As a new year approaches, I find myself in a familiar position: Reflecting on the past year, I have to ask myself, “Am I gonna continue this insanity for another year? Or am I gonna find some new insanity to commit myself to?”
As I reflect, though, I must look back further than just the past year. I have to consider the first year I tried to sell my novels, which did very well as ebooks during my first year thanks to the support of the enthusiastic members of the MobileRead forum. I have to consider the support of people like David Rothman and Paul Biba, formerly of TeleRead, who arranged for me to attend the Tools for Change conference in New York City. I have to consider the support of my wife, who went to the trouble of framing an article in the New York Times that mentioned me—that opened with me, in point of fact—in discussing ebook formats, a subject I was helping to guide in the industry. And I have to consider the fact that my work caught the attention of Rob Robertson of Arupt Entertainment, who has asked me to collaborate on numerous projects for television.
There have been any number of fellow authors, most of whom have stridently urged me to continue with my writing and sales efforts. There have been readers of my novels who have similarly encouraged me to continue writing and entertaining them and others.
And there is the existence of movies like Interstellar, and television shows like Orphan Black and Person of Interest, that demonstrate that interest in serious science fiction hasn’t been completely lost.
On the flip side—I have to consider a publishing industry that still has a tight rein on book promotion, controlling the major outlets, using their influence to guide bestseller lists, generate glowing reviews, place books on award lists and, in so doing, shutting out independent authors from widespread notice. I have to consider public forums that have rebelled against public or targeted promotion (unless it directly pays them a dividend), and that shun artists who make even the smallest attempt to promote their own works. I have to consider how few venues will allow me to promote myself, or that demand more money than I’d ever hope to make for a tiny ad space no one would ever see.
I have to consider promises not kept: Paid promotional materials that somehow never made it into the hands of customers; stories sent to be included in anthologies that were subsequently not published; venues that promised sales through exposure, which never materialized; customers that, while saying they enjoyed my work, nonetheless didn’t share that enjoyment with others (or perhaps they gave their friends free copies of my books, which, for me, amounts to the same thing).
I have to consider a much stronger market for flashy fantasy franchises like Game of Thrones and Star Wars, or dystopia fiction like The Hunger Games. I have to consider a majority of the public that seems to have similarly lost interest in scientific development, either treating all science as akin to magic, or identifying it as the ultimate destroyer of the world.
And I have to consider a public that believes that anything that can be handled on the internet should by definition be free; that those who create things that can be handled on the internet should have no presumption of deserving pay for their products, least of all from those who peruse their content.
All of these things weigh heavily on my mind; in fact, they are usually there for most of the year, not just a few days before January first. These thoughts have essentially kept me from writing a new novel in the last two years, or planning my next one. They have left me pondering better uses of my time and different outlets for my energies. They have left me second-, third- and fourth-guessing myself, my work, my dedication and desire, my worthiness and my self-value, on a daily basis.
They have left me wondering why I put myself through this, year after year, and whether it will ever pay off and earn me a chance of making an income in my later years… or just leave me a bitter old man with a wasted past and an empty future.
As it so happens, I’ve already committed myself to a few promotional efforts for 2015; I won’t just automatically switch off all the lights on December 31st and go home. But the success of those efforts may dictate how many of those lights I leave on in 2015… if I will redouble my efforts afterward… or if the lights will all be off by summer.
Can’t wait for the 31st… I will be so ready for a drink. Or four.