another blog as well. I’m nuts.
About two weeks ago I came to the realization that I would never be able to tap into every possible writing community or resources. It’s a hydra of epic proportion. Each site leads me to another and another.
Deeper down the rabbit hole.
There are millions of words written about writing. There’s more writing about writing than actual writing. Everyone has advice to offer. Everyone has a service to sell. It is mind-numbingly endless.
I have seen total crap that is apparently very successful. Not many people post about lousy book sales or that their book sucks hairy nads. I have visited a bottomless pit of blogs containing long passages of nothingness, with a shitton of “likes” at the bottom. I have found talented people lost in the digital wilderness (hello, fellow traveler), so much more deserving of attention. I also see people that promote their book from morning to night. I am slightly envious of the time they have for such things, but it is also quite tedious.
I have witnessed much energy being expended. I wonder…
Is this just a bunch of writers trying to sell books to other writers? Is this working? Is this progressing the wondrous written word and the glory of reading? Have we entered a new age of literacy (cause that’s cool).
Or is this a bunch of monkeys humping a football? And if so, what is my monkey ranking? How are my stats? What’s my possession time?
I came to another conclusion. I could spend all my time promoting my single book (forever and ever) or I could do WHAT I SHOULD BE DOING – writing the next book, the next article, the next post, the next script, and the next blog. So, I am trying to wrap up this damn promotion thing.
Based on my calculations, I should be done with my list and unless something looks utterly amazing, I ain’t gonna bother. I have yet to really find a fellow writer with my sensibilities (read: weird), except for these Bizzarro writers up in Portland but I can’t figure out their scene. Maybe by making this decision I will miss the one opportunity that would change everything for me and I’ll miss it. I’m telling myself not to even consider that possibility.
I can’t. I’ll spend all my time thinking I missed something. I’m obsessive, remember?
So after much time and effort spent, I now truly understand that there is no road map to writing success.
If Leather is lighter fluid, I’m going to let it ooze through the cracks and maybe one day it will strike flame. I don’t need to be fabulously famous, I don’t need great wealth, but if my efforts lead to a day when I can spend half the day writing, and the other half connecting with people (notice that there’s no full-time job here) and still pull down a decent income, then I will feel satisfied on a daily fucking basis.
Hear me universe! I declare that this will happen!
So another week or two and then that’s it. I’ll do a free e-book day here and there and probably give away a few books on Goodreads. Otherwise, it’s back the to the best part – writing. And poetry. And blogging.
And my next book…if anyone is interested, it’s a ghost story. This time I will be concentrating more on character and story, as opposed to structure and setting. It will be much less experimental in nature.
Love it or hate it, Leather was a bitch to write. A lot of pre-writing. A ton of research. I’m not quite ready to go back. But I will soon enough.
I’m going to knock this second novel out and then return to the weird world I created in Leather. I figure I’ll follow this pattern: weird book > marketable book > weird book > marketable book. Oh, and I have to build some time to do the submitting thing to various journals and sites. I need to spread my seeds of literary corruption.
As I work on my next book, I plan on blogging through the process as well. Many of you have told me that my documentation of the Leather writing process was inspirational. Laugh all you want, that’s what they told me.
Ok, I need a couple Advil.
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Photo Credit: Olivander via Compfight cc