This has actually been a reasonably successful week, accountability-wise. I broke through the block I’ve had with outlining the Goddess’s Vision series by giving in to the desires of two of my characters and foregrounding them for the first book, at least. Again, like The Cost of Power series, this is going to be a trilogy. However, I think Goddess’s Vision is going to focus on specific characters while advancing the trilogy/series arc. So this first book will feature Heinmyets and Betsona, and how their relationship impacts the growing crisis in the lands of Daran and Varen. The second book probably will be about Witmara’s mother Katerin, dealing with the threat from the Divine Confederation, with perhaps some POV from Witmara. And book three…sigh, it will probably be all four–Heinmyets, Betsona, Katerin, Witmara–as they deal with the crisis of empire and the threat of the Divine Confederation. I don’t know why, but now that structure seems to make more sense than running with so many different POVs scattered around two continents. By book three, we’ll have enough going on that the multiple viewpoints will go quickly. But there’s enough of a foundation needing to be constructed before the third book that this structure makes sense.
Federation Cowboy is ready to launch. All that is left now is promotion.
I’ve also decided that I’m not going to put much effort into getting the remaining Netwalk Sequence books into paperback, at least not right away. There’s not a lot of interest, and with the Goddess’s Vision series becoming a reality, the Goddess’s Honor series takes priority over Netwalk. I need to revise the versions in Ingram before my Alli membership runs out for the freebie uploads. Once I get Goddess’s Honor done, then I can deal with what’s left of Netwalk.
Actually, my biggest hurdle right now is promotion. I’m part of the Narratress sale with The Heritage of Michael Martiniere and Justine Fixes Everything and so far, it’s been a bust, in spite of this being the best pricing yet on these books. They are both available for $1.99 until August 30th, at all the usual suspects. Which leads into the other part of this particular essay.
Last night, in a funk about how poorly I’m doing in a sale where people are openly bragging about buying 50+ books but none of them include mine, I had a big glass of absinthe and thought about things. Because I’m spending a bit of time these days meditating on the Marker boy and where his training might go once he’s conditioned, I started thinking about big horse shows, and had this revelation–big success in writing is very much like big success in high-end horse shows. You can’t do it alone. Oh, it’s possible to do well at smaller open shows and local shows without a trainer presence and supervision, but success at a big regional or national show (much less the rarefied air of the international circuit) requires networking and the knowledgeable trainer or guide.
It’s not about the training in horse show world. Many of us are sufficiently competent that we could train ourselves to compete with the big names when performance is the only criteria. But the high-level success depends on presentation for horse and handler/rider, and the insider knowledge of little tricks in the show pen that get passed around by word of mouth, as well as knowledge about particular subjective fads that could make a difference. The color and fit of the handler/rider’s clothing, for example. Specific grooming and trimming tweaks for the horse. Placement of rider hands. Style of horse tack. Helmet or hat styling. Heads up from the trainer about what needs to be done in competition, including such things as “don’t get caught up in the middle of a big group but stand out in a good way.” And so on.
In writing world, the equivalent is connections with groups, mentors, workshops, writing programs, and associations. In traditional publishing, a connection with someone who is known and sells well can open a lot of doors. Introductions to editors and agents. Recommendations that ensure a manuscript gets a second look. Credentials that boost someone above others. But–there’s a caveat there. Just because someone says “yes, you’re almost there” doesn’t mean squat unless they’re willing to commit to providing references and recommendations for a work that the person thinks meets the target. Talk is cheap, and you’ll hear a lot of that. Someone with clout who is willing to promote you and actually does that is something else, and relatively rare.
Oh, I know, I know. There are lots of people who will splutter and fuss at the above, citing circumstances where an amazing unsolicited manuscript manages to scale all of the publishing walls. And if you believe that, welp, I have a bridge or two for sale.
But the same thing happens in independent/self-publishing circles as well. I’ve been around enough to recognize that the folx who are selling well in these specific sales have a connection to specific indie publishing circles and contests. They’re part of a particular in-group, and being sufficiently present to recognize the linkages makes that awareness really stand out, especially this time around. It doesn’t hurt that I see the same thing happening over on Substack, where certain groups and affiliations lead to more subscriptions and greater notice. I’ve read enough of those journals to be aware that it’s not necessarily writing quality that is winning the game, it’s who you know and what they do to help you. You can be a superb writer but if you don’t have the connections, you aren’t going to stand out from the crowd in a positive manner (I refuse to go the edgelord route).
Which…throws me back onto the horse show analogy, because that’s very true for high-level competitive success. You can have the best-bred, best-trained horse in the world, but you ain’t necessarily winning at the Worlds or Congress if you don’t have the dialed-in connections that help you look credible.
Yes, it’s very subtle and subjective, but…isn’t that true for promoting writing as well?