Monday, January 13, 2014

Am I a Failure?

The Negative Writer I mentioned a few blog posts ago struck again with a snotty remark. The unnamed website's host had posted a story about Another Writer who'd turned down an auctioned trad deal to indie publish her book. Another Writer had a very successful launch and was kind enough to share her numbers and experiences.

FYI - Another Writer spent approximately $2000 in production costs and brought in nearly ten times that in revenue her first month. (I love seeing an indie do well!)

So of course, Negative Writer made an nasty comment to the effect that no one ever hears about the indie failures.

Well, first of all, very few humans want to admit they fucked up. At least, no one I know will. Heck, even most dogs I know tuck their tail between their legs and hide when they screw up.

But I think there's a deeper question here: what constitutes failure as an indie writer?

According to Negative Writer, anything less than a comfortable six-figure income is failure. (But then, this is the same person who thinks ALL readers owe that comfortable living to Negative Writer.) So by Negative Writer's standards, I am a failure.

Am I really? Should I curl up in bed, sob uncontrollably, and refuse to shower because I sold zero books yesterday?

Yep, zero. Nada. Zilch.


Even worse, I brought in less than $5000 for the entirety of 2013! That's below the poverty level! I should just give up!

Maybe I should stop using so many exclamation points instead.

Instead, I'm looking at what I can do better.

Take the Bloodlines series for example.

The stories themselves are good. I especially enjoy the reviews that start with, "I thought I would hate this, but I LOVE it..."

However, the window dressing needs help. DH and I did the best we could on covers with a friend's help, but frankly, they need a serious upgrade. DH and I had a long talk about my publishing business. He's the one who said I needed to start farming out some of the work in order to spend more time writing.

I'm searching for a digital fantasy artist. I have a few names, but I can't do anything until this summer. (Real life expenses have a way of intruding.) I've also have a proofreader, a e-book formatter and a print formatter in mind. What I hope to do is relaunch the entire series when the last three books are published at the beginning of 2015.

In the meantime, I can't do a half-assed release of the Justice series. Not when the short story concerning the main character was in a trad-published anthology. So I'll be putting the cover artist to work right away.

So am I a failure for not doing perfect covers the first time? Am I a failure for not putting out a print edition right away?

No, I did the best I could with the tools I had at the time. I learned a lot from simply trying. I have better tools now. More knowledge. The next time around will be much better.

To me, a failure is someone who doesn't want to improve. Who quits. Who would rather wallow and blame everyone else for their misfortune than figure out what needs to be fixed.

I can't afford mentally to do any of that. Why? Because I means I've wasted the last ten years of my life trying to learn this damn business. Because I don't want to give up using my imagination. Because I like getting e-mails and comments asking, "When's the next book coming out?"

If I give up on writing now, I will climb into my bed and refuse to get out. I've been there before. It isn't pretty. And if all it takes is getting some outside help with cover art, then by [deity of your choice], I'll do it.

Am I or anyone else who took the chance of putting their stories out for public consumption a failure?


It takes a lot of guts to expose yourself in this way. Maybe we don't make a zillion dollars. Maybe we don't have a zillion fans. Maybe that was never the intent of some of us to begin with.

Every writer does this for different reasons. Some want fame, fortune or some other form of validation. Some of us simply want to be read.

You're reading this right now. All the way to the end. Which means no, I'm not a failure. Thanks for taking the trip with me.


  1. You are not even CLOSE to a failure.

    Tim does monthly reports showing how much or little he makes each session. To us, it's always interesting to write and read the breakdowns of projects.

  2. Failure, or success, is all about perspective, Whisk. I think that's why I feel a little sorry for Negative Writer. I don't want to be one of those people reliant on a specific type of external validation, or external validation at all.

    But if we are going to use external measurements, I've made a lot more money in the last couple of years than a lot of folks who told me I was stupid for indie publishing while they signed their oh-so-coveted trade publishing deals. *snicker*

  3. Sounds to me like Negative Writer is one of those people who feels a need to cut other people down to make him/herself feel better. That's pretty pathetic IMO. One might call it loser behavior. [smirk]


    1. 'Loser behavior' is a good term for it, Angie. As I said before, it's sad that this person doesn't realize how they're hurting themselves in the long run through their pettiness.