My Ridiculous Writing Career
I’m procrastinating from writing, and a bit strung up on caffeine, so I though I’d write another blog post instead! I’ve always wanted this blog to be about the act of writing and self-publishing, as well as about the results. I’m hoping this can help me stay focused on my goals, and perhaps inspire some other novice writer.
I started writing erotica because of a post by Delilah Fawkes on the Something Awful forums, back in January of 2012. I love to read, and I’d always had the idea in the back of my head that someday I’d write a novel, but its been too intimidating to try and bust out a 300K word epic from scratch! So when I saw that people could write short stories, and make money(!), I was all for it.
My first few stories just flew out, and I published them on-line, and waited for the money to roll in. Because it would! Obviously! At this point, I know everyone’s chuckling at my naivety. But then the weirdest thing happened…
It actually worked.
For some reason that I’ve been completely unable to replicate, my very first short story took off like a rocket. It climbed Amazon’s erotica charts, all the way into the top 20! And it stayed on the charts for over six weeks, while crazy sales figures poured in. Thousands and thousands of dollars, for just a few hours worth of work, with barely any editing and published with the ugliest cover imaginable.
It was bizarre, ridiculous… and amazing!
Unsurprisingly, this went straight to my head. I was delirious with joy. My day job started to seem like a hobby, and I daydreamed about quitting. With the money I was pulling in, I could afford to stay home and write full time. But I had to wait a few months to get paid, so I didn’t quit (fortunately for me!). I was so excited that I spent every spare moment writing more stories, and publishing them as fast as I could. Two stories a week, sometimes!
But as the time went by, I noticed a disturbing pattern.
None of the new stories made any money. At least, not compared to that first one and its sequels. And to my growing dismay, my best-seller was slowly losing ground! As the year went on, it got worse and worse. Every single month, I made less money than the month before. And nothing I did seemed to have any effect on my sales. Not publishing. Not not publishing.
That lack of control was incredibly depressing. I felt like my early success had been a fluke, just a random event. (It probably was!) Worse, I felt that any future success would be likewise by chance. Writing the stories began to feel like buying lottery tickets… if buying a lottery ticket took up to 20 hours each. It seemed pointless.
So I lost my motivation. I barely wrote for months, maybe publishing a story every six weeks or so. After declining for an abysmal nine months straight, my sales finally flat-lined at less than 10% of the giddy heights I’d reached. And they just hung there. For almost a year now! Luckily for me, I still had my day job!
It’s weird, how early success can derail you. Everyone warns people not to give up from failure, that confidence and ability comes with practice. But when an early, raw effort receives more attention than the later, more polished works, it’s hard to believe that. The sales from that first story have cast everything else into the shade, despite all my efforts.
Even now, almost two years into my writing career (if I can call it that), and with 39 published titles, I’m making fewer sales than I did in February of 2012, with just 12. And that’s sad.
So! Why didn’t I just quit? I’ll be honest, the thought has crossed my mind more than a few times. I’ve made myself a promise, though. I’m going to publish at least 50 titles, before I make any decisions. Because I know that I’m becoming a better writer with each story, and I’m sure that eventually I’ll be able to turn this losing streak around!
Because even though that early, poisoned success has long since faded away, people are still buying my books. Maybe not as quickly or as many, but still. People are reading what I write! That’s pretty cool.
And I’m making money! Not a whole lot, not enough to even tempt me to quit my day job anymore, but… yeah. I’m a published author. That’s really damn cool.
Even if I can’t tell my family what I write!