Some of you will know me as the Author of the tremendously commercially unsuccessful Little Whippendon series of books. I use the phrase ‘tremendously commercially unsuccessful’ for two reasons. Firstly, it is true. If selling books had a direct link to me being able to buy food, I would have died a long time ago. Secondly, because it is the topic of this blog.
As a self published author, I have been through the standard process of digging around the internet, reading people’s recipes for success and guidance on how to make a book that sells by the bucket load. I have read it, digested it, and chosen to completely ignore it. This is not arrogance on my part, I assure you. I’m not labouring under the misapprehension that these people are wrong, and that my unorthodox approach is the way from rags to riches. I know it isn’t.
The reason I am ignoring it, is because I don’t care. Let’s look at the Little Whippendon Series as a case in point. It spawned from a short story which went haywire and currently has three parts.
Morning of the Waking Dead – c. 12,000 words
The Vampire Strikes back – c. 40,000 words
The Good, the Bad and the Werewolf – c. 36,000 words
Based on the ‘everyone knows that’ wisdom which is bandied about, you need an 80,000 – 120,000 word book to sell it to a publisher for an advance. They are looking for saleable material. So why didn’t I write one big book? It would have been the same number of words total. The same amount of work, roughly.
Because I don’t plan on sending my work to a publisher. Certainly not at the moment. I don’t plan on making a living wage from writing. I don’t think that is a realistic aspiration for most, and I also think that it takes away from the main reason I write. Granted this is a completely personal opinion, but one that I see mentioned all to rarely in the self publishing context.
I write because I love it.
I write the stories that come into my head. I write them the way I want to, the length I want them and with all the bad jokes I want in them. I work a normal job, like many authors, and for me, my time writing is my time spend exploring my passion.
If you want to sell enough books to make a living, then you should definitely follow the numerous advice blogs and articles online. If you want to write a gripping crime thriller or a titillating mummy-porn epic, you’ll almost certainly sell more than I do. Write the right thing, at the right length, and write it well. Send it to some publishers or agents and you might get a nibble. Failing that, self publishing and fill the Twittershpere with constant self promotional tweets about your great work. It seems to work for many, but for me, there is another reason for writing.
I know that there are now a handful (almost literally) of people who are excited about the next instalment of Little Whippendon. People I have never met, more to the point. People who downloaded Morning of The Waking Dead on a whim. Probably solely because it was free.
Selling a handful of books isn’t going to put food on the table, but knowing that somewhere around the world, five mouths are smiling because of something I wrote fills me with joy. The fact that five chuckles might get stifled on a bus somewhere for the sake of public decency or that five winces might be witnessed in a coffee show because of a particularly bizarre description of a character’s nocturnal habits makes me happy beyond words.
So, if you ask me why I bother, there are five reasons. And who knows, maybe after the next book, there will be six.