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  1. Rachel2018

    Rachel2018 New Member

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    When is it time to quit?

    Discussion in 'By the Genre' started by Rachel2018, Sep 17, 2018.

    I've been writing for over 25 years. I used to love it. I switched to self-publishing a few years ago, and it was the thing I'd been waiting for all my life.

    Until it wasn't.

    The problem is that my writing just is not good enough. I've written close to 40 books, only 12 have been published. I've taken classes, gone to conferences, hired editors and coaches and teachers. But as soon as I drop more money on learning and improve my next book, I get more bad reviews. Even my beta readers, who give me amazing critique, which I always take to heart and use to improve, have never given me over a four star review. My books struggle to stay higher than 4 on Amazon and 3 on GR.

    I feel like I'm floundering. I don't know what I'm doing wrong. When I asked my betas, they said, "Nothing! We love your work." A half dozen editors and writing coaches have said the same.

    I write romance, which I know isn't literary. And yet, romance books can still earn five star reviews. Their authors are great. Readers rave about them.

    Not me.

    So, when do I cut my losses and stop chasing after something I'll never get?
     
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  2. Dracon

    Dracon Contributor Contributor

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    Well, what can I say? It's not really a question that I or anyone else can answer for you. Only you can.

    Many writers will carry on regardless. Many will hang up their gloves, so to speak. Depends on how much they actually enjoy it.
     
  3. Iain Sparrow

    Iain Sparrow Banned Contributor

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    Then it's high time you break the spell.
    You might try changing genres, say, Historical Fiction? Perhaps you've yet to find the story you're meant to write.
     
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  4. peachalulu

    peachalulu Member Reviewer Contributor

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    You do have to decide whether you're writing for yourself or that five star review. Also romances can be tricky. I love reading romances but there's only a handful I'd give a five star review to. If I'm anything like a typical reader it's hard to wow us because we've read so many of them -- it might not be you. It might be the jaded reader. Also what's the criticism on your stories like -- is there anything they're mentioning that could be improved on?
     
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  5. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    You say that 12 have been published. All self publishing or some traditionally published?

    40 books in 25 years strikes me as pretty fast. Is it possible that there's too much productivity and not enough polishing? You say that you improve your "next book"--maybe it would be better to fight longer on the current book?

    On the other hand, maybe something about your style doesn't quite click with romance readers. Have you ever tried another genre?
     
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  6. Rachel2018

    Rachel2018 New Member

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    Sorry, mistyped! 35 years. Not all of them were completed, but close. The 12 were about 60/40 traditional/self.

    I've tried historical fiction. The reviews were better, but one of the reasons I went indie was so I could focus on more niche fiction, the stories I wanted to tell. I understand romance readers might not like that. I don't fault that, but I'd hoped at some point the quality of the writing might stand on its own. I'm tired of reading cookie cutter novels, and that's what my own early ones were.
     
  7. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Benevolent Ochlocrat Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I don't want to sound harsh, but for a lot of people, 8-ish traditionally published books with a four-star rating would be a pretty decent track record. I'm not a regular reader of either historical fiction or romance, but it sounds like your dilemma is either writing "cookie cutter" stuff that people like (4 stars isn't bad) or going out on a limb, which isn't what the market is interested in. There have been authors with two lines of books, one to pay the bills, and the other to stretch their mental legs on. Perhaps you need to accept that sort of path?
     
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  8. DeeDee

    DeeDee Contributor Contributor

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    There's a difference between writing, publishing and making a living off writing. Writing can be a fun hobby. There are lots of places to display your work on the internet and most people get positive response that way, make friends etc. There are also ways to see your work in print and give it away to friends and family, and also get lost of positive response. In my town somebody just leaves their self-published books in a cafe, for free, so there's that, too. It's nice and I'm sure the author is happy with it. Making a living off your writing is a completely different beast, though. It's a bit like going to the Olympics (to compete). It requires lots of sweat and effort. If you want to be in the Olympics, there's no quitting :D.
     
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  9. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Yeah, I kind of missed that, even though I asked about traditional publishing. That's a pretty large level of accomplishment.
     
  10. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Welcome to the forum, @Rachel2018 ! Nice to have another new person on board who is an experienced writer AND has been published as well.

    Hmm. Not having seen any of your work it's not easy to judge. But what I'm reading between the lines in your original post and the subsequent additions is that you're not writing what you actually want to write, but instead you've been writing to please a particular market. Nothing wrong with that, of course, and many authors establish a solid writing reputation writing 'to order' to please a particular market. And that's fine if the stories you are creating are what you would like to read yourself.

    However, in your case, it sounds as if they aren't really. So despite the fact that you have proved you can turn out a story to order (and 12 published books isn't bad at all, especially if some of them have been traditionally published), what might be missing is your core enjoyment of these stories.

    I was also intrigued by @ChickenFreak 's observation about the speed at which you're turning out these stories. I do see you amended the number, but the principle might bear looking at. That kind of speed (more than one novel per year) might signal a lack of immersion in the stories on your part. And it also might mean, as she says, that they might benefit from a more measured editing process. Have you just been tooting through and correcting SPAG errors? Or have you taken time to think about the way the story is being told and getting PLENTY of feedback? I'm not saying you haven't, by the way. I'm just wondering if maybe this is something you should consider.

    You say you get 'bad' reviews. Leaving out the trolls, what do these 'bad' reviews say about your books? Do they give you any clues as to what they think is bad? Do they have a point? The reviews don't all say they love your stuff—otherwise they wouldn't be bad reviews. I'd be honest about what the negatives are. Is there an over-riding negative that comes up frequently? That might point you in a direction that could improve your writing.

    It's also true that the more 'niche' you get, the fewer readers you're likely to have. So if that's your goal, you'll need to accept that your readership is likely to fall a bit. That doesn't mean your stories aren't good. But 'niche' is exactly that. It appeals strongly to a small group of people.

    It must be discouraging to write so much and get what you feel is inadequate sales and readership. I suspect the best thing you can do for yourself is to sit down honestly and figure out why. Is it simply poor marketing on the part of the publishers? Is it something else? Are you writing stuff that isn't fashionable? Or stuff that was fashionable a while back but is now no longer in fashion? Do your stories leave a strong impact on your readers, or are they pleasurable but forgettable?

    And also ask yourself what you REALLY want to accomplish. Many people would consider what you have accomplished very worthwhile, but it's obviously not quite what you want. My own feeling is that you have proven you can sell your writing. But are you writing stuff that satisfies you? If not, I'd say go for it. Write the story YOU want to write. Get it as perfect as you can get it. And then self publish it if you can't find a niche publisher to suit. And see how that makes you feel. And good luck! :)
     
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2018
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  11. 123456789

    123456789 Contributor Contributor

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    Right now I'd be happy if I could get one traditionally published book.
     
  12. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Thinking... Supporter Contributor

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    From the way I understand it, to make a living at writing e-pubbing, you
    have to have a ton of content that you can produce in short order. It does
    not mean that everything that a given author produces is going to be any
    good, but that they produce en-mass. Casting a net in that fashion will
    spread you around a bit more than someone who spends longer between
    books, so in a way it is like the youtube model of success. the more often
    you put out something the better your work will perform.

    I am not one that reads Romance or Historical Literary Fiction, but they
    are just not targeted at people like me. However, Romance is probably the
    largest of the genres hubs, due to it having the largest amount of content
    to sift through. Not only are you contending with Trad-Rom, but you also
    have M/M Rom, W/W Rom, and possibly some of the other more odd sub
    genres that were born from inspiration from places like Rule 34 and places
    like that. Niche writing means you can charge more when the reader pool
    shrinks the more niche you get, but like it has been stated there are less
    readers the less accessible it is to a more general audience.

    Write what you would want to read if you feel you have stagnated in some way or
    another. Hence why most people write what is popular, and hits every plot point
    and beat, cause they are safe and familiar, and people don't mind reading the same
    story with different characters and setting. Which makes it a pain in the ass to find
    something that isn't a clone of what 50 other indy authors have already written.
    There are those that write for themselves, and their are those that write for money,
    and to hit that sweet spot in the middle is pretty damn hard.
     
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  13. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

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    I write Romance, and from my perspective 4 star Amazon/3 star Goodreads as an average over 12 books is pretty darn good. You're obviously able to produce consistently good work that not only are people purchasing and reading, but that readers are taking the time to leave reviews for. It seems like you've achieved a level of success that many writers would find satisfactory, so I guess my questions are:
    1. What do you personally define as success?
    2. What authors do you know of who have achieved that success, and can you discern a difference between their books and yours?
    I feel like @BayView would have a lot to add to this thread, so I'm throwing up the Bay Signal.
     
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2018
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  14. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I don't know that I have much to offer but sympathy.

    And, I guess, a question - you talk about chasing after something you'll never get. Is it crystal clear to you what that is? Critical success, superstardom, financial stability...? How realistic is your goal? If it doesn't currently feel realistic, is there any way to reset it to something more reachable?

    On a related note, I like that advice that our goals should always be something we can control ourselves. There are a lot of aspects of publishing that are either chance or are based on forces beyond our control, and these are probably bad areas in which to set goals. So instead of saying "I'm going to sell ten thousand copies" maybe say "I'm going to write a story with a really interesting, original POV" or whatever. I don't mean to suggest that a unique POV is a goal you should be shooting for, just using it as an example of something that's within your control and therefore less likely to be frustrating.
     
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  15. Edward M. Grant

    Edward M. Grant Contributor Contributor

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    That's one way of doing it, but not essential. There was a long discussion about this on another writing forum a couple of weeks back, and some people make a living by putting out a book a month, while others manage with three or four books a year (I don't think anyone who said they lived off their self-published writing income was publishing much slower than that).

    Ultimately, it's all about finding something you like to write which readers enjoy reading, then going for it. Throwing out a crappy book no-one wants to read every month won't achieve much more than putting out a decent book every couple of years.

    The hard part, if you write niche books, is finding the readers in that niche and getting your book in front of them so they'll buy it and tell their friends to buy it. Romance is a huge market, but niche romance maybe not so much.

    Actually, if you're getting poor reviews and you don't think there's anything wrong with the writing, that may just mean that you're getting the wrong readers for your book, and need to try harder to ensure the right readers find it. If, say the reader wants a happy ending and you give them an ambivalent one, they won't rate it highly even though the book would please readers who don't need happy endings.

    Another thing to remember is that there's no reason for an ebook to ever go out-of-print. So even if you publish a book today and it doesn't sell well, that doesn't mean it won't sell in five years when a lot of readers have discovered your later books and love them and want to read everything else you ever wrote. It's not just the fast publication that lets those people make a living from writing, but the big backlist that brings in a lot of sales from new fans.
     
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2018
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  16. exweedfarmer

    exweedfarmer Contributor Contributor

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    Maybe it's just time to branch out. Try some sci-fi or fantasy. Get out of your comfort zone. You're already accomplished. What have you got to lose?
     
  17. Spirit of seasons

    Spirit of seasons Active Member

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    I recently reread the first page of my WIP and I can confidently say it isn’t as bad as I thought it was. It’s almost good.

    If your writing has heart and soul the rest will surly sort itself out. I finished reading a 500 page novel cover to cover in less than four days. I read the first page and I couldn’t put it down. The writing was so bueatiful and the characters jumped to life in my mind. So don’t sell yourself short.

    Take a break if you must, but don’t quit. I’ve learned that writing is as much as you put into it. Don’t expect to win an award unless you put in thousands of painstaking hours.
     
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  18. badgerjelly

    badgerjelly Contributor Contributor

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    Maybe it’s the business side of things which is lacking? Assuming your writing is good enough, which it appears to be from what you’ve said.

    It doesn’t matter if you can write stuff that appeals if no one is promoting your work to the highest degee they can - if so try and do more in the marketing side of things or just write for fun rather than pushing too hard.
     
  19. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    I don't know any writer who doesn't quit or threaten to quit (and mean it at the time) on a regular basis. It's a hard industry. The highs of any success never last long enough. If you have to quit, go ahead, but come back to it because you're obviously doing something right to have so many books out. I don't know much about self-publishing, but maybe go back to traditional publishing since selling a novel itself has got to feel good. I know that's a harder path, but you've done it before, and then maybe you don't have to worry so much about other things.

    I haven't sold a novel, but I did sell a short story to a really great publication. Someone I used to know got in touch with me to give me his bad review of my story and I believe he posted something similar on his blog. But I was like whatever because I published. People who know more than he does said my story was good and paid me well for it. His bad review wasn't even all that well written. Maybe I should have written him back a review of his review. LOL. I'm not going to lie. It did hurt a little that what I saw as success and the biggest deal in my writing life wasn't a universal reaction. The truth is I don't know how most people reacted to my story once it was published. But I do know how these key editors reacted to it. And I do know they know the industry. You have to really trust yourself and your work to put it out there via self-publishing. You've probably still got contacts in the biz. Why not show them your next novel? See if they want it. I mean after you quit and then not quit. I quit and unquiet all the time. If you need time off, take it. Call it a quit even. Just know you can always come back. Just wait, the blank page will call for you again, and there will be a time when it feels like there's something you just have to write.
     
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  20. 33percent

    33percent Active Member

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    Just be very proud you accomplished by getting 12 books published. You have to be positive and only focus on the positive. Having negative thoughts or having doubt is cancer, like a death eater that devours any happiness. It does become demotivating after awhile. There has been books that became popular only shortly after the author passed away. Your books, stories will live on beyond your lifetime. I wouldn't focus on the ones who give negative reviews just only on the ones who enjoy reading your book. If Romance is not making the cut, have you tried something different?

    Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” - Einstein

    I am still working on my novel and haven't even got passed getting it to an agent yet. Well, mainly because my grammar isn't the greatest. Technically, I've been writing on it for 7 years only my 1st rough draft is now my 2nd book. I just took the 1st act and extended it into it's own book(currently the one I am working on now). I am still looking for beta readers for mine to give me constructive criticism. Most of my friends, barley have time to read and just make up excuses why they haven't read it.

    I've taken a short break mainly because I have too many irons in the fire. I'm doing college full times, working, studying to pass RE test, acting in a play, getting contractors to fix my house. Hell, I've been sleeping on an air mattress for a year. Just bought a bed for myself after having no carpet for a year and half.
     
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  21. Nariac

    Nariac Contributor Contributor

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    You've been writing for 35 years? That's pretty impressive for a 33 year old. :D
     
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  22. Glen Barrington

    Glen Barrington Active Member

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    Maybe I'm too new a writer, but, why are 4 stars a bad thing?
     
  23. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    OK, now I am befuddled.

    @Rachel2018 , I understand that people don't necessarily tell their profile the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, but it's hard to answer your question without being confident of some details.

    If you're 33 and have written 40 books in adulthood, that's a rate of production that would make it unlikely that you've done much polishing--it would be about four months per book. At that rate, I'm extremely surprised that you've ever been traditionally published, and gotten as many as four stars. Sure, some people can write at blinding speed, but that's REALLY blinding speed.

    Can you clarify just how long you usually spend writing each book? And also why you're dissatisfied with four stars?
     
  24. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Benevolent Ochlocrat Staff Supporter Contributor

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    My personal opinion is that it's a matter of a kind of grade inflation. People get the impression that if a product (book or whatever) has less than five stars, there's something "wrong" with it. The problem with this mentality is that it puts, oh, Storm Front by Jim Butcher (Dresden Files Book 1), which I just finished and enjoyed quite a bit, on the same level (5 stars) as Moby Dick and The Mars Trilogy, both of which I've read more than a dozen times each and go back to regularly to find new things that I've missed. Storm Front was good, and I'll probably remember most of it in a year or two, but it's not among the best books I've ever read, thus shouldn't IMHO get five stars.
     
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  25. Edward M. Grant

    Edward M. Grant Contributor Contributor

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    Because many promo sites refuse writers whose books average less than four stars. Even though many accepted classics of those genres don't have ratings that high.
     

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