Recently, over on KBoards there has been a discussion going on about finding success as an author in the current market. It’s worthy of discussion. After all, it’s always helpful to share what has worked for you. It’s a big reason why I started this blog, I want to share my experience and I hope you glean something useful from it. But, I had to pause when I read a post from someone on how reading through that thread was depressing them. This was sparked mainly by the heralded success of romance fiction—something they didn’t write—and its perceived market and potential profitably compared to their own genre.
Often authors get sucked into the comparison game—indie authors especially. They look at what others have done to achieve success and the kneejerk reaction is to emulate them. Likewise, they get disheartened when they pour so much of themselves into a work and the market seems to ignore it. It can lead to frustration, depression, and animosity. Instead of telling the stories they want to tell or sticking with their work, they end up chasing promises while trying to placate the desires of the market. It turns the market into a hungry monster. Instead of a place to share and sell work it becomes something else. It slumbers like an evil beast forged in the dark fires of jealousy and thrives on our desire for explosive and immediate success.
“Oh!” It will say in its sultry voice. “You’re writing an epic fantasy? No. No one cares about epic fantasy anymore, we’re all into hard science fiction these days! Didn’t you see the sales numbers for the last bookstore blockbuster? Your numbers are a pittance in comparison! Didn’t you see how Famous McAuthor did their giveaway? You should have done the same! Why didn’t you write a character like that popular one? Yours are boring in comparison!”
As long as you keep feeding it, the thing will never be silent. The mystical market monster cannot be appeased. Even success won’t sate its hunger. It’ll always want something else, it’ll always cause doubt, and it’ll always frustrate. You sold ten thousand books? Well, Famous McAuthor sold one hundred thousand. You sold one hundred thousands? Well they sold a million! On and on it goes. It’s easy to see how it can spiral down for anyone.
Yet… the market monster can be defeated. During interviews I have often been asked what my advice is for new writers. My best advice is to ignore advice. Advice will only get you so far. Everyone’s path to success is different. Keep working hard and keep trying new things. Don’t dwell on what others are doing. Ignorance, in this case, is bliss.
“There are thriving communities still out there that want more! They want to hear your voice…”
Sure, there are always cases of instant success but for the grand majority of people it takes time. Focus on craft. Write your stories. Tell what you need to tell and please, stick to it! It doesn’t matter if someone believes that “dystopian is played out” or “no one cares about steampunk” or “vampire romance doesn’t sell.” There are thriving communities still out there that want more! They want to hear your voice, and if you keep at it, you’ll eventually find them and they’ll eventually discover you.
That’s one of the best things about the internet and our connected culture worldwide. It’s what allows for stories like Homestuck to get told, find an audience, and become runaway successes. (If you haven’t heard about Homestuck, educate yourself.) None of the big publishing houses would have even considered giving the creator—Andrew Hussie—the time of day. He forged his own path and it took years but eventually his story found its audience.
So when it comes to your own creations, I really want to encourage everyone to keep doing what they’re doing. Keep writing. Keep perfecting your craft. Keep making quality products. Ignore everything else. Those three things should be your focus. Chase the stories you want to tell and ignore the market monster. You’ll be a lot happier and it’ll show in your work.
Now, get back to writing.