Pull Yourself out of the Grave, My Son

Everyone hopes for the best for their children. They’ll grow up to be doctors or lawyers, or a rapper who puts out one piss-awful single that gets picked up by Pepsi for their big summer TV campaign and makes them enough green to buy you the kind of house you couldn’t have afforded with a thousand working years at your shitty factory job. Or, just that they’ll lead happy, fulfilling lives. But then, you take a walk past their school and see your beautiful kid sat alone in the corner of the playground, pushing his knuckles into his eyeballs, just for something to do, with the shrieks of other children’s play circling them like jeering crows.

In your mind, when he was just a swelling pushing against your girlfriend’s Edward Sharpe t-shirt, your mind danced with those images of prom night, grandchildren, and a Grammy acceptance speech where they cut to a close-up of Dr Dre nodding, but now all you see is security cam news footage of the little fucker orchestrating a violent school shooting, or a funeral eulogy that tiptoes around the phrase ‘auto-erotic asphyxiation’.

Of course, I’m talking in metaphors. No woman has ever let me put a baby up her, and I wouldn’t even trust myself to look after a cat. The child in question is one of my books, namely Frantic Planet: Volume II. Volume II sells by far the least of all my stuff, which particularly stings, because it’s the one I devoted the most of my life to. A few months of brainstorming and notes, followed by a solid year of writing on this particularly tricksy tome; but sales-wise, it’s the runt of the litter.

“Spare some change, guv?”

I went into its release with all those parental hopes, feeling like I had something really great that was worthy of catching fire and genuinely connecting with people, but it plopped out of the symbolic fanny wheezing, crawled about three feet, and proceeded to lay right there and die like a Brazilian street dog. This needled away at me for a couple of years, to the point where eventually, I just had to let go, move on, and forget it ever existed. It was too painful. The Kindle re-release was a second chance; a creepy cloning experiment where a doctor that looks like rubbish older Robert De Niro shoots up some eggs and jizz with Volume II’s DNA, and nine months later, I get another shot. Nope. Same thing. DOA. Maybe the sequel label’s part of the problem, where people feel like they need to read Volume I before diving in — even though they’re both stand-alone works — but whatever it is, the frail mortality of my fullest, most layered work hangs over my head like a particularly disappointed cloud.

Even talking about this stuff is taboo. Artists are supposed to present the image that everything’s going great; that every project is a wild success. The ‘indie author’ scene falls right into that unprovable category where people can spin wild tales of 10k royalty cheques or 500,000 monthly readers with impunity. Not this time. Frantic Planet: Volume II sells as well as a Gilbert Gottfried satnav, which leaves me with the quandary of “How can I let people know how awesome this book is?” One step is by producing these. Yeah, the whole minimalist movie poster thing is a bit of a fad, but it’s a neat one, and it appeals to my general lack of any real artistic ability. Each of these relates to a story from Volume II.

Click them for bigger, less blurry versions.

‘Between Flaws’

‘The Diary of Blue Horse’

“The Ostrich and the Insects”

I don’t agree with the mindset of shrugging and moving onto the next thing, not when there’s so much potential just waiting to rise up and live, if only a passer-by would take a couple of seconds to squat down and check the pulse. I am continuing with other things, and maybe one of those projects will lead people back to Volume II, but right now, I’m not willing to let go. If I’m to become the literary equivalent of that guy from China who lay in bed next to his dead, rotten wife for twenty years, spooning her tightly even as her bones turned to dust, then so be it, but I refuse to give up on it.

Books can find an audience at any time. Sure, it didn’t happen in 2009, but — whatever random reasons that lead to something catching fire willing — that time is now.

Frantic Planet: Volume II on Amazon.com

Frantic Planet: Volume II on Amazon.co.uk

Amazon’s free Kindle app for PC/Mac/phones/tablets

~ by Stuart on May 18, 2012.

20 Responses to “Pull Yourself out of the Grave, My Son”

  1. I feel your pain. I am currently working on a series…a series to which only Book 1 has been released. The sales have been lackluster, but the reviews have been stellar. I have no idea how to attract an audience to it. I am hoping that sales will increase as the other books are released (Book 2 dropping in about 6-7 weeks). The characters and plots are very close t me and I LOVE the book (are authors allowed to admit that) and will not give up on it. So I will continue to work (now about 20% into book 3) and hope for the best. Isn’t that all we can do?

    Best of luck on your books

    • One thing you definitely have on your side is the imminent arrival of Book 2. I think people tend to get irritated with constant rounds of promotion for the same thing, and just switch off altogether after a while, but having another title allows you to put both that, and your previous work, out there once more. It all seems pretty random anyway. Generally, either stuff catches, or it doesn’t. We all have to hope that ours is the stuff that does.

      Best of luck with your books too.

  2. With every new book, I always think “This is the one!” And then it isn’t.

    Some days I curse my Dreams for giving me such aspirations, but I am better off with them, even though they lead to disappointment along the way. Hang in there!

    • The next one is always the one 😦

      Ever forward.

      • Of my next two, one of them must be the one. It will probably be the other one. Or neither.

        I decided to re-do my middle-grade cover with a realistic illustration, so I just downloaded Brushes on my iPad and have been doodling away. Of course, now I just want to draw and not write! One of the many dangers of self-pubbing, I suppose … 🙂

    • That’s not such a bad thing. Drawing new covers or posters is kinda like working, but without having your nose buried in words for hours at a time. The posters I put up here are equal parts work and procrastination.

  3. Hello, I stumbled upon your post via Kindleboards and can honestly say that the cover is definitely not my cup of tea. Now, I’m hardly the majority of possibly interested readers, but something more eyecatching (as in people or a beautiful landscape or whatever) just might do the trick. And yes, to me that “Volume II” is definitely offputting. If the stories aren’t related, perhaps it’d be wiser to sell them independently? That way you’d avoid confusion and not scare potential readers away by the sheer length of the “series”.

    Just my 2 cents, but maybe it helps. And btw, I don’t think your writing is the problem. Even the first part of your post had a haunting quality to it, something downright melancholy and gripping … I think you’ll do very well once you’ve sorted out the cover and perhaps the title.

    I wish you the best of luck, and please keep us updated on KB! 🙂



    • Thanks for your comments. I don’t know that the cover’s the problem though. All my other books have similar obtusely minimalist thing going on, and that’s the style that fits the material.

      • Yes, I saw that on Kindleboards. Hmm, if it words for the other books then I have no idea what it is about this one. 😦 What if you tried simply changing the titles (even minimally would do, methinks) and announcing the change in the blurb for those readers who already know you?

    • Everything’s so deeply tied in to the original titles and concept now that I couldn’t change it even if I wanted to. It’s a horrible phrase, but that’s my ‘brand’ now. Perseverance, rather than changing stuff at this late, established stage is going to be the key, with both these, and anything new.

  4. Difficult, but in that case you should just sit it out, let it rest and simply wait for a better time. I’m not marketing my stories either but every now and then someone stumbles upon them and makes me smile by giving them a try. (At this point you hear me cry, “Long live the day job that allows me to have this mindset!”) Perhaps a tag-attack could help you?

    • Yeah, probably. I’m not devoting crazy amounts of time to promoting it or anything, I just feel like I should be reminding people it exists. My priority is still the most recent or current stuff, but it’s been so long since I’ve had someone stumble on it that I probably shouldn’t let it silently sit in the background any more.

  5. Just LOL @ this. I totally sympathize with the sentiments behind it, but mostly I’m just laughing at the wonderfully provided humor and humility, not to mention the excellent bit of subtle marketing this piece represents too. Just clever on many fronts, so, thanks for the laugh.

  6. Could it be the cross on the cover? It might attract Christians, but deter others from reading the sample even? The series style is kick ass. I think it’s the symbolism putting people off. Folks might assume it’s Christian ficion, and just move on if that’s not their genre.

    • A few people have said that, so it’s possible, but the original paperback — which died a death in line with the e-versions — had a completely different cover.

      • I like your covers, have defended them on KB before etc. etc. But I think writly might be onto something. I really like the “relationship” cover above, the one with the woman with the bomb for a head. If you feel like experimenting, I’d use a version of that image for the cover and change the title to “Frantic Planet: New Title Blah Blah.” In other words, drop the “Volume II.” If they’re standalones, there’s no need to make people think they need to check out the first in the series before moving on to this one.

        Probably won’t make a whit of difference–this business can be hilariously frustrating sometimes–but I think that would make it more universally appealing without straying from your brand, your vision, etc.

    • I guess this is where I set out my stall in being one of those guys who ignores the same piece of advice told to me by a thousand people, but I firmly believe in zero comprimise in art.

      It’s bad enough when someone else — publisher, producer — demands artistic changes for the better of mass market appeal, but when you’ve got 100% creative control? Yeah, no way. That’s one of the pluses of going Indie; we’re not slaves to anybody but ourselves. Sometimes, art should be uncomfortable, and if people are put off by the cross, then so be it, but I’d honestly rather have those people not read, as well as the others who think that looks interesting and plump for it, then have a thousand times the sales by doing something safer or watered down.

      This piece is less about *why* this hasn’t sold, and more about my refusing to take that lying down.

      Of course, I’ll probably die penniless :p

  7. […] and 2) a terrible cold on my part, so here’s something to tide you over. In line with the images I did to promote Frantic Planet: Volume II, here’s something I knocked out for Volume I. Click for (a tiny bit) […]

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