Perspective

I’m eating my lunch in the company kitchen. It is a wholesome lunch, nutritious and just enough to satisfy my hunger without leaving me sleepy. I’m  telling you about my lunch because I have no idea how to start this post. A group of co-workers discusses the upcoming Thai New Year, and I set aside the laptop to prepare my salad. The fridge here has the habit of turning my homemade herb-and-lemon flavored olive oil dressing into a congealed, light green mass speckled with lavender buds, snips of marjoram, and piney threads of rosemary. I cross the room to microwave my dressing. Ten seconds on the clock and someone calls out to me.

 “How’s the book going?”

“It’s going well,” I say. “It’s five hundred pages and still going.”

“Wow! I meant the book you have for sale, how’s that going. I didn’t know you were writing another.”

“Writing’s what I do. Selling? Not so much.”

“Is the new one a sequel to STOLEN CLIMATES, part of a series?”

“It is the first in a series, but it is not a direct sequel.”

Another person said, “I’m too scared to read your book; I heard it was scary.”

“I didn’t think it was that scary,” I say, retrieving my salad dressing from the microwave.

“Well, maybe scary isn’t the right word. Just, you know, people are like, “Is that what goes on in her mind?”

“People always think that because I wrote the book, I thought it up, but I’m as surprised as anyone with what happens. The ideas aren’t ‘in’ my head, they sort of come from somewhere out here.” I wave the hand that is not holding my salad dressing somewhere beyond my right ear. “I guess that sounds crazy.”

“No,” a third person says. “It sounds brilliant.”

The one who started the conversation smiles and says, “The most creative things do come from crazy people. Music, art… Have you seen MISERY? Someone might kidnap you and force you to write.”

“If they give me good food and a comfortable bed, that can work for me,” I say.

There is a slight pause in conversation, as there always is at a quarter past the hour.  The woman who is afraid to read my book broke the silence. “Did you write much when you were on vacation in Hawaii?”

“Not at all.”

“Really?”

“I discovered that when it is so beautiful, when everything is so good, I have no drive. Why create something when you are already in a perfect moment? I’m writing now that I’m home, though.”

And the writing has been amazing. The book is far longer and more complex than I could have imagined at the outset, and far more intriguing. I am at the stage where I can see everything, how all the details I didn’t understand are coming together to form the whole. The book is as real to me now as the work that I do during the day, or the people who were talking to me in the lunch room. I catch glimpses of people in the halls or passing me in traffic, and I think for an instant I’ve seen one of my characters. I love this phase of writing a novel. This is why I do it. The knowledge of this feeling – this utter completeness – this is what pulls me through the doubt and confusion that come with writing a book. It is a rush.

My attitude towards writing has reverted to something more pure than it was when I started this book. If you are a long time reader, you know I started out with a specific plan, complete with publication goals and strategic marketing. When I realized I wasn’t going to make the first goal, I dropped out of the internet. I spent two months living my life, not writing, not blogging, not thinking about publication. I made some major lifestyle changes, and as my well-being improved, I gained clarity. I do not have to stick to plans driven by publication. I do not have to blog weekly. I do not have to build a brand, or build my bookshelf, or market what I write. What I need to do is simple: eat healthfully, sleep well, laugh, and write for the joy of it. It is all so very, very simple. It took months of changing one small thing at a time to get to this point. I have finally stopped framing my decisions and goals in ways that inhibit my natural trajectory towards being exactly who I am meant to be.

As a result, I am not planning to self-publish my book when it is finished. I am going to send it to traditional publishing houses, and while it makes the year(s)-long rounds, write the next book(s) in the series. If I get to the end of the series and no one is interested, then I’ll consider self-publishing.

Maybe.

The fact is that I am not good at being an indie. I don’t have any drive towards the post-production/after-writing aspects of being indie. I went that route with STOLEN CLIMATES because the thought of the submission process sounded stifling, and everyone pointed out how I’d make less with a traditional contract. However, that concept only applies if you’re making money. I’ve never even come close to recouping the production costs of  STOLEN CLIMATES. Some days, I consider pulling it out of publication all together, which would really amount to unpublishing on Amazon. After more than a year, I still haven’t made STOLEN CLIMATES available on all platforms (read: B&N, Apple, etc). I never even got around to making a print version. And I have no interest in doing those things on my own.

I will never be a successful indie.

emergenceAnd that’s okay, because I understand now how much the act of labeling myself poisoned my ability to focus on writing. I was so worried with all the things an indie must do to be successful, that I couldn’t see the sheer simplicity of living to write, as opposed to living to write something to sell. I still want to share the stories I create, but now I am willing to see if I can find a partner to help me do that. Maybe I won’t, but I believe in what I’m doing. The best part of all of this is that waiting for responses from publishers won’t matter because while I am waiting, I will still be writing.

That is what I wanted to say. It took a frozen block of olive oil and some random conversation, but I’ve managed to find the words. I am no longer who I thought I was.

 

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16 thoughts on “Perspective

  1. Wow, Aniko. I read this with mixed feelings. I’m glad that you’re happy just to be writing – that is the most important thing, the thing we sometimes forget – but you sound very disillusioned with the whole indie publishing thing.

    I think it’s worth remembering that those of us with just one book out there are probably never going to make a lot of sales anyway, unless we were to go into a frenzy of marketing – which I, like you, hate. I’m pretty sure that there is a degree of luck involved, too. I’ve accepted that my sales will probably always be tiny, and I no longer care about this, because I too just want to keep on writing, doing the best I can. From what I remember, you paid for an awful lot of things with STOLEN CLIMATES – including a book trailer and paid advertising. I do think that expenses like that are a bit risky if you can’t be sure of getting back what you paid in.

    ‘I will never be a successful indie’ – if we equate success with copies sold, very few of us ever will. There was a time, months ago, when I worried about how pathetic my sales figures were. Now, I don’t. I like the freedom of being an indie, the sheer pleasure of being able to create something and not worry about how well it will sell, or whether my contract will be terminated because I’m not bringing home the bacon.

    I’m certainly not trying to dissuade you from going the traditional route – that is your decision, and if you want to do it I wish you lots of luck. It’s worth remembering, though, that a traditional contract is not the holy grail by any means. You might find yourself under pressure to write in a certain way, to change your books in order to make them more marketable; if sales figures are disappointing, you may find yourself under pressure to remedy the situation, and so on.

    But, to reiterate – I wish you luck and fulfilment whatever you decide to do. I hope you’re going to keep this blog going, at least – I really enjoy reading your posts!

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    • Mari, hi –

      Thank you for the thoughtful response. You are always considerate, well-spoken, and kind. I am less disillusioned with indie publication as I am with the idea of me being an indie. I still love that the option is there, and I’m wistful that I didn’t find it a better fit. I guess success, for me, was a mix of sales numbers and my ability to live up to the not inconsiderable list of “should-dos” that are blogged, tweeted, and reiterated until I hear them in my sleep. Build a platform! Be a brand! Be authentic! Be available anywhere someone might look! Publish in all electronic formats, publish in paper, publish more! I see people that really works for, and it is a great fit. I’m not sure traditional publishing will be a better fit for me. I hope I get the chance to find out!

      I did pay for a lot of extras for Stolen Climates. I don’t regret that, but I would certainly do things differently if I were self-publishing another book. I know that even with a traditional publisher, I’d have to pay for and do a lot of my own marketing, so all of that might be a wash.

      I guess the big thing is that I want a publisher who will take care of the production details, and have the reach to get my book to more people. I accept that the publisher will want to change things, or that I might hate the cover they pick, or any number of things that can happen when I no longer have sole creative control. That makes me uneasy, it does – but what if I luck into a relationship with an editor and a publisher who can see an even better way for my book to be? What if the things I fear turn out to be the keys to writing a better book? It’s an option that I’m ready to try. We’ll see how brave I am when the rejections start! 🙂

      As ever,

      -aniko

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  2. I applaud the healthy attitude. I’m not cut out for all the hype, either. It sucks the joy out of what I’m trying to do. My only caution in going the Trad route is that, when a publisher calls, you call an IP lawyer for all your contract dealings.

    I’m trying to get to your mental state, deleting or rearranging the parts of my life that get in the way. In the end, I’m likely to go the indie route because ultimately I want an audience, even if it’s only 20 people that feel obliged to buy it because they’re friends/relations :p

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    • Marie, hi!

      The best thing about indie publication was how it has allowed me to read works by authors who I might not have gotten to read otherwise. You and the other #TESSpecFic authors are amazing, and if traditional publishing didn’t call for those books, it is a far FAR better thing that they be released indie than sit gathering dust in your desk. I didn’t submit Stolen Climates anywhere, because I was besotted with the idea of me as an indie, me in control. Alas, total control comes with total responsibility for every aspect of the endeavor, and I lack that level of tenacity. Several members of #TESS are just amazing at getting the word out about their works, and I am very impressed. I am also keenly aware that I am not like them, much as I wish I could be.

      As for uncluttering the mental spaces, it takes time. I have been on a six month journey, and nothing has gone unquestioned. I am amazed at how much cruft accumulated around my sense of self, how many random bits I thought were me that turned out to be wishes. Or fears. Lots of what I thought had to be true about me was born out of fear. If you are on a similar quest, my best advice is to be gentle with yourself. Like writing a beautiful book, it takes time.

      Absolutely noted to get a lawyer – that was Mr. Aniko’s first comment, too!

      Happiness,

      -aniko

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  3. I admit, I’m selfish. I miss your blogs and your presence on twitter. I just liked virtually hanging out with you.

    But it’s not about me. It’s about you. I love this post because I love how you’ve become happy with just writing for the joy of it. You’ve accomplished the most important thing. It’s something that nobody can take away, no matter where your publication road leads you.

    Hugs,
    Margaret

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  4. I’m kind of in Margaret’s boat, I do miss having you around and chatting with you, but I think ti’s awesome that you’ve reached this point, and I can understand the sentiment to some extent. Lord knows I’ve toyed around with the idea since I’m apparently not that good at the whole selling books thing either, but indie just fits for me much better. Everyone has their own niche, though, and I think it’s awesome that you’ve found yours…whatever it takes to get your work out there. I just want to read it! 🙂

    Anyway, glad to hear you’re feeling mentally healthy. The indie promotion race can take a heavy toll on you if you let it (and sometimes even if you don’t), and peace of mind is far more important. You go!

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    • Jonathan, hi!

      When I think of indies who are doing everything right, you are top of the list. You have courage and clarity of vision. I suspect your days of feeling like you aren’t good at selling books are drawing to a close, as you hit your stride with conventions and person to person sales.

      I want to get my books out there, and if I can’t get them done traditionally, I’ll reconsider my options. And who knows how much the publishing world will have changed in five or seven years? I bet there will be all sorts of options that I can’t even conceive of now!

      As ever,

      -aniko

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  5. Your clarity and sense of purpose are in tune with your soul, and that’s wonderful. You are truly talented, and by all means, you need to get one of the publishing houses to champion your work. There is always tons you have to do on your own, but a solild publsher brings as much cache as it can cash. But most of all, write because you are a writer. The business side will do it’s thing. You do yours. I’m wishing you all the success in the world!

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    • Hunter, hi-

      Your comment helped pull me through a rough week at the day job. Your encouragement means a lot. I will keep writing, and when I feel my courage flag, I will revisit the comments on this post. You and the others in my writer family are amazing. Thank you!

      -aniko

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  6. At the end of the day any true passion is a marathon and a work in progress. We misstep, rethink, stumble and bluff our way through at times. The sad thing is that the world – not just the world of books – has got so noisy and cluttered and seems to be about authors pushing themselves and their products to the point of falling out of love with the passion of writing. I completely understand your head-space right now hun. I too have vacillated between indie and traditional. For now Indie is the route for me because it allows me to be true to myself and my stories. As for social networking. I have a love-hate relationship with it. I think getting back to the social aspect of it is better than using it as a platform or branding option. At the end of the day I love connecting with like-minded readers and writers. Thanks to social networks and blogging I have a world of friends I would not have known like you. But “branding” should not be a chore. I have unsubscribed from a whole bunch of bloggers lately who keep on shoving “build our platform” down my throat.
    Whatever route you take, you will always have my support and encouragement. I don’t believe any writer can tell another writer which route is 100% right or which route is 100% wrong. Every writer – indeed every person – has their own path to walk. We need to be happy with the paths we choose. We need to choose the path that brings us joy. I am so glad to hear that your actual writing is going well. What is a writer who is not enjoying their writing? A sad state of affairs. Sending you big hugs and support no matter what route you choose to take. xx

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    • Thank you, Kim! I am glad you are back online. I’ve missed hearing from you!

      There seems to be a lot of desperation in the indie publishing community as it gets harder and harder to be discovered. Not that it was ever easy, but now I think the reality of how vast the odds are of finding your readers has finally hit home. It doesn’t matter if you go legacy or indie, it’s hard to be found when there are billions of options that are of equal value to readers. I do not want to keep fighting alone against those odds, and I am too slow of a writer to grow my offerings fast enough that I could gain exposure by sheer volume. Making the decision to try for a legacy publisher takes the pressure off of me by making it about finding one reader (the editor/publisher) who wants my book, and wants to help lots of other people find it. I can find one person who wants my stories, I am sure of that. It will take time and be a pain with all the different formats various publishers want, but I will find that one person.

      I love this part of your response:

      What is a writer who is not enjoying their writing? A sad state of affairs.

      So True!

      Like

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