Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The game of publishing: or why all writers are driven off the deep end

(Original photo by Barry Skeates, used under a creative commons licence; CC BY 2.0)

Pardon the pun.

I released my fourth novel into the world one week ago to very little fanfare. [crickets]*

*via urban dictionary: "To have a joke or comment followed by a silence substantial enough to make the chirping of crickets audible."

And the rules of cricket are well neigh incomprehensible to anyone outside the cricket world.
This is also the case with publishing. Except even the players don't really know the rules.
This is part of what drives the anxiety of writers - all the parts of the writing and publishing process we have control of are complete by the time publication day arrives. All the rest of it - how and if the book gets into the hands of readers - is, for the most part, not up to us.

I've had releases that sink quietly into the void.

I've had releases that steadily rise like a big, red, helium balloon.

The funny thing is (in the odd-funny rather than the humorous-funny), I don't believe I've done anything radically different for the former versus the latter.

It's similar to my memories of my early motherhood days. I had two sons, born almost 3 years apart. Spawn #1 slept through the night at three months old. I must have been the perfect mother. Did everything right. Got rewarded. Then I had spawn #2. Parented him in the same way. He didn't sleep through the night until he was well over two years old.

What allows one child to be an effortless sleeper and one to struggle is the stuff of thousands of parenting books.

What allows one book to rocket up the charts and another to be passed over is the stuff of thousands of publishing books.

So much of the business of publishing is random and capricious. DERELICT did great, right out of the gate. Within 5 days of its publication, it was selling in the upper hundreds of copies a day. TIME AND TITHE? Baby steps. Selling a handful of copies.

But here's the thing: I think it's written at least as well as its more successful sibling. I could probably list a host of reasons why this launch was not as promising, and some of them might even be accurate. With as many variables as there are in this business, I may never really know.

I come to writing after a long career as a physical therapist, where there was a large emphasis of science, outcomes, and data. Much (though certainly not all) of what we could offer for treatment had, at least, some objective support in the literature and we could expect to reach (often, not universally) predictable outcomes.

It's not like that in publishing. There are too many variables. Too few data points. While there are experts who will try to tell you otherwise (and sell you their services), no one has the answer.

What I am able to control, I control to the best of my ability. That includes writing the best manuscript I know how, then working as hard as I can to make it better. That includes beta readers and revisions. That includes hiring professional editors, professional artists, formatting and typesetting, and blogging and networking.

At the end of this process, I know TIME AND TITHE is a solid book. But that may not be enough. Some books never find their readership. Some books do. It has little to do with objective metrics. After all, who is qualified to be tastemaker for all readers? It is my hope that this newest of my novels will find its way into the hands of readers.

Only time will tell.

And while I'm waiting, I can be found at my desk working on the next story.


TIME AND TITHE is the sequel to THE BETWEEN, but can be read independently. You can find links to all purchase venues here.

Lydia's victory over the Fae came with a bitter price - her baby sister, Taylor, grew up without her, aging more than a decade in the mere weeks that have passed in Faerie. When Aeon's madness threatens both realms, the sisters, now nearly strangers to one another, are forced to fight the powerful Fae who was once friend to each of them.

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