I have been very lucky this week. My first novel received two more reviews on Amazon (both excellent!) and two reviews on Goodreads (by two different reviewers, people who do not use Amazon, and don’t post reviews there).
One of the Amazon reviews was from the leader of my book club, Pat, so I’m super-relieved she enjoyed the book. Our book club focuses mostly on literary fiction, and as my work is commercial fiction, there was a possibility that my novel would be an epic fail. Fortunately, the elements that make the story run long (with a print copy page count of 629 pages) made the book palatable to Pat.
My personal tastes also run toward literary fiction, which is definitely why I broke the rules of writing “a short first novel,” and allowed the book to be as long as I felt it needed to be. In this case, long enough to develop all of my characters sufficient to the level of plot. When commercial fiction is all plot, and skimps on the character development… well, that is the commercial fiction that makes me want to burrow into my reader-equivalent of a hedgehog nest.
Behold: my chosen hidey-hole from commercial fiction that is full of blam-blam shoot ’em up run-fer-yer-life action, but with cardboard characters I can’t bring myself to care a whole hill of beans for. That kind of story works for some people. Just not for me.
Also, hedgehogs are one of the cutest animals ever.
I need to put a hedgehog in one of my books. Soon. Maybe my next book (the one after Mark of the Pterren), which will feature vampires. Maybe my vampire main character needs a pet hedgehog. I will have to ponder this.
To continue with book news: there might be a possibility another book club in Durango will read The Etiquette of Wolves. Dean, the owner of Four Leaves Winery, might be able to help me reach out to book club members who dine in his restaurant (which is very close to the train depot). My awesome friend Elizabeth Silverstein is helping me facilitate this Extremely Cool possibility.
Which brings me to the fact that I have to order more print copies of the novel (in order to have them to distribute to more readers)– because I have run out (I ordered 20 originally)– and thank goodness my state income tax return came in! (Well, this is Greg’s return, really, as I made only $78.00 last year in royalties. So I wouldn’t have been paying income taxes at all.) Greg received enough money back from the state that I can place another order for 20 copies of Wolves (which will cost $200.00) and I can also order 20 copies of Love and Student Loans and Other Big Problems when it’s available in print next month (again, another $200.00 for reader-distribution copies).
I feel very, very lucky that the income tax money came in at this crucial juncture. It would suck to have the possibility of getting readers (and more reviews!) but not have the ability to get the book out.
I meet a lot of writers in Durango who assume that books will just “magically sell” as soon as they’re published. If the book is penned by Stephen King or Janet Evanovich, by all means, this is the correct assumption to make. Their books sell, but not because of magic. Those authors meet a particular demand for their work, and consistently put out new product to meet that demand. That’s why they sell. There’s a lot of strategy and hard work involved.
The writers I meet who think they can avoid studying the craft of writing altogether, pen a memoir with their current skill set, and then make millions of dollars from said memoir (or from their just-finished thriller, or historical fiction book, or their memoir-novel– which is how I describe the many, many writers I meet who write a memoir, change a few names in the memoir, and then call their missing-facts-memoir “a novel”)–
Well, these are the writers who seem to be most concerned with “selling” and “striking it rich”– like writing stories is the new ’49 Gold Rush.
It’s a lot of strategy and hard work.
It’s a lot of Being Thankful that people are willing to Take the Time to read your work.
It’s a lot of Being Thankful that your closest friends are willing to buy the book, so you don’t have to provide free copies for everyone (which is what traditional publishers do– they provide free copies to booksellers– which is why I am doing that, too. I need readers. It’s the fastest way to get readers).
I don’t always have the best strategies– (I’m definitely the tortoise in that infamous race)– but I keep plodding along toward the finish line. My career isn’t a race, it is My Career, and I don’t mind being my meticulous plodding-self where my career is concerned. I didn’t commit myself to writing because I assumed this was easy. I assumed this would be A Lot of F-ing Work. And it is.
But I do dream. I dream and dream and dream. I would like to build a cottage for writers one day, and run a writer-in-residence program in this cottage (which will be in my big backyard). I would invite college students from my university to live in my writer-residence cottage.
I also have trips I would like to make, for books I would like to write.
So yes, of course I dream of what I could do with $300,000.00 (build my own cottage) or $90,000.00 (pay off the mortgage on my mother’s house) or $20,000.00 (live in Turkey for a year and write a book about Suleiman). Yes please, I would like those things.
But right now, the goal is much simpler: find readers. One by one, keep reaching out, keep looking, keep getting free books into skeptical hands.
And Thank My Lucky Stars I have friends who are helping me. I’m not in this alone.
But I continue to be surprised when I meet local writers who think they can pick up a pan, dip it in the closest river, and start scooping up gold nuggets the size of a baseball. Like they can’t understand that for every Gold Rusher in California who struck it rich, there were thousands and thousands who failed. Even the ones who struck it rich worked their butts off.
And yet, this idea of something-for-(basically)-nothing persists.
All successful businesses take massive work. Especially businesses in entertainment. If writers want a get-rich-quick scheme, I suggest marrying into the Russian oligarchy, who are disgusting and corrupt and will shower said writer with money he or she did not have to work for.
For the non-49-er writers: there’s a blank page on a Microsoft Word doc that needs your attention.