I’m not a first tier writer. Nope. I never actually expected to be counted among the ranks of people who make millions off their titles. That’s not the kind of book I write, and that’s fine.
At one point, I wanted to be a second tier writer. I dreamed of being able to make a comfortable $40,000 per year and quit the day job. I hoped and read everything on commercial success and marketing. I tried to write what was popular. I sucked at it.
Worse, every time one of my titles performed well below expectations, I felt like a failure. My femdom books—Drift and Blowback—are two of my favorites. However, my profits haven’t even hit the hundreds. Claiming was a home run, but Assimilation is a slow burn and I don’t know that it will every catch up with its older sibling.
But now I’m comfortable ensconced in the third tier. I can work on a third Claimings book without dwelling on the failure of Assimilation, which at one point had more free downloads than sold copies.
What is the third tier? I make a nice sum of money. It’s not enough to pay the rent, but I can pay the electric bill and car payment (most months). I can put some aside for when the hot water heater goes out. I can splurge a little. I will never be successful enough to quit the day job, but that’s okay.
And I’m not complaining. I still have stacks of $2 and $5 checks and feel copies of magazines that are mute evidence of my days as a fourth tier author making pitiful amounts of money. I rose above that. I have just come to realize I’m probably not going to rise more.
Instead of making financial goals, I use my writing to work out my feelings. When I watched one of my kids go through hell with his unsupportive family, I wrote Two Steps Back. When I was being goofy with a friend, I started the bunny for Mountain Prey. A friend and I were talking about race!fail and the fear of characters of color when I wrote Steampunk Pirate to prove to myself that I could write a culturally and historically black man without turning him into a white man with black skin.
And now I signed a contract for one of my darkest titles yet. Without a Net is a futuristic police procedural. It’s not scifi, but it’s set a few decades in the future when BDSM control clubs are mainstream and Shade clubs are for edge play and more dangerous folk.
I know that some people are going to get frustrated because I won’t settle down in a genre and stay so that I become an autobuy. They have to eye each new title from me with suspicion because they can’t trust me to write a certain kind of book.
I’m not an autobuy type of author. But when my mother nearly died a year and a half ago, I wrote some dark damn fanfic. I had Todd the Wraith win and brainwash Rodney and John into becoming bad guys. Boy were they good at being bad. I had Crowley capture Dean and turn him into a bitch for a hell hound (who was sentient so it wasn’t quite as squicky as you think, although it is close).
This time my mother got cancer less than a year out of the hospital after a series of strokes that nearly killed her. So I wrote the first two 10K stories of a Hercules series where his 12 labors basically become a long series of abuse and dub-con. Yeah, I don’t know that those stories will every go past my flist.
And I wrote Without a Net. Does Ollie come through in the end? Hey, this is me. I do get to the happy or at least happier ending. However, this is dark and abusive and grim. Ollie is a tough sub, a cop who can endure anything if he has that glimmer of hope that he might get to shoot someone in the head on the other side. However, some readers are going to hate how much he goes through before he gets a chance.
I’m not reinventing myself. I’m not struggling to find my “voice.” I’m not even writing for the readers. This is me. Since I am a third tier author freed from the dreams of being able to make a living at this, I have to find other goals.
And my first one is to please myself and work my own emotional demons out in a place where I can do it without damaging my real life. Now that my mother is in remission, don’t expect another dark book from me. However, don’t assume that means that my next book will give you what you want. My writing has to be about me. That’s the beauty of being on the third tier.