Tell Me What You Want, What You Really Really Want

No, this post isn’t about the Spice Girls. Or it is, feel free to sing along.

This has been a rough summer in pretty much every way. One of the big themes has been me reevaluating exactly what it is I want from a writing career.

And the answer right now is pretty much this: I don’t know.

Publishing, like any creative industry, requires a lot of luck. It’s not something anyone wants to hear, but having a great book on its own means…not all that much. To get from finished manuscript to Barnes and Noble shelf, it doesn’t only take one yes. To get from finished manuscript to making a living doesn’t only take one yes.

There is no sovereign specific for publishing success.

This industry is really, really hard. I’ve had editors reading my books who had major medical crises, heard “we just bought something like this” and “I want this but ___ said no.” I’ve gotten deals only to have the acquiring imprint dissolve weeks after my book came out. (For real.) The writing is the easy part.

And even that is really hard.

I’ve been trying to redefine success, to figure out what exactly it is that, once achieved, I could be like, “Yeah, you know what? I’ve done the thing. I’m doing the thing.”

For Neil Gaiman, that was winning the Newberry Medal. Since that’s nowhere near my sphere of possibility¬†right now, I’m going to find the bar for myself.

I think that for me, I will define success when I am earning enough to cover my overhead (all the stuff that goes into making a manuscript into a book and getting the word out), my bills, and be able to save. When I know that one catastrophe like a broken foot wouldn’t plunge me into financial doom. I think that’s a dream for a lot of people.

I’m not sure how to achieve that.

Basically, what I deem as success is having basic needs met. For someone who grew up in poverty, that’s a pretty big deal.

This is what I’ve been doing lately:

I wake up, get coffee, settle down to write. I make myself known on social media, because that’s a thing that needs to happen. I work on plotting out various books. Lately I’ve been writing 2000-6000 words a day. Once or twice a week, I go to my part time job.

When I finish my current project, LOOK TO THE SUN, that’ll be the third novel I’ve written in the past twelve months. Three a year seems to be about what I can manage with current stress levels. I wrote four last year, and how I managed to do that whilst working full time for most of it is beyond me.

This is a bit of a silly blog post that doesn’t say much. I guess I’m trying to work out what it is that I want and how to get there. Ultimately, what I want is to tell stories and reach readers who might need them. The only thing is, I have to do that in a way that’s sustainable. I need to eat, I need to take care of myself better than I have been, and I need to work on the long term.

Most of the people who read here — you’ve known me for some time. I don’t usually ask for advice, but I’m open to hearing your thoughts. What do you think?

My next release, A HALL OF KEYS AND NO DOORS is available for preorder here! You can also listen to an excerpt from the Audible audiobook read by Amber Benson here.

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5 thoughts on “Tell Me What You Want, What You Really Really Want”

  1. Change of perspective. I’m reading Excuses Begone! by Wayne Dyer now and I highly recommend it to everyone! The change of thinking this is really hard to I love doing this can be a game changer!

  2. Emmie, I feel your pain. I wish I had an answer for you. How much of your stuff is actually self published? Any of it?

    We’re both about 10 books in and we’re both struggling to make a go of it full time. I chose a self publishing path as opposed to dealing with all the other mess and I work 25 hours a week. Between work, writing and marketing my writing, I have precious little time for anything else but I do get my books in the hands of readers pretty fast. I want to quit my part time job and write full time but the income needs to be there first. Every month I seem to be stagnate around the same figures. More books and more marketing brings more readers but it’s just a thin trickle that adds only 1-2% more to the bottom line. I’m only at about 40% of where I need to be. I’m not asking for a torrent, just a steady little stream!

    1. All of my books are self-pubbed at this point. Three were previously contracted but were all orphaned (within a span of three weeks in 2014). And yeah, I hear you. It’s really tough and so much of it is about luck. I’m kind of drawing a blank. I don’t want to get into a cycle of needing to drop $2000 on marketing to make back $3000 — I’d rather build organic numbers and go from there. But it’s a slow build.

  3. I guess I don’t have any words of wisdom to offer. I read this yesterday and I’ve been kind of batting it around in my brain trying to figure out what I might be able to say that would be encouraging. All I know is that I love your writing. I love your stories. I fell in love with Shrike back when it was the Masked Songbird. I want to read everything you ever write.

    I’ve introduced your stories to friends who were suspicious of another urban fantasy, and then fell in love. I introduced Shrike to my sister, who’s now reading all kinds of fantasy because of you. (Including Storm in a Teacup. She has a fun anecdote about that; she was reading on the BART, the scene in SIAT when Ayala finds the band. There was a guy sitting next to her, reading over her shoulder. Finally he asked, “What IS that??” and she said “It’s called Storm in a Teacup.” He looked at her for a second, then said “Like Hannibal Lector?” hahaha. Always makes me laugh. I hope he picked it up.)

    Your stories matter, and your fans are with you. I don’t have advice about the money thing. I wish I did. I just…I think if you keep getting work out there, it’ll happen. It’s just slooooow. Too slow. I’m sorry you’re frustrated. I hope you’ll keep writing.

  4. Unfortunately I can’t offer advice. I feel your pain and find myself asking the same questions. All I can offer are virtual hugs, ears to listen and shoulders to cry on (if needed). I think you’re doing fantastic Emmie! I believe in your awesomeness.

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