Retrospective

2022 was the year I decided to stop teaching and focus on writing. Financially, it was a stupid decision. Now that the year’s over, I have compiled some statistics.

My short story anthology, Dreams & Dragons, was published in the spring (by an actual publisher). Despite advertising and a plug from a fairly well-known author, it sold only 47 copies. My total income for months of hard work was about fifty dollars.

My Amazon royalties for my memoir and my creative writing curriculum produced a similar underwhelming result.

My literature guide to Jane Eyre, which came out in the fall, apparently sold no copies at all, despite being put out by a popular curriculum publisher. Again, months of hard work led to zero income. Zero.

I submitted queries to four agents. One resulted in a rejection, and the rest never responded at all.

I wrote a new novel in 2022, the third in my middle-grade Sky Gypsies series. It came in at 51,348 words, although that will no doubt change with revisions.

Over on my main daily blog, I wrote an average of 10,327 words per month, for a total of 123,029 for the year. Despite having over a thousand subscribers, this has not translated into any interest in my fiction or memoir or curriculum. So, from a business standpoint, blogging is pointless. I do it anyway, though, because I process things by writing about them, and because the habit of recording my life has become so ingrained that I just keep doing it. And it is a way to preserve memories that would otherwise certainly be lost.

But that leaves me with an obvious question: given such incontrovertible evidence of my failures as a writer, what should I do? Here are the choices as I see them:

—I can do nothing differently. Just keep writing novels that no one will ever read or appreciate, and maybe make fifty or a hundred dollars a year (at most) from what I’ve already got out there. Almost everything I’ve written will then just die when I do.

—I can quit writing and focus on being better at something else. HA! Just kidding. I can’t actually quit writing. It appears to be essential to me as a person.

—I can do what many of my writing acquaintances do. I can self-publish my books, then spend much of my free time selling them at local craft fairs and other community events. This would boost my income to several hundred dollars a year—maybe.

—I can focus on preparing more curriculum for publication, and make more of an effort to get the word out about it. I have TONS of curriculum that I wrote myself during the years I spent teaching. But considering the curriculum I wrote that was put out by a respected publisher didn’t sell any copies at all, this seems like a huge waste of effort.

—I can step up my submitting game, spend the time doing research and submitting to targeted agents at the rate of at least a couple a month, in the hopes that at some point my persistence will pay off, while still working on new material. I know there are many successful authors who were rejected over a hundred times before finally finding an agent and/or publisher who loved their work. I don’t feel I can refuse to keep submitting until I’ve racked up at least a hundred rejections. But at the same time, it’s a soul-destroying process for sure.

Therefore, I’m giving myself a time limit. I will go all out on submitting this year, and then, when 2024 rolls around, I will re-evaluate. Perhaps I will revisit the idea of self publishing. The reality is, I can’t be happy selling a handful of copies of my books. I do actually need to make money. The reduction in our income (after my husband quit his second job) has created some strain for sure. I will be looking more seriously into online employment while I continue to submit queries. Right now, 2023 seems very intimidating.

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Rejected

I sent in a query on Monday of this week, and it was rejected on Thursday (yesterday). In the publishing world, that is lightning speed. Sure, it’s discouraging—but this is the first response of any kind I’ve gotten this year. At least I know they read it and decided it wasn’t for them.

And this is good in the sense that it doesn’t leave me hanging, like my other submissions this year. I don’t have to allot any mental bandwidth to wondering if I’m ever going to hear from them. Instead, I can channel my energies into picking another agent to query and going through with it.

I’m trying to adopt the attitude that each rejection brings me one step closer to the person who’s going to love my stories and want to see them in print. Because I do believe that person exists.