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I'm typically posting about great sales numbers, great reviews...mostly positive stuff.

I have my bad days as well, and today was one of them.

I posted a few weeks ago about publishing my newest novel – a work of 160,000 words. I commented that it was different than my previous works – no sex, little violence, no foul language, and no super-duper-hero-type. G-rated all the way.

Well, it has sold just under 2500 copies in 25 days, and 7 reviews are in. They are all 4 or 5 stars, and I'm thankful for that. I’m also getting that sinking feeling that I’ve screwed up by publishing this book. I never dreamed of saying that, esp given the results above, but the content of the reviews is telling me I should’ve stayed right where I was from a writing perspective. I believe I missed the target. People aren't getting the message I wanted to convey. I failed to do an adequate job of communicating the story that was in my mind and why it's important.

I was hoping to improve my chops as a storyteller. I had aspirations of doing more than just entertaining folks with an endless stream of action sequences, shootouts and lovable protagonist. I wanted to make people think and perhaps have a positive impact on their lives. I strongly desire to go up a notch on my skills and product. I'll get there. I don't care if it takes me another 30 books and 10 years, I'll eventually do it.

Please don't get me wrong – I'm not complaining. The purpose of this post isn't a pity party for Joe and I'm delighted with the sales. I communicate this with everyone because commercial success isn't always the be-all, end-all. I know there are some folks out there in indie-land who read my comments (and those of others) and think sales are everything, that life would be just grand if I had so-and-so's sales. While sales and reviews are nice, they are not a panacea. Having a book delivers your story or message - a book you are proud of  - that is important as well. You many not realize it while you're struggling to get started and sell a few copies, but craft and pride of ownership is just as critical as money.
 

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Congrats on the good reviews. And you can tell an important story in between pages of sex and violence, for the record.  ;)

As for the rest, did you have beta readers or CPs? Did they respond how you thought they would? Sometimes I find when I write something, the purpose/message/meaning is so clear to me but when I hand it to other people, they won't see it, which is why that sort of feedback helps. Even so, sometimes those people "get it" and then the readers don't.

I think it's awesome you tried something new regardless of its reception. Good for you! It's not always easy to dip your toes in unfamiliar waters.
 

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I read the reviews.  I think I can see what you mean.  I think it's good to hear from the authors other people envy for sales if only to realize that we all have things we wish were going better.  It's hard to feel like readers are missing your message.  Give it more time.  I know there are probably those out there who are getting it, they just might not be the type to post reviews. And your current audience just might need adjustment to the new style.  Congrats for pushing your boundaries and writing something you believe in.
 

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It takes the right reader to unearth the message you left for them to find. Sometimes those messages are like Easter eggs, and a reader has to be looking for them to find them -- if they don't, that mean that story isn't good, or resonating ... it just means that they haven't been uncovered ... yet.

When I published TMT it was a long while and many good reviews later until I heard from a reader who understood on a visceral level the story I was trying to tell. I've told this story before, but I'll share the cliff notes ...

... She picked up the novel 6 months to day her mother died, of cancer. Her mother had died very quickly following a terminal diagnosis and was too sick, by then, to leave anything for her daughter. The daughter wasn't sure she wanted to read my book, having just lived the story in a very personal, intimate way ... but gave it a shot anyway. She wrote me, only once, upon finishing the book to tell me that, in the novel, she heard her mother's voice. The tapes I wrote became things she'd lean on, moving forward, as though they were from her own mother. Obviously, I cried pretty hard reading that e-mail -- there are real stories that will be forever better then the fictional ones.

When I wrote my first novel, it came from a very organic place of telling this story of loss and love and the way a bond can continue forward even when life can't. Some readers appreciate that on a very base level -- others read it in their own terms, pulling moments and memories from their own lives to fill in the blanks.

Ultimately, I'd say to give it time. Even if only one reader someday get's it ... it was a story worth telling.
 

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Joe_Nobody said:
I'm typically posting about great sales numbers, great reviews...mostly positive stuff.

I have my bad days as well, and today was one of them.

I posted a few weeks ago about publishing my newest novel - a work of 160,000 words. I commented that it was different than my previous works - no sex, little violence, no foul language, and no super-duper-hero-type. G-rated all the way.

Well, it has sold just under 2500 copies in 25 days, and 7 reviews are in. They are all 4 or 5 stars, and I'm thankful for that. I'm also getting that sinking feeling that I've screwed up by publishing this book. I never dreamed of saying that, esp given the results above, but the content of the reviews is telling me I should've stayed right where I was from a writing perspective. I believe I missed the target. People aren't getting the message I wanted to convey. I failed to do an adequate job of communicating the story that was in my mind and why it's important.

I was hoping to improve my chops as a storyteller. I had aspirations of doing more than just entertaining folks with an endless stream of action sequences, shootouts and lovable protagonist. I wanted to make people think and perhaps have a positive impact on their lives. I strongly desire to go up a notch on my skills and product. I'll get there. I don't care if it takes me another 30 books and 10 years, I'll eventually do it.

Please don't get me wrong - I'm not complaining. The purpose of this post isn't a pity party for Joe and I'm delighted with the sales. I communicate this with everyone because commercial success isn't always the be-all, end-all. I know there are some folks out there in indie-land who read my comments (and those of others) and think sales are everything, that life would be just grand if I had so-and-so's sales. While sales and reviews are nice, they are not a panacea. Having a book delivers your story or message - a book you are proud of - that is important as well. You many not realize it while you're struggling to get started and sell a few copies, but craft and pride of ownership is just as critical as money.
Maybe, you need to look at this a different way. It isn't always about pleasing the readers or even reaching a single one of them. Sometimes, we have to write for ourselves. Kristen Lamb wrote a post today that resonated with me on many levels. See the link at the end of my message. I haven't been enjoying the in the mean time...either, until Kristen's blog post reminded me of what is important and why I write. After you read the post, you'll know what I mean by this.

Just know this: It isn't always about writing something that garners 10,000 sales in that many minutes. It's about the writing itself--the process, the journey--what your calling was at the time you had to write the story down. I mean if nobody reads the work does it make it less stellar? No. The work is still good, even if it never reaches anyone.

Enjoy the journey; quit looking at the mountain.

Go read Kristen's post: http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/2013/03/05/to-find-success-learn-to-embrace-the-meantime/
 

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Congrats! Not on your sales or reviews (great as they are) but on your attitude toward writing. 
 

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Italiahaircolor said:
It takes the right reader to unearth the message you left for them to find. Sometimes those messages are like Easter eggs, and a reader has to be looking for them to find them -- if they don't, that mean that story isn't good, or resonating ... it just means that they haven't been uncovered ... yet.

When I published TMT it was a long while and many good reviews later until I heard from a reader who understood on a visceral level the story I was trying to tell. I've told this story before, but I'll share the cliff notes ...

... She picked up the novel 6 months to day her mother died, of cancer. Her mother had died very quickly following a terminal diagnosis and was too sick, by then, to leave anything for her daughter. The daughter wasn't sure she wanted to read my book, having just lived the story in a very personal, intimate way ... but gave it a shot anyway. She wrote me, only once, upon finishing the book to tell me that, in the novel, she heard her mother's voice. The tapes I wrote became things she'd lean on, moving forward, as though they were from her own mother. Obviously, I cried pretty hard reading that e-mail -- there are real stories that will be forever better then the fictional ones.

When I wrote my first novel, it came from a very organic place of telling this story of loss and love and the way a bond can continue forward even when life can't. Some readers appreciate that on a very base level -- others read it in their own terms, pulling moments and memories from their own lives to fill in the blanks.

Ultimately, I'd say to give it time. Even if only one reader someday get's it ... it was a story worth telling.
You must have been typing this while I was typing mine! I just bought your book because I write emotional roller coasters, too, and have had various readers reach out to me with their personal stories that resonate after reading my work and loved what you shared from that one reader review of your work. (How long can I make this sentence??) I also love what you wrote up above to Joe. :)
 

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Are you happy with your story? Do you feel that you've told the story you wanted to tell? That you've stayed true to your vision?

If you have, then you haven't done anything wrong.

If you're worried about branding and diversification, that's an entirely different topic :).

Congrats on the excellent reviews and great (to me!) sales. 2500 sales in 25 days of a single book is such an accomplishment. I know your other sales are doing great, but if this book is different, like you say, there are many of us who would love to do that well when we try something different!
 

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Italiahaircolor said:
It takes the right reader to unearth the message you left for them to find. Sometimes those messages are like Easter eggs, and a reader has to be looking for them to find them -- if they don't, that mean that story isn't good, or resonating ... it just means that they haven't been uncovered ... yet.

When I published TMT it was a long while and many good reviews later until I heard from a reader who understood on a visceral level the story I was trying to tell. I've told this story before, but I'll share the cliff notes ...

... She picked up the novel 6 months to day her mother died, of cancer. Her mother had died very quickly following a terminal diagnosis and was too sick, by then, to leave anything for her daughter. The daughter wasn't sure she wanted to read my book, having just lived the story in a very personal, intimate way ... but gave it a shot anyway. She wrote me, only once, upon finishing the book to tell me that, in the novel, she heard her mother's voice. The tapes I wrote became things she'd lean on, moving forward, as though they were from her own mother. Obviously, I cried pretty hard reading that e-mail -- there are real stories that will be forever better then the fictional ones.

When I wrote my first novel, it came from a very organic place of telling this story of loss and love and the way a bond can continue forward even when life can't. Some readers appreciate that on a very base level -- others read it in their own terms, pulling moments and memories from their own lives to fill in the blanks.

Ultimately, I'd say to give it time. Even if only one reader someday get's it ... it was a story worth telling.
This is wonderful! I'm so happy your reader found you.
 

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If your previous output was largely 'just' entertainment, the fan base you've developed and who would be your first sales on a new book a) will not be looking for anything deeper and b) may not want to find anything deeper. So... they won't.

It's not an issue of your ability so much as human expectation effecting what they take from a given book. If you're looking for readers who will find your hidden depth as it were, be patient and wait for new people to discover it and look at it with fresh eyes.
 

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Keep in mind that the vast majority of people don't post reviews, ever. You may never know how many people quietly "got" the whole thing.
 

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This is a tough call. I've often thought about venturing a little outside of my comfort zone, to stretch my writing muscles so to speak, but so many books and hugely successful authors seem to advise against this. They suggest giving your readers want and have come to expect from you. I know many use a separate pen name when they write books outside of their wheelhouse and that's probably what I would do if I decided to go that route. It seems like sales for this book have been great as have reviews, so I wouldn't stress it too much. Lessons learned and all that...  ;)
 

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I just wanted to note that depending on the genre and how radical the departure it can work just fine. I'm with Dalya on there being very likely a number of readers who really did just get it, even if the more vocal ones were looking for more of what you've been giving them.
 

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Joe_Nobody said:
Having a book delivers your story or message - a book you are proud of - that is important as well. You many not realize it while you're struggling to get started and sell a few copies, but craft and pride of ownership is just as critical as money.
This is what I took away from your post. :) And I agree with the commenter above - when you switch from lighter entertainment to a deeper one, you're reaching for a different audience. It's ironic that you have a wonderful established fanbase, and they'll happily buy your work, but they're not getting it on the level that you want. Give it time, I think. The amazing thing about word of mouth is that it builds slowly, but it does build. SOME of your fanbase is getting the book. They will tell others, even if they don't review. You're starting over in a sense, but with an edge: you've got people who are willing to try your work right out of the box! That's not to be underestimated.
 

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Hey Joe,

My take might be a little different from what I've read above. I looked through a number of the reviews for the book I believe you were referring to.

First off, I think the toughest part of 'writing fiction with a message' is not coming across too preachy. If readers feel certain story elements were shoe horned in for the sole purpose of advancing the author's political beliefs, they usually won't be happy. Clearly your fans love you and are willing to look past this as evidenced by the great reviews. A no named (no pun intended) author would have scored far less, I'm sure.

Second, I believe a big chunk of your fan base share a particular view of the government (ie: they're all self interested crooks) and if the message in your book fails to line up with that, they'll view what you have to say with suspicion and maybe even contempt. So, I think it's definitely possible to weave together a story with action, shoot outs and a message, but I think it also takes years and years of writing before one can find that perfect balance. If it means anything, I know I'm still no there yet and I've been plugging away for over ten years. Of course, those are just my two cents, so take them with a grain of salt.
 

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Katherine Owen said:
Enjoy the journey; quit looking at the mountain.

Go read Kristen's post: http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/2013/03/05/to-find-success-learn-to-embrace-the-meantime/
Thank you sooo much for that link, Katherine. I, too, feel like I'm at a fork in my writing career. I'm halfway through writing something that will be quite a bit different from what I've done before. It's more emotive, more personal, and more character driven. Like Joe, I've been struggling the whole time, wondering if my readers will be disappointed that it's not more of the same. It's a risk, but if I don't let it out eventually, I'll feel I've done myself an injustice. Some books are closer to our true souls than others.
 

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N. Gemini Sasson said:
Thank you sooo much for that link, Katherine. I, too, feel like I'm at a fork in my writing career. I'm halfway through writing something that will be quite a bit different from what I've done before. It's more emotive, more personal, and more character driven. Like Joe, I've been struggling the whole time, wondering if my readers will be disappointed that it's not more of the same. It's a risk, but if I don't let it out eventually, I'll feel I've done myself an injustice. Some books are closer to our true souls than others.
You're welcome. Love your last line: "Some books are closer to our true souls than others." Absolutely true.
 
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