Looks like it’s time to shake things up again. Writing-wise, this time, rather than life-wise. Or even -foolish, applied to either, which might be more in line with your expectations.
I’m working on a book. Well, the first of a new trilogy. It’s YA dystopian SF. I like the genre in general, and have a few favorites. But…ever looked at the category? Notice anything about the authors?
Their names tend toward the non-masculine. Hmm.
I doubt it’ll surprise any of you that I like messing around with people’s expectations as I write. I have to entertain myself first, after all. But this habit comes with a price tag attached. I mean this semi-literally, and maybe semi-literately, at that!
‘Scuse me. Words are funny. I like them.
Suppose you were a writer. Suppose you wanted to get paid. And you knew, or suspected, or maybe just hoped, that you could write in any of several genres. Suppose you were trying to figure out which one might pay the best. You might try going to Amazon and looking at category listings, right? You could look at the top sellers, figure out how many books already exist in each category, look at the sales ranking for books not only in the top few spots, but maybe also for those books coming in one or two hundred spots below them. Then you might look at a few of the books in the top spots, identify any commonalities you can, and get an idea of what it’d take to hit a genre sweet spot. To satisfy the expectations of readers. You’d end up with a rough sort of notion of how a particular type of book might sell, right? If you were to write it?
You might consider that a series is likely to out-perform a similar number of standalone books. Then you might come up with a plan–you incorporate some long-range notion of several books, or several trilogies, or whatever, and you could hope to bring readers along with you from one series to another–not all readers, of course, but some of them. Over time, you might build a career.
How much do you guys think the above resembles my own process? Not at all, right? I don’t have a writing career in any meaningful sense. I have a careen. Which suits me, mostly. But not entirely. And I can’t use anything remotely like the above process with my stuff. Yet.
Thing is…how do readers find books? Generally, I suspect, it’s either by author or category. Most likely in that order. There are some of you who’ve been reading my stuff for years, and I very much appreciate it. But there aren’t many. And as for finding my books by category? By genre? They’re are all over the place, and none of them fit neatly into existing categories to begin with. No shame in that (I think)…but it does limit my financial upside quite a bit. Having a “backlist” of books readers can buy if they happen to run across one of my titles and like it is very handy. It’s clearly helped. And, let’s not forget, I love to write. But if the backlist is all over the place? As things stand, for my own work, the only readers who might stick around from book to book are those who enjoy several genres, and don’t mind seeing them all mixed up in the same book. My people! So, uh…how many of you are out there?
You know what? For all I know, there are thousands upon thousands of people looking for weird cross-genre stuff just like mine. But. Even if it’s true? How do they find it? I’ll tell you, I don’t know how to find the sort of thing I tend to write. Might be because I’m a weirdo. Might be because retailers aren’t very good at matching books with readers yet. Or both. Doesn’t matter.
Mostly, I’m (not) guessing, other people don’t know how to find books like mine either. Even if they’d want to. Which is more a fond hope than an expectation on my part.
So. With crass commercial intent, I’m going to start out with a new pseudonym, in a new genre. I’m not sure just how easy or difficult I’ll make it to figure out what else I’ve written under my own name, or other names. Probably it’ll be at least somewhat difficult.
Plus I’m going to pretend to be a girl.
Nope, not intending to cross-dress. Or even disguise my voice. It’s just…my intent is to meet readers’ expectations. Or appear to meet them. While writing the best books I can manage to produce, while coloring between the lines.
Further: I suspect that social media stuff, including blogging, is…well, diverting in more than one sense. Fun, but not very useful in terms of sales generated for time spent. Which ain’t the end of the world. But what if time spent writing new fiction turns out to be more productive all around? Also, what if I don’t really want to spend a lot of my time pretending to be someone else, so I figure I’ll just skip that part?
So. I’ll still publish under my own name. I think. I’ll continue to cross genres with wild abandon, and write…you know…my sort of stuff. When I can.
But I really want to know: if I color within the lines for a bit, meeting (most of) readers’ expectations, can I turn this writing shtick into a reasonable sort of full-time income? Can I do it in a single year? Can I do it with no social media time, no time spent promoting my work, via nothing more than writing and publishing fiction? (Well. That, plus a mailing list for the new pseudonym.)
If that works, can I enjoy the process? Can I do it without completely abandoning my genre-bending turn of mind, while still publishing separately under my own name?
Got no idea, here.
I’m going to try to find out, though. And I’ll keep y’all posted. And…well, I’ll probably announce any new releases, only without divulging the titles, and tell you how the books are doing. If you really want to read them? Send me a private email, swear up and down you’ll keep my secret, and I’ll probably tell you how to find the books. Maybe. We’ll see.
Assuming I get them written to begin with. Gotta go work on that.
Another thought: hey, maybe I’m just fundamentally the kind of writer who has to write well enough to entice readers to follow him across genres. Maybe, for whatever reasons, this is my only path to long-term financial success in this game. Well, okay. I can work on getting better. Might need to do that anyway, you know. But. That being said? Who says writing in-genre fiction that pleases people isn’t a path to that goal? After all, more readers means…more readers. Probably not a horrible idea to give them what they want before asking them to try something else. Eventually, I imagine all pen names will be revealed anyway.
Meanwhile. Have fun out there!