Why I’m Leaving Science Fiction Publishing (But I’m Still Writing)

15956142_mI’ve been in a writing funk all year. It got worse when I went to Wiscon this year, and deepened further during the summer’s WorldCon brou-ha-ha. I’ve been percolating, ruminating, and mulling things over. And I realized that what I really wanted was to spend my precious time telling stories and becoming a better writer, not tweeting, facebooking, blogging, choosing covers, setting up kindle files, or even going to cons. So I’m going to stop selling my work.

There are several threads contributing to the weave of this decision.

The first: I hate marketing. I just do. I love writing, but marketing my books feels not only like a chore, but like dragging myself through hot lava. I always knew that I’d never make my rent writing, and the several lattes I earn each month on my books doesn’t really go very far. I’ve spent thousands of dollars and hundreds (and hundreds) of hours on marketing coaching, book covers, Facebook, Twitter, etc., etc. etc., with very little to show for it (actually, like a 20:1 ratio of dollars spent:dollars earned). So I’m quitting, completely. No more money or time down that particular drain.

The second: I can’t write what most people want to read. I realized that I should have learned that lesson when I spent months and months looking for an agent, before I started to self-publish. I’m just not interested in writing what most science fiction readers want to read, frankly, and that’s become OK with me.

The third: I don’t feel like I have much of a place in the science fiction writer’s world. I am a feminist writer of color, but I don’t write literary SF (and I don’t want to, either.) And in my work, race is largely incidental, sometimes a factor, but almost never central (there is one exception: The Expedition,)  even though most of my main characters are people of color. It just doesn’t seem like there is a lot of room for work like this by an author like me. It feels like there is a lot of room for writers of color to address and write directly about race/ethnicity, and a lot less room for writers of color that choose not to.  And the stories I still want to write don’t seem like they will fit well, either (like the alt-history in my head, about wisdom Christianity having won instead of the other guys.)

The fourth: The SF world right now is embroiled in a fight I simply don’t want to be engaged in. As a feminist writer of color, I would be, in some senses, an obligate participant, and certainly a target. Of course, it’s a microcosm of our country at this time, but as I see the third trimester of my life approaching (a metaphor from a friend that I quite appreciate,) I actually don’t want to even think (or write, or talk) about the puppies anymore, or anything related.

So what am I doing? Well, writing, learning to be a better editor, and giving my work away. My work has always been Creative Commons licensed, because of my philosophy of things, and that won’t change. But instead of putting it on Amazon and Smashwords, etc., you’ll only be able to get it here, for free (They will probably take a while to disappear from the stores.) Just click on any of the books, and there are PDF and eBook formats available. I still have paper copies of some books sitting on my shelves – so email me with your mailing address, and I’ll get a copy to you.

I know for a lot of people this might sound strange. Why write if you’re not going to try to get people to read it? I actually didn’t start out this writing journey with any real desire to widely publish or market my books, but I sort of got caught up in what you are “supposed” to do. I didn’t start out caring who read what I wrote – I had a story in my head that I wanted to get out, that was it. I still have some stories in my head, and I’ll get them out, in the best way I can. That’s all that matters to me at the moment. I feel surprisingly free making this decision. It feels good, and the joy of writing is returning, and I guess that’s an indication that I’m taking the right path.

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