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I've always been one to try new things. Even as a youngling I was reading fantasy, sci-fi, historical, literary fiction, and the classics. But over time my taste has become more precise, and I've also learned what I like and what I don't. I've stagnated.

I still force myself to try new genres and time periods, but 95% of the time it just reminds me why I don't read more of that. I wish this wasn't the case, but I'm in the camp of readers who've eaten a few too many poison berries and now are afraid of the unknown.

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Lots of valuable points there Mark. I just started a substack with a goal to start publishing when I retire in a few years. Good to know the challenges.

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Really insightful thoughts!

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Thank you for this nutritious essay filled with tasty musings. It started as a "do's and dont's" of marketing but wandered into all sorts of interesting asides. I wanted to read this piece, based on the title, because I too am at my wits' end when it comes to building an audience on Substack. My own substack, thenaturepreserve.substack.com, will be a year old in two days. It mainly exists due to all the things you said about trying to sell a novel conventionally. I went through a wasted year of due diligence with agents and publishers and getting nowhere despite, if I say so myself, my excellent, well-crafted submissions. I'm guilty! I wrote The Nature Preserve, without identifying a market for it, not because I'm stupid but because I'm hopelessly romantic, and by that I don't mean I write Romance, RH or SAM. I mean that I hold onto the romantic notion that literature is an art form that is ever-evolving, and publishers and agents, if they really cared about literature, would not be simply trying to cover off on tried and true formulas, but looking out for new and intriguing voices that don't fit into the usual tired categories. Yes, I created my product first. I do not have a clear genre and I am not tuned into a signal. It was that "left field" thing I was counting on. My hope in going digital was that somebody somewhere would read installments of my novel on substack and reach out with the keys to the publishing kingdom or, failing that, an enthusiastic audience would emerge for me right here which I could parlay into even better, more far-reaching literary experiments.

I'm putting out my second serial novel now, Real Voices, a comedy set in a sort of hyperbolic San Francisco, and I have to say I'm getting a bit discouraged about all of the stuff you mentioned. I, luckily or unluckily, have managed to gain a few dedicated readers and it's because of them I keep banging away. When it comes to writing newsletters and essays as a means of self promotion I'm not a fan though I've done a few. I agree with Chekhov that it's the business of an artist to ask questions not to answer them. I like your thought that fiction is about "getting at the inexpressible itness." I'm with you on that, and I am appreciative of your diligence and your struggle. I guess I have to accept that I exist among the "blithe and artsy." There's no clear path. For now, all I can do is carry on.

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Feel the same way about the newsletter situation as an author.

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Aug 13Liked by G. M. Baker

> If you have enjoyed my novels, could you send me a list of the other novels you have read this year, and of your favorite books of all time?

I can tell you since you asked, but I am not sure if you will find much signal in it.

Books I read this year

- Joel on Software, by Joel Spolsky

- Piranesi, by Susanna Clarke

- Circe, by Madeline Miller

- Jirel of Joiry, by C. L. Moore

- Atomic Habits, by James Clear

- Radical Candour, by Scott

- Mad Investor Chaos and the Woman of Asmodeus (online story)

- Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles, by Dowden

- The Wistful and the Good, by G. M. Baker

- On Tactics, by Clausewitz

- The Face of Battle, by Keegan

- Brains and Bullets, by Murray

- Leaders Eat Last, by Sinek

- Muster, by Eero Tuovenin

- and about 15 old Star Wars novels (I won't list them)

Favourite books of all time

- Impro for Storytellers, by Keith Johnstone

- What Do You Care What Other People Think, by Feynman

- A Severe Mercy, by Sheldon Vanauken

- Never Let Me Go, by Kazua Ishiguro

Out of those, I suppose the one most similar to your book was Circe, by Miller.

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