Another weekend gone and not a damned thing to show for it on the dirty story front. I’m starting to feel like a broken record, but we appear to be into one of those cycles where “it is what it is”. That’s not may favorite saying but it’s better than coming up with another excuse (or actual valid reason for why words aren’t hitting the page). The simple truth is there are just other things on my plate that currently demand more than their fair share of attention – and far more than I anticipated when I took them on. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but it is a thing that’s keeping me from doing what I really want to do. As I’m sitting here writing this post I see the window for getting another short ready to go by the end of 2014 getting closed. It’s not quite shut and locked yet, but the it’s getting awfully close to that point.
It does raise an interesting question, though. The last few posts and the comments to them have talked at length about the the need to do some editing and revision to the old backlist of titles already sitting out there. At least part of me wonders if I wouldn’t be better served by picking off two or three of them and honing down the rough edges – especially on some of my earliest stuff that would most benefit from the effort. It’s very tempting.
I haven’t written all that much non-fiction since long ago days sequestering myself in the college library working on term papers. A simple fact I’m relearning (the hard way) is that doing research is a tough business. It’s even harder when you’re use to working in fictional worlds where not everything necessarily needs to make sense, where details can be fuzzy, and where the entire universe can be shifted to suit whatever mood the author happens to be in. As it turns out, that’s not the case with non-fiction work.
Still, it’s a topic that touches me personally and I can’t deny my interest. Regardless of whether it turns into a long article of a short free-standing work, it’s definitely got the kernel of a good idea nested in there. As much as I miss my preferred world of deviant sex and fewer rules, this feels like a good “time out” for the moment. It might never make me famous, but any excuse to give the ol’ chops a workout feels like something I should welcome with open arms.
Although I managed some research this morning, most of the day has found me on the couch, trying to rest and doing my best to fight off the early warning signs of an approaching illness. Am I the only one that seems to get about 36 hours warning from his body that “something isn’t right?” I don’t know exactly how to describe it other than knowing that the feeling is usually a harbinger of some kind of cold, sinus infection, or generally bad feeling. It could be nothing, but by the time I wake up on Wednesday I’ll know for sure one way or another.
Saying that was my way of easing into the fact that I haven’t been keeping up with any writing since the last post. Some of it was simply commitment to other things outside the house and some of it was just not feeling right. In any case the net result was a complete failure to put words on the page. I’m not working on a deadline per se, but still I like to keep up the appearance of trying to get some work done around here. Otherwise I’m just a guy sitting in the kitchen screwing around with his computer.
The last couple of posts have garnered some good feedback on everything from the need to exert tighter editorial control over final products to ideas about more professional looking covers. All I can say is thank you. For as long as I’ve been tinkering with all this, I still feel very much like a neophyte – with everything still to learn. I make it a rule to never promise anything, but believe me, when I have occasion to open up an already published work to make some changes, I’ll take everyone’s words into account and do my best to improve the narratives where I can. Writers seem to be a particularly touchy lot, but that’s not my style. Any ideas that make things better – for my image and for the reader – are strictly to be welcomed.
Returns, it seems, are the bane of my existence on Amazon. I sell scads of ebooks through Smashwords and Barnes & Noble with nary an issue, but on Amazon some months returns run as high as 50% of sales. As a short story guy, returns are a hard pill to swallow since the average reader can blast from “cover to cover” in a pretty short amount of time. There’s simply no way of telling if someone is returning a book because they hated it or for some less chivalrous motivation. It isn’t the kind of thing that keeps me up at night, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t bother me a little.
Returns are in the nature of the sales beast and I don’t begrudge that at all, especially if someone feels they’ve been sold a bill of goods that didn’t live up to their expectations. I want everyone who picks up one of my stories to be happy with it at the end – as obviously unreasonable as that goal is.
I usually try to blog with some theme or point in mind, but as it turns out tonight was just about a simple observation. So go out there and pick up a ebook from your favorite independent author… and don’t return it no matter how great the temptation. They won’t be able to thank you for it but I will.
There was a comment on my last post that has me thinking a lot about covers. While I rank mine as “ok” in the sense that they were slammed together by a guy sitting around with no graphics/design experience and no software beyond what came in the standard build of his laptop, they’re definitely not even on the same planet as professionally designed covers. As the commenter noted, that’s got to hurt me in terms of successfully competing for reader attention.
The discussion has left me wondering if it might not be a good time to take a pause and see what I can do to address some of the administrative issues I’ve basically ignored while I’ve been writing. As much as I’d like to say I’m going to buckle down and teach myself the basics of cover design, I can think of a dozen reasons I’m never really going to make the time to get that done. Is it time to hire out some of that work? Is there another area where my focus would garner more bang for the buck? I suppose what I’m really groping around for is where I can apply a limited amount of time (and money) and see the best improvement in the product I want to deliver to people.
I’m still flailing around with an outside project at the moment, so God only knows when I’ll get around to doing anything substantive – either making progress on the next short or tearing into the cover/admin issues of what’s already out there. Still, it’s food for thought.
I don’t follow the sales numbers quite as closely as I did when I was just starting out on this wild self-publishing ride of mine. I still keep an eye on them of course, but I no longer die a little inside on those days when the ticker doesn’t move. It takes more effort than I want to admit that at this stage of my particular game, the numbers don’t mean all that much. It’s nice positive reinforcement, but it’s not the difference between my paying the mortgage this month or not.
After looking at September’s sales, it’s safe to say that 2014 is not going to be my breakout year. In fact, sales are down from last year. Way down. Down a little less than half from where I ended 2013. I’m still reading a lot of articles about self-publishing on a growth tear as an overall part of the market, but I’m not quite there yet.
The list of reasons why that might be is as long as my arm, but in my mind it most likely just comes down to a matter of the volume of new material hitting the retail sites every single day. Between short stories and collections I’ve got 21 “units” for sale over the past three years. That doesn’t come close to making me prolific by the standards of the self publishing world. It’s not even the barest dent on the surface of the ebooks that are available. There’s so may good (and even more bad) reads out there now that people are finding more choices than they ever thought possible. That’s a good problem to have as a reader – as long as you can find something that interests you. It’s not as good a problem if you’re trying to write your way to a new career opportunity, but it’s just the current state of things from my admittedly limited perspective.
The retailers are making it harder to stumble over the adult titles they sell and that doesn’t make life for us any easier. They’re happy enough to take their cut, of course, but they certainly don’t want to feature a “dirty” ebook front and center… unless you happen to be 50 Shades. I’d be insane to be jealous of that kind of success, but I had hoped it would have the halo effect of making erotica a little more publicly acceptable to the masses. So far, I haven’t found that to be the case. Most of the big retailers seem happy enough keeping us way in the back of the store, behind the beaded curtain, and well away from the eyes of the average reader. That’s ok, too. There’s no real reason Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Prude should have “Anal Cheerleaders 7″ show up in their “recommended” stream.
What’s it all mean? Damned if I know. Self publishing is still sorting itself out and working hard to find it’s place in the world. It will get there eventually. I like to think I’ll still be around and churning out a few new short stories a year when it gets where it’s going.
Over the weekend, I was tinkering around with some of my retail settings and stumbled into a review that some reader, somewhere had written for one one my more recent efforts. I try to stay away from the reviews as a matter of principle. I do that for three reasons: 1) There’s not much I can really do about a review I either agree or disagree with; 2) Even if there was something I could do, getting into a verbal fist fight on the internet never ends well; and 3) Although reviews are valuable for readers – giving them a clue about what to read and what to stay away from – they generally don’t offer much feedback I can use as a writer. Fortunately, opinions are like a certain anatomical orifice in that everyone has one – even though it often feels a bit like some people may have way more than that.
The review that caught my attention gave me a single star, knocking me down a few pegs because it contained “too much sexual content.” I know the reviewer probably meant that as a bad thing – as maybe I didn’t include enough narrative or that I sacrificed story line to get people in the sack as quickly as possible. On those two counts I’m most likely guilty as charged.
It might mean someone will come around to collect my credentials as a fiction writer, but I’ve never really been into erotica just to tell the story. What I really want to do is give the reader a quick fix – an easy read to get them off in a hurry and something they can come back to the next day and get off again reading the next chapter. I write the quicky of the erotica world. It’s the story you use to get yours in the middle of the afternoon so you can get one with the rest of your day with the hint of a smile on your face. I’m not trying to write fiction for the ages over here. I want to put the story in print that you’d be embarrassed about if your friends took a look at your e-reader.
If too much sex is what earns me a single star, then I hope I can be your one-star author of choice for a long time to come.