The great thing about being an independent author is that you really can write what you want and still have it published. Prior to the electronic reading revolution, you could still write whatever you wanted, but if you wanted it published, you’d better hope that what you wanted to write was whatever the publishing houses were looking for. The trouble now is that you can write what you want and publish it, but that doesn’t mean that anyone will read it.
Visibility is the new gatekeeper.
The days of indie authors riding to making a living on the back of free books is over. Authors who entered the game after 2012 can’t expect to join those who made it big when the market was new. We have to write because we enjoy it, not because we hope to earn a buck. It’s always been that way in all the arts, of course, but when some make it look easy to make money—and then make more by selling books about how easy it is—expectations rise and disappointments follow in their wake.
I almost gave up writing—and a lot of authors will be in the coming year because it’s getting harder to make the living they were making last year—but Prunella Smith wouldn’t let me. She woke me at 3 a.m., filled my head with images and my heart with passion and dragged me to the computer to write. The pieces I wrote became a book, and what an unusual book it is.
At first I refused, said I wasn’t going to waste all that time on something that I’d be lucky to sell a hundred copies of at 35c. (Writing is really not worth the time if you’re counting the minutes.) But when Prunella made it clear that she wasn’t going to let me sleep unless I put fingers to keys, I decided to treat it as a hobby. People spend money on their hobbies and don’t expect to get their money back.
Yes, if you’re an indie author, you’re running a business, and yes, like all businesses, you can’t keep running at a loss for ever—but if it’s a hobby, it doesn’t matter, so long as you have the income to cover it. If you happen to make some money out of it, that’s a bonus. That’s the attitude that allows me to keep publishing; Prunella is the force that keeps me writing.
I didn’t try to write World Within Worlds.
It just happened.
That’s the best kind of writing.
Worlds Within Worlds is unlike anything else. No single genre can describe it. It’s unique because it came from my heart. It’s about issues that concern me and experiences that move me. But how do you sell a metaphysical, psychological, transrealist thriller/ romance/ magical realism/ fantasy/ Buddhist fiction/ women’s fiction? I’ve sold about 10 copies of Worlds so far. I could get depressed about that, but I’m not, because I’ve found my voice, and as Richard Bunning said in his review, it’s one of the most innovative and original works I have read in a long time.
You don’t make up innovative and original works. They come to you when you aren’t trying. When you’re writing from your heart, not when you’re trying to write something you think people will want to read.
People do want to read it. They just don’t know it yet. They don’t know to look for this kind of book because they don’t know such a thing exists. It’s too new. Eventually, they will know though, and they’ll want to read more. Worlds Within Worlds is only the start, and I have enough faith in Prunella that I’m happy to let it languish undiscovered. Its time will come, and when it does, I’ll have more to offer those readers who decide that they really like what I write. I’ll have more than one Prunella Smith book out, and who knows what else.
If we’re to survive as independent authors, we have to be unique, because eventually that’s what people will be looking for. And unique is you and me, being ourselves, because no one else is quite like us. Write what you want and write it from your heart. Any other kind of writing is a waste of time.
Do you write from your heart? Can you tell a book that’s been written that way?
Buy Prunella Smith: Worlds Within Worlds at your local Kindle store now.