About four months ago, I finished up at a day job to see what I can make of a full year of writing full time. I’m keeping track of things during these blogs. Previous installments are racked up here.
I feel like I’m in that trash compactor in Star Wars. Everything is about The Flesh Market at the moment, and I feel like the rest of the world is just folding in on itself, with me stuck in the middle. It’s just over a week until I set the novel loose, and as usual I’d forgotten quite how nervy I get at this point.
The lingering worry that circles Ouroboros-like in my head isn’t tied to whether the book is good or not (I’m reasonably sure it is, or I wouldn’t be publishing it), or whether people will like it. On that point, I’m certain a lot of people will like it a great deal, and also prepared for the inevitable fact that other people just won’t. The worry serpent eats its own tail when I wonder how anybody will ever find out about it. I think every author goes through that, before a book is released, but it might be a little more intense for those who are publishing independently. There’s nobody else actually invested in the book, no sense of shared risk and anticipation. There’s just me and the book, and the world folding in. I hope that on launch day the walls will stop, and the world will open up again. The inevitable fear though is that they won’t. The book will launch, nobody will ever hear about it, and I’ll somehow be crushed down to a point where I vanish altogether.
There’s really not much I can do about that feeling, and not much that can be said to make it go away until Monday 17th, when I anticipate getting some perspective back. It’s not a very healthy thing to obsess over. There are hundreds of books published every day, by traditional publishers, independent presses, and individuals, and The Flesh Market will be just one tiny part of all that noise. Why is anybody even going to know it exists? The paranoia isn’t groundless, but it is fruitless.
There are some things I can do. Mostly, it’s legwork. This week I’ve been contacting reviewers. Lots of them. Book reviews don’t always sell books directly, but they help enormously in making people aware that it actually exists (and if you’re a reviewer who hasn’t heard from me, drop me a line using the Contact link at the top of the page). I’ll keep doing that. The return on effort is quite small – I think about 5% of those I’ve written to have got back to me and asked for the book. They won’t all review it. Fair enough. As I say, hundreds of books published every day. It’s an exhausting process though – finding them, trying to work out who they are and whether The Flesh Market is the sort of thing that will grab them, sending a hundred variants of more or less the same email… it’s a bit soul destroying. When somebody does write back, it’s the most tremendous lift, and the only thing that keeps me going.
As I said, I think every author gets a variant of this. After three years with this book, the worst thing that could happen is that it just vanishes. I felt this when I published the last three novels as well, but it’s worse this time thanks to The Freelance Leap. When I published the others there was nothing at stake. As long as they made back the money I invested in them, I was happy enough. Things changed a little when I went freelance. Right now, this is the thing I call my job. If it doesn’t work out, then what am I doing?
It’s allowed not to work out, of course. That’s the point of this year, to see whether I can pull various things together and make something like a living yet, or whether I’m jumping the gun. This one book isn’t even the whole experiment, although I’ve made it a central part of the year. If it bombs, there are other things that could compensate later on.
It’s hard to stay calm and objective about all that when I’m in the middle of it though. I mentioned above that I think perspective will return when the book is launched. When it’s an actual thing that has happened and not just a bit of potential, I’ll be very relieved.
A week and two days, then I can breathe again.
Currently reading (non-fiction): Survival of the Fittest: The Anatomy of Peak performance, Mike Stroud
Currently reading (novel): Carrion Comfort by Dan Simmons
Currently reading (novel): Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett
Currently reading (short stories): Iris: Fifteen, edited by Stuart Douglas
Currently reading (short stories): The Weird, edited by Jeff Vandermeer