Sometimes, there is so much going on in my head and in my life, I have to break it down in a news-style format.
Niches are for Bitches
What is perhaps my most crushing news, my Ages of Aenya Kickstarter failed to raise the $10,000 needed for editing and marketing. Just the editing alone costs $7k. Thing is, I was new to Kickstarter. When I launched in July, it was on a whim. I never expected the emotional turmoil that would later follow. All in all, I received $1300 worth of pledges from 41 supporters. Not bad for an unknown author. And books don’t do nearly as well as video games or indie films, which have a stronger visual appeal. So why am I so bummed?
For the longest time, I was convinced I needed a niche. While Ages of Aenya is a great story, it’s hard to market to “everybody.” So, in 2004, I focused on fans of Masters of the Universe, for my first Aenya novel, The Dark Age of Enya. Why He-Man fans? Well, before writing Enya, I wrote fan-fiction. Sharp eyed readers will notice many subtle allusions to MOTU in the Aenya series, like the merquid and avian races, inspired by the characters of Stratos and Merman. Even the skull on Xandr’s sword is an homage to Castle Grayskull. But my attempt to cater to this niche failed miserably. The moderators hated me for using their site as a sales platform—I was banned from the site—and fans failed to see the connection between my book and their cherished childhood memories. Their indifference negatively affected my own nostalgic feelings for Masters of the Universe, something I have cherished all my life, a core part of who I am and the reason I write fantasy. To this day, I collect the figures, but whenever I look at them, I cannot shake the pain of my failure.
After ’04, I gave up on He-Man fans to focus on nudists. Enya was featured in both N and H&E naturist magazines, and on a nudist review site called Yarns Without Threads. My most frequently read posts are, by far, naturist related. So catering to nudists seemed the way to go. And why not? Nudism and fantasy are a perfect fit, when you consider the Ancient Greek heroes, who went often nude. But sadly, most nudists didn’t see it my way. While I can only guess the reasons, I think it has a lot to do with numbers. Card-carrying nudists are a rare breed. Cross that with avid readers, and readers who enjoy fantasy, and you have a tiny minority indeed! I also felt that, a lot of nudists were suspicious of me. How well do Xandr and Thelana represent their beliefs? No way to tell without reading the book! And despite a pro-naturist message, how likely is it that a book, any book, can influence people to think differently about nudism?
What’s more, a curious thing happened after my Kickstarter failed, that I never would have expected: I felt less inclined to hang out on nudist forums, and less inclined to be nude at home. Don’t get me wrong, I still love nudism, but like with Masters of the Universe, there is a little stain on it now, one that I feel will never go away.
A New Direction
With every failure, I try to learn something new. That way, I never truly fail. And what I have learned is this: while it is sometimes great to have a niche, it can sometimes be detrimental. Andy Weir used his love of hard science to write The Martian. If 300,000 people signed on to live and die on Mars, you can bet there are plenty of people willing to read about it. I doubt 300,000 people could be found to live in a nudist colony (yes, I said colony, in this instance it fits!). Although, as my friend David pointed out, if Mars is anything like what Edgar Rice Burroughs describes, they’d be doing both!
Without He-Man fans or nudists, I am left only with readers, scrutinizing lovers of great fiction, like myself. This may be a harder group to market to, given the sheer number of books out there, but I have faith in the power of my storytelling, because, in all honesty, great stories are hard to find.
What does this mean for my blog?
- A smaller focus on nudism.
- A greater focus on writing and book reviews, even if it means less traffic. Quite honestly, I’d rather have a small group of dedicated fans I am proud to associate with, than click-bait traffic by people looking to ogle naked women (and getting disappointed).
- More short fiction. Fiction remains my #1 love.
- More art and illustrations for The Princess of Aenya.
Exciting New Art Projects
The best way to fend off demons of doubt and despair, I find, is to keep busy. Since I was a child, writing and art have gone hand in hand. All of my early stories were accompanied by illustrations, and I didn’t quit drawing until high school, when I noticed my lack of talent. Still, I continue to seek art to help inspire me and my readers. Alexey Lipatov is finishing up on Xandr vs. The Snake Man. You can see his work in progress here,
|Just a rough sketch. The final should be amazing, as always!
For The Princess of Aenya, I have reached out to Adam Paquette, whose illustrations can be seen on Magic: The Gathering playing cards. With his help, I hope to design an amazing cover.
|This is Theros by Adam Paquette. Looks a lot like Hedonia to me!
Lastly, I am in negotiations with Selene Regener to use the image below for Radia. Selene managed to capture the spirit, beauty and power of the character, and I only hope she agrees to let me use it. If not, I will continue to look to this piece for inspiration, and maybe to inspire the artist who will eventually realize the character of Radia.
|“Awakening” by Selene Regener