Recently I came across this essay, “Be Whoever You’re Gonna Be” by Dave Walsh. TBH, I don’t know who this is, but I really appreciated the essay. (I found it through the always entertaining blog of romance author Jenny Trout; I appreciated her reaction to the essay too.)
Okay, so I started self-publishing in 2014. After the initial “gold rush,” but a hell of a long time ago in internet terms. I have never, for basically one nanosecond, done anything Right(tm) according to any advice doled out for people in this situation. This used to bother me! A lot! A whole hell of a lot. When I started out, bright-eyed and ready to learn, I joined some self-publishing forums. I was told all my efforts were worthless because I hadn’t quit my day job, and as such, nothing I did counted or meant anything. I was told nobody would ever read anything I wrote because I didn’t devote my entire life to marketing. I was told so, so many things. It used to bother me so, so much.
Because I care about this stuff, you know? I love writing. Sometimes it’s frustrating and sometimes it’s hard and I’m never quite as good as I want to be, but imagine that: I like doing this thing that I have chosen to spend a lot of my free time on. Also? I was raised to base my own self-worth on what other people say about me. It’s not good. I’ve been working on that. It’s gotten a lot better.
Here’s the thing, though. I don’t need to slag people who spend a lot of time on marketing, or who research their keywords in order to come up with a story, or who publish every month. Whatever they do doesn’t have any bearing on what I do, and I don’t spend my time slinging shit at them or telling them they’re worthless. Because I don’t need to justify my decisions or cover up my own insecurity.
Have I made one million dollars? Nope. And if that’s what you need to feel better about yourself, knowing I haven’t made a million dollars, there ya go. I’ll gift-wrap it for you.
So far, I have written three novels and four novellas that gave me joy to write, alongside all the frustration. (Plus 1.95 novella drafts and 0.3 novel drafts. Plus that one weird WIP that I haven’t been able to extract from the guts of a corrupted Scrivener file. The point is, I’ve written some things.)
I’ve sold a few. Just over two thousand copies since 2014. Which is not a million and not nothing. But like… okay, 1500 people bought book 1 of Healers, and so far about 150 have followed the whole trilogy to the end. That’s tiny, I know, but like — I’ve been in a room of 150 people. It’s a lot. If I was in a room of 150 people who had read and liked my work enough to read three entire books of it, I would crumble into dust. I have no formal training. I write on nights and weekends. My style is a clusterfuck genre-wise. I haven’t run an ad since 2019. Honestly, that’s not fucking bad, considering. [edit: I think it was 2015, actually, since IIRC I only had one book at the time. [bad strategy blah blah I know] Anyway, the point stands.)
Also. Qualitatively. I’ve gotten emails from people who said they enjoyed reading my work. I am terrified to search for myself, but one time I stumbled across a blog post where someone spun off an entire rec list of slice-of-life fantasy because they liked The Healers’ Road and felt inspired. There are a few other incidents that I won’t detail for privacy reasons, but they mean a lot to me. Because I made something I cared about, and tried sharing it, and a few people liked it. It entertained them for a couple of hours, at least.
Meanwhile, I lived a chunk of life. Held onto that supposedly-disqualifying day job because some of us have bills to pay. Got into therapy and stayed there. Worked on some shit. Made about six quilts. Cuddled my cats. Took up running, cardio boxing, and a bonkers video game where you use Pilates to defeat goblins. Quit running because my knees got old along with the rest of me. Read a lot of other people’s books. Hung out with my friends, lost them, learned some important lessons about being less needy. Lived through a goddamn pandemic. Learned how to play the ukulele. Realized I wasn’t just bad at being a woman at random. And my life is on easy mode: I don’t have kids, I’m not a caretaker for elder relatives, I’m white and hanging onto the edge of middle class. None of this is complaining. But all of that everyday blather is stuff that is part of me. I am a whole person. As we all are.
Now. Would it be nice if I had published Healers 2 and 3 within a year of the first book, instead of years later? Sure. Would it be nice if I had seventeen installments of the new series out instead of four? Mmmmmaybe. But the thing is, that’s not going to happen, because I am a whole person and I, like everyone else, deserve some goddamn work-life balance. (Not to get all “fuck capitalism” at you, but you know, fuck capitalism.)
I appreciate that some people have taken a chance on my work. Some have liked it, some haven’t. That’s their right. I’ve been exceptionally fortunate that no one has griped at me about my writing pace. At least not to my face.
This is a grind-free space. Good luck with the grind if that’s how you want to live. It’s not the only way, and we all know it.
Thank you and goodnight.