Pity Party - Enter at your own Risk

I "completed" my first novel roughly two years ago. I then spent a year sending querry ltters and hoping for some kind of positive response. I tighted up the querry. I reviewed the synopsis. I looked up agents who had represented similar work. And I waited. I was so patient. Each querry was met met with the same "maybe this will be the one who wants it". I even got a response, a request for the first 3 chapters. I sent them. I never heard back.

So I self published. I gave it another round of editing. I got cover art. I uplooaded it. I did it all. I put it on Amazon. I worked to get it on BnN. Smashwords? Check. I did give aways. I sent out copies through Good Reads. I even tried to get active in Good Reads hoping that maybe showing off that I'm a pretty nice guy would bleed into people liking me enough to consider buying my quirky little tale.

I was positive. I smiled. I was nice to people. I never once said a negative thing.

And now... a year later.. .I'm so sick of being positive. I'm so sick of smiling at people as they tell me I'm not good enough.

My local library? I can't even get a chance to TALK to the person in charge of aquisitions. She won't even respond to my emails, let alone put my book on a shelf. Local BnN store? Oh they were SOOOO excited to meet me in person. I walked out the door so pleased that they had Promised me a seat at a book fair this fall. Then apparently they had their phone and internet cut off as I never heard from any of them again. Calls to check in went to voice mails that never got answered. Email addresses they gave me bounced back as "non-existant".

And since officially it's a print on Demand, they can't even put it on the shelf. The one and ONLY store you can walk into and buy a copy of my novel is a comic book shop owned by a former student who at least is willing to keep me on a shelf there. He sells ... zero copies, but they're great conversation pieces. He talks about it about once a month. Hasn't sold any.

Why finally snap? Because today I got a rejection letter from an indepenent publisher who says I'm "Doing just fine on my own" and that she wants to focus on people who take writing and promoting "seriously as full time jobs". I'm sorry... I though the whole point of a publisher was to take care of the promoting.

I'd love to go to book signings and book fairs and publicity events. I'd love to give talks at libraries about the process, about how I managed to get a book done, and how to keep charaters fresh. I'd love a chance just tell people about the joy of writing. Only thing is no one takes me seriously because I'm not part of a publishign company. I can't even get a small indy press to help me by making the bookings.

Oh she said she loved the premise and the samples. Oh she said she thought it sounded like a great project. Oh, and she wants to be my Friend and maybe swap emails from time to time about how to market.

If I had had a PINCH of success marketing do you think I'd be happy to sign 50% of my sales over to somoene else? I'm faiiling. I'm ~A~ failure.

It's been a year. I've given away over 500 copies of FantastiCon in ebook form through Amazon give aways. I've given away almost 50 copies of it in print form through prayerful mailings, and Goodreads. I've bought ads on GR and Facebook. I've smiled and been positive and said "just one more promotion; just one more give away.; Just one more... THING." And in that year. I've sold less then 25 copies. I say I'm self published but the truth is that it's just a vanity press. It's just a hole to pour money into and watch it burn up as printers, artists, and editors, and everything else I've poured money into.

I'm willing to do the work of promotion, but I don't have the energy any more to keep trying to *Learn* any more. I don't have the contacts and I'm out of energy to keep trying to make them. I just want someone to say "let me make some calls and get you a table" or "Let me take 75% of your sales and I'll get you on the library shelves". I want to do the work but I don't have the contacts or apparently the skills or even the credibility.

And I'm so sick of being positive about it. It's been a solid year of Smiling, and Hoping, and Trying. I'm Done.

I'm just... Done.

Dude, hugs.... tons of hugs... You've put in a ton of work. I can imagine how frustrating it must be to see your work not come to fruition. We've all experienced that on some level, but it sounds like you are on top.

Don't give up. A writer writes and won't be happy doing anything else. The universe conspires to take artists for granted, to crush them for the audacity to dream. Don't give up. Dare to live that goddamn dream.

This is why a forum like this is good. We're here for you. We'll catch you. And when you need to throw a pity party, we'll bring the favors.

And don't forget, you wrote a fucking book!!! There aren't many people that can say that. Even if no one reads it, your words will live forever

Pressing the imaginary LIKE button on Naomil's comment.

Yup, as a Bastion fan I say you are a good writer - better than some who have sold millions of books.

It's like winning the lottery, I think, looking in from the outside. Luck, the right place at the right time. Even if you're a S. Meyer or E.J. James who's writing is not technically that good (most critics agree), but still manages to attract a lot of attention and go viral. Or even a JK Rowlings whose work is good, but not, imo, all *that* distinctive from all the other YA fantasy out there. But somehow...a lottery win.

Still, you can't win if you don't buy a ticket.

I wish we could offer you something to help. All I can ask is when you started, what were your goals in writing? Reading the other responses, I think you've done more than you give yourself credit for.

You've finished a book.

You've worked hard at trying to share that book.

You, as a writer, have readers who like your work! They get you. They like your stuff.

I hope these things keep encouraging you to write. Don't give up.

Fiona touched on something I was pondering myself, that I started to type and deleted.

I don't have a lot of ground to stand on, because I'm still a novice at this - I haven't submitted anything, let alone be rejected, so I can't share any words of wisdom or any of that.

For every ten people that pick up an instrument, only one really gets far enough to be able to call themselves a musician. For every ten musicians, only one gets lucky enough to get a 'break'. Even then, it's a rare thing for someone to actually -thrive-.

It's much the same for writers. It's an uphill swim, with ten steps forward and nine steps back. Getting feedback, getting friends and family to tolerate you, dealing with slumps and sheer misfortune, you've done all that, I'm sure. Producing a finished work is no mean feat.

And the shitty thing is, you can get this far, you can put in the legwork, and so much of it still comes down to luck. You need the right people reading and spreading the word, and your work needs to strike the right chord in the overall creative culture that's out there.

I'm not going to tell you not to feel bad. Feel crummy. Wallow. Groan, grunt, swear, punch a pillow or go for a walk to the middle of nowhere and howl your rage and frustration to the sky. Do whatever you need to, because it does suck, and it is frustrating and scary and depressing that you can put in a given amount of effort and not get the expected dividends for your hard work (or even any dividends at all).

But don't stop, and don't give up. Give yourself time to get a breather, to shift your mindset, clear your head and let your face relax so you can drop that forced smile & positivity. But get back on the horse. You've put in the hours, you've honed your ability and you've got a talent. You owe it to yourself to wade back into the fray, and you owe it to the potential readers who're waiting to read your stuff, but don't know you exist yet.

Man... we've all been there. Climbing that mountain sucks. And when you get to the top you just get punched in the face. It generally takes 5-10 years to get published, and then when you get published things get REALLY hard. Deadlines. Markets. Reviews. Sales. It only gets a thousand times harder once you're published, believe me. Nothing will be solved, the publisher won't market your book for you, there's no such thing as handing off your baby and dusting off your hands cause the work is done. Even if the book is on the shelf for several years, you will still have to promote it. Even if you're a NYTimes bestselling author, you will still have to promote it. All this stuff you're doing now, you will still have to do it even when you're published. This is all excellent practice.

Also, there is a saying in comics -- you have to get past your first thousand pages before you nail down your style. You might be in the thick of your first thousand pages. And just because you finished a book and it hasn't been picked up doesn't mean it never will. You never know what the market will look like several years down the line, and in the end there is no such thing as wasted work as a writer because each word written is one step closer to getting past your first thousand pages.

My advice would be to stop worrying so much about the career part of it or the success. Let go of your ambition and your expectations and find a way to reconnect with your craft and your characters. Pick up the career stuff again when you get your faith back in what you do, otherwise no one's going to want to read your stuff. If you don't believe in it, no one will.

I can only imagine your frustration. I do know what you mean to a degree though. Last year I published a book, and while sales have been okay, they haven't been awesome. Certainly, I'm not making a living off it.

I don't feel as bad about it as you though, and I'm not sure why. I might have lower expectations. Also, it sounds like you've done more work to promote than I have. Putting in a high level of effort and feeling like it hasn't come back to you in results would be painful.

One thing that might help is looking into John Konrath's philosophy about this (if you haven't already). He's been quite successful, but his belief is that what really helps isn't promotion, but rather having lots of different books available. According to him (and Dean Wesley Smith), each book represents another avenue for people to discover your books.

I don't know if they're right, but my plan has been to get as many books as possible out with as high production values as I can arrange and see how things are going then.

Everybody needs a pity party every once in a while. Things suck. I don't know about everybody else (although it seems that they think the same), but I don't judge.

You wrote a book. You tried. And while it seems like failure, it's not. You've gone further than most, and you shouldn't evern give up. Everybody dreams to be something as a kid. Itsthe ones who don't listen to everybody else that actually do it.

Thanks guys.

Yesterday was just really rough. It didn't help any that the Oral Surgeon basically said "your mouth is such a mess I'm not sure where to start fixing it, but you should know that these teeth are on top of critical nerves and there's at least a 10% chance we're going to lose those nerves when they come out" coupled with "Oh, and I want to do it in two surgeries just in case we find serious complications during the first".

I was really hoping that a small local independent publisher would offer me a contract. I know I've already done most of the work of publishing, but I really think I need that little push of having a legit imprint inside the cover to say "yes, someone else says this book is worth reading", and honestly that's about all I wanted. Well that and someone to call and say "hi, I represent Plublishing and I'd like to give you one of our author's books for your library/ store", since I can't seem to do that on my own. But instead I was told that I'm not throwing myself into this enough for her and that she wants "dedicated" writers.

Which.... I get. She's a small 4 person operation. She wants to support people more than carry them. I get it. But like that time in HS, doesn't mean I like it.

And that was my emotional place yesterday.

When I turned 16 I was elated that I could go out on a date that did not involve coordinating with parents to get us around. The one catch was that I did not have a girlfriend. But my friend did, and so we set out for me to find a date so we could double. I started asking girls that I really did want to go out with, emboldened by this opportunity. When they declined, I turned to friends who were girls. No dice. The last straw was when I asked the Spanish Exchange student in my neighborhood and she had to say no because her host family already made plans for her. I consider it one of my lower dating moments.

I'd say the worst but given the sheer volume of low dating moments I'm unable to actually differentiate them in any meaningful ways, a bit like when you ask a writer which book is their favorite. But the opposite.

And of course when my beloved wife comes in, she tries to be her own kind of cheerleader which is to simply say "well, rejection is part of this" and "you knew you were going to get a lot of rejections" and "why did you think this was going to be easy." I love her so very much but she's the kind who looks at the score of a football game and says "yeah, they're gonna lose, can we go home now?" She is not the sort who will cheer the home team on with 3 minutes to go and them down by 42 points. In fact if she ~were~ a cheer leader she wouldnt' shout "We can still do it!" She'd shout "At least make it close!"

My words? "Maybe Jim Butcher spent 20 years trying, but I'm pretty sure he still had the occasional tantrum."

Because, really, isn't a periodic mental breakdown part of it?

And I do, do DO appreciate the kind words. The hardest part about keeping steam going for MtT and Bastion has been that I see my page views, and I see how low they are, comparitively, and it's so easy to lose heart.

My goal was never to be the next EL James (though I will fess up that I have 3 pieces of erotica on Amazon under a pen name. They sell for crap too). When I pushed the "publish" button on FantastiCon, I ~did~ hope to sell enough to pay for a trip to the Con it was based on every two years. My royalty check from Amazon last year was $11. At a major Con that will get you a hotdog and a pop, or a beer. Now, my goal is just to get enough readers that I feel that people care if I update or not.

And I've been so nice about it all. I've been so scared of ending up on an Author's Behaving Badly list that no matter how frustrated I've gotten I keep my cool. When I started with Mind the Thorns I thought maybe I could sell "issues" like a comic. I posted a Good Reads give-away of them, and I said "this is just the first three chapters of a Web Novel. Here is the URL to the entire novel you can read for free". And then I got treated to several 3 star reviews because they really liked it but were so very disappointed that it wasn't a full novel. And I did not write back and say "What part of "this isn't a full novel" do you NOT understand?!?!"

Heck at one point I thought about behaving badly just for the attention.

Okay. I'm almost done with the party. I really do appreciate you guys coming. I do. I'm sorry there aren't door prizes. I had planned some but I just didn't get time to get and get any. But thanks, really.

It means a lot that you all just showed up.

I can understand where you're coming from, man, and I can sympathize. When I look at where I am and where I want to be I feel like I'm essentially in the same boat.

I tried to sell Pay Me, Bug! to a number of different publishers. Most of them were rejected, but in one instance I managed to get it past the slush pile with one of the big publishing houses (big for SF, anyway) only to have it sit "at the next level" (in the purchasing editor's "in box" only to be told, five years later, that they'd lost the manuscript and I'd have to go through the resubmission process. That's when I decided to serialize and self publish.

It's a frustrating process. The people who read my stuff seem to like it enough to keep reading, but it certainly hasn't caught on like wildfire. I tell myself "it's a marathon not a sprint" and I believe that, but marathons are frustrating, and they're even more frustrating when you see people who only have to sprint. That's when you feel like Antonio Salieri struggling in Amadeus' shadow.

At some point in the process -- in my opinion, and don't take my opinion for the Gospel Truth -- you just need to forget about being an optimist, or a pessimist, and decide that you're going to do the work wherever it takes you, and to realize that one of the consequences of doing the work is that great swaths of people may actually never give a damn one way or the other, and then decide to do it anyway because fuck 'em. It's a terribly frustrating thing to have to accept, and I struggle with it all the time. I touch on this in an essay I put on Eviscerati.Org called The Webcomic Manifesto, and though I was talking specifically about Webcomics int hat piece I think it applies to pretty much everything you do in art: you can do anything you want as long as you're willing to accept the consequences, and one of the consequences -- probably the worst possible consequences -- might be "nobody cares."

The only good response to "nobody cares" that I can find is to grit my teeth and keep tilting that Goddamn windmill. What else is there to do? It's a windmill -- it's not going to fall on its own. Giving up isn't an option, because damn it all to Hell I have stories to tell whether the world likes it or not. Or cares. Maybe someday after I'm dead someone will come across what I wrote and exclaim to the world "This stuff is great!" and the world will say "yeah!" and then my ghost will say "YOU BASTARDS YOU COULDN'T HAVE NOTICED WHILE I WAS ALIVE?!?!?!" :-)

Or, you know, maybe they won't.

Meanwhile I have writing to do, and during my darker moments I find the "webcomics salute" as documented in my essay invaluable.

The one other thing to keep in mind is that you need to determine whether your mood is making it harder to see the people who are actually enjoying what you write.

It's easy to dismiss the people who are saying good things about what you're doing when you see an ocean of people who don't care. Your brain will size it up and determine that x people like your work, and x to the 256th power of people don't seem to, so if you turn the people who do like your work into a percentage the fraction is so small you might as well round down to zero. But don't do that. That's a road it's really hard to back out of, because if at some point you do break through and start getting recognition you'll still be in that mindset and you might start undercutting the gains you're making by dismissing them out of hand.

I might well be reading between the lines too much here, but it *sounds* like you're trying too hard to get noticed/acknowledgement from 'authority figures'. To have someone 'who knows what they're talking about' to say "hey, this is awesome, I ENDORSE IT! WELL DONE!". I don't know if that's really the right way to approach things (in any creative format). I've known enough writers to fall into that trap, only to give up when they don't get the acknowledgement or attention they felt they deserved.

How - and where - exactly have you been promoting? I spent my first six months following the advice of other serial writers, ended up with maybe twenty readers at most. Then, tired of the general cliqueyness of it all, I ignored the accepted advise and started advertising on mid-level webcomics (spending little more than a dollar a day). It made a big difference. A massive difference, even. Think outside the box, and stop chasing the approval of others!


Just remember: one book does not a success make! Most indie authors don't start seeing their sales pick up until they have dozens of books available. So don't worry so much that book 1 didn't do all that you dreamed. Just sit down and write book 2, and 3 and 4 and put all those out.

Eventually, they will start selling.

<--been around the block with both big and self-publishing.

I forget who said it, but "there's no such thing as a happy writer"

Dude, Im there with you right now. But you FINISHED A BOOK!. Have you considered serializing it as well as Bastion?

I have to reiterate what Amy and MCA said. Or maybe put it my own way:

You've put too much energy into promotion and burned yourself out. (Which is one of the many self-destructive things we ALL do.)

The thing is this: promotion is a waste of time until you are ready. And one sign that you are not ready is that you have to work so hard at it.

The only real promotion for a book is another book. And another, and another.

It feels wonderful that we can self-publish and make a living and all that, but there is a really bad down-side to the new world of publishing: you can see your stats in real time, or near real time, and it drives us to do things we should never do. You see a single sale, and you go "Woo hoo! What can I do to make that happen again?" Then you find yourself promoting and redoing your blurb and your cover and tweeting and posting... when you should be writing.

IMHO, right now, stay away from publishers. Stick with your own self-publishing. I've been in and around publishing for 35 years now. I know a lot of working writers. Every one of them has had problems with publishers, which were only alleviated when they got their rights back to their books. With today's contracts, you will NEVER get your rights back. (Most reversion clauses sound good, but the publisher actually can keep the book "in print" without actually selling any copies, just to keep the rights.)

When you have three or four books in a single series (or of a single closely-related type - for genres which don't do series), that's the time to start promoting. Then the effort you to go to sell a single book is worth it, because if someone likes the book they can go and buy the others right away. If they read one book, and can't find another, they'll forget your name. If they can get to at least three books, your series will stay in their memory much better.

I wrote something about this on my blog "Marketing and the Physics of Water" http://daringnovelist.blogspot.com/2010/11/marketing-and-physics-of-water.html

Also, you might be interested in a post I wrote about the Times that Try Writers' Souls: http://daringnovelist.blogspot.com/2012/02/times-that-try-writers-souls.html


Well to be honest, between the Self vs Traditional publishing, if I were younger I might be more confident about Self. At the moment I'm back on the "traditional" side of things. I'm just not good at making the connections you need to get out there, and I'm currently annoyed at how hard it is to be taken as more than vanity press without that imprint inside the cover.

Of course I'm hampered by own bias that I shouldn't start a "mini publishing company" with a single employee (me) so that I can say that this is all published by "Someone" because I just don't think it's right to "hide" being self published that way.

As to promotion, I honestly haven't tried webcomics yet. I suppose that's the next thing to go after. I did Facebook ads for a while, and I did Goodreads Ads. Neither generated much buzz. I got a lot of Facebook Likes for Mind the Thorns but those lovely insights also show me that of the 300 likes I've got, less then 30 actually see the status updates.

I'm feeling a lot better than I was yesterday. I also sent an email to the one agent who asked for the first 3 chapters. She did send me a rejection after reading them, and somehow I never got it.

She was right too.

I love FantastiCon. It was a joy to write, the characters... are like my children. I still agonize over what I put dear sweet Allison through, and I still laugh at all the antics that Tori describes. But the truth is, they're in college so it blocks out the YA market. They're total geeks and my efforts to use Tori as the "exposition into Geek culture" failed because she wasn't on screen enough to explain the jokes. The stalker drama isn't dramatic enough, the romantic story isn't romantic enough, and while it's funny, it's not side splittingly hilarious.

In short it's a lovely read that is quite easily forgotten for it's lack of focus.

It's a legit critique and having someone who actually does it for a living finally tell me gives me a lot of closure. It helps me deal with the fact that as proud of it as I am, it's just not ready for prime time. Maybe a total re-write, ground up, can make the story something that would really catch. Maybe I need some other books first, so that the quirkiness of it becomes a case of "we love his other stuff". Maybe it's a great NaNoWriMo book that I can say I wrote and I shouldn't sweat it much more. My family's fed (at least until we get the bill for my wisdom teeth extraction), we've got a roof, manageable CC debt, and I've got another 10 years until I retire from teaching and need to find a second career.

Life could be a metric ton load worse.

And.. thanks for the virtual hugs. I know I haven't been around that long and it's good to get propped up. I've got more to write, and more to do, and more to make, and maybe it's best to set FantastiCon aside for a while so I can work on it.


I should add that I'm not saying that either self-publishing or traditional publishing are inherently better.

What I'm saying is that in the past year or so, traditional publishing has become (IMHO) downright dangerous for writers who don't have a lot of publishing savvy and also clout from having a best seller or two under the belt. Contracts are awful, and though you can recover from nearly every other mistake you might make, signing a current publishing contract can be the one mistake you can not recover from.

This will change. I expect that in a couple of years, the norm will be more author-friendly. Right now, the _people_ in publishing appear author-friendly, but the contracts are not.

So, even though I totally sympathize with the idea that self-publishing is not for many authors, right now it is the lowest risk and lowest effort option -- thus a good starter option.

If you don't want to self publish, then it's probably a good idea to just concentrate on writing, and go slowly with your approaches to traditional publishing while they shake out the changes happening in the industry.

In the end, no matter what you plan to do, the best option is to keep your head down and write anyway.