Sarah talked earlier this week about docking the tail of the writer. The long tail – the backlist of your books, that in theory will continue to sell forever, in the current publishing world – is something that as a writer, I intend to cultivate. For one thing, I don’t have a huge fanbase. So there is the potential to be discovered by new readers who then (theoretically) will go back and read the stories extant.
Earlier this year I came very close to giving up writing. The Indie world is a demanding one, and I was facing the facts. I am only one person, the day job is the only thing paying the bills around here, and I can’t possibly write enough to contribute significantly… I certainly can’t churn out a half-dozen novels a year as many Indie have to, in order to support the method of marketing they are using to make a living. I just could not. Full stop, why am I bothering to write at all?
Only… I can’t really not write. It is just part of me. So after a few tearful conversations with my husband, and chats with friends who believe in my work and supported me, telling me I write Good Stuff, and I should keep going as long as it made me happy. With POD and never-out-of-print ebooks, I can have that long tail, and keep wagging it happily until such time as I can devote my life to a writing career. With that encouragement, I kept on. And this year has been my best writing year since I graduated and switched focus to career. I have a novel that should appear in a couple of months, it’s been the year of the anthology with short stories coming out every couple of months, I have some projects just simmering along on back burners… Giving up and letting go of the idea of being marketable has made me so much more productive.
The daily writing helps. Doing it day in, and day out, creates a momentum that cannot be denied. Yesterday I wasn’t feeling well, and contemplated taking a ‘sick day’ and skipping the writing. I’m jammed up on the three big projects I’m working on (I’ll have a session with the Evil Muse today and shake that loose I think) so I just sat down and thought ‘I’ll write a flash.’
So I did. It took me less than an hour, from the first words on the page, and some of that was thinking through what I was doing, and how to structure it. You can read Rusalka over on my blog. It’s a funny thing, how I can do that, and most of the time when I am trying to write a short it wants to grow up to be a novel. I’ve mixed mythos in that, too. But I do that a lot.
So the blog is, still, a marketing tool, if not the fad fashionable one (that seems to be newsletters for authors right now. I have administered newsletters in the past. Nothankyouverymuch). The blog works, although I may have to retrain people to click the ‘subscribe’ button for easy delivery of posts to their email boxes. Heh. I don’t do a daily post. At one point I did, and I was trying multiple short posts a day (do not recommend, by the way. Unless you’re doing this full time, or you have a ‘team’ writing ‘content) and I got a complaint from a subscriber that I was spamming their email box. You can’t win! And to circle back to the team writing. I once had an exchange with a balloon twister who wanted to start up a blog, and they were soliciting paid writing. Since I am peculiarly qualified on both sides of that, I wanted to know how much he was paying? He wanted to pay out 0.0085$ a word. He got a writer, too, from somewhere across the globe, who could write passable English but had no idea what he was writing about. Which is why you’ll find large website content weird and stilted at times, and heaven knows you have to be careful about ‘how-to’ blogs that are promo pieces rather than a real person doing authentic things (and here’s an example of a useless blog written by someone who didn’t know what they were talking about).
Where did that soap box come from? Steps off and kicks it under the bench. Ahem.
To come back to the long tail. My plan is long-term. I am going to be writing for 20 years into the future, not the ‘now’. This means I really do need to keep up with cover trends (and I just re-covered the Pixie series) and I need to figure out how to trickle-charge my books with a small amount of marketing. I have faith this is going to work. For one thing, since I am not pushing myself to keep up with full time writers, I’ll not run out of ideas any time soon. Nor, a much more real concern, will I burn myself out. I can and do see sales on ebooks that have been out for years. Paper? waggles hand. Not so much, unless I am selling out of hand at a con, and I really don’t do those much. My friend James Young had just about convinced me last year to do more of it, and then 2020 happened.
So you never know. But I can say that I have 100% control over my work, so I can cultivate it like a garden and I intend to do so. Mixing my metaphors happily as I go along. Garden dragon with a really long tail? Oh, yeah, I can do that!
(Header Image: art by Cedar. To digress again, the art is another thing I am ramping up into production… there will be magnets with this art available soon, along with several other designs that my fans helped choose).