The Incredible Freedom of a Supportive Reader Community

The Incredible Freedom of a Supportive Reader Community
  1. I Don’t Read That: Rejection, Feral Fiction, and Publishing
  2. Introducing Cosmorans: Appearance
  3. The Incredible Freedom of a Supportive Reader Community

I often write about my struggles and insecurities, but sometimes the opposite comes true. So here’s a hopeful post full of warm fuzzies, with thanks to the friends and folk who support me, one way or another!

As I wrote about before, and have posted about a few times as well, I am writing a novel that I fear won’t find its readers. Too niche, too odd, too much of me, when I have never felt like enough. It’s easy for me to enumerate the ways in which it feels like it will fail: it’s a combination of niche subgenres and niche writing structures. It’s queer but not in a sexy way. I have really struggled to find published titles to compare it to.

And while it might seem easy to say ‘it doesn’t matter! You’re writing for you!’ the truth is that I’m not just writing for me. Writing makes up the majority of my very small income. I might be writing for me, but I’m publishing to survive. It matters how my books are received.

Each time I have felt overwhelmed by the pressure to publish well versus the reality of my very niche WIP, I have shared about it online.

And to my genuine shock, the overwhelming response has been ‘I would read that!’

Some of it has been ‘That’s what I’m looking for!’ Much of it has been ‘I want to read what you write, whatever that might be.’ And lots of it has been ‘I’d be willing to give it a go!’ or ‘I’m always interested in something a bit different.’

And while it’s easy to say to myself ‘they are just being nice’ or ‘they don’t mean it’, I realise I am prone to dismissing hope. So I’ve looked at the books I’ve published so far — each a bit weird, each a bit niche, each with an even smaller readership than I have now. And how each of them found their readers.

The covers of my first three published books: Books & Bone, Kin: The Fantasy Tabletop Role-playing Game, and Non-Player Character.
The covers of my first three published books.

Books & Bone was as weird a debut as they come — a high fantasy novel about necromancers with a touch of ace romance, which was neither comedy or horror but instead something a little sweet, a little goofy, and a lot about passionate interest and the need to make an impression on the world. I still receive messages from people who read it and want to let me know ‘hey, I enjoyed this! When’s the next one?’ which is mind-boggling to me.

Non-Player Character was weirder still — an extremely nerdy portal fantasy for adults in which everyone is queer and the journey is not about saving the world but about building supportive friendships and overcoming anxiety. The structure of it remains the weirdest thing I’ve ever written — where neither the POV nor the plot belongs to the more traditional protagonist with a great power and destiny, but instead to her newest friend’s very personal struggle with anxiety across both Earth and the fantasy world. It was more successul than I dared hope it could be, and it has meant everything to me to receive messages that say ‘this book made me feel seen’.

And then of course there is the nonsense where I decided to make the fictional TTRPG in Non-Player Character into a real fully-fledged one that people can buy and play. Kin is out in the world and some people are even playing it. Sometimes I can’t believe that really happened!

I’ve been forced to recognise that niche books can and will still succeed. Maybe not at the sort of numbers that a traditional publisher wants, but certainly enough to make a difference to someone like me. I’ve also been forced to acknowledge that I have the most supportive reader community I could imagine — that my readers and supporters will not only tolerate me taking risks to write the strange and obscure novels of my dreams, but that they’ll actively encourage me to do it. This is an incredible privilege that it would be wrong of me to discount or dismiss.

I’m still afraid. And certainly, I still feel the financial pressure, which is far more pressing this year than we’d expected. But I also feel hopeful, and supported, and … free in a way I hadn’t expected being an author would ever be. I’m going to write my weird books. And I think people will read them.

That’s pretty incredible.

 


 

This post, like all my work, is made with thanks to my supporters on ko-fi. If you’d like to support my writing, streaming, and creation, please do consider tipping or getting a membership.

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