Big deal

Tomorrow the third and final book in The Pathfinders series is released. It should be a big day, but I can’t honestly say it thrills me to the core. In two and a half years I’ve had six novels and several short stories published. I believe I write well, and a handful of people have told me so. Maybe it’s true. Whatever, the bottom line is that I haven’t got what it takes to flog books. Because it isn’t enough to write the bloody things, you have to work like a door to door double glazing salesman to con people into buying them. I’m tired. I’d like to write and earn a bit of money from it, but it’s not happening. I have loads of WIP and the motivation to finish any of them just isn’t there.

This summer we are trying to get our very basic, if not primitive, new house into a fit state to live in, patch up and sell the house in town, sort out the five children who are being turfed out of the nest and make sure they all have roofs over their heads. We are battling at a 100 kilometres distance with horny handed peasants with harvesters, the water board, the neighbours who want to build a lake next door, the removal man who’s playing hard to get, and worrying about not having the money to do what needs doing. These are important things, not blathering on about imaginary friends.

I don’t have the time or the energy to promote my books in a low key way, it’s not in my nature to push them in an in your face kind of way, and I don’t have the means to buy advertising to do it for me. I’m not a ‘street team’ person, I’m not going to chat about my characters and pretend they’re real, I’m not going to do blog tours and rafflecopter stuff, or pay for reviews or giveaways. Even giving away review copies has been a waste of time. I know other authors manage to sell their books. Either they are doing a better job of selling themselves, or they have a more dynamic publisher, or they write better books than I do. I know, you can’t have more than two items in an either…or phrase in English, but you can have as many as you like in French, so…

Whatever the reason, I’m backing off. My self-published books are going into an induced coma, and if my publisher doesn’t get into the swing of promotion, The Pathfinders is going to die the death too. I’ll still write poetry and short pieces, and I might even potter along with a WIP, but until the miracle happens and the books already available start to sell, it’s not worth the hassle of even attempting to find a publisher. What about agents? Don’t make me laugh. Just don’t.

Sorry to sound so miserable, but I’m very tired and broke. Tomorrow is release day, again, and unfortunately that means absolutely nothing. I’ve said it before, and I’m saying it again, there are just too many books available, too many readers expect to read for free, and too many ‘novels’ are utter shit. We are adrift is a sea of merde. I give up.

 

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Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

74 thoughts on “Big deal”

    1. I probably won’t give up. When I’m tired and feeling frustrated with lack of sales, I tell myself there’s no point. But I can never resist carrying on with a story. Then when it’s finished, there’s always the hope that maybe this one…

  1. I can identify with what you are feeling in so many ways. These days you can’t even get a paying job without huge self-promotion. If it’s not in your nature, and you don’t have someone at hand to do it for you, you’re out of luck. In fact, you could even say that a loud mouth and a sound bite “trumps” substance every time.
    And the details of life need attending to. So I think it’s OK to back off for awhile.
    But speaking for myself, you have a great talent not only for writing, but for inspiring others (that would be me). So I hope to keep seeing both your work and your encouraging words.
    And good luck with the house! That can definitely use up all your energy in and of itself.

    1. Thanks for the encouragement—to get on with the important things. I’m not physically very strong and I tire very easily. Writing is something I can do and I hoped it would provide a gainful employment for me, as well as being what I love doing. I’m more successful at liberating overgrown rosebushes and cleaning terracotta tiles. And what’s wrong with that? I ask myself;

  2. Okay, okay, lets focus on what we know to be good Jane. You know your worth. You know deep down what to do. Write down new, simple goals tonight? I don’t know, it always helps me…
    Fight it, come on…

    1. I think that’s the problem. One of them anyway. I just don’t have an ounce of can do. If nobody reads my books it’s for a reason. Maybe one big reason is that they don’t know they’re there, but I can’t do anything about that. Another reason might be that they just don’t appeal to those who scroll through Amazon listings looking for something to read. Can’t do much about that either. I’m really tired of ineffectual promotion. It doesn’t get me anywhere but poorer. My goals, if I still have any; aren’t simple. I want to sell enough books to feel I’m worthwhile. I don’t want to write novels just for the love of writing and leave them on the hard disc. I want lots of people to read them. I actually need the money. The only way out, that I can see, is to write something that every agent and publisher wants to get their hands on. If I hit on that idea, I’ll be golden 🙂

    1. It all boils down to what the punters want. If you write something that’s similar to a success story, you’re in with a chance. Otherwise it’s more or less a case of wandering about in the dark.

  3. You con’t really ‘like’this can you. I fully understand your feelings; I’m useless at promotion but I just want to write the books so I will plough on and if I sell a few copies then that’s lovely. If not well, so be it. Maybe at some point with a body of work I’ll make a bit more of an effort. Maybe not.

    1. When I first started, with a proper publisher, I believed the propaganda about how many copies I could expect to sell in a month. Writing isn’t just a hobby for me, it seemed like a means of contributing to the household budget. I cant justify the time otherwise. It hasn’t happened, unless you count ten euros a month contributing. Other people manage it though, so don’t lose heart even if I have. I reckon if it hasn’t happened after six books it isn’t going to.

      1. I’ll still blog. Blogging is simply a pleasure. The hard graft of novel writing needs to have some kind of triumphant end though to make it worth while.

    1. I’m certainly not a flogger. I don’t feel ashamed of it, just highly frustrated. All the signs point to the style of writing being at fault. It’s not got mass market appeal. So, unless a big publisher wants to take a chance on it (which they won’t ever because I don’t have an agent, and can’t get one even remotely interested) I just have to paddle in the shallows.

      1. Well, we writers are legion. And, trite as it may seem, I write because I must. I enjoy it.

        I wrote the following for my Island’s Monthly Journal…my actual column is called “In 200 words or less.”

        “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” Ernest Hemingway

        I write. I write daily.
        Often, it is for brief, staccato-like slivers of time, time, even then, invariably interrupted by other aspects of life; eating, thinking, finding fleeting amusements, fretting, having brief and not totally satisfying conversations with one or the other of my cats.
        I putter a mite around the house. It is not a favoured activity. For, you see, I write. That is what I must do.
        There is a compulsion to it. And, for me, a preference to write, even above reading. So, I am compulsive, not a little self-absorbed, and, because writing is a solitary act, a recluse of sorts, wedged in my own head.
        A writer is often alone with his thoughts. And on those occasions when he has no thoughts, the loneliness can be uncompromising. A writer without a thought is like…a ship without a sail…no, too trite…a racehorse without a heart…nah…an experience without an apt metaphor.
        One salvation for me has been the Denman Island Readers and Writers Festival. Another has been a monthly gathering of writers.
        Hermits and people wedged within their own heads require a dollop of companionship.
        I am a sad specimen.
        For, you see, I write.
        I write daily.”

      2. Not sad, Bill. Admirable. I know how you feel and I’m pleased you find enough encouragement in the people around you. When you gotta write, you gotta write 🙂

  4. Any writer who half understands the business can empathize. It’s the reason our passion to write has to FAR exceed our desire to earn a living from it, which makes absolutely no sense in a world where water is more expensive than gasoline.
    These are the very things I find so daunting, and sap my motivation to finish my debut. I hope you feel better soon.

    1. You must finish your novel and make a stab at selling it otherwise you’ll never know whether you missed being a best seller! Some types of books are easier to sell than others, even when you do it all yourself. Some small publishers pull out all the stops to publicize their authors. But if your writing isn’t obviously like an already successful novel/series, and if you have a publisher who flounders about in the sea of promotional channels without doing anything useful, you’re sunk. I really hope you find a niche, stick a wedge in it and burst it open 🙂

      1. Thanks so much for the encouragement. I vacillate, but when I am stuck I write my poetry and short stories. Like you, If I may be presumptuous, I am a writer at heart.
        I hope your publisher gets off their keister and does right by you. As you know, all the wisdom suggests that showing up is 95℅, so we have to persevere.

      2. So much is luck. I suppose it’s like buying lottery tickets, if you only buy one, you don’t have much of a chance of winning, but if you buy a whole bunch of them… Keep at it. I’m thinking of a plan B. If anything comes of it, I’ll let you know 🙂

      3. A blogging friend recently attended a retreat and her takeaway was that a platform is essential. Like you, I am not really up for all of that. But I tell myself, the same energy I expend making myself miserable I can learn to do it and just think of it as a skillset to be acquired, not necessarily a.part of who I am, or am not

        Best of luck. 👍

  5. Ah, Jane, sorry you feel this way. I’ve been there (never did get any of my novels published) in that land of disappointment. I started writing poetry to keep my writing muscles from shriveling up and I can’t stop.

    I’d say don’t give up, but I don’t give advice because you know what Buddha says–If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him!

    I know you will find your own way, and I’m pretty sure it will involve words. Just know that you’re not alone in feeling how you feel, and I would would trade my eyeteeth to be as prolific as you.

    1. And I’m sorry for carrying on as if I’m unique in not getting anywhere in the world of books. I suppose I’m really disappointed because I was assuming that the trilogy published by a ‘proper’ publisher would have a knock on effect for my self-published trilogy. But so far, in terms of sales, I did better on my own, which isn’t saying much. Maybe the publisher will take off. I certainly hope so.

  6. So sorry you feel defeated Jane. I think you’re a great writer and your hard work and way with words deserves recognition. It is hard to be noticed among the noise and sometimes I think luck has a lot to do with it, but substance is needed to sustain whatever ‘luck’ brings. I hope things start to look up for you and wish you success so you can continue doing what you love.

    1. If you’re not prepared to spend a lot of time and money on self-promotion, you need more than luck, you need a miracle. I keep telling myself I write for the people like you who enjoy the end product, but I really do need to make at least a little money at it to justify the time. I wonder if miracles happen to people who don’t believe in them?

      1. Will you have a paperback? Sorry if you’ve already said and i haven’t paid attention. If so, ill put my money where my mouth is and order part 2 and 3. I think believing in miracles or being open to serendipity helps…

      2. The paperbacks are POD so they’re expensive. I’ll send you an e-copy of the sequels if you like. It’s kind of you to say you’ll buy them, but I have copies to give away and I’d rather give them to people who actually want to read the story than book collectors.

      3. Thanks so much, but i seriously have issues with e reading. Maybe it takes some getting used to but I’ve struggled with it. Could you gauge interest in print (with pre paid orders) then do a print run?

      4. They said they were going to do mass market, but only appear to have done it for the celebrity princess’s book (!). The rest of us have POD. Since the ebooks aren’t selling (well, they won’t if you don’t advertise) there’s no hope they’ll jump into print runs. Maybe they’ll get their act together and start serious promotion, then anything could happen.

  7. Ah, Jane, this made me really sad, and left me wondering what to say. I know you are a good writer, and you are very generous with your time, and the respect you pay to the work of others. I also know my own writing is better just from the few comments you have made about my little scribbles. I also know that we live in a crazy world where style wins out over substance an awful lot of the time. I used to want to be a writer, back when I was young, and then I realised that I didn’t really have a story that I was burning to tell. Now I just want to write, and enjoy that process.

    I don’t believe in miracles, either, but I really hope you get one…

    1. Thanks Sarah. That’s kind of you, and it makes the blogging part of writing worthwhile. In fact it’s the most satisfying aspect of writing for me at the moment. Maybe I’ll kick the black dog and get back into it. Who knows?

  8. Ah, Jane, this made me sad, because from what I’ve read of your writing, you are so good. It’s true the world is awash with books, many of them not so good, and it’s becoming harder and harder to make our voices heard. It sounds as though you have so much on your plate at the moment, so I don’t blame you for not wanting to get on the promotion train. I feel the same way, it takes so much to actually write the damn story, and I’m not a natural salesperson either. I don’t really know what the answer is – I used to have faith that stories would find their way to the right readers, but I don’t know how much is chance and how much is good marketing these days. So I send you good wishes and commiserations, and a brighter writing day ahead.

    1. Thanks Helen 🙂 I know we indie authors are supposed to be very supportive and rail against the injustices of the system together, as if the rate of compensation for writing can be calculated by the number of words. The truth is, there are too many of us and too many substandard books. I don’t know if what I write is any good. It depends which yard stick you use, I suppose. I haven’t given up hope of finding a bit more enthusiasm though; One day 🙂

      1. I hope you do, Jane. And I really do mean it about your writing being good. There is a lot of dross on the market, so gold always stands out. However, the dross seems to be taking over, sadly. I hope you do find some more enthusiasm once things settle for you 🙂

      2. Thanks Helen. I’ll probably feel better once the hard physical labour of trying to turn an ancient farm into a habitation is under control. Might be a while though.

      3. I’ve fought shy of writing about it for fear of jinxing the whole thing. It’s a delicate operation buying a house in France, and even more delicate moving into a rural area. The house is so close to our idea of perfection I can’t really believe it’s happening 🙂

      4. That sounds absolutely wonderful. I hope you do write about it at some point, I’d love to hear more. And I really hope it goes well and is as perfect as you wish 🙂

  9. This makes me so sad. You’re so very talented. It doesn’t seem fair that your books aren’t selling. I feel the same way about marketing. I’m not an “in your face” sort of person. I’m also not the sort of person to put together street teams or do character interviews and book boyfriends and the like. Also can’t afford to spend money to advertise my books. So, I write here and there, hoping some miracle will come along. I hope you’ll continue to write for the sheer enjoyment of it. I love your books, Jane.

    1. I’m sure I won’t be able to keep away from the projects I’ve started, but the motivation to keep at a story until it’s finished just isn’t there. Once you reach the end of a story you have to do something with it, but what? I’m not self-publishing anything else. It’s too much work for invisibility. It’s kind of you to say you like my writing, Tricia. I really appreciate it.

  10. Firstly you DO write well. Secondly I second the absolute bone-breaking, tooth-aching, thankless task of marketing books in the modern world and I would say you are right to back off and concentrate on your new home for a while. It may surprise you that it is precisely what I am doing at the moment. There is another book in the pipeline but in honesty the rigours of doing two houses on two continents and knowing that we have yet to find the diamond in the rough that will be our maison familiale is too much for me. I sensed a dark soul today in our interactions (which incidentally were a joy to me) …. go and lighten that spirit by doing the tedious things you need to do to get home and homes for the baby birds and leave well alone on the book front for a little while. Soon enough the ardour will return. Sadly, that I can promise you. And keep us alive with a few of your gems on here, won’t you?

    1. That made me smile. I won’t be able to stop writing, but I’m beginning to dread the idea of finishing another book because of the obligation to try and get it published. otherwise, how do I justify the time spent toiling over it? There’s plenty to keep me occupied, as you point out, so I’ll just knuckle down to that for a while. I thought you had found your little bijou in the Cantal? Am I missing an episode or two?

      1. We have a little place in Marcolès in the south of Cantal. It was always intended to be our maison secondaire as it has absolutely zero land being plumb centre of the petit cité. We have been searching in vain for our family home but in truth we are a little less zealous in the quest at the moment for reasons of being here in the US and embarking on a sabbatical in Grenoble through Winter and Spring. All will be well in good time. And the same goes for you 🙂

      2. I’m surprised you’re even thinking about looking for a place at such a distance. You can always use Marcolès as a base once you get here for good. How lucky, having the prospect of two homes in the country. All will be well, I’m sure of it 🙂

      3. I am very fortunate. Actually if we had any sense at all we would sell Marcolès once it is done but we can’t bear the thought hence the extraordinary folly of two places probably in the same departement!

      4. The summer palace (Marcolès) was once and for several decades lived in by a White Russian … seems quite appropriate to this theory of yours!

  11. the frustration and the constant struggle is very real and I feel the same a lot of the time. Without a “real” job there would be no money but time at that takes away from what I feel my “real” work is…..writing. I can send you all the supportive feelings and wish you the best (and I do!) but thats no help to you right now. I love and appreciate your writing, if there was an easier way – you would be the first person I would share it with. hugs

    1. Thanks Jaye 🙂 Hugs count for a lot. I’d be happy with just a trickle of an income; it would make me feel that I wasn’t completely wasting my time. Unfortunately, in the real world, we all need at least a trickle of an income. Maybe I could try my hand at editing?

  12. You’re a very good writer, Jane, please don’t give up. I know you have your hands full at the moment, so there’s nothing wrong with putting your WIP on the back boiler when necessary. I think what you say about luck is probably true and maybe timing is also a help. I hate promoting with a passion and rarely do it. I save it for new book launches and still find it difficult. Have you been on an English speaking community radio? I asked that because you are in France. I think that’s what gave me the boost with my Irish Saga. I had a YA trilogy already on Amazon but never sold too many copies until the Saga took off. I changed the category of the YA books from young adult to medical thriller and got more sales. They still only sell at a fraction of the Saga and I suspect that’s due to readers I’ve already accumulated. It was my sister who contacted the station in Dundalk, where the books are set, when I was launching the first historical fiction, and they invited me on the show. I noticed later that week a small surge on Amazon.co.uk (the site that Ireland goes through to order from Amazon) and it pushed the book further up the rankings, enough to get some visibility in a search, at least. I have never paid for advertising or reviews so I believe that the radio interview coupled with a write up in the local paper (and a photo) drummed up a decent amount of readers all at the same time. This must have given me the start needed. Now that I’m writing a series, it’s easier for readers to find me. I very rarely tweet, the most I do is blog (hardly ever about my writing but lean more towards photography) and I do a little bit on facebook. I’m as surprised as the next person at how things have turned out and I just wish I knew for sure how it happened so that I could pass it on as a formula. Maybe something in this very long comment (sorry) will be of use.

    1. Maybe because you’re writing about Ireland, and an Irish saga. Once you got a bit of visibility it snowballed because so many readers, especially in the US love a family story set in Ireland. You also write very well which helps 🙂 I don’t know any English language things here. The two British ex-pat newspapers charge to run a story! It’s regarded as advertising. I’ve toyed with the idea of getting rid of the YA tag, but since I’ve had one reviewer mark the story down because he thought it was meant to be adult, and it read more as YA, I’m wary of doing that. Maybe I will though. If you read the blurb it’s clear the mc is a teenager. Thanks for the encouragement Jean. I’ll try and be more positive.

      1. If you can put your book in an appropriate category that has fewer titles in it, you will be placed higher. I’ve just taken the first saga book out of a category where it was ranked very high and put it in the Saga category (this has about 50% more titles) where it’s placed much lower. I’ll let you know if it makes a difference in sales. I’m hoping readers who like sagas will find it. I think it’s a bit like changing your books position on display in a physical bookstore.

  13. Hi Jane, I don’t have anything to add here, except that I am glad you exist and that I found you in the blog world. You may not realize it but aside from your writing, your presence and your encouragement mean an awful lot to crowds of people here. I hope your daily life challenges work through to a good resolution and also that you get a chance to rest and put your feet up. I’ll be thinking of you. xo

    1. Thanks a lot, Claudia. To be honest, I get more pleasure out of blogging than I do out of my forays into the world of publishing. If only publishers were as generous and supportive as you blogger friends 🙂

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