Tuesday, June 10, 2014

On When You've Done it All

There is a line that should be drawn in the sand. A limit to where you will go with whatever you are endeavoring to do. That is the school of thought. A wise man knows when to give up. Others say do not give up until defeat is academic. Others say to fight until there is no more strength in you to fight. When it comes to self publishing, which one is the right choice?

What is it that you want to succeed at when you are self published? I can say for one, or rather in my case, and I believe is the case of others, that I would like to sell copies of my book. I would like to sell enough to at least afford to publish my second and then my third book. I would like to build a fan base, from out of thin air, and cultivate it like a beloved field of vegetation. To fawn over it, feed it, water it, provide it with as much light as possible. As this field produces, I would like to reap its benefits, to live off the land to become one with my fans.

Yes, I think that many of us have my dream, my desire and that is the yardstick that we measure our success. So what if our yardstick falls short of the mark? What if your first, most enthusiastic effort reaps no benefits? What if your dream of a vibrant farm, yielding rich produce does not come to fruition?

That's where I stand now with my first book, Cover of Darkness. It's foundering after a year after publication. It's not selling, it's not moving. It's a grand sailing ship in the middle of the doldrums, a lifeless sail, a wind-less sea. It went well in the beginning, the first month, the first two, three, there were sales. One here, one there. There was positive motion, but as the months wore on, there was less and less. I pushed the envelope. I found reviewers, reached out to them to review my book and to put it on Amazon. I did a blog tour, where I gave a great many people notice that my book was out there. I applied to an endorsement company, who read books and gives their endorsement. I threw up the full sails, pulled the anchor, centered the rudder. I did everything that I could think of.

I would like to think that I pushed the envelope. I would like to think that I did everything I could. It was as if I did nothing. I had some sales, and then none. And it stayed none. And it is none.

Now the question is: where do I go from here?

Well, the answer is obvious if you are true to yourself. Be yourself. To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man, William Shakespeare. I cannot play false to any man, or rather, my fans, wherever they may be. So I have to be true to myself. And what am I, first and foremost? A writer.

I write. I write just because there are stories in my head that need a voice and need to be put down on paper. I've been writing all my life. Since I was a child, I was a writer, I studied, I learned and so, here I am, at a crossroads in my life, where I am just standing and wondering, what to do now, and the answer is academic. Write.

I'm not a marketing genius, but I am a fast learner. One of the self-publishers that I've read had a similar experience. That of having the first of her books falter. The sales were very weak if at all. So she published a second and a third book, and the more books she published, the more they moved. It appeared to her that people were drawn to a series of stories. They seemed to be attracted by full stories, with rich characters and deep story-lines, broad character arcs. They seem to like an abundant story, and not so much drops in a bucket.

Further, it took her mind off of just one book, just one savior, and as time progressed, the first book, like a snowball rolling downhill, gained slow momentum and built over EIGHT years to over 200,000 in sales. Patience, it appears, is the winning virtue.
To be true to myself then, I must write and continue to publish. I must continue to go on and come out with as many books as I can, because, honestly, there is no expiration date on self-published books. They don't have the short shelf life of traditionally published books. The first day that it comes out is the same as the three hundred and sixty fifth day. The book can take off any day. A year later, two years later. As it sits on the electronic bookshelves the world over it doesn't give up. It waits patiently for someone to press 'Add to Cart'. And with that thought, if it doesn't give up, if it is going to stay in the fray until it has no strength left to fight, then so will I.

I'm going to push the second book out, and ride it on the coattails of the first. Maybe raising a second sail on the ship will cause some motion.

Either case, either way, I'm going to write more and publish more. I don't see myself as stopping, and so, I don't see myself as failing. To me, this is just one, tactical, logical move after another.

If I am a sailor, I'll sail. If I am a farmer, I'll farm. And if I am a writer....