Essay–Frustration of Niches

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It’s no secret that many of my tales are “niche” stories. My Garaaga mythos, the Fiends collection, hell, even The Street, are acquired tastes. These stories and series spend most of their time languishing on the sales charts. If I sell 2 or 3 a week, I’m lucky. And when I put them on sale for 99¢? Not much changes.

Yet I can write non-niche books. The Black has been the most marketable book I’ve ever written and it has sold more copies than I ever dreamed possible. I’m certain the first paraquel, The Black: Arrival, will sell about the same or perhaps even better than the first installment.

So what’s the difference between these books? The writing? Probably not much of a difference. The covers? Absolutely. The built-in marketing for a horror audience hungry for particular types of stories? Ah, there’s the rub.

We recently discussed this on an episode of DRS. I made the statement that while the books I’m writing for my publisher are marketable, they are completely separate from the Cooley-verse. Why? Because publishers aren’t interested in my ‘verse. And I’m really not all that interested in trying to sell each book separately. That is most definitely my fault, but I digress.

Many authors out there have their passion projects. They don’t necessarily sell well, but the readers that discover them usually become fanatics and become upset if said author works on anything else. That’s a good problem to have.

There are some of you that are fanatical about Garaaga’s Children. So much so that you scream to me in emails, tweets, and facebook messages when you discover I’m writing something other than that series. It’s understandable. You found something you like and you want more of it. Also, some of you have started to put the pieces together and already feel an imminent collision.

I love writing the Garaaga universe. I love delving into the history and the friction between the nephilim and humanity. I also enjoy the many opportunities the series provides for social commentary, especially in context with the traditional western understanding of religion.

But here’s the problem: no one gives a shit. In other words, it’s incredibly difficult to attract new readers that have never listened to the podcasts, never heard me talk about it, and only have the cover and a blurb to entice them. The series fades into the background of a billion books they’d rather read.

And that’s fine. Not everyone is going to like all the books I write. Some of you want me to go back and write more character based stories like Closet Treats. Others want to see novels featuring Tony Downs or short stories like “Breakers.”

But what do I want? I would like to see more folks discover GC and push it up the charts. But since I’m taking the steps to turn writing into my dayjob, I have to go where the money is. For now.

That’s not to say I’m rejecting the Cooley-verse. Quite the opposite, in fact. As I write this, I’m working on Daemons of Garaaga so we can get that out to you. And once that’s ready, I’ll be back on my modern true-crime/supernatural thriller Flames. Daemons will definitely be a title while Flames could find a home elsewhere. We’ll see.

I need to get those books finished so I can get back to writing titles I know will sell. I need the income to make this a full-time gig. And as much as I hate the “artistic” compromise I’m making, it’s necessary. For now.

Putting together books like Flames and the GC series require money. They require me to pay for cover art, editing, formatting, and audio recording. Those other stories take time away from writing my “marketable” titles and growing my readership. It’s a sacrifice. If I wanted to, I could probably write five titles a year for Severed Press and get to my dream that much faster. But my brain and heart still want me to focus on the projects that do not sell. It’s a conundrum.

My die hard patrons want more GC, more psychological horror, and more character driven stories. The market, on the other hand, wants plot-driven monster tales. I get it. In a perfect world, I’d find a way to bind the two together. I just haven’t gotten there yet and still hope to make it work. Give me time and I’ll figure it out.

The frustration is crushing. Especially when books like Legends of Garaaga and Closet Treats struggle weekly to make a single sale and are still bereft of reviews. No matter how proud I am of those tales, and how much I enjoyed writing them, the market is the market. And those stories are apparently not what people are looking for.

Again, this may be a problem with marketing, keywords, covers, etc. And perhaps if a new reader finds these tales, they’ll enjoy them so much that they too will want more. Maybe they’ll send me an email, tweet me, or say something on my facebook page. It could happen. If it happens often enough, then word spreads and readers, for better or worse, will take a chance on these tales.

Regardless, I’ll keep writing these so-called “niche” stories because they are my true love. And for those of you who enjoy them, thank you for your continued support. But I want you to understand why I’m doing what I’m doing. The Black series is popcorn. Hopefully good popcorn. The other tales I have planned for Severed Press will also be good popcorn. Hell, maybe I’ll create something marketable for them that meets my definition of a “steak.”

I do my best to make every story important. I work hard to make every tale the best it can be. And I’m not ashamed to admit I enjoy writing the monster books too. They actually tax my brain a bit less than something like GC where I sweat over connections and weaving the mythos.

Every writer hopes readers enjoy everything they write. But the reality is that many readers will not. So you have to split the baby, so to speak. And that’s what I’m doing the best way I know how.

Expect Daemons of Garaaga by June/July. Expect Flames, if no one wants it, by third quarter. Then I’ll get to work on TB3 and another Severed Press title. After that? Who knows. Based on sales, I’ll decide what to do next. I’ll keep you apprised. But know that I’m not giving up on the Cooley-verse. And for those of you that enjoy it as much as I do, please stay with me as I take a pause from those works to get this career going.

3 thoughts on “Essay–Frustration of Niches”

  1. Just keep doing what you’re doing, the way you’re doing it. You write because you have to. We’ll like, and buy, your stories as we will. Some of us like some things others enjoy something else. Don’t try to please us because we are a collective mix of wants that have no movement as a whole. Write for you.
    Then market the hell out of what’s profitable at the time. There’s no sin in profit.

  2. Message received loud and clear!
    Review left on amazon just now.

    I look forward to more stories in the universe. I have been re-listeining to the podcast since you put it in your feed a second time, and am enjoying it as much as the first. I’m also noticing details I missed the first time.

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