My 3.5-Year Author Self-Evaluation

So I’ve spent the last three and a half years working full-time as a science fiction writer in my quest to gain a readership, make $500 per month and add something meaningful or noteworthy to the genre.

I have failed.

I set myself what I guess is a challenging goal back in December of 2012 – to achieve success without spending money on advertisements. To succeed by dint of high-quality writing and covers. To produce high-quality, original, engaging, action-packed stories – and nothing more.

Why? Because I’ve succeeded like that in other commercial endeavors. And because I want to know that my writing is truly useful to others, and not just something they buy because I spent a couple grand on ads and schmoozed my way onto some big mailing lists.

But now I suppose I’m being naive. I’m just not sure anymore.

Where I have succeeded, however, is in improving the quality of my writing, lessening the mystique of writing fiction in my own mind, developing connections with other authors and publishing service providers and in self-confidence at the moment of sitting down to write.

My writing at this point is good enough for publication. I will continue to work on improving it but I’m not going for deep literary fiction here, just page-turning action.

My ability to stick with something beyond the first book, however, definitely needs work. I’ve got four finished first-in-series works and none of them have sequels. I have at least three more first-in-series in progress.

But there must be other serious mistakes I’m making because I have to pull teeth to get reviews and I don’t sell more than a book per day on a regular basis.

Most of the time, I feel like I’m writing into a black hole, with no idea whether anyone likes what I write, or whether they’re refraining from commenting out of politeness – i.e., in order to not tell me what drivelous horseshit my writing is.

Sometimes I wonder if people need to be told what to think about a work of art before they can form an opinion about it, either pro or con. But that’s cynicism.

There is a troubling tension, too, between the urge to write for myself out of my deepest passion, to say what I believe needs to be said, to be original, new and fresh; and, on the other hand, the uncomfortable sense of duty to write for the marketplace – to find out what people want and give it to them, so I can pay the electric bill and buy more lentils.

There are strong and convincing voices on both sides of the debate in the indie author community. And I’m not a fan of the writing of those who take either position, curiously enough.

Not to mention that when I try to write to market, I inevitably both bring in my passions and feel my energy sapped away by the anti-creativity of the whole endeavor. And when I write from passion? I’m overwhelmed by the gripping fear that no one will read the damned thing because it doesn’t fall into clearly demarcated existing categories and can’t credibly be described as a cross between two existing popular works.

I find that a lot of the writing that sells today is painfully generic, like a photocopy of a photocopy from a machine that’s low on ink and hasn’t been cleaned since 1985. Maybe that’s me being snooty. And some people will loudly proclaim that everything is stolen from everything else but let’s be serious now – that’s a gross, self-serving exaggeration.

But enough of my whining.

Some things I’m considering doing differently now:

  • writing in a different genre, perhaps thrillers or zombies – or even erotica;
  • Facebook ads and other paid advertisements;
  • writing shorter works; and
  • writing on a two-week schedule in order to give myself more structure.

I’ll be spending a lot of my time writing for hire over at least the next 6-12 months, if not indefinitely, in order to finance this. I have to downgrade my fiction writing from full-time vocation to part-time side-hustle now. Because even if I do earn $500 in a given month from my fiction, who knows if that will continue. It’s a fickle, irrational marketplace from my point of view.

Achieving success as a fiction author comes easy for some. I know I have some work to do in terms of publishing on a regular basis and in series. I have no plans to give up. I’m regrouping and aiming higher.

Thanks for your patience! I welcome your thoughts.

P.S. If you’re waiting for the second book in the Rork Sollix series, this is my apology for the extended delay. Sorry! I’m a jerk.