Sometimes, you have a bad day
If any of you follow me on Twitter, you might have noticed my writing thread of yesterday. Essentially, I had a come-to-Jesus talk with myself WRT Empress of Storms, the success of that title, and the issues I’ve had with the books that followed.
To summarize, my first self-pubbed title, Empress of Storms, did amazingly well. To this day, I honestly don’t know why, nor do I know why it continues to sell at least a copy a day. It just did and does. Which filled me with gratitude because the income made me feel 1) justified in my choice of careers and 2) like I was contributing to the household expenses.
The other novels that followed … did not do amazingly well, and I couldn’t figure out why. In the back of my mind I kept thinking that I must have screwed up somewhere down the line, did something wrong, or pissed off people. Because I clearly did something right with Empress, so that must mean that I did something wrong with the other books. Even though Palace of Scoundels, Degree of Resistance, and the Shifter Woods novellas are good pieces of storytelling if I say so myself, the fact that their sales are meh must mean that I wasn’t diligent enough about promo, or I missed some tricks somewhere along the line. Somehow, I screwed up, and I had to track that down and rectify it or else my career would circle the drain and I’d wind up in a nice refrigerator box under a bridge somewhere in my old age.
And then yesterday, I had an epiphany. Well, no, I had a sobbing fit (stupid hormones, I swear, menopause can get here at any time and I won’t complain) and then I had an epiphany. WRT my promo efforts, I hadn’t done anything wrong.
Let me repeat that for the folks in the cheap seats. I hadn’t done anything wrong.
I’d made all the right moves, did due diligence on my editing and covers, sent out ARCs, bought advertising, threw release parties, made appearances, gave out swag, everything I was supposed to do as an indie author. Everything I did for Empress, I did for Palace, Degree, and the Shifter Woods novellas. The truth of the matter was, Empress‘s success … was luck. Sheer dumb luck. I didn’t do anything particularly brilliant or savvy. I had a killer cover (thank you, Jay Aheer) and a story that appealed to NA readers, but the most important thing was that I was simply in the right place at the right time.
Ouch. The truth may set you free, but it will burn like a mother in the process.
And then I lost that sweet spot with the following books because the business moved on, as it does. New authors grabbed the spotlight, established authors brought out new books. It’s how things work in publishing. But losing that sweet spot didn’t mean I did something wrong. In fact, I did everything I was supposed to do. I was not a fake, a phony, a screwup that the reading public had finally cottoned onto. I just wasn’t in the right place at the right time anymore.
I know this sounds crazy, but realizing that was remarkably reassuring. Hitting big with one book and seeing a slump afterwards happens to a lot of writers. This isn’t me being a failure, it’s just the vagaries of the market. And the fact that my sales are slowly picking up again goes to show that people do like my stories (and bless each and every one of you out there who does) and maybe, just maybe, I need to keep writing them and remain stalwart in the face of occasional “long dark teatime of the soul” moments.
So, yeah, that was the backstory on yesterday’s Twitter thread. And while I’m busy cleaning the house today for my sister’s upcoming visit, I’ll be working out dialogue and plot points for Lady of Thorns and Cross Current. Because dammit, I’m a writer and that’s just how I roll in the Shire.