Readership vs. Mission
I wrote 5150 and the other books in the Psychotic Break Series to make known what was unknowable. I wanted to take the reader through the mind of a new adult whose fragile mind shattered and rebuilt itself several times. My mission was a success. What I hadn’t considered was the readership base.
Those books are way more interesting to someone who cares about me, or someone who cares for the mentally ill. The general population may never get scared by the psychological horror, because they don’t know who Ethan is.
A friend who is both a psychiatric nurse and someone who cares about me was blown away. He experienced all the fear that a caring person will feel watching me teeter on the edge of a hundred cliffs. He also experienced the mind-opening experience of seeing the world through the eyes of the patients he cares for.
Another thing I learned was that genre-busting fiction is hard to sell. I was unable to determine what genre these books were. If you look up similar books, they land in either a generic “Literature” category or else something obscure like “Transgressive Fiction”. Today I decided the books are a type of horror novel. I’m going to try to market them that way going forward to see if I can gather up any new readers.
I am confident that my books reduce stigma around mental illness by forcing the reader to see the world through the lens of a psychotic episode. If you identify with a character and understand their perspective, then it’s harder to stigmatize someone else with the same set of problems.
My greatest hope was that these books would be runaway bestsellers and get turned into 4 or 5 seasons of Netflix shows. I will never stop wanting that for the books, but I’m also learning the lesson Dorian Corey phrased so well at the end of “Paris Is Burning”. She was talking about the young drag kids who had big dreams. She said:
I always had hopes of being a big star…and as you get older you aim a little lower, and I say you still might make an impression. Everybody wants to leave something behind them, some mark upon the world.
Then you think you left a mark on the world if you just get through it ….and a few people remember your name. Then you left a mark. You don’t have to bend the whole world.
I think it is better to just enjoy it. Pay your dues and enjoy it.
If you shoot an arrow and it goes real high, hooray for you.