Like a lot of creatives, I’ve spent a lot of this global pandemic reassessing almost every aspect of what I do. I started off with a huge slab of enthusiasm that I was privileged enough to be able to hole up in my house with laptop in hand and spend the months whittling away at the big word tree I keep in my office until I had a few more elegant word statues I could bundle up and sell to you, dear reader. That lasted about as long as it took to realise how difficult home schooling is.
I also thought it was a great opportunity to put some real thrust toward something that’s been a goal of mine from, oh, say, the age of thirteen — to become a full-time author. I had a chunk of money I threw toward some ads, and I set about trying to grow this writing enterprise into a full-throated BUSINESS.
Long story short — I threw away a chunk of money.
I’m not going to lie, it hurt. When I set out on this journey to become an author, I gave myself five years. That particular milestone hit on the exact day I realised I’d wasted a chunk of money on advertising that hadn’t worked. Cue much authorial introspection, wailing, gnashing of teeth, and being grouchy with my family.
What I was left with, at the end of all that soul searching, was a series of irreconcilable facts:
- I still love writing books
- I still love being a DIY publisher
- I hate the fact that indie publishing has become a pay-to-play model, with advertising a must
- I hate Amazon, yet know they’re the only game in town
- I have no interest in pursuing a traditional book deal
Where does that leave me? Well, if I really want to become a full-time writer, it pretty much leaves me bollocksed. But what if I decide not to go for that dream? What if I just become… a writer? I have a decent career that fulfils the ‘putting the food on the table’ thing that we all have to do, and which I don’t entirely hate.
If I make a decision, right here and now, that I’m doing this as a hobby, then I don’t actually have to do any of the things I don’t want to do. I can write what I want, put it out there, and if people like it then that’s an added bonus. I can sell books on Amazon, but I don’t have to give them ad money for them to deign to show them to people who might be interested in it. I don’t have to give that money to Facebook, either, for that matter. I can do things like selling my books directly through this website, for example, and by supporting the other stores who aren’t pure evil personified in corporate form.
None of which is to say I don’t want success. I’d love nothing more than to have The Sunset Chronicles be a huge success, or the vampire series I’m writing find a voracious readership. And I’d still love to go full-time with this gig.
What it does mean, however, is that I can refocus my efforts. Currently I spend an inordinate amount of time on Admin and Marketing that can now be spent in a thousand other ways. I’ve been thinking of writing a pilot TV script for Blood on the Motorway, for instance, and I’ve had a few ideas for a graphic novel kicking around my head that I need to find an artist for. Not only that but I can perhaps go back to some of the things I sacrificed in order to put all my focus on the books — music writing, for one thing.
The upshot of all this is that I have more time to put into being a creative, which is really the only part of this that interests me. It also means I don’t really have to worry so much about pissing people off, because I’m deeply uncomfortable with the way this whole industry is going, as I suspect is the case with a lot of my peers. By placing myself out of the need to sell books to put the aforementioned food on the aforementioned table, I can feel a lot more free to talk about that, and about other things that I’ve spent time feeling like I can’t really talk about, because I’ve been honestly worried about damaging ‘my brand’.
Who knows where this will take me? In all probability, it’ll leave me languishing under the same broad anonymity I’ve enjoyed these past few years. But I probably won’t burn out because of it. I hope you’ll continue to join me on the journey. And if you feel like checking my books out, click Store at the top of the page, safe in the knowledge that your purchase won’t be helping Jeff Bezos line his pockets any more.