When we take the likes of Chimamanda Adichie as the model of authorship, achieving success in writing can appear effortless.
For the vast majority of writers, especially writers working on Africa-related narratives, things are a bit less seamless. Undergoing the challenges of writing a book, hiring an editor to clean it up, and getting the book self-published is only the beginning, after which comes the difficult task of getting readers to buy the book.
It is this not-so-pretty ordeal that Kiru Taye documents in a recent post on her blog. Taye has an impressive catalogue of romance and erotic fiction, all of which are self-published. She has a strong reader base that she’s worked hard to cultivate over the years. Notwithstanding, it’s still a struggle to make the kinds of sales she hopes for.
See why she might be making some really hard decisions about the future as a writer.
Read Taye’s story below:
I wrote a book.
I’ve written over 20 books.
Earlier this year I wrote the first part of Freddie’s story and published it in April.
For those of you not familiar with this character:
While I wrote Riding Rebel back in 2014, Freddie stood out. His background was a mystery but his determination to do his job and keep Tony alive was beyond doubt.
When Tony quietened down in my mind or stepped away from over my shoulders, Freddie stepped in and whispered, “I have a story for you.”
I was surprised really because when I did the original outline for the Essiens that I pitched to publishers, it was for a 3-book series.
But as a writer, I’d learned quite early not to shut my characters down when they have a story to tell.
So my response to Freddie was, “You do?”
“Yes, I do,” he replied, pulling up a chair right next to me. “When can you fit me in?”
But of course, Kola stepped into the room. “You’re going to have wait your turn, Freddie, as she still has to finish my story.”
And Freddie being the no-fuss gent that he is, stepped aside with a wink. “I’ll wait.”
Oh, if you’re wondering how come I had a conversation with imaginary characters. Well, duh. I am a writer. These characters are always talking to me.
Anyway, I digress.
Fast forward to 2017, I finally sat down and wrote Freddie’s story. I had sign-posted that he would get a story from the time Riding Rebel came out and readers were expectant.
Of course, every hero has a heroine.
When I met Kike’s character I was excited. I had never written a story about such a character before. For one, she was older, already had a child and married.
Okay. I’ve written about married couples before. I love stories about struggling wedded couples getting a second chance. My first published story, His Treasureinvolved a married couple. In Keeping Secrets, Felix and Ebony are already married when we meet them. And of course, one of my favourite stories, Bound to Passion (formerly Island Bound) had a married couple on the brink of divorce.
As much as I love giving married couples a happy ending, I also realise that not every marriage will have a happy ending. On a personal note, I lost two of my friends to unhappy marriages. So it was inevitable that I was going to write a story where the female lead either walks away from her marriage or dies in it.
That’s how Kike was born.
She is married to a narcissistic sociopath, Lekan, who considers her to be his property and treats her as such. He cheats on her frequently and doesn’t care about her feelings.
Yes, she’s a celebrated actress and lives a life of luxury. But inside she is dead.
Until Freddie gives her hope.
Freddie and Kike had a story to tell. They are complex and flawed characters.
Yes, it isn’t the conventional boy-meets-girl story. She is married and he’s at her house to do a job–protecting her and her family.
Yes, there are some issues in the story that may make a reader uncomfortable.
I’ll admit writing their story hasn’t been the easiest ride for me. (See my comment above about friends in unhappy marriages) At times it was a little too close to home. But I didn’t want to shy away from the gritty reality of abusive relationships and I didn’t want to gloss things over. There are way too many women in similar situations.
So I wrote the story as it came to me and the full story is over 100,000 words. At 100K words, this is the longest story I’ve written based on the same couple.
Benjamin and Selina (Passion Shields) came in at 80K over the 3 books series. Henry and Gloria (Bound to Ransom) came in at 95K in one single book.
When I got to 50K in Freddie, I realised I was nowhere near the end of the story and we were weeks away from release day. So after consultation with my editor, we decided to split the story into two books: Freddie Entangled and Freddie Untangled.
Freddie Entangled came out in April 2017.
And the readers responses trickled in.
A few loved it. Many were not bowled over.
Somebody hated it. The “Why did you write this story?” one-star review is quite an indictment.
Okay. Let me just say this. This is not a criticism of a reviewer’s opinion. I believe if someone has spent their hard-earned money on a book, reads it and the story doesn’t deliver, they have the right to criticise it.
Also, I’m not conceited enough to believe that everyone will read my stories and love them.
Even my favourite authors have ‘off books.’ (Off days/off books, you catch my drift).
But, when you work very hard (hundreds of hours) to write stories, revise, edit, format and get them out on schedule for readers, it can be demoralising to read something like that especially when the other reviews at the time were not praising the book either.
So I was left doubting myself and asking similar questions. Why did I write Freddie? Did I go too far with the subject matter? Did the story not make sense?
And of course, while my mind is full of doubts, my muse takes a walk. So I certainly couldn’t continue writing. Added to the fact that I’d had very little sleep in a few weeks at that time, and I was physically and mentally exhausted.
I’m sure other authors can attest, once you get into this crazy state of mind it’s a downward spiral.
The sales of Freddie Entangled tanked quite quickly on Amazon US which is where I make the most book sales. To date, it has the worst 3-month post-release sales data compared to the other Essien books.
So I was left wondering if I had written the book that no one wants to read.
The follow up book, Freddie Untangled was due out on July 7.
Usually when a new release date is close by, I start getting messages from readers who are eagerly waiting.
When a technical glitch meant that the book didn’t release on Amazon on said date, (another cause of stress) I’d expected to be inundated with readers asking about the book.
I got zero queries. Zilch. None.
The release weekend went by in the same vein.
I finally had to accept that I had written the book no one wants to read.
So I didn’t load it anywhere else and pulled it from Amazon.
Perhaps I am shooting myself in the foot here. After all, I’m not earning any money from a book that isn’t on sale.
But I won’t be the ego-filled writer who thinks every book they write is worthy of their readers.
And I really don’t want to put a crap book out there.
I don’t know.
Maybe I’m just exhausted.
Maybe it’s time for Kiru Taye to take a break from writing.
I know of authors who only release books once a year. Perhaps I should joined that revered group.
Perhaps it’s time I started working more on non-African romance projects. They are certainly more profitable.
I don’t know.
All I know is that I don’t want to write stories no one will read.
You know I don’t do this. I’m not one for long posts. I certainly don’t bare my soul publicly like this. But, dear reader, I’m hoping you understand.
So if you’ve ever bought and read any of my books, I want to say THANK YOU. If you’re one of those readers that keeps coming back for more of my stories, I say a DOUBLE THANK YOU.
If you’re waiting for Freddie Untangled, I’m sorry for this interruption to the normal production schedule. I know a couple of people enquired about the book in the past two days.
For those interested in reading it, I’m going to serialise Freddie Untangled. Subscribe to my newsletter, if you don’t want to miss an instalment. The form is inContact.
I don’t know when my next book will be out. But I’m going to take a break.
It’s the summer holidays and the kids are home, so trying to write at the moment is more stressful than it should be.
Maybe in a few weeks I’ll be more refreshed.
Maybe I’ll have better stories to tell.
In the meantime, take care of you.
And keep reading. There are plenty of African romance authors to check out. Nana Prah, Empi Baryeh, Amaka Azie, Nkem Ivara, to name a few.
If you would rather have steamy romance, check out Kenya Wright and Doris O’Connor.