Amazon, Smashwords, art and health

Colour photographs of three ducks in a pond
For no reason, here is a picture of some ducks.

Cause I’m planning to publish Stone Flowers Grow In Cold Places (the novella I wrote during April’s Camp NaNoWriMo) in the next few weeks, I’ve been reviewing the available tools for doing that and something struck me that hadn’t struck me before. It’s not possible to publish an always-free book on Amazon’s Kindle platform. I mean, this makes sense cause Amazon are about selling things so they’d have absolutely no reason to host books that people are giving away. And I know it’s possible to make things free on Amazon for a specific amount of time. But that’s not what I want to do.

Obviously there are a lot of positive reasons to sell books through Amazon’s own platform but the more I thought about those reasons, the more they felt like reasons to spend a lot of time jumping through the hoops required to be even remotely visible on Amazon’s platform and that’s just not where I’m at. Right now, I don’t want to focus on chasing reviews. I don’t want to focus on getting people to read my books specifically so they’ll write those all-important reviews.

My current art-for-art’s-sake idealism might wane somewhat after a while (it also might not), but at the moment I want to write because I love writing and I want people to read my stuff because they love reading. I want to let people know where they can get their hands on my books because I’m excited about having written them and I hope people who follow me online and enjoy my short stories and poetry will be excited about reading my longer works too. Aside from Patreon (also launching in the next few weeks!) and PayPal available as means for readers to offer financial support if they want to, and are able to, I have a deep, heart-felt desire to keep this pure for as long as I can.

I know indie publishing is a business like anything else and I’m not suggesting for a moment that I don’t understand the necessity for promotion, publicity and marketing, but it sits better with me to focus those efforts on a) letting people know where to find my books, and b) letting people know about my Patreon, rather than diving into the Amazon machine. I’m also not suggesting that people who sell through Amazon and focus their efforts in that direction are doing anything wrong – it’s just not the path that feels right for me to be on at the moment. So I’m planning to publish through Smashwords (which offers downloads in a number of formats, including those used by Kindle!), Tablo and Wattpad only, for the time being.

Something I don’t talk about a huge amount on this blog, apart from mentions here and there where it’s relevant, and in a few pieces of life writing, is that I live with a chronic illness that currently (and, to be honest, probably forever-ly or at least very-long-term-ly) prevents me from participating in the “work this many hours and/or creating this thing by this deadline to determine your financial worth” system. Believe me, if I could be doing a part time job and writing on the side, I would be. It would be SO much easier! But it is literally impossible. And I do mean literally. I am simply not physically able to do the thing, no matter how much I might want or try to. I know this because I’ve been doing it for years and hit my limit a thousand times over.

The reality is that I’ve spent the last decade and a half struggling to work, repeatedly destroying myself to earn a steady income, getting sicker and sicker because I had literally no other choice. Right now, I am fortuntate enough that I don’t need to do that. My husband and I don’t have much money but we can get by without me skimming along rock bottom. A side-effect of living in a constant state of cannot-but-have-to is that it makes me fucking crazy, so I’ve ended up with some pretty rotten mental health issues as a result of my physical health not being good enough to allow me to do the things I had to do. It’s been tough. Like “I would be suicidal if I had the energy to commit suicide” tough.

I don’t want to get into a bazillion details here, partly because it would take forever and partly because I’m trying this thing where I don’t justify my health or my life to anyone anymore. If I say I can’t do something, it means I can’t do something and that’s how it is – I don’t need suggestions, ‘advice’ or demands for evidence. It is what it is and it’s taken me a long time to reach the point where I can express that in words and mean it.

Honestly, where I’m at with writing is that I’ve found something I love, something I have time for and can physically do (I’m going to be very sensible about Patreon rewards to make sure I keep being physically able to do it) and, equally as importantly, something that does not pulverise the sanity that I’m still working hard to regain. I’m not saying there will never be a day when I’ll feel like “Yeah! I want to treat this totally as a business and focus on shifting units, requesting reviews and plotting my potential income on a graph because graphs are awesome”, but it’s not today.

Today, it’s “I love writing and hopefully I can make some money doing it without destroying my physical and mental health again”. Today it’s “I’m excited about Camp NaNoWriMo and about publishing my novella and launching my Patreon”. It’s “I’m passionate about connecting with other writers and readers, and being happy that those are often the same people” and “I enjoy social media and it’s important that I can be myself while marketing my work”.

Today is good. Today is manageable. And I’d like to keep it that way.

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