I’ve been putting off writing this post for the best part of this last year. One reason is that I tend to keep things to myself for the most part, and second because I was embarrassed to admit that despite on the surface coming towards the end of what looked like a good year, if anything this has been possibly the toughest year I’ve had on both a personal and professional level since I started writing. Of course, you don’t have to read it, but its here if you want to! With that out of the way, let’s get to it.
2017 has been the year I almost quit writing.
Not for a while, but for good. Done. Finished.
The reasons for this have been many, all of which I was looking to blame on other situations until I realised they all stemmed from me and how I was trying to run my career. As a result of this (which I will go into in just second) my mental health has also suffered, leading to a big melting pot of self-doubt and negativity culminating just a couple of weeks ago with the decision that I was going to quit because, frankly, I had become utterly miserable in every aspect of my life. Allow me to explain.
As with the independent publishing business as a whole, this year has been tough for most independent authors. Lots of brilliant small presses have sadly folded this last year due to this difficult period, and I myself have been affected by this too. Call it an oversaturated market or changes to various distribution outlets and their policies, but whatever the reason, sales have dropped since 2016.
If I was a hobbyist author this wouldn’t be so bad, but as a full-time writer who relies on my book income to make a living, it has been a much bigger problem. I tried various things, of course, to find a way to get back to the level I was at before. Everything from promotion tools, following the example of other successful authors, and towards the end even burying my head in the sand and convincing myself there was nothing wrong and that things would just ‘pick up’ eventually.
With each passing month, I desperately tried something different, jumping from idea to idea, changing my book covers, obsessing over every detail, checking sales every half hour then fretting when the numbers were low. This led to self-doubt as it seemed everything I tried had little to no effect. As you can imagine, this led me to question if it was possible to sustain writing as a career. This also had an effect on my personal life. I stopped wanting to leave the house, I cancelled several convention appearances all because I felt like a fraud and couldn’t risk facing people for fear they would see straight through me as someone who didn’t deserve to be there. For most of the last year, I have barely left the house, becoming a virtual recluse I gained weight and stopped interacting with anyone outside of my immediate household. I don’t blame anyone for this, incidentally. Everything I am saying is all my fault entirely, I just want to be upfront and honest with you my readers about how the year has gone.
This dark period has also affected those around me which is the thing I am most sorry for. Allowing this self-doubt to grow and spiral out of control has been completely unfair to those around me. And so with this came missed deadlines, missed opportunities with some superb anthologies which I couldn’t raise my game to submit work to as I had already convinced myself it would be no good. My output suffered, slowing to at best a crawl, at its worst, a complete stop. I took every opportunity to do anything but write as I was convinced everything I committed to paper was worthless.
As you can see, I was in a frankly shitty place where I felt I had let everyone in my life down and had made the decision in early December to quit and try to find a way to get myself back on track before it had too drastic an effect on my health.
The saving grace and the reason this didn’t happen is because of my family and my readers.
After spending most of the year pushing on in silence and struggling to control what I felt was a life rapidly spiralling out of control, I sat down and talked to my wife, Vikki (This is a big deal for me as I’m not much of a talker) and explained everything I was feeling. We talked it out and realised that things needed to change but quitting wasn’t the answer. I needed to change the way I do things and break the routine that had (by my own design) led to a life of almost total isolation.
It was pointed out that I have some amazing readers. Nothing picks up the spirits like a review from someone saying they loved a specific book or story, or a message on social media saying the same. Those seem like minor things, but you have no idea how much they have helped me and picked up my spirits during those particularly dark times.
I also talked to other family members, getting everything out in the open and feeling immediately better for it. I never believed that talking about problems helped but I’m glad to have been proven wrong. The support and help I have been given has been truly amazing which is why this is a looking forward to 2018 post and not a goodbye I quit post.
So, what does this mean going forward?
In truth, lots of changes. It’s clear to me that I can no longer sustain my current lifestyle. It is affecting both my mental and physical health. In order to fix this, a healthy diet along with exercise is going into immediate action in order to get myself healthy and shed some of this excess weight I have gained. I will be making a point of getting out of the house and making an effort to overcome my social anxiety and get out into the world rather than watch it passing by.
From a work point of view, this also means massive changes. It seems over the last couple of years I have lost track of my goals. I always wanted to go down the traditional publishing route. However after getting caught up in the self-publishing boom of a few years ago perused that instead. The problem now is, that self-publishing just isn’t bringing me any kind of satisfaction or if I’m being honest (and that is the entire purpose of this post) the income it used to.
So, the decision has been made that 2017 has been my final year both as a self-published author and also as primarily a horror author. My future works will first be submitted to agents in the first instance and from there we will see what happens. I have actually been working on a novel between projects this last few months which is a really dark thriller which I am really excited about and hope to get out to agents in the first quarter of 2018. I also have other tentative novel outlines all outside of the horror genre which will follow the same route to hopeful publication. I will still submit to anthologies etc., but there will be no more titles that I release myself apart from the exclusive content I will be posting to Patreon. I’ll also be scaling back my social media presence in generalas I focus entirely on getting myself into a better place from a personal point of view and hitting the reset button on my career and getting back to basics. I figure now is the time to really take the big test and see if my work is good enough to make it in the wider world or if this career just wasn’t meant to be. Either way, I figure I’ll have the answer by roughly this time next year, whatever it may be which both excites and terrifies me in equal measure.
I just want to end by saying a massive thank you to my family and my readers for their continued support. Each and every person who has supported me by buying a book, leaving a review, supporting me on Patreon or even recommending one of my titles to a friend or even listening to me vent and moan about various things has been key in my decision not to quit when I felt at my lowest point but to instead fight on. This is a hard business to crack and the kind of support I have from you all means the world to me.
Thank you so much for being there and here’s to the future! It won’t be easy and I may not succeed but I’m prepared to give it my all and see what happens. Hopefully, you’ll stick with me for the duration and we can see what happens together.