As mentioned on the blog, it’s been a rough couple of months. Well, a rough year. Years. Decade. Life. Whatever.
But anyway, this fall also brought also brought a sudden inexplicable sales drop on all sites but Kobo, the worst it’s been in several years, right after I had a good month with Shiva’s Bow‘s release. It was baffling, honestly, and completely against the trend of this past year.
Except it also coincided with a sudden spike in piracy.
There are plenty of people who will say there is no correlation. Those people would ignore the anecdotal evidence from myself and many others who monitor these things closely–and ignore the fact that people in my position actually have a far better understanding of piracy than the layperson. While yes, there are some pirates who would never buy (and are their own little insular community), many more have, do, and will buy if theft is not convenient for them.
There is also the matter of word of mouth and who is doing the talking. When people who buy spread the word in their circles of other people who buy, sales spike. When people steal and spread the word (aka illegally distribute files) to other people who steal, sales stagnant. There is some crossover I’m sure, depending on the method and place of discussion, but realistically people with similar reading habits (and values) congregate together.
I am genuinely at a loss right now. I’m exhausted from being sick, run down with working all the time just to keep afloat, and this book has been hard enough to write.
I associate Yampellec’s Idol with Gus. I was first working on the book when he and Shawn interrupted everything and I put my life on hold for them (no regrets, not ever). I was working on it again when they were bigger and romping on their own after a six-week break. Then I had to stop working again when I lost him.
This series is really hard for me to write, for personal reasons I will not get into. For a while a few years ago I couldn’t even handle looking at the books–it was too painful. It was hard to come back to them, hard to take a leap of faith and commit to continuing them for those reasons, in addition to the sheer amount of work each book requires. I’m not one of those writers whipping off a generic book in a month and publishing–everything that can be researched in Livi’s books are researched; they take many drafts and heavy revisions; and they are the result of twenty years of craft and skills.
The books are painful to write. Emotionally draining, mentally exhausting (and financially a very bad decision).
I’m not well right now and not in my right mind. I want to make decisions that I recognize would punish good people and legit readers and, probably, myself.
I am tired of repeating myself, of making the same arguments over and over to reaffirm my intellectual property rights and discourage theft of my labor.
I am tired of feeling like I’m complaining, like I risk alienating good people and readers who have done so much to support these books (and I am angry with the idea of them continually shouldering the burden for thieves), even though I know from site statistics that yes, a high number of pirates do find their way to these posts.
I am tired of people who have so much bending over backwards to justify why they think it’s okay to steal their entertainment and take from people who have so little.
I am tired of the daily hits from people googling where to find illegal downloads of my books obsessively checking the book pages to see when the next book will be out for them to steal (I see you, Lady from Arizona on a Samsung).
I am just tired.
I am ultra-sensitive to violations and abuse of consent because of the things I’ve been through, and while this sort of theft would seem like it pales in comparison, it brings back all sorts of feelings associated with past traumas. It makes trying to work paralyzing.
And I don’t know how to not care about this. I don’t know how to go back to work feeling like this. I have never figured it out after all these years–I have canceled two series and not regretted it for a second. But I’ve invested so much, and folks have invested in turn in the series. Now I feel trapped.
There are other paths ahead, as a friend reminded me today–as violated as I feel now, with the control over my work taken from me, I am still driving the car here. I can decide how, when, or if books are released. And I can take whatever time I need to figure it out.
Over and over I keep coming back to the reader emails, comments, reviews, etc prior to all this, about how much Livi means to them–as women, as (often single) mothers, as people living with chronic illness, as survivors of abuse. These books allow a lot of under-served folks feel seen in urban fantasy in a way they often aren’t, escapism for people who need it, and I don’t want to take that away from anyone.
But I need to find my way back to the series now, a way to make the stories mine again, or I will never finish this next book.
The more time it takes to release a book, the more readers I risk losing; to really hustle self-publishing, to compete with the constant stream of entertainment options, there’s pressure on artists to constantly be creating, constantly churning out more content. It’s not conductive to recovery and ultimately has the opposite effect on productivity. Having that hanging over me doesn’t make this any easier but I have a lot of works in progress to distract me for now.
I will continue to deliver previews and snippets of Livi for Patrons of Snark, and finish up drafts of some other works for release next year–new series, lower profile so lower sales, but they might help me regain some of my sanity.
Livi #5 will be delivered, eventually–not as soon as I’d like, which I’m angry about because I know how eager y’all are after Shiva’s Bow. Then I’ll really have to crunch the numbers and figure out what to do beyond that, because I know without a doubt I cannot keep publishing books with this current model when they are stolen more than bought–financially and emotionally…I just can’t. I’m sorry. It may be that, to continue, I’ll have to find another way.
So please read them. Please tell your friends to read them. (Um, legally.) I love your enthusiasm but I don’t need comments nagging me to “write faster”, as if that is the only factor holding the next book back.
I am relieved just to hear good folks are waiting, that there is support out there when I’m flailing like this, that readers understand that any delay means I am ensuring I’m in the right place to deliver the best book I possibly can.