Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Writer Reboot—The Search for Sales

80% of families in the US did not buy a single book over the past year.

80%.

If you look up the proliferating infographics available on the internet today, the picture of reading as a pastime isn’t encouraging for authors. Let alone authors of genre fiction. Christian authors of genre fiction? It’s no wonder so many of us are looking at our quarterly royalty checks and laughing in a way that makes the people around us a little uncomfortable.

Is it any wonder, with the statistics,
that bookstores are a dying breed?
It’s all just a matter of numbers. Of the 20% of Americans who bought ANY kind of book last year, how many bought fiction? Not the majority. Of those who bought fiction, how many bought fantasy? Of those who bought fantasy, how many tried something that wasn’t a George R R Martin book? Of that group, how many of them were looking for fantasy, specifically, from a Christian worldview? (Here’s a hint: the overall religious market—fiction and non-fiction—only represents about $2 billion of the $30 billion book sales industry, if my interpretation of Publisher’s Weekly’s financial reporting is to be trusted.)

Suddenly, I begin to see that my expectation of anything better than meager sales is mostly wishful thinking.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m at a bit of a reboot moment with my writing. The Risen Age Archive is in my lap, waiting for me to figure out when, how, even IF I should get it back out to market. The Windrider Saga is on (I hope temporary) hiatus while I make decisions and corrections on Risen Age. (And then it will be Windrider’s turn for the scalpel. Or the sledgehammer. Not sure.)

Writing the stories isn’t enough for me. Call me pedestrian, but I want to sell books. Enough to make some noticeable difference in my family’s bottom line at the end of the quarter. It has become clear to me that if I want to have much of chance of doing this, it’s time to cast a wider net than the CBA crowd.

What this doesn’t mean for me is that I intend to suddenly “scuff up” my stories for some kind of perceived general market palette. Frankly, while my stories contain a religious system, that system has already proven too loose in its interpretation of real-world Christian theology to get a pass with readers who prefer fiction that exhibits a mirror-image biblical worldview. (Which is fine. To each his own. We live in an age where we can choose what we want to read, and that’s awesome.)

Will my stories smell too much like church to secular readers? I have no idea. They haven’t reached that population yet. This broader audience I’m looking for may chew me up and spit me back out on the doorstep of the CBA, for all I know.

What I do know is that I want to keep writing the stories that are rattling around in my imagination, and I want as many people to enjoy them as possible. And that means taking a chance at putting them in front of people who will mock me for my effort and my convictions.

For the sake of the Realm Makers conference, which I intend to keep administrating as long as people want it to happen, I keep looking for that writer who will serve as my connection to the Christians who are writing for the secular market. It’s occurring to me—maybe I’m not supposed to find him or her. Maybe I’m supposed to BE that author.


Because sometimes there’s no way to know if you belong in a place until you go and try to live there.

7 comments:

  1. Have you considered selling prints of your artwork? I noticed the other day that the artist for Christ and Pop Culture was selling one of his prints. I really like fantasy-themed, arts-and-crafts or vaguely gothic-style artwork, and I feel like I'd buy prints if I had my own space. (I don't, so I'm not requesting -- just a thought as another way to try to make money from your IP.)

    I've always wanted to review a Christian fantasy novel for a mainstream review blog/fan site. Though, reviewing and waiting for feedback takes too much out of me -- I guess I never had enough motivation to break into any review blogs.

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    1. The thought of putting artwork up for sale is always out there in the back of my mind--though the stuff I have in my portfolio right now is very specific, so I would need to do some more general work. I would probably have better luck if I worked in color, rather than pencil. Worth considering, though.

      I understand what you mean about the investment of energy it takes to break in with a publication. The reviews you do post here and there have always been deeply thoughtful, and I appreciate them.

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  2. Take heart, my friend. We'll find a way to break in. Who knows, maybe we'll start a reading revolution!

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    1. A reading revolution would be nice, wouldn't it? Since fantasy is pretty much mainstream right now, it would be nice if there were both readers and public sentiment together. Despite my grousing, it is a good time to be a fantasy writer in many ways.

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  3. I read that discouraging statistic, too. Then I read other stats from the indie side (like Hugh Howey's research). Apparently readers who don't go to bookstores to buy books are loading up on ebooks. So that statistic about 80% of people don't read books is deceptive. Series fantasy, especially high fantasy, remains one of the top selling genres. I think you could do well in the general market.

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    1. Thanks for the words of confidence, Kessie! I hope you're right.

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  4. I agree with Kessie. Your books are not so religious that they are likely to invoke the disdain of ordinary secular readers. I think only the most vehement atheists would have a problem with it. I think both Risen Age and Windrider would fit well in the secular market. Go for it!

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