Part if the Indie Authors Series
As indie authors, there are times when any of us who are honest with ourselves wonder why we’re doing this.
You know the feeling. You’re sick of the constant need to self-promote, or just had a string of mean reviews. Perhaps you worked like a dog on that last novel, and it’s lying dead in the water. The competition out there is so brutal you’ll never break through, no matter how hard you try. You wonder why you’re doing this when you could be doing something fun. You’re a fool. You’re beat. You want to reclaim your life.
Writing is a tough gig. Indie is tougher still. Darwin red in tooth and claw.
If you’re like me, you go to this bad place periodically. You have your pity party, kick and scream and pound and cry…and pretty soon you square your shoulders and get back to work.
It’s okay to have doubts and fears.
When I go the bad place, I look hard at my reasons for writing. If I told you I didn’t care about earning money at it, I’d be lying. Of course I care. But that’s not why I write.
Bear with me while I fill in some backstory.
I was very lucky with my very first book, Aegean Dream. The book sold exceptionally well in the UK and was picked up by a foreign publisher as well, selling around 10k copies to date. All through the summer of 2012, fat checks were rolling in. It felt great. Before that I’d only sold a few science fiction short stories; now I was somebody!
My second book, Sutherland’s Rules, released in early 2013, was a brutal reality check. Although everyone who reads it loves it and asks for a sequel, and the reviews are terrific, sales were very disappointing, in the low hundreds. I went into a funk. I’d put my heart and the best part of a year of my life into this book—what the heck happened?
Well, for one thing I’d switched not just genre but a whole category, going from a nonfiction travel memoir to a thriller. Worse, this was a very quirky thriller, really an action-adventure/suspense/buddy-caper/police procedural with just a shimmer of the fantastic around the edges, and featuring older protagonists to boot! Effectively, I was starting all over again, with an oddball book in a far more crowded category.
But I wasn’t giving up.
I began working on another novel, a supernatural thriller. But now I’d started publishing other people’s novels through my micropress, Panverse Publishing, and that, coupled with the need to work part-time, ate up every second of my time and more. The novel I’d written 30k words of got abandoned. I was a failure, a pretend writer.
Somehow, crazy as life was, I managed to get a few new short stories written, tidied up a few others, and glued them together into a collection, Free Verse and Other Stories. Released a year ago, the collection got some great reviews and even plaudits such as, “a writer who deserves wider recognition”, and, “underappreciated writer”. Unfortunately, it sold under a hundred copies.
Go to the bad place. Do not pass GO, do not collect $200.
What went wrong?
Collections are never an easy sell, even for name writers. Also, this was a Science Fiction collection. Never mind that a number of people thought the title story good enough to suggest it for Nebula Award nomination, I’d switched genres again! Oh, sweet Jesus, would I never learn?
Four months ago, I started back in earnest on the abandoned novel, and last Sunday I wrote those glorious words we all love, THE END. Abandoned for a year, the draft is a hot mess and the rewrite will be substantial. But since effectively closing Panverse Publishing (retaining it just as my personal imprint) at the end of last year, I freed up some time as well as some mental real estate. I’m a writer again. And I’ve written a second novel in the same genre (thriller).
But why? Why do this? The chances of success in this game are not good, and I’m not young. So why be a writer when I could be hiking, playing my guitars, visiting art galleries, taking photographs, learning West Coast Swing…
I write because I need to. Because there are stories I want to tell, characters and situations I want to read about and that nobody else has written. Because I want to share these stories with other people, perhaps intriguing and even delighting them in the process. Because the high of getting fan mail from a total stranger whose life I’ve touched is worth any number of lows. Because I want to leave a legacy of some sort. Because I have this weird idea that if a creative person stops doing what they feel driven to do, something inside them will sicken, and that hurts the soul.
And I write as an indie because I want be in charge of my creations.
It’s okay to go the bad place. Like a warrior, an indie writer—any writer—needs courage, and plenty of it. But courage isn’t an absence of fear, it’s facing our fears and carrying on in spite of them. Go to the bad place, explore it, despair in it. And when you’re done, come back.
And besides, there’s always a chance that the next book might be bestseller.
Do you go the bad place? What’s your strategy for dealing with the fear and self-doubt? What keeps you going?
Dario Ciriello is a professional author and freelance editor, and the founder of Panverse Publishing. His nonfiction book, Aegean Dream, the bittersweet memoir of a year spent on the small Greek island of Skópelos (the real "Mamma Mia!" island), was a UK travel bestseller in 2012 and has recently been published in Poland. His first novel, Sutherland's Rules, a crime caper/thriller, was published in 2013. Free Verse and Other Stories, a collection of Dario's short Science Fiction work, was released in June 2014. He is currently working on his second novel, another thriller. Dario has also edited and copyedited over a dozen novels, as well as three critically-acclaimed novella anthologies. He lives with his wife in the Los Angeles Area.