It Can Be A Brutal Affair, This Writing Thing…

From time to time I’ll receive a message from an aspiring author seeking advice. I’m not always good about getting back to inquiries in a timely manner but those are ones I do try very hard to respond to quickly. I know the trepidation that accompanies one jumping into the abyss of being a full-time author. It’s scary and regardless the number of novels you put behind you, it never really goes away. It is a choice of profession plagued by self-doubt, uncertainty, and sometimes cruel response.

I love it. 

Yesterday I shared with some of you the challenge I faced in trying to find my upcoming novel a publisher. An agent was eager to take SAVAGE on. Four months later that eagerness was gone and so was Mr. Agent. The support I’ve received from readers was quick and surprisingly generous. I thank you for that. I truly needed it. You see, I’ve been struggling a bit of late. Sales have slipped as has my confidence.

I couldn’t help but recall years earlier when another agent reached out to me following the near-instant success of my debut novel, DOMINATUS. It shot up the Amazon charts and caught her attention. Unlike many other agents, she had actually read it before reaching out to me regarding representation. She noted it was a bit “rough” (she was right – editing was something I spent too little time on back then) but also said it was clear I knew how to tell a good story. Then she said something that felt a little like getting pushed up against a wall. I’ve never responded well to that. My instinct is to always push back twice as hard. She suggested I “tone down the politics” of the story. I took offense. DOMINATUS is after all a political story wrapped up in an action-adventure survivalist thriller.

I told her thanks but no thanks, confident my writing would conquer the world even if I was to do it all on my own. I had readers, right? People loved my books! I didn’t need some agent telling me how to write. I didn’t need anybody. Hah!

It didn’t work out that way. Pride goeth before a fall, right? None of my books that have since followed DOMINATUS have done as well. THE IRISH COWBOY has been the most consistent. It seems to always have a smaller yet continual audience of readers pushing it along. Same goes with my SAN JUAN ISLANDS MYSTERY series which started out winning a Kindle Scout campaign and then being published via Kindle Press – an Amazon imprint. (GREAT people to work with by the way.)

Ah, but then came the fourth in the series, ROSARIO’S REVENGE. Kindle Press decided to pass on that one last month. They were gentle when describing their reasons for declining, which I appreciated. Basically it came down to their uncertainty over how they would successfully promote the fourth edition of a series that had not yet turned into a stronger seller. The series has done OK but in this case, OK wasn’t good enough for them to invest more into it, leaving me to publish it as an indie title.

This is a business and they made a business decision. As frustrating for me professionally, I understand it. That’s how it goes. We’re in this to make money – publishers included.

I wonder, though, how things might have turned out if I had taken that initial agent up on her offer and churned out books she thought to be more market appropriate? Perhaps I wouldn’t be sweating so much over having two kids in college at the same time. Or spending fewer hours at my desk and more living life?

Who knows. It was a fork in the road. I said “fork it” and went my own way.

And so here I am. Don’t ask me where because I really don’t know.

I’m still writing. I’m still breathing. Those two things have become almost the same – one nearly as important to me as the other.

SAVAGE now waits to find its way to you, the reader. I’m trying to figure out how best to do that to ensure you get to enjoy a good story and I manage to get paid enough to keep these lights on.

Bukowski famously said to go out and find the thing you love the most and let it kill you.

As a younger man I didn’t really understand what he meant by that.

I do now.

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All of D.W. Ulsterman’s novels are available for purchase in e-book and paperback: HERE

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