I think it’s time for a ramble about where I am creatively. I believe TV tropes would still have me listed in the disillusioned artist category, unhappy both with my previous performances and with the audience reaction. (Or, lack thereof depending on which book we’re talking about.) But, even if I totally stopped pushing titles, I’ve been making sales. I know, I’m as surprised as you, really. I even had a few souls brave enough to read Peter’s books who didn’t hate my guts forever after finishing it.
But I’m assessing my previous pace and goals, and I don’t want to go back to that. Hell, when I have the revved up days of blogging or typing, it hurts my wrists when I’m only going for 2-4 hours instead of my old 8-14 hour schedule.
I really don’t know what projects I’m going to work on after completing the current crop of titles, but just what I have on my plate makes contemplating the rest too hard. I can only mentally juggle so much and still have time for casual reading and gaming.
But it seems nothing can kill certain stories in me. Some characters aren’t willing to give up, even if I was. They want to tell their stories, and they pick at me worse than my nicotine addiction ever did. I have to write them, even if no one wants to read my crap. But….but, some people do want to read my crap. Some people even open their wallets and pay for that crap. I have no idea how to handle promotion to you folks, and so I still won’t. I know this is harder on readers waiting for random releases when there’s no hint from me that this or that book dropped. But this is still just my hobby, and with all due respect to my regular buyers, once my previous promotions stirred you to get a copy, everyone else still ignored me. And man, if you six or so regular buyers ever abandon me, I am so, so fucked.
For the record, I have a lot, lot more readers than those six. Sales could always be better, but I’m still getting orders at both Smashwords and Amazon. (Nothing from Lulu, but that’s almost always true.) Every quarter, Smashwords sends me some money via PayPal. Not great money, but certainly not bad for a complete nobody. If anything, the continued sales even without my pushing shows that some titles can carry their own weight.
I wish I had more confidence, so I could make some grand proclamation about how my future releases will validate me as a real artist. It isn’t that I don’t view my stories as art, but I expect around the same level of success for all my future projects. Which I suppose is why I came around to the idea of sometimes writing bad books on purpose, like I did with my NaNoWriMo efforts. (Two of which got favorable reviews. The third is unmarketable, apparently.)
But I’m no good at the whole “I’m the greatest writer ever” spiel. I don’t write in any one field, so I can’t claim dominance or proficiency in any of them either. I’ll never be “the queen of ____,” and nothing I’ve published seems worthy of blockbuster status. I’ll tell you a secret: nothing in my head or my trunk is worthy of a mainstream bestseller either. I got no spy novels, no noir mysteries, no timeless romances; there’s no mainstream story I’m sitting on that’s going to make me a hundred million dollars. Don’t think that doesn’t frustrate me. And don’t think I didn’t try over and over to do stuff that was more mainstream. I did, and man, did that shit suck ass. Like Dan Brown, but less interesting.
But maybe writing mainstream is asking for too much from me. There’s so many writers covering the tropes that matter to the mainstream. So maybe asking me to also write the same kind of characters to please the market is missing the point of my protest. I want to write the stories that mainstream publishers won’t touch. I want stories about people like me, and about other people who feel shut out of the mainstream.
I won’t be popular because of what I want to write. Sometimes that will be because people don’t want to put up with my trans main characters. Other times it will be because I skip the romantic triangle and go for advanced romantic geometry. I’m planning more gay characters, and that’s an instant no for a large percentage of straight readers. Finally, there will be times when I’ll be unpopular because I do things with fictional minors that make readers uncomfortable.
But then that’s my point all along, to push you out of your comfort zone. If you don’t like being challenged and you can only read books that validate your opinions, then I am totally not the artist for you. But if you really mean all of that “rah rah support the little guy” cheering you do, then is there any harm at looking through my less offensive titles? Sure, I probably wrote one or two books that you’ll hate, but not everything I wrote has the same tone or message. I’ve done sci-fi, comedies, fantasy, horror, and even the occasional bit of literary fiction with no genre influences.
And if you still can’t find anything in my collection worth reading, well, better luck next year. But if you’re turning down EVERYTHING from my collection, odds really aren’t good that you’ll like my future releases. Cause I’m not going to start covering more palatable characters or topics. In fact, as my writing progresses, I’ve started poking around in some ugly places that few people want to explore. But somebody has to, because way too much writing is dedicated to the pleasant and banal reinforcement of mainstream beliefs. Even if nobody buys my shit, I believe there is still a need for indie-alternative writing. Someone has to write from the other side of the tracks, even if so few people cross the tracks to visit my rickety digital bookshop. (Right next door to Alice’s Internet Café.)
I just…sometimes, I wish someone with mainstream literary clout would say, “I think Zoe is right!” Sure, it wouldn’t do much for my sales, or even for my self-esteem. But then I could say, “Well, at least ____ _____ knows where I’m coming from.”
And also? I hope they can get my last name right. Cause it would suck if they name dropped the other Zoe, and they were talking about me.