The Downward Spiral

How did I end up here? Slowly, and with diminishing mental health. I’ll try to explain…

I’ve enjoyed writing, to one extent or another, for most of my life. I first had the idea to write a book as far back as my tweens. I started writing away in a notebook. It was fun. It was formative. It was largely ignored and dismissed by my father.

In the garbage it went. I took another swing at it in my early teens, I’d say. I tried once again to get my father’s attention. It didn’t really work. It wasn’t a terrible story. Think Universal Monsters meets Castlevania.

Still not getting the attention and affirmation I needed, I eventually stopped working on the book. I eventually tossed all of that in the trash as well. My writing languished for the rest of my teenage years. I didn’t touch a pen in that way through all of my young adulthood.

Then something just, changed. By my mid-thirties I was nowhere. I was in a dead-end job and living in poverty. I’d also been itching to start writing again. That’s when I first got the idea to combine the two. I challenged myself to write a novel and, gods willing, maybe burst this bubble of destitution.

And wouldn’t you know it? I actually did it. That novel was After, my first.

As should be clear by now, I had zero confidence in my ability to even write. Yes, I had written an entire novel, but would anyone take it seriously? I decided to skip over traditional publishing, already certain I would get put through the meat grinder and, if you couldn’t already tell, I had zero self-esteem, so…

I went the indie route. After was put out on CreateSpace, before Amazon came and gobbled it up. And wouldn’t you know it? It actually did pretty damn well for a first novel. I got maybe $300 out of it in its first run, I’d say.

I was already working on my second novel. Preservation Protocol was released a few months later and… tanked.

I did everything I did for After for Preservation Protocol. It didn’t matter. I made maybe a fifth of what I did with After, if that. I kept pushing it, and pushing on, starting on my third novel.

Something Deeper was released and fell to the ground dead almost immediately. I’m pretty sure that I spent more money on advertising it than I actually made from it. I still can’t fathom what I did wrong to this day.

Regardless, I remained stubbornly below the poverty line. So I remained stubbornly writing. There was After: Requiem, a sequel to my most successful novel, which got virtually zero attention. I wrote my magnum opus, The Other Side of Things

I cannot begin to tell you how much I love this book. My heart is in this book. Nobody wants this book. I have given away ten times as many copies as I’ve sold, and I never heard a thing from those folks. I don’t know if they ever read them.

I wrote a series! No Road Home. I think there may be two people in the world, literally, that have read the complete series. There’s only five books. There’s also a dictionary, and a middle school book, and the FMZ compendium… All duds.

Nothing I did was changing the reality. I couldn’t get eyes on these books. It was as if I was being willfully ignored. Blacklisted. Dismissed like so much trash.

With every book I wrote, I thought surely this will be the one. I will find success. My readers will discover my other books and read them, too. I will free my family from poverty. I will give them the lives they deserve.

It never happened. One child is grown, the other has a few more years.

I failed.

That said, I still want my books to be read. I still have a passion for them. I still love them. And I still think others will love them, if I could only ever get them to read them. That’s why I decided to give them away.

No more looking at an idle sales chart. Do you know what it’s like? To have thirteen books available for sale, and have no sales, no reads, nothing for months at a time? No matter what you do?

I do.

It destroys you. Eats your soul from the inside out. There have been many times that I have danced a dangerous edge between staying alive and… well… I am a passionate man.

I have clung to life, at times only for the welfare of my family. But you know, funny thing, I’m tired of being depressed. So here we are.

I might not be able to make a better life from my books now, but maybe I can finally get a few readers. I mean, $2.99 never seemed like that big of a deal to me, but maybe? Regardless, the books will be free, and I will be free, from that cold collection of zeroes staring at me on the KDP dashboard.

I’m still living in poverty, but at least I can control the fate of my books. I chose to set them free.

Please give them a home.

— John P