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On Not Fitting In

This is one of those blog posts where I speak frankly about my own feelings and is meant to shed light on the human side of writing. My Moderator Mallet will be out in the comments. Please be nice.

In the days coming up to my two year anniversary as a published author I've had time to do a lot of soul searching. You probably saw my blog post about switching to Amazon-only for my books and already I'm happy with that decision. Not because it's brought me a ton of money or anything, but because it lifted a huge weight from my shoulders I've carried for sometime.

Here's another weight I carry with me that I hope to lighten this next year: the fact that I don't fit in anywhere in my writing universe. I used to think being unique made me stand out in the crowd. I used to think being unique meant I could do things people would appreciate for their creativity. But no, creativity is not something that’s rewarded. Creativity is risky, and most people are risk-adverse. People/readers want certainty.

So I took a hard look at the circles I spend time in online to figure out where I fit the best. I belong to a really great group of New Adult writers and I don't fit in there. My work is too foreign. It's not sexy enough. It's not mainstream. It's not billionaire rocker step-brother romances. Though all the authors I know that write those wonderfully edgy books welcome me, I sit on the sidelines and watch them all succeed while I go unnoticed.

But I think, “That's okay! They're doing well and that's what matters. I also belong to this romance writers group…” But I don't fit in there either. I don't write hard core romance. I've never been traditionally published. I don't write M/M romance or Navy Seals or Small Town or Paranormal Shifter Werewolf romances, all of which seem to be popular lately. They're all awesome genres to those that write them but I just have never had ideas for those genres so I sit on the sidelines and watch everyone else succeed.

Same goes for this awesome dystopia group I belong to that's all zombies and apocalyptic genres. Same goes for the science fiction romance group I belong to that's mostly aliens and spaceships. I even quit a chicklit group I loved because I didn't fit in so badly it was painful.

Boo hoo, right? Lol. No. It’s time to put on my thinking cap! So what do these observations mean? The clinical observer in me points out that this is a good indication that I'm still not writing in the “right genre for me.” I'm gaining lots of great experience in indie publishing, learning a whole lot about marketing and advertising. I'm learning about story structure and editing, and I’m meeting other awesome and supportive authors along the way. But I'm still not applying those lessons to a genre that's really my home.

Where is my home? If it's not New Adult, Romance, Dystopian, Magical Realism, or Science Fiction, what is it?

Two months ago, I would never have considered writing in a new genre because in a lot of cases, this means you start over as an author. Plenty of authors will even start a new pen name for a new genre because they don’t want to confuse their readers. Many readers will not follow an author to a new genre no matter how much they loved their other books. It's a big risk to take and one that shouldn't be taken lightly (Remember, readers are risk-adverse. They want to know what they’re getting when they pick up a book.)

I've been agonizing over my place in this author world now for two years. I've known I don't fit in for quite some time, and it's been hard to come to terms with up-ending everything I've worked hard for.

But it's time for another change. I'm keeping my Japan-inspired brand but I'm going to give a new genre a try this winter. Once I publish Revealed, I will be working hard crafting something new. How new? I want to dip my foot in mysteries. Mysteries as a book market is crowded but diverse, and I'm going to see if it's a place I might be comfortable in since there's more leeway for uniqueness and variation. I will keep up my Nogiku world and my Kami No Sekai world, but I plan to focus on this new genre and give it a real go, really try hard to make it work. Since it will be Japan-inspired, I hope to carry over those that came to me because of the Japan angle, and since I still love romance, I'll include a romance subplot for those that still want that.

My goal is to fit in as an author but stand out as a storyteller. And hopefully this is the first step in my journey towards finding the right audience for my work. I hope you'll join me in my quest to find my place and I promise to share the experiences with you a long the way.

10 thoughts on “On Not Fitting In”

  1. Great post, Stephanie. I wish you so much luck and hope you find the place for you. I know it seems like everyone else is successful, and I feel the same way, but I heard something in an online class the other day. The most successful indie author -probably 95% of people have never heard of that person. It’s true. I think a lot comes down to what we measure as success, though. I know we both measure it differently, but I’m still not at a point I consider myself successful. At all. I really hope this is the genre for you!

    1. I have a measure of success definitely and it’s a combination of sales numbers, and a few other things, and I know I don’t meet any of those criteria except for maybe one month a year. And there’s this overwhelming feeling of not having found my place yet. I don’t feel home or secure in writing. So, something needs to change. Perhaps changing genres won’t help at all! But you know me, I like to try try try until I see some kind of results I can measure. This is something I haven’t tried yet, so I’m going for it.

    1. Some of the best parts of the Nogiku series were the mysteries behind everything. I feel that the need for information and watching Sanaa’s growth were the two things that propelled that series and kept readers coming back, and that’s what I hope to accomplish with a change to mystery too. That’s what I really loved about writing that series, and it’s what fed my soul and kept me going. I figure this is a good field in which to try something new.

      I figured a lot of people struggled with this too and I’m glad you came by and commented. Thanks!

  2. I think your originality and creativity do make you stand out and it’s the reason I picked up your books and part of the reason I love your books so much. They are different from most other books out there and I think that’s a good thing. I do understand that’s probably what does make it difficult to promote/ market them and find your place in the writing community.

    I am really looking forward to this mystery you are going to be writing. I like giving new genres a try by reading a book in that genre from an author I already know. It feels like there’s less risk involved that way and I can get a feel for the genre, while still having something familiar. So I guess I can understand the whole risk averse thing The genres I am used to reading I sort of know what to expect, that doesn’t mean I don’t like to be surprised, but it’s still handy to have some sort of idea what a book will be about. Makes it easier to decide what to read and what fits the reading mood I am in.

    I hope this third year as a published author will be a good one for you!

    1. I was just saying this on FB but I feel like in the genres I have chosen so far, romance and scifi, I’m so far out of the box that only 2-5% of those readers are going to pick me up because they’re the ones that want my kind of different. You happen to be one of those people! Which is great for me of course. But I can’t help but feel that if I found a genre where I write my style but I’m only somewhat out of the box OR this genre’s readers are more risk-adverse, I would do better. Like if I could get 10% or higher of the readers to give me a shot, I would do better. So it’s worth a try. Sometimes being different in a different genre works better.

      I’m glad you’re excited about the mystery. I haven’t even written it yet! But I’m also excited by the possibilities so that’s how I know I’m making a good decision.

  3. This is going to be a tough question, but have you ever considered really pursuing traditional publishing? I only ask this because I think “out of the box” actually works better for traditionally published books than it does for self-published. This might be a sad statement, but people are more willing to take a chance on a book if it’s attached to a publisher they know and trust. And it DOES seem like publishers lately are looking for more out of the box thinking (at least some of them – I would say this is especially true for YA, which I know you don’t write, but …)

    I agree that the self-pub NA world is thriving on millionaire stepbrother alpha books – I’m guessing it’s a phase that wiill pass, but it’s wildly popular right now. No Japanese stepbrother’s for you? LOL!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    1. I had an agent and I pursued traditional publishers with her for almost a year. Trust me, they don’t want my books. All of the responses were, “This is wonderful, but we don’t know how to market it.” So, they don’t know any better than I do. And I am very adamant about staying indie. I can’t imagine signing away my rights, the inability to set prices, and most of my royalties to a publisher who is not sure how to market me either.

      And though you say readers trust a publisher, I’ve asked this question before in forums, and most people don’t even look at the publisher name. They look at the cover, blurb, and reviews, and then decide for themselves. So I don’t think a publisher would add anything more to my cachet.

      Lol. No Japanese step-brothers! *dying* I think I’m going to go less sexy, not more. ;)

  4. I don’t fit in anywhere either but I don’t write so who gives a damn. I do love mysteries which is probably why I loved the Nogiku series. And a little romance is nice too. Write what makes you feel good, your loyal fans will follow and we will tell others. Good luck.

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the Nogiku Series. :) The mysteries of that series were my favorite part too along with the romance, so I think that’s why I’m going to stick with those going forward. I also plan to write another scifi series that would have mystery and romance, too. Just gotta plan it out!

      I don’t mind not fitting in in real life. I think we’re all unique individuals anyway and no one is a cookie cut version of the perfect person anyway. It’s harder in the writing world because there are slots you have to fill in order for readers to know what they’re getting or find what they’re looking for.

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S. J. Pajonas