Stay, Go, Take a Nap... What Next?
This post is about more serious stuff, so if you want something light, just watch me get soaked in ice water. Still here, or came back after the video? Great! (Or, crazy you, you missed your chance to escape.) A little over a week ago I settled on the opinion that I was just wasting my time trying to achieve any relevant success with my books and other creative works, and as a result I decided to unpublish my books, remove my other creative efforts from the Web, and stop creating new works. The only exception I planned to make was leaving my content on free-content sites like morgueFile.com (photos) and freesound.org (recordings). This was a dark moment for me and in general I did not plan to share it with others. I didn't want to go out with a bang, I just wanted to "fade out" (at least in terms of my creative works online). However, things didn't quite go as planned, and this blog post explains how things have gone so far and what my current thoughts are.
For personal reasons, I don't want to delve too deeply into why I reached that decision to pull everything offline. In a nutshell, though, my book sales are few and far between, and I didn't (and still don't) see any reason why that will change. The books I have on the market aren't going to get any better (since I have no funds to invest in better covers, etc.), I don't have a relevant marketing budget, I don't have an army of fans to give me free word-of-mouth advertising, and I rarely get time to work on any new projects that might sell better. There are reasons for all of this, again not something I want to describe in detail here, but that is the situation that I currently face. It's discouraging, to say the least.
As I started the process of pulling my titles off the virtual shelves where they exist, I realized it would be appropriate to reach out to a handful of people who have been very supportive of my creative projects all along. I sent them an email to let them know how much I valued their support, as I did not want them to think that my decision to remove my work was a sign of being ungrateful. I also realized that there might be some hidden complications in unpublishing my books, so I started a message thread on KBoards.com asking other writers if there were potential problems to consider. Finally, I let the illustrator of Two Boys, Two Planets know what I was doing, because we are splitting the royalties on that and whatever I did with that book would affect her.
Not surprisingly, I received many words of encouragement about my success in even writing a book and having it on the market. There were also many "why not leave them online" questions, since there is no monetary cost to doing so. Plus, there was the accurate observation that I'm not likely to stop writing since it is part of who I am. I appreciated the positive feedback, but it didn't really change my mind. As mentioned above, there are basic facts about my situation that don't leave me with much hope for audience building or improved book sales.
However, I really underestimated the work involved in taking things down, as well as the difficulty of it — both technically and emotionally. I have created a lot of content in many places over the years, and much of it was interlinked for cross-promotion. Untangling that was time-consuming to say the least, and I didn't get very far before I got bogged down. On one hand I had the stark reality of poor sales, few reviews, etc., and on the other I had the nagging realization that it would be a whole lot easier to just walk away... with everything still in place.
I'll admit I have a pretty bad habit of checking my sales stats way too often, and it's not just for curiosity or obsessive habit. However, my oldest son reminded me that there are non-book things that I have out on the Internet that bring in money and for which I almost never check the sales stats. For example, I have a number of products available on CafePress (like my personal favorite, the Escape Velocity bumper sticker, or the item that seems to sell best, the Homebrewing Clock), and I just enjoy getting paid by CafePress whenever that happens. About the only time I look at my sales there are when I want to convert earnings into a product order. Maybe I could shift my habit with my books to treat them more like my CafePress products: Finish them, release them, and then ignore them.
In fact, someone on KBoards.com sent me a private message there telling me that Woody Allen basically takes that approach with his movies. It does seem like a low-stress approach to things. So why not just switch to that immediately? Part of it is the notion of "career." I never planned to make a "career" out of designing products for CafePress to sell, but I have entertained (since childhood!) the dream of making writing into a career.
This blog post is already longer than I intended, but hopefully you can see where my mind has been over the past 10 days or so. The question is, what next?
My decision now has several facets. One is to not delete anything more. Another is to not restore some things I deleted (e.g., content I had on Wattpad and the copies of my books I was trying to sell on sites that process payments with Bitcoin), as a way of reducing the complexity — and thus stress — of what I've been trying to do. The final piece of it is that I will restore some of the things I've deleted, mainly in areas where they tied in with that interconnected Web of cross-promotion.
Actually, the final-final piece is that I'm going to continue writing. This includes finishing a fresh draft of Extra Credit: Loyalty! (the sequel to Lesson One: Revolution!) and completing the first draft of a novel in a fantasy series I'm developing. This does not mean that I am going to publish those books, because I really want better covers, and that will take some funds I don't currently have.
If you've managed to read this far, thank you! And to those who have supported me along the way, whether in large or small amounts, thank you as well! And finally, for those who want to help a starving artist by buying one of my books, man, you rock! :)
About the Author
Stuart J. Whitmore is an author of fiction and nonfiction, as well as a photographer, technology developer, and more. If you enjoy reading his blog posts, you might also enjoy reading his books. Take a look at the books by Stuart J. Whitmore today, and download your copy of one that looks interesting to you!