Now I should preface this by saying that my first novel has not been a success, even by my initial conservative estimates. I’ve sold less than 30 paid copies and couldn’t even manage 40 free copies during a three-day promotion. This is in contrast to the posts I’ve seen where people regularly hit numbers of 100+ downloads per day. Some even hit a thousand a day.
So, suffice to say, I may not be the person to listen to regarding this sort of thing. This sort of thing being the business of writing.
Some (most?) folks are happy with writing as a hobby, a way to make use of free-time, do something they enjoy, and maybe make some money on the side. That’s all well and good, but I hope to make writing my career one day. I’ve spent eight years working in offices and the thought of another eight years fills me with the sort of dread that makes dying in a ditch, penniless and alone, seem like not such a bad alternative.
Who knows, maybe I’ll get lucky and find an office job where I actually enjoy the people and company. Anyways, getting off track here.
So, how to become a career novelist? That’s a question I’ve been asking myself for over a year.
For the hobbyist writer, a lot of advice could be summed up as “Write what you love,” and true, I agree with it. But for the person who wants to “Make It?” This is where the unfortunate weight of reality comes down. To sell something, first you need to make the something that people want to buy. Granted, there’s always the rare individual who makes the thing people don’t know they want until it’s there. It’s probably safe to say most of us wish we could be that individual. But, most of us are not.
So, we must write what people want. This is a tricky thing because, if I so chose, I could write, say, shifter romance with a focus on a 20-something female lead who is seduced and/or wooed by all manner of werewolves and other creatures. It wouldn’t be terribly difficult to create and has a good potential for sales.
Thing is, I really would rather not.
So, it seems like I’m not taking my own advice, doesn’t it? To an extent, yes. While the hobbyist may write what they love, writing what you don’t like (or even hate) is not the pathway to success in business. Sure, it may lead to short-term gains, but then for you (or me) we’d wind up back to where we started: Doing something solely for money that we would rather not be.
What’s the alternative, then? Well, my first novel is a contemporary fantasy piece that didn’t fit in any one genre. It’s part thriller, literary fiction, mythological fantasy, contemporary fantasy, and a tragedy focused on the question of meaningful existence all rolled up into one. Not the easiest sell since, for example, if you look at most works in the contemporary or urban fantasy genre, they’ll all be quite a bit different from Vagabonds. It can’t go in the thriller section since those sorts of novels are even more different and seldom have fantasy elements–save for supernatural thriller, but, again, that’s a totally different class of novel.
In fact, even months after publishing, the blurry genre of the novel means I still couldn’t tell you who the primary targeted audience is. That’s not good when it comes time for me to market and advertise.
So, my second novel is going to home in a little more on the sci-fi/fantasy genre. I’m still aiming to fill it with a few core themes, namely origin, belonging, and depression, but ensure I bundle it up in the warm embrace of genre. Something easier to market and direct while still having enough different in it to hopefully develop an audience that remembers.
After all that rambling in this rather long blog post, that’s what it comes down to, isn’t it? Find a middle ground between what you love and what you can sell. Fuck, this is just like one of those click-bait articles where a single sentence can replace everything.
Although, finding that middle ground can be tricky. I’m still not sure I’m doing it correctly, guess time will tell.
Anyways, anything you want to say, feel free to let me know in the comments or tweet at me. Also goes for if there’s anything you’d like me to ramble on about next.