For the Narcissist Lover in You…

Archive for December, 2011

The Tyranny of High Expectations

Suffice it to say, my previous post (The Rest of the JP Story) got an amazing number of responses.  Most were positive, a few were thoughtfully critical, and at least one was persistently mean and idiotic.  I’ll admit I was pretty surprised by the wave of controversy I unwittingly caused.  There was even a blog about it, which was pretty even-minded although the author did seem to basically conclude that I was a naive rube to have high expectations for my self published books.

I do tend to have high expectations.  I tend to think I can accomplish anything.  A lot of times I am right.  Sometimes I am wrong.  But still, I stubbornly believe that it’s better to keep trying than just to get bitter and fatalistic.

Although bitter and fatalistic looks pretty tempting sometimes.

Thing is, I don’t really regret making that post.  I did alter it a bit, taking out the specific ultimatums, but the essential idea is just basic economics.  I thought the readers deserved to know the situation.  I don’t want anyone to buy my works just to pay for more JP stories.  I want them to buy my works because they will enjoy them.  But it is an inevitable result that the sales of one will lead to more of the other.

There are no guarantees in that statement, but there are no threats either.

For their part, the haters may be right.  It may be that my latest book will never sell in the numbers I have hoped for.  As such, they have (with a strange, mean glee) proclaimed that I have thus departed from the JP story forever.  I took all my toys and went home.  Nyah.

But I didn’t.  Nothing has changed, dear reader.  I may still write more JP stories, even though the sales of my published works haven’t made me independently wealthy.  After all, I didn’t write the first three for anything other than the love of the story.  Soon enough, my kids are going to be demanding to know what happens next in the James Potter world.  Soon enough, I myself will may start missing that world enough to get back into it.

That’s not a guarantee, though.  I am caught on the fence, you see.  As the above blog post makes clear, any fanfic writer who is serious about getting fer-real published has to totally abandon his/her fanfic, to the extent of scouring it from the internet.  I don’t want to do that.  I love the JP stories, even if there never is another one.  And yet I do want to be a success with my original books.  As usual, I want it all.  And as usual, that’s probably impossible.

In short, maintaining the JP stories is important to me– I am proud of them.  I won’t abandon them.  And by doing so, I am apparently killing my chances of success as a writer, since JP readers mostly just want more JP stories, and the publishing industry will dismiss me as long as I am a writer of JP stories.  It’s the classic Catch 22.

My last post was an attempt to explain this predicament in a way that might help my readers understand the situation.

The bottom line, methinks, (as far as most of you are concerned) is this:  the news about the death of the James Potter Series has been greatly exaggerated.  I am disappointed that Ruins of Camelot was not an enormous success out of the gates, but all that this means is that I cannot start a new JP book immediately.  The Day Job calls, and I must dutifully comply.  Fortunately, the Day Job is not so bad.  But it is time consuming.  I may get to more JP, but it won’t be for awhile.  At least not until my kids’ pestering for what happens next becomes unbearable.

For now, onward and upward.  I am working on a new iPhone game and I am really excited about it.  It looks great so far (if I do say do myself, and why should I stop now?) and I have hopes that it will sell at least as well as Dream:scape did.  And who am I kidding?  I actually hope it blows D:S out of the water and becomes a major hit.

See?  I can’t help it.  High expectations are what drive me.  So sue me.  (:

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The Rest of the JP Story

So, unless you have just  stumbled upon this page by accident while searching for goulash recipes, you are aware that I got my writing start by authoring fan fiction.  Specifically, it all began with a series about a certain boy wizard, James Potter, son of the ultra-famous Harry.  The three James Potter books have been read worldwide by more people than I could count.  It’s been a delightful ride, and I, for one, want more.  There are four more books to go in the series, and I have them nominally planned out.  I know all the secrets.  I know the three words that James scribbled on the parchment after his dream of Petra and Albus in the graveyard.  I know that we haven’t (quite) seen the last of some people we thought were lost forever.  I know whether Petra and Izzy have been permanently tainted by their actions beneath the Wishing Tree.  I know what happens in the last paragraph of the last book.

And if I may be so bold, it’s all pretty good stuff.

So.  The problem is simply this: as happy as I am to make more free James Potter stories, (and as eager as my readers are to encourage them) those stories cost me a lot to produce.  They take a tremendous amount of time and effort to write, and it occurs to me that it might be considered foolish (if not completely daft) to continue writing free JP stories when I could be writing original stories that I can actually sell.  After all, as much as I love writing purely for the sake of the story, story doesn’t pay ye olde bills.

Although I do have a few other financial ventures in the works...

Thus, I formulated a plan.  I would alternate writing one original (sellable) novel for every free James Potter story.  Ideally, the one would fund the production of the other.  Seems fair, yes?  After all, I have avoided just asking for donations outright (I hate the very idea, actually).  I have even, for the sake of the purity of the story, avoided putting ads on the websites, despite the revenue they would surely generate.  In short, I never wished to abuse the loyalty and faithfulness of the readers by turning the stories into a crass money-making venture.

But I have no problem selling my original stories to them.  After all, they are hard work, and the reader gets something for their 2.99– they get a new story, and the chance to support the free stories they have already enjoyed.  Seems like a win-win, yes?

The problem is that my readers have gotten rather used to free.  They aren’t particularly eager to throw money at any new stories.  This might be because the new tales don’t have the word “Potter” in the title.  It might also be because a lot of my readers are young and simply don’t have credit cards or income.  But it might also be because they just don’t want to pay for what they will eventually (hopefully) get for free.

Thus, when my newest original book, “Ruins of Camelot”, came out, I knew the sales wouldn’t be huge.  I hoped for just enough income from the book to push it up the amazon charts, earn some new readers via that exposure, and make enough cashola to justify the months it would take to write the next James Potter story.

Suffice it to say, that hasn’t happened.

Wait a minute, I thought this was that new Dean Koontz cookbook...

In fact, thus far (if you don’t mind me putting it bluntly) the sales of “Ruins of Camelot” have not been enough to pay the web hosting fee for http://www.jamespotterseries.com.  As of this writing, RoC has sold 51 total copies, most of them to my immediate family and friends.

This, as you may imagine, puts me in a tough position.  My readers want more James Potter stories– and I want to write them– but I simply cannot, at this point, justify the time and expense of it.

But I have come up with what seems to me to be an elegant and simple fix.  The solution, I think, is to make my problem your problem as well.  We both want the same things, yes?  Perfect.  Here it is:

I will write more James Potter bookwhen the sales of “Ruins of Camelot” and any other writing ventures allows me the financial freedom to do so.  EDIT: I want to be sure to mention that I am not intending to blackmail you, the readers, into buying RoC simply to ensure more JP stories.  I want you to buy RoC because it is a GOOD STORY.  It is of the same quality and depth (perhaps more so) as the JP books.  By getting your copy, you not only get a great new story, you support me as an author.  That support frees me up to write more stories, some free fan fiction, some more sellable books.  Either way, I hope you understand that I am mostly just pointing out a practical reality: book sales equal more books, including more James Potter sequels.

Truly, I do apologize if that sounds crass.  If it angers you, please feel free to bid me and my stories adieu with no harm done.  If, on the other hand, you appreciate the effort involved in the creation of these books and understand the need to balance my passion for the story with my need to take care of my people, then I thank you grandly for your consideration and support.

For those who don’t have the means to buy “Ruins of Camelot” or any of my other published works, there are equally valuable ways that you can show your support.  My favorite is this: go to your public library and request “Ruins of Camelot”.  it’s free to you, gets the book onto the shelves, and encourages new readers, all of which helps me immensely.  Another way is simply to spread the word about the stories.  If you read “Ruins of Camelot” and enjoy it, tell people about it.  There is almost nothing in the universe as powerful as word-of-mouth recommendations.  Finally, if you did read the book, you can leave reviews for it on goodreads.com and wherever you purchased it from.  Reviews are a hugely powerful way to encourage new readers.

Bribery works too.

Thanks a million for reading this, and for offering all of your encouragement and support.  If you are one of the fifty or so marvelous people who have already bought “Ruins of Camelot”, you have my undying gratitude.  Words can be very encouraging, but there is nothing as inspiring to a writer as when a reader chooses to invest their hard-earned coin in their story.  If you plan to suggest RoC to your library, or tell your friends about, thanks very much as well.  This is how independent publishing will succeed– with the help if each individual reader.

With your support and encouragement, the James Potter story will go on.  I will keep you all updated on the progress to our goal.  Whenever you are curious, simply ask and I will give a report (within reason– let’s keep it on a weekly basis or so, agreed?)  And whenever you see anyone asking when or if there will be another JP book, post a link to this blog post.  Spread the word and encourage your fellow readers to do the same.

Thanks much, and as always: onward and upward.

Oh, and just in case you are still wondering, here’s the best goulash recipe I know.