Where Things Stand

So it’s been awhile. Well over three months, closing in on four, and I’m sure some people have questions about my silence. Maybe not many, but a few. To be perfectly honest I couldn’t have told you what the silence meant. It’s not that I didn’t feel inspired, it’s just…well, look. I sat down to write, really write, back at the end of August and I discovered something new: while I love writing, I’m not fully in love with being a writer. And I think the two things are very different.

What has this realization meant? An almost total pull-back from marketing efforts. A long, hard look at what I want to do with my career. A lot of writing, and I mean more than I’ve written in my entire life. Lots of considerations, and my mind tends to work best when I push those ideas to the subconscious and plow ahead with day-to-day life, so it’s taken some time to get here.

This isn’t a resignation letter, although I do recognize it sounds like one, especially with that ominous title. It’s more a statement of intent. I mean, first things first, did you guys know I released my third novel a few weeks back? I really did! The sequel to Corridors of the Dead, Pathways of the Dead, is out there, and I’m proud of it. Yet I’ve done zero marketing, and again it comes back to the question of why.

The truth is that my heart is no longer really in dark fiction. Oh, I plan to finish the Among the Dead series, don’t fret on that one, dearies. The first draft of City of the Dead is already halfway finished and on the backburner as I plow through the first revision of my next novel, and I know how most of Portal goes down, including the ending. It’s going to be a fun ride.

But it’s not where my heart is.

Today my heart is with a deeply flawed sex addict dentist named Dean and his struggles after his wife passes away in a tragic car accident. It’s with a woman who moves back to her small town home after 20 years in the wilderness to discover that not much has changed. It’s with a circle of friends and how one tragedy forms a fulcrum that changes their lives in a myriad of ways.

I guess what I’m saying is that I’ve rediscovered my love for literary fiction and want to take it “mainstream”. I’m plowing through the next book, tentatively titled Broken Wing and Rusted Drill, and plan to pitch it to literary agents once it’s done in hopes of getting a deal with a larger publisher. As I told a coworker last week, I’ve never really known how to sell books like Room 3 and Corridors of the Dead, but I know just how to sell Broken Wing and its sister titles. If a major won’t take it, I’ll scour the smaller publishers. I believe in the title and think it will place somewhere. Will it sell? Well, I hope so. No way to find out unless I try.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to self-publish the dark fiction with Qwendellonia, at least until the end of Portal. I guess it just means that my indie experiment currently has an expiration date. Maybe I’ll end up back here afterwards, who knows? But I think I’m ready to communicate with you guys again either way, in a more mature fashion. No more bullshit.

Good to see you again.

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11 Comments

  1. Jonathan, hi –

    Congratulations on the release of Pathways of the Dead! That’s a wonderful accomplishment, and I’m very happy for you. Thank you for letting us know it’s available!

    Thank you, too, for your honesty. I know it is tough to weigh the different publishing options, and I believe that the book itself tells you which option fits best. It’s not an all or nothing, as I’d previously thought. However, it does seem (in most cases) to really work only one way: for any given novel, you can try for mainstream/traditional first, but not second. If it’s gone out under an indie label, traditional won’t want it except under the most extenuating of circumstances. However, if you’ve tried traditional, and either not liked your offers or (unlikely, for you!) not gotten any takers, you can still go indie later. Not to say that indie is a fallback, just that’s the order you have to go to give your book the most realistic chance to reach its audience.

    The marketing, ohmy! I get it. I was totally unprepared for the ceaseless nature of advertising, marketing, making the blog rounds. I handled it badly for my novel. At least with a traditional publisher, there’s some name recognition to the brand that backs the work, and opportunities to tap into a network of a pre-made audience. What a relief, after crying alone in the indie wilds, right?

    All the best, and I’m really excited for you!!!!

    -aniko

    • Hi Aniko! Good to see you! And thanks, the handful of people who’ve read Pathways actually really enjoy it, so I feel good about it, though I do recognize it as a stepping stone now.

      That’s a very good point about the different levels, of having to go through traditional channels, then moving on to the self-publishing options otherwise the book is ‘tainted’. I don’t care for that perception on the part of publishers but that’s the reality that we live in, unfortunately. I’ve definitely thought about going indie if the other channels don’t work out, research has just shown me that it’s a smarter move to go trad with literary fiction. It’s a long, uphill battle for indie lit, especially when you’re essentially starting from scratch.

      Yeah, I’ll probably write about it at some point, but I found it quite humbling to discover that while I may be a decent writer I’m a lousy marketer and we’re practically forced to wear that hat. I mean, I get that, it’s more a question of wearing it on my terms, if that makes sense, and yeah I see a lot of benefit in the built-in network that traditional publishing offers, not to mention I want to find those readers. I’ll talk more about that as time goes on.

      And thanks! I’m curious to hear how you’re doing with your search.

      • Hi!

        Regarding the “order of publication operations,” I guess I wouldn’t so much call books indie published first ‘tainted,’ just lacking in first publication rights. If a book has been published indie, then those first publication rights are already forgone before a publisher can get in on the action. Maybe I’ve got that wrong, and I’d be happy to be corrected if that isn’t the case.

        This may come as a surprise to you (or not?), but you were always one of the best indie marketers I knew. 🙂 I was absolutely jealous of your ability to push on long past where I felt capable of going. However, I think you’re right about literary fiction, and that the battles for a literary audience are best fought with a huge advocate like a fine imprint at your back.

        I believe in you, Jonathan!!

        -a

        PS I sent off my first submission to a traditional publisher; I’m in the midst of the 3 – 6 month waiting game where I can’t do simultaneous submissions.

  2. Hey Jonathan,
    First, let me say that I totally get the change in silence bit. I’ve done that myself–somehow, I have to shut down for a time in order to process things through and step up to the next phase. And following your heart, and writing where the passion takes you–no better thing to do. Just one obvious question, asked with all respect and affection: what makes you think going trad requires any less of a commitment to being a writer? I personally don’t see any difference in what the two pathways require of a writer. As far as I can tell, going trad just gives you access to barnes and noble, and a much smaller paycheck. OK, a little bias showing here, I know! I’d love to hear your thinking on this one. But no matter what you choose to do, I wish you all the best on this next step of the journey.
    Namaste,
    Alix

    • Hey Alix! Long time no see, glad to see you again, really need to catch up 🙂

      It’s funny, isn’t it? You can spend months spinning in place coming up with various plans for this or that and maybe some of them work out while others fall by the wayside, but I haven’t found a substitute for silence and allowing the “boys downstairs” to do their thing.

      I think that’s a fair question, no worries. My wife asked me, too. I think it’s a subject for the next entry, so I have way more to say, but the short answer is that the writer/person who write thing and the indie/trad thing are sort-of-kind-of related, but not really and it may not have been the best idea to mention both in the same post.

      When I talk about the writer thing, it’s something that I’ve observed and caught myself doing, a sort of identity that we throw on. It makes sense, as Aniko said, sometimes this whole thing feels like crying into the wilds and drawing on the tradition of what it means to be a writer can be awfully tempting and comforting. If we’re getting nowhere, at least we’re part of a long tradition, right? I’m just as guilty of it, but I need to reinvent my own “persona”, if that makes sense. It gets to be exhausting.

      Indie vs trad, well, as Aniko said, it’s a matter of what the novel says and market research. As much as I’m not into marketing, I did some research on this and it looks like lit does far better in a traditional setting. I’ll say more about that eventually too, I think.

      Anyway good to be back, and I appreciate it! Gives me lots of fodder for posts. Hope your own journey is going well, would love to hear more.

      • Jonathan,
        I look forward to reading more of your thoughts on this topic in future posts. It’s an interesting choice/decision point. It’s also interesting that you asked what I’m up to, as I read the comments in this thread. I am on a mission to help writers love to market as much as they love to write. I’m blogging about it at thehealedwriter, and I foresee the blogs becoming a book at the end of a year or so. In fact, I’m writing with the intention to blog a book.
        Besides that, I am reading some wonderful books by successful indie authors about how they handled marketing, and I am finding a talent for coaching writers who find themselves stuck in the creative or business aspects of their work. So, lots going on.

        Can’t wait to hear what’s next on your journey! I’ll be tuned in for the next installment.
        Hugs,
        Alix

  3. I think some people are well suited to do the indie marketing. I’ve watched people achieve success through sheer force of will. You really have to be tireless, and you have to use methods that irritate a lot of people, because those methods work well on enough people to get the ball rolling.

    I suck at that, too. Largely because I don’t enjoy it and want to keep my friends.

    I am contemplating a totally different track, called “giving it away for free.” I know of at least two authors who achieved best-selling status with the very books they originally gave away for free. Those books are very good and very appealing and their subject matter was well timed. Coincidence or genius on the author’s part? I don’t know. And in a way, I don’t care. I only care that my stuff gets read. If it turns into something people will pay money for, so much the better.

    (Note: it would be entirely different if I were a romance writer. Those authors have it good.)

    • Hah, Marie, you hit the nail on the head with “want to keep my friends”. The methods that apparently work would drive away most of the people that I care about in my life, at least in terms of social media. I’ve seen it happen, and it’s not worth it to me. It’s also just not who I am. Beyond not enjoying it, I have some spiritual/moral issues with that path. I think we both know some of the horror stories I’m talking about, and in particular the moment that did it for me was an indie author advising a newbie author to just release the rough draft then send the updated version to readers. That broke something in me when it comes to the indie community.

      I’m contemplating that path as well for my indie work. I’m going to be doing a lot of giveaways of Corridors in the coming months and could see making it free permanently in the style of Lewis Shiner.

      And yeah, the temptation to write romance can get overwhelming at times, especially since some elements in my literary work may cross those lines. I just can’t bring myself to do it 🙂

    • Marie, hi!

      I have also considered giving away my fiction for free. I even spent time researching neat apps to make the reading experience on the computer monitor more comfortable, and then offering Kindle versions from a private store for those who want to purchase, with the idea that they could (comfortably) read the entire work for free if so inclined. There is a tremendous appeal to that idea, and one that hasn’t completely left my mind.

      Great to see you & hope you’re doing well!

      -aniko

  4. Hi Aniko,
    Can only respond here, but the first-right publication thing totally makes sense (although I suspect the “tainted” thing also comes up, maybe less these days than a few years ago, but it’s still out there). And thanks! Well, I guess I hit a wall on how much of that I could do myself and ended up in the same place as you, at least where it comes to pushing things that don’t necessarily have my heart anymore.

    Very cool on the submission process, can’t wait to hear how it goes for you!

  5. I think a self-published is only “tainted” if you don’\t have good sales figures. It is becoming somewhat common that traditional publishers pick up indie published books that have done well. Alternatively, if you sell one traditionally and it does well, I imagine the publisher might be interested in picking up your indie publications. It’s hard to say. In any case, I don’t think first rights have quite the importance they used to have.

    Aniko, I might want to have a conversation with you sometime re mechanisms for giving it away free. I’ll start thinking about that when I have finished the first draft.

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