I’m a fan of Lindsey Stirling, and one of the songs (Where Do We Go?) from her recent album BRAVE ENOUGH expresses something I’ve recently learned the hard way. Especially this line: “Where do we go? When our prayers are answered, but the answer is no?”
When I began writing seriously — only five years ago, although it feels longer — I wrote an adult science fiction novel. I finished that novel and its sequel, and even queried a bit, although my efforts went nowhere. But that was okay. I was learning, and I can see now why it didn’t work out. (For one thing I couldn’t write a decent query letter back then to save my life).
So I decided to try something different and wrote a Young Adult fantasy novel, which became CROWN OF ICE.
This book DID get me an agent and a book deal (with a smallish publisher, but still a deal). So I thought — okay, here we go. I had several ideas for other YA books. One, a scifi — FACSIMILE — was also published. Eventually my publisher asked for CROWN to become a trilogy, so I wrote SCEPTER OF FIRE and planned out the third book, ORB OF LIGHT.
But… Things happened and my publisher and I parted ways. (Long story, not going into that). So I thought: Well, I have these two completed books, CROWN and SCEPTER, so maybe I should self-publish them. I mean, there they were, ready to go, so why not? I didn’t expect mega-sales, but I thought they might do okay. You know, make me a little extra pocket change each month. But more importantly, I thought — at least people will be able to read them. Because, above all, I just wanted a lot more people to read them.
I revamped the books (some revision, as well as new covers, edits, & formatting) and did some work on promo and such and released the books via an author co-op this spring.
And… They have not sold well. They’ve barely sold at all. Despite having great co-op support, beautiful covers, good editing & formatting, etc.
Now you could chalk this up to my ineptitude with marketing, and perhaps that is partially to blame. But I have also recently (re)studied the market and have come to the conclusion that it is NOT just my lack of advertising — which frankly, I can’t afford to do to the extent necessary at this point, time-wise as well as money-wise, but I digress.
No, there is another reason. A reason that has nothing to do with the quality of the books, but does have to do with their themes, plots, style, etc.
The truth is — my fantasy books are simply NOT what most readers want right now.
That does NOT mean the readers are wrong. They have every right to want what they want. But it does mean that I must acknowledge something that is very hard to accept:
The answer is NO.
Yes, I have moved on from this — switching to a new penname and genre quite successfully. And maybe my new genre is where I should have been all along.
But, despite that new adventure, it’s painful to realize that my fantasy (and scifi) books — which I still love — are not going to be read by many people, or have any impact, or matter to anyone, anywhere, much at all. It’s hard to give up on those books, even though I don’t really have time now to do anything else. Maybe I will come back to them someday. I don’t know. All I know is — for now I must mourn them and move on. I can’t keep beating my head on that wall; not if I want to achieve anything in other writing endeavors.
So, for now, the answer is no. I must respect that and realize that the world owes me nothing. Publishing owes me nothing. Readers owe me nothing. I must accept the no in this area, and pursue different goals instead.
So, other authors — if you feel lost, stuck, depressed, or anything similar in relation to your writing, it’s perfectly okay to feel that way. It’s also okay to keep fighting to get your current books out there. But — it’s also okay if you feel it’s time to step away from all the “no’s” and experiment with new age groups, genres, styles, or whatever. Maybe it’s time to shut out the voices that call you a “quitter” and tell you “if you just try harder” or “if you just do this…” Perhaps it’s time to give yourself a new beginning and see where that leads.
Change can make great things happen. It’s happened to me. And though I’ll always be a little sad about the fate of my SFF books, I know I need to appreciate the lessons I’ve learned from them and move on.
Bottom line: sometimes the answer is NO. Life isn’t “fair” and we can’t always “fix it.” But if we are honest with ourselves, maybe we can find a new path. Maybe the one that leads, eventually, to where we fit, to where we should be. To YES.