Tuesday, March 4, 2014

If I Stopped Publishing, Would Anybody Notice?

Warning. I'm feeling sorry for myself.

Just got my royalty report for January from my main romance publisher. Yup, the total went down again. For the sixth month in a row. This is despite the fact that I had new releases in July, August, November and December.

And I have to say, I am starting to wonder why I bother. I mean, I love writing. I love interacting with my readers. I love blogging, too - the sense that I have a way to communicate with people around the globe.

I love giving things away.  ;^)

But I'm not sure I can afford to spend my time and my money on this any more. With what I spend on web hosting, advertising, and so on, my writing business is edging closer to being a true money-losing proposition. My husband drops frequent, not-so-subtle hints about how I could be devoting myself to more remunerative undertakings, as well as pointing out how stressed out I get sometimes about all the writing and marketing tasks to which I'm committed. He'd never tell me to stop writing, but I don't think he'd mind it all if I tapered off.

The depressing thing is, I suspect that if I simply disappeared from the world of publishing, it would make a difference to - oh - maybe a dozen people.

Am I angling for you readers to jump in and say, "Oh, don't feel bad, Lisabet! I love your writing. Don't stop! I'd miss you!"

Well, I wouldn't mind. I'd appreciate your support. That wouldn't do anything about my royalties, though, which offer hard-to-ignore evidence that very few readers really do love my writing.

Sigh. I know the revealed wisdom is that one shouldn't post negative stuff on one's blog.  Heck, though. It's my blog. If I can't vent here, then where?

And it could hardly make my sales worse, could it?

Don't worry. I'll probably feel better tomorrow. When I page through my notebook and see all the story ideas I have stacked up there, I wonder, how could I possibly stop?

Crazy, aren't I?


Annabeth Leong said...

Well, I *would* miss you, so please don't stop.

I've got no great answers, but there is something going around. I was telling someone last night that it's hard to deal with what can feel like getting kicked at every turn -- making it through rejections, making it through humbling edits, making it through lots of thankless work, making it through reviews written by people who don't seem to get what one was trying to do, knowing you didn't sell that much, finding out you sold even less than you thought you did, then having to watch for mistakes in statements and feeling pathetic for begging for corrections for minor dollar amounts, all while trying to do it again on other projects for which a bit of hope is still somehow required. Of course there are good moments, but it's not the way the brain works to focus on them.

My reaction recently has been to be tired of rules and preaching. I think all the rules and conventions flying around are an effort to control what can't be controlled. So, yeah, go ahead and be negative on your blog. I'll be off not reading someone's writing advice. :)

And seriously, when did we all become so brand-focused or whatever that we're censoring ourselves in how we write, whether in our stories or on our blogs? And make no mistake, I do it, too. There's a reason I haven't posted on my own blog in a while. It's hard to come up with stuff I'm willing to say, or topics that aren't too political, or don't break the "rules" in some way.

Just now, I was trying to break a block by writing a little something for myself, and I know the thing I was playing with breaks plenty of the common "rules." (For one thing, it involves acknowledging that one doesn't magically become sexual at age 18, which feels like the biggest rule of all to break, despite what an important period of exploration adolescence was for me). I don't know.

I'm sorry for the stress and all that stuff. You've been wonderful to me, and I hope you do what's best for you.

Roger said...

I'm going to be the one to point out, _you_ would be the one to notice, ultimately the most important person.

Keep going until it makes no sense to keep going.

Colleen C. said...

I would notice... I am sorry about your decline in sales and being blue... I have been enjoying your books for years... Positive thoughts... hoping things look better for you!

H K Carlton said...

Roger makes an excellent point. Is it in you to quit? It's not about the fame or the piddly earnings. I think your writing is just as much a part of you as breathing. It is an extension of you and your sexuality. You enjoy it. It is stimulating and exciting to know that you have touched readers in a certain way. Sharing with your readers that part of yourself, a glimpse of things that some of us can't even fathom but wish we had the courage to explore. Teaching some of us about a whole other world of discovery, that we have no idea about, but can take a peek through you. It makes us realize things about ourselves too. And I don't mean to put more pressure on you when you're feeling discouraged. But it wouldn't just be readers and fans that would miss you, of which I am both. There would be a noticeable emptiness for our little author community as well. For the ones who look up to you. Like Annabeth, you have also been wonderful to me and helped me in many ways and not just where writing is concerned. You’ve advised and guided me and told me the blunt honest truth, when I didn’t see it on my own. And right off hand, I can name several of my colleagues who also admire and respect you. I’m not sure that you know, how valued you are in this little society. And when you use your blog like this to share your doubts, and we can see that you are struggling too, I think it makes the rest of us, who are having the same insecurities, realize we are not the only one. We kind of hold you up here; ‘The Lisabet Sarai’. I think we forget that behind all those book covers and publications that there is a person behind them. You are a storyteller and a true teacher, Lisabet in so many ways. I know for myself, I never thought publishing my stories was a possibility. And now they get out there, and that’s great, but as you say, the reward is practically non-existent if we are referring to the monetary component, but I'm not sure that now that I have this outlet; that I could go back to just shoving my stories into a drawer again. It gives me the freedom to be the me that I am supposed to be even if no one else is ever the wiser. Even when I have to go out in the real world and pretend to be someone else, I know what I’ve accomplished, and as Roger said, ultimately that’s the most important. And I think that’s you too. I am a happier person for it, even if only one or two people read my stories. And for those one or two; to reach out and say that one of my stories has touched them, or one of my characters has stayed with them in some way, it thrills me in a way that royalties don’t. You have touched people. I thank you again for all you’ve done for so many of us, readers and authors alike. I wish you clarity, and many more stories for you to share with us, and blessings always.

Cheyenne Blue said...

Let me add my voice here. I would miss you too. I would miss your stories, your blog (which is one I automatically read every time you post), your insightful reviews on Goodreads, your comments, your truthfulness. But as H.K. says above, I would also miss The Lisabet Sarai, cornerstone of the erotica world.

Whether you continue writing is, of course, ultimately up to you, and whether you are getting enough out of it to continue. I don't just mean money here, although when self-worth seems so inextricably tied to money in today's society, it can be hard to look past that. But if you're getting pleasure and satisfaction from the act of writing, or receiving comments on your blog or reviews as well as the check, then maybe you'll continue.

Maybe dropping the marketing and the have-to-do tasks would give you back some pleasure? And it may not make any difference to your royalty checks... Who knows? Not me. Or writing something just for you... (Hey.... an anthology of Unsellable Erotica.... those stories with sad endings, too crossed genres, or slightly-underage characters... LOL I'd be in that. I have whole folders full of stories rejected because they don't meet the guidelines).

Selfishly, I hope you continue writing, continue your presence here in the erotica community. I've followed you for many years (although you probably don't know it because although I've been writing erotica for 14 years now, my presence on the net, in the community has been so low key as to be almost non-existent. That was my choice then, although I'm wading in a little deeper now).

However, much as I hope you will stay and keep writing your stories that touch me, amaze me, arouse me, make me think, stay with me, and always, ALWAYS make me appreciate the fine writing, if you walk away, then I will know it's your choice and I will hope that somewhere Lisabet Sarai is weaving her magic in other ways and that it is making her happy.

With so many virtual hugs you should feel quite squashed!
Cheyenne Blue

Lisabet Sarai said...

Thank you, Annabeth. I felt better after "venting" here, though I then started to think, "Hey, it's all ego. Let it go."

We live in such a public, brand-focused world that's it's hard not to always been thinking about maintaining that mask, the personna that everyone sees. And I see the connection with your comments at the Grip last week, talking about that book panning "positive thinking".

In fact I do believe that we make our own realities, and that expecting the best will generally result in better outcomes. However, that doesn't mean ignoring all negative feelings. You have to acknowledge them in order to work through them.

Lisabet Sarai said...

You're right, Roger. I've been writing ever since I learned how to form the letters. I'm unlikely to stop.

Lisabet Sarai said...

Thank you, Colleen! I know you were one of the first people to join my mailing list, and I really appreciate your loyalty.

Now, do you have 500 friends with similar tastes...? ;^)

Lisabet Sarai said...

Heather, your comment made me cry. In fact, when I reread it, I'm getting all teary again. I'm so happy to have made a positive impact on you and your writing, and anyone else that I can help. Ultimately that means a lot more than huge royalties.

Thank you.

Lisabet Sarai said...

Thanks so much, Cheyenne.

Actually, I've admired your writing for a long time, too, long before I started corresponding with you personally. I remember reading a story by you, a LONG time ago, in some antho (my memory these days is terrible), about a sexual encounter in a freezing cold car (now please don't tell me that wasn't you LOL!) and thinking, "Wow! This shows amazing talent."

Lisabet Sarai said...

As an ironic postscript: I just got a long email from my romance publisher telling me what they'd like me to change about my most recent submission, a novel I wrote to their specs, for a special imprint. I haven't decided yet how I want to respond.

I think that I'm not really a romance author.

Cheyenne Blue said...

Nothing wrong with your memory. That does indeed sound like my "So Cold the Night" a story from a long time back that would be unlikely to find a home now because of it's ending! They froze to death...

And thank you. Very much.

Jen Cross said...

Hi Lisabet! I just want to say how grateful I am that you shared this with us publicly. As a writer and solopreneur, I often feel pressure to be always and ever positive about my work/business when I'm posting on social media or my blog -- after all, every single thing we share is like an advertisement, right? So I can convince myself that it's my job to be relentlessly enthusiastic -- even (or especially) when things are not going well at all. I am always appreciative when folks in this work show their authentic experience -- what's going well, what's challenging, what's improving, what's getting more difficult. If we don't tell one another how this process really goes (i.e., that there are ups and downs for us as writers!), I think we set one another up to feel shame or self-blame when we're struggling and it looks like everyone else is having a fine time of it, all the time.

So, in addition to what others have said, I want to thank you for sharing your real experience, and trusting your readers and fans to hold your truth with you.


Fiona McGier said...

Hey Lisabeth, does your husband know MY husband? Because they're acting very similarly! Maybe they have a support group? "Husbands of wives who write erotic romance but sell very little so we must support them because we love them, but we'd like them to put their prodigious energies and talents into something that could help us pay the bills?" They share beers and horror stories. I'm sure they'd have a huge group!

Keep on writing. It's all we can do. It's the only part of my "working life" that couldn't be done by a trained monkey. And it's all mine.

Lisabet Sarai said...

Glad to know my memory isn't totally shot! I think that might be the first thing I ever read by you.

I have a story where the protagonists all die, too. It's a sci fi riff on Romeo and Juliet. Got rejected everywhere! Though it finally found a home in a Coming Together volume. (It's actually an excellent story.)

Lisabet Sarai said...

Thanks, Jen.

I don't want to seem like I'm whining. But sometimes, one has to vent!

I know that many authors are struggling. You're not alone.

Lisabet Sarai said...

Hi, Fiona,

My husband has a lot of respect for my writing. (Unfortunately he has zero interest in BDSM or homoerotic fiction, so he'll pass on quite a few of my books.)

I love my real life job too. But I need the writing for balance.

I don't make any money at it either said...

Keep it up.

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