As an author, the most fragile, stupidly fragile thing you have is your confidence. That might sound ridiculous, but us independents don’t have much of a cheering section. I read an article about a trad-published woman who made approximately 3000 dollars per year for her books. Per year. Can you live off 3000 per year? I can’t. I can barely live off 2500 a month.
In this game, you have to run on your willpower. Which is why when things get bad, they can go bad really quick. And they can go bad hard.
Story time. Last year I engaged a service to find reviewers for honest reviews of my YA Superhero book Super Nobody. Choosy Bookworm would find me X reviewers, no guarantee of 5 stars (meh, I thought, we’ll be fine… as long as they’re YA fans, people who like Harry Potter or comic books, no problemo) when I provided them with a copy of the book.
Well, the first person to review the book gave it a single star, and meh, whatever, right? I can handle that. Some people find the book boring. Except here’s the thing: that woman had a review history on Amazon of erotica. Pure erotica reviews for at least ten solid books before another appeared with a different genre.
Emails sent to Choosy Bookworm received a form response.
Subsequent one to three star reviews left me feeling hopeless. Was my book really that horrid? I mean, there’s a video of a gym full of excited kids ready to meet me on a Google Hangout.
Long story short, the reasons don’t actually matter. Why these people gave me bad reviews is either down to taste, or bad days, or feeling some kind of malicious glee for slashing my book, maybe they read a single chapter and said ‘meh, not for me’ or they didn’t bother reading it and went to look at several reviews, then copied what they saw there. Doesn’t matter.
The repercussions were staggering though. I was really left wondering what is it about me, or my ability to tell a story? Am I a shitty writer? Is my book really such unintelligible garbage that it ranks worse than some of the junk out there? And worst: Should I just quit this?
It was precisely this time that I was forced to let my editor go. Since it’s possible to find out who this person is by searching just briefly, I won’t go into details. Suffice it to say he didn’t swindle me, or punch my sister in the face, or suddenly become a greedy dick. Again, the causes don’t matter as much as the effects.
Here I was on the cusp of Am I a complete an utter hack? when my confidence once again took a gut punch from someone who I thought had a different view of my work.
And it has been really hard to recover. To be honest, I haven’t, really. The impetus to go online and plug my books has completely died since last summer, and hasn’t returned. Since I don’t have money enough to pay a pro editor, I’m left to look for people who are willing to accept what money I can wrangle from the couch cushions and the bottom of the washer. The responses from these people has been overwhelmingly disheartening. I’ve got one series that hasn’t ended because a trusted friend has been too busy to finish the job. Other people have promised and never delivered.
And every time, it’s difficult not to think Oh crap, I’m shit, I’m garbage. It gets harder to sit down and pound on the keyboard to find the ending. My confidence is a frail ice crystal sculpture in the midst of the Sahara, and depending on my mood, I alone have the power to pour on the AC, or even fan it a little to keep it from disappearing into the atmosphere.
Yet here’s the thing: I’ve also gotten positive responses from third parties who have no vested interest in my continued happy feels. Both UnCommon Bodies and UnCommon Origins accepted my short work. Long before this, several actual magazines did likewise, with my poetry and short work.
You, if you’re a writer, need the confidence. You need a person with unlimited good cheer, whether that person’s a family member, a very patient and loving significant other, a best friend, or an overly expressive chihuahua maybe.
Good luck and happy writing.