Before you panic, let me just say that when I write “Good News” in that headline, I’m not being sarcastic.
Here’s the thing. I’m starting to feel like you have to be full of shit to promote your work as an artist, and you have to be stupid not to. I’ve been trying to figure out what to do about that.
I started writing professionally two years ago. Before Thicker Than Water, it was something I did for fun, something I dreamed of making a living at. After I turned to self-publishing, it became more of an attempted career.
I pretty much approached it the way everybody else who was doing it told me to. They said to have a blog, so I did. They said to get a Facebook fan page, so I did. They said to join indie writer forums, so I did. They said to tweet. They said to join GoodReads. They said to cross-promote with other indie writers. I did, I did, I did.
It took about a year for me to come to a realization: “I hate all this shit.”
In creating this sort of “public persona” it’s hard not to be completely phony. If you’re presenting yourself on a forum and you’re only there to whore your work, for me at least, it’s almost impossible to do it with any level of dignity and honesty. When I say “follow me and I’ll follow you back,” neither of us is actually getting anything worthwhile out of the transaction. I’m just saying “I’m gonna spam you and you spam me and it’ll be okay because we’re both assholes. ‘Kay? ‘Kay!”
I didn’t like being that asshole from day one. But it took a little while before I couldn’t be that asshole anymore.
A year ago, when I moved to China and took a day job, I all but stopped promoting. I quit tweeting, only hung around one Facebook group I actually like, stopped seeking out promotional tie-ins with other authors. And something really obvious happened: My sales tanked. My last two books have done next to nothing in comparison to my first two.
I love writing. I love working out a story and playing with words. I love seeing the number of downloads on a published novel count up. I love hearing from people who connected with what I wrote. What I don’t love–what I’ve come to actively dislike–is writing for profit.
Don’t get me wrong, I like profit. Money’s one of my favorite things. But there’s too much bullshit that comes with selling artwork, especially your own. I don’t want to be that fake, phony guy singing the praises of his own books and screaming, “Give me some money and I’ll let you bask in my genius.” I want that to be what fans do. All I want to do is try to dream stuff up worth screaming about. I think I’m capable of stuff good enough, but I don’t have the platform to get it to people without running around cyberspace yelling like an idiot.
So I have a new idea of how to publish my work. In short, it involves two steps.
STEP ONE: ELIMINATE ALL THE BULLSHIT ARMS-LENGTH PROFILES.
You don’t need to follow me on Twitter where my sole objective is to sell books. You don’t need to ‘like’ my Facebook fan page that exists for reasons I’m not even entirely sure of myself. Instead of creating a public persona, I’d rather just invite you into my actual life. If you like my work, come send a friend request to my actual Facebook page. Let’s have a friendly connection, not just a “salesman-customer” one.
STEP TWO: ELIMINATE THE STICKER PRICE.
In the near future, I’ll be putting my books up on a few new sites and changing the sale price to zero (or as close as each site allows). I’ll politely ask for donations if you think it’s worthy and you can spare some change, but the profit can’t be the point or it kills the fun for me. No more admission fees. I’m going to get into this in more detail in a future post (or several, probably) but that’s the gist of it.
It’s going to take a bit of time for me to roll this out, especially being that I’m pretty swamped with non-writing work as well as being in the middle of a bunch of major projects and I’ve got very little spare time.
This is a bit of an experiment. I don’t know how long it will go on for. I hope it will be for quite a while. There may come a time when I feel it’s not right for me anymore, but right now it’s what I want to try.
My next book will more than likely be a horror novel called In Nightmares We’re Alone. It’ll be free.
And again, if you’re not already, come be my friend on Facebook. Not my customer. My friend.