I recently talked about how I was in process of making changes to how I work, the things I need to do to succeed, and so on. Lately, I've been hard at work on the Witch & Wolf series. Blood Diamond released on Friday. On July 14, the first of the Tales of the Winter Wolf short story collections will go on sale. July 31, August 12, and August 28 will see the other three volumes of the collection launch.
I am hoping in mid September, I will have Volume Five ready for sale as well.
At that point, I will begin working on novels again. I really want to finish Project Zeta, which is my space opera destroy-Earth-with-Volcanoes story. I'll be working on short stories while working on the novel, as I really enjoy the Tales of the Winter Wolf set. I have a lot of stories to tell about Richard and Nicolina, so I expect at least several more volumes following the ones I've already written.
Here's the thing: I want to succeed as an author. That means I have a lot of work ahead of me. It means I have to (somehow) avoid giving up due to all of the frustration associated with my career choice.
It's a hard job. I want to tell stories others will enjoy. The problem is this: I need to make enough money to support my household.
It's an issue every self-published and traditionally published author faces. There are millions of books out there. There are millions of readers, many of whom purchase (and consume) many books each year.
The trick is finding them and forging connections and relationships with them. This is something I'm terrible at, for several reasons.
The most notable reason is my love of writing. I'm so busy writing more stories that I often vanish for days at a time. My nose is inches from my laptop while my fingers are setting keys on fire as I try to wrangle my latest story into shape. I'm telling stories.
I'm not exactly winning any races finding my magical golden pot of dedicated fans and readers. I heard someone say it takes a certain number of loyal fans, who will buy your book on opening day (or preorder) in order for an author to succeed.
I always regarded it a bit warily, I have to admit. Why? Isn't it just one of those writing rules? You know, the ones experienced authors ignore once they've learned enough about the craft to realize it takes more than just rules (and knowing when to break them) to succeed…
Well, I think they're right.
Right now, I have ten or so super loyal fans and readers who buy my books right away. (Seriously, I don't know who some of you are, but you really brighten my day. For those of you I do know, you know it already–or you should.)
I've heard numbers range anywhere from two hundred to one thousand plus loyal readers and fans buying a book on opening day to give it a hope of success.
To give you an idea, ten loyal fans made Blood Diamond reach 17,000 in the rankings on Amazon on its opening day. That's actually not bad at all! I was really happy and grateful.
Every little sale helps.
But, I need to do better. I need to tell better stories. I need to get my editorial shit together and make sure each book is as clean as I can get it, hunting down errors and fixing them before they reach my reader's hands.
But, I also want to tell stories that engage them and please them even considering the presence of the inevitable mistakes. (I'm human. Haven't quite managed to get over that disadvantage yet.)
So, to try and do this, I've been changing how I work on my writing. Honestly, I want to kick my feet and scream. What do you mean I'm not perfect and good enough exactly as is? That's not fair!!
That's just tough shit for me, unfortunately! I need to do better. (Yeah, you've heard this before.)
So, what am I doing to improve?
Readers and fans might get bored with this part of the post–I'm sorry! (Please stick with me, I'll try to be amusing.)
I've learned through experience and trial and error that the only person responsible for my editorial mistakes is me.
That means while I have an awesome crew of people helping me, it falls to me to learn how to spot my own errors, to do a better job of cleaning up my story, and to give those helpful, awesome people much, much cleaner and more polished stories.
Yes, the three or four of you who get the raw material for your pleasure, you will still get them for your advance reading pleasure.
But, when you ask me if you can proof the final version, you'll end up with far fewer mistakes to hunt down and find.
I read my reviews. I don't say much or acknowledge them in public often, but I read them. I read what you are writing, and I decide what to do from there. Sometimes it's as simply as acknowledging the fact a reader doesn't like the story. That happens.
Sometimes someone simply doesn't like my writing style. That happens.
But sometimes, you catch things I really need to fix–so I sit down and I start fixing them.
That's how it is supposed to work.
This is the one thing I do right. I may not be a great writer, but I'm prolific. Writing is what I do. It's a major part of who I am. I need to write. That's all there is to it.
Here's where my confessions come into play.
Last week, before I wrote those posts about hard work, I considered quitting fiction altogether. As some of you are aware, my husband doesn't like my writing career. He acknowledge I work hard, but because I can't meet income standards–even minimum wage–it isn't a job. It's painful for me to admit this in public. I treat my writing as a job.
But without the two hundred plus loyal fans, it's play money. I do better than the average self-published author. My income is generally stable at approximately $400 USD a month. There are bursts if a new release does well. Lately, they haven't. Storm Surge and Winter Wolf didn't do as well as I was hoping they would. Actually, Storm Surge completely flopped, and Winter Wolf didn't come close to making back what I spent on promotional costs.
I don't know if I'm simply not reaching my audience with my promotional efforts or if my stories, simply put, suck. I don't want to believe I tell terrible stories. I want to believe I tell stories worth reading.
But, money matters.
In order to find those two hundred plus loyal fans and readers, I need to tell better stories. Each book needs to surpass the last. Each one needs characters who live on the page. Each one needs to engage you, my fans and readers.
The hardest part of these little confessions is acknowledging the fact I'll need to just deal with it–the bad luck, the good luck, the doesn't-exist-at-all luck. It's a part of the game.
I don't have to like it, but it is what it is, and I have to deal with it.
What do I need to change to make you a loyal fan or reader who buys my books when they release?
You're the expert.