On Doing “Something Great”

Last post for a while, as I’m off to Berlin this week 🙂 BTW most of my novels will be back in iTunes, Google Play etc. over the next few days!

So I haven’t written anything in months now, since the release of Strength in Numbers. It’s the longest I’ve gone in the 3.5 years I’ve been Brad Vance. Some of that is because I’ve been putting a lot of energy into my audiobooks, but some of it is simply burnout – not with writing, but with publishing. Yeah, the constant marketing and promotion, but also the overall Decline and Fall of the Selfpub Empire.

We all know how bruising it’s been this year, seeing scammers make off with the lions’ share of the KU pot while Amazon shrugs and says, well, we’ll fix it for next time, but as far as all the money the criminals already took out of your pockets? You’re SOL, sorry. Rather than guarding our frontiers against barbarians, we spent all our money on Religious Police to make sure there’s no “about what you’d expect” offensive content or a millimeter’s worth of peen or titty on an ebook cover!

And while pirating has always been a problem, plagiarism is now at an all time high, with “authors” modifying other people’s books just enough to avoid plagiarism detection software. Only eagle-eyed voracious readers, cruising all the new releases, have been able to call out the thieves.

I’m tired. Every author knows that every novel is an exhausting (but exhilarating) war against the blank page. But…you can win. You can fuckin’ conquer that shit.

The problem is that sometimes it can feel like a Pyrrhic victory – you write the greatest book in the history of everything ever, and then you not only have to confront public indifference, a given over all of history, but a thoroughly stacked deck and gamed system that drains the coffers of even successful authors.

And I’ll admit. I’ve suffered from magical thinking and rescue fantasies in which my books become insanely huge best sellers. Even though every single encounter with the best seller list is practically shouting at me that I’m not writing the books that become IHBS. That I can’t make people who like those books like my books. That I can’t replace that giant set of readers with some magical vast untapped audience who’s just been waiting for me if only they knew I existed.

So in a way, I’m resigning from the job of being a professional writer, for now. I’m resigning from the dream I’ve had for a lifetime of doing this for a living, full time, for now.

To make a full time living, writing romance, I would have to be…someone else, basically. Someone who, if not really into sales and marketing, is someone who’s good at it and is willing to devote vast tracts of time to it. Honestly, while I love the total control of self publishing from the creative standpoint, I hate the 100% responsibility for making the end product move off the shelves.

If I could get a contract with a big publishing house right now today, I’d take it. But that’s Catch-22 – you can no longer get a BPH contract without some marketing “hook,” a sexy author pic or a giant Twitter following, or if your book is the ten thousandth ripoff of Gone Girl published this year. (And also, probably not a gay novel.)

And certainly, if I want to be a successful MM romance writer, someone who will write what the market wants most, it’s got to be Colton and Cody and Cord and Cassidy all spouting gawdawful dialogue and never ever ever talking about or doing anything other than either being together in their relationship or talking to their friends about their relationship and having sexy jobs about which we never hear another thing never mind see them working at in any believable way because that would involve the author doing more than cadging half a page from Wikipedia or more often just making up a bunch of shit in which you make Damascus Steel swords by just banging on hot iron long enough and besides it’ll get them bad reviews if we see them actually doing their jobs because every second the MCs aren’t together on the page loses them a star on the customer reviews.

And I ain’t gonna do that, so there you have it.

And that rant right there tells me that if I’m not in the wrong line of work, I’m definitely in the wrong line of business. I don’t belong in Romance if I can’t succeed, if seeing some really unspeakably crappy books that treat bipolar or PTSD with not even enough respect to do at least as much research as you used to see on a Lifetime “disease of the week” movie, fills me with incoherent rage when I see reviews that say “I learned so much about bipolar disease!” from a book that clearly has jack shit that’s real about being bipolar (says the Bipolar II diagnosed author)…

I need out. I need to walk away from that shit. I can’t fix it! I can’t slap that author around and say, you are doing a major disservice to mental health awareness but you don’t care because that would be too much work for you! You know, courage to wisdom what you can’t change or whatever.

I love you. My fans. Who have read all this! Who have read all my books! Who are so supportive and listen to all my shit and rage and accept me. When I started doing this job, everyone said, You Have To Manage Your Brand Identity, you have to be upbeat and inoffensive and “so excited!” about everything, and I tried that. I tried sounding like a fucking brochure, written by committee, vetted by the marketing and legal departments.

That was the worst, the very worst. It made me sick. If I couldn’t be me, what was the point? And you – you wouldn’t be my fans, because I wouldn’t be the guy you like. I’d be just another author posting FB statuses no more controversial than “Flowers are Nice!” I wouldn’t be writing the books you love.

And you’re gonna see closure, at worst. You’re gonna see the end of the Marc and Jesse trilogy. You’re gonna see a final Colum story, and a final Rob the Daemon story. I’m not leaving anything hanging. And once I have a stable income, once I’m not making creative decisions based on market outcomes, who knows? Do I want to do another Werewolves book, a whole fuck-the-market sequel made entirely out of backstory a la what Anne Rice did with The Vampire Lestat, set in the Gilded Age? O hell ya. Do I want to write a sort-of-sequel to A Little Too Broken based on what I’ve read about soldiers with PTSD working with parrots? O hell ya.

But…I also need to think about other lines of business. I wrote one fuckin’ hell of a cyberthriller in Strength in Numbers, so good it makes Dan Brown look like my little bitch when it comes to well researched excitement. What might have come of Strength if it wasn’t limited to the MM market? Most cyberthrillers are written by people who are highly technically literate and totally suck at character development. Wait’ll they get a load of me!

So now what?

I’ve had time to think, and I’ve realized that as long as I’m holding onto that old dream, as previously defined, writing will be a semi-joyless exercise. As long as the financial gun is at my head every minute I’m writing, where’s the fun in it?

I want to write. I’ve been writing stories since I could spell. But what I really want…

I want to have fun again. I want to get up from the computer after a blisteringly intense 2500 word session and go FUCK YEAH! I want the endorphins and shit you get from that, what an athlete gets after a fantastic workout.

And I don’t want to have to lose that feeling within minutes, thinking about how the fuck I’m gonna sell this thing, oh my god I gotta hurry and get something out this month, my mouth filling with bile as I think, why is that crappy book selling so many more copies than mine…

I want one of two things:

1, I want to do Something Great and get paid for it, or

2, I want to have enough money that I can do Something Great and not worry about getting paid for it.

#1 is not in the cards right now, obviously. #2, however, is in my control. Thus the decision to look for a job again, something that’s not a dreary 40xCube job doing the kind of work an “intelligent assistant” will be doing in five years or less, writing software user manuals that tell idiots to put their address in the address field and then click next, etc. (“Any job with no autonomy will be automated.” – me)

I mean, that’s fuckin’ some state of affairs, isn’t it – where taking a day job again is a less stressful alternative than trying to hold onto my dream job? Where I’ll have more creative freedom without my whole day at my disposal?

But that’s where we’re at. Still doing audiobooks? Check. Already an income stream, for sure, potentially a lucrative one. Still doing editing? Check. Definitely an income stream.

But as far as writing. I’m on pause. Till my life, my finances, stabilize. Till I can have fun writing again. Maybe I’ll take a break and finally write another Adam Vance book. Something I know won’t sell but that I love love love to write, and for which I’ve never had financial expectations anyway.

Right now I’m really into learning about Ethereum, which is becoming the “successor cryptocurrency” to Bitcoin, and the DAO, a venture capital crowdfund. There’s a part of me that always wants to be learning, and that’s why I love doing research for my books. I’d love to get my head around it all and do what I used to at my old job, when it was fun, which was take complicated shit and make it understandable to a mass audience. (You know, like I did with Bitcoin in Strength!) Maybe do an ebook primer on the basics of this stuff.

(Side note: there are already two ebooks on blockchain and Ethereum that…guess what! Are by the same scammers who did those 10,000 page romance books stuffed with South Beach Diet shit! They even have that exact same nonsense garbage-English disclaimer at the front! And oh yes of course they’re in KU.)

This is not a giant “I quit” letter. But it’s a giant “I’m making changes” letter. I’m off to Berlin for a week in a few days, and damn if I don’t need that – the feeling of just being on another planet, a place where everything is different from everything at home, the feeling of breaking the cycle of every day the same as the last, an opportunity to think about “here” from “there,” to bring a different mindset home with me. So, I’ll see you after that!

9 Comments on On Doing “Something Great”

  1. You aren’t alone. I know that doesn’t help. I wish it did.

  2. Harper Miller // June 4, 2016 at 10:28 am // Reply

    I think the Berlin trip is just what you need Brad. It’ll be a freeing experience. Enjoy yourself and tune out from social media, just be. 😉

    I came into this writing gig in an odd way. I told myself always write the stories YOU want to read Harper, and tell them the way YOU want. Like you, I used to wonder why bad books sell well and you know what? It’s sheer luck. Some people are lucky. Life is funny that way. I have a full-time job and writing is a side thing I find enjoyable. To write full-time sounds great in theory but entirely too freakin’ stressful. I’m glad you’re making tough decisions and finding your way to what fills you with joy. A break isn’t a bad thing. You’re an incredible writer and don’t you ever forget it.

    • Thank you 🙂 it is too stressful, especially when you can’t even earn an honest living for all the scammers…

  3. This both disappoints and excites me. It disappoints me for purely selfish reasons…..I love your books and your writing! You’re one of the few author’s whose books rarely, if at all, have typos, in fact I can’t think of one that I’ve found any in. The research and factual information in your writing is incredible and I’ve learned so much. While your books fall under the m/m romance category I almost feel like that’s a side perk. You don’t write fluff nor do you make me, as a reader, feel like you’re talking down to me because you’ve researched your subjects so thoroughly and I haven’t a clue when I start the book what (say Bitcoin as an example) is. Marc and Jesse are favorites of mine. I may have started reading your books because of the genre but have continued with them because of your writing.

    My excitement comes from a place that makes me happy to see you taking care of yourself. Trying to be happy and creative in stressful situations is almost impossible. I may not know you personally but I like to think Facebook shows me a little bit of what you’re about and how you are. Your cats can’t be the only things that keep you going and isolating with only them as company simply isn’t helpful. If a job serves as an outlet to get you out of your house and interacting with live people and not only cyber ones it’s a positive thing. Even if you feel like it will again be soul sucking. Sorry if that sounds like I’m trying to play therapist.

    Your insight on mental illness and how some authors write bi-polar is absolutely true. Bi-polar 1, clinical depression, adult ADHD and a recovering addict of 18 years unfortunately make me a bit of an expert on these subjects. So general nutcase with a hell of a past makes me a cynical reader when I see these topics in blurbs. And because of these issues I NEED to read the books and judge them….very few come close to reality and factual information. I often wonder when it became ok to write about serious subjects without research. I get fiction but misinformation can be extremely dangerous when doled out like candy with topics of this nature.

    So, to sum my ramblings up, I will miss you but will patiently wait for your return to happy writing. I’m just a huge fan and person who hates to see good people like you suffer.

    • Thank you! I’m not quitting writing, just resetting😊 I’m the same way when it comes to mental illness stories, most of which I probably wouldn’t read otherwise… and yeah it wouldn’t matter, save that readers trust those writers to be giving them thread truth…

  4. Have a great time in Berlin and give yourself time to recharge. I totally understand your attitude toward self-promotion as I ran into the same issue anytime I tried anything that involved selling my own creation. The creative mind is very different from the promotional one and not everyone has both.

    Along with that challenge, I can tell that you’ve been very stressed and discouraged by the self-publishing situation with scammers and an indifferent publisher, i.e., Amazon, and with good reason. You take your writing seriously and have integrity about doing whatever it takes to make it the best it can be. As others have said, your writing is wonderful and a real pleasure to read, and your research is impecable.

    Unfortunately, while having a stable income will reduce your stress level, you will still be faced with the promotional tasks unless you decide to regard your writing as strictly a hobby.and rely on word-of-mouth from your existing fans for any sales. If you do want it to be more than a hobby, then one route might be going with a specialty publisher such as Dreamspinner Press. I haven’t bought any books from other similar publishers, so I can’t say how they compare. Biut I can say that the caliber of writing and editing is far superior to most of what I’ve purchased from Amazon. I get a weekly newsletter from Dreamspinner which lists their new titles and special promotions and as a result I’ve discovered several new favorite authors whose work I follow.

    I have no idea what the finanial arrangementss are with their authors or how much editing they actually do, but they have a large “stable” of authors and recently celebrated their 10th anniversary. Might be worth investigating since you’ve given up on full-time writing and promotion.

    In any case, I wish you the best of luck in finding a job that isn’t too soul sucking and leaves you with the energy to do what you enjoy and do best, which is to write. I continue to look forward to anything your creatibe mind can produce.

    • Thank you, yeah I am prepared to write as a hobby. If I’m going to surrender any creative control to a publisher, it’s gonna be for a whole lot of money!

  5. That’s “creative!” Dang, there’s always at least one that gets by. :/

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