Hello, dear readers, and welcome!
Somewhere in between preparations for this year's NaNoWriMo and Halloween, I entirely forgot to write this post, for my 4-year publishing anniversary! So, I decided to remedy that by writing it now.
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Wow, four years! I certainly doesn't seem like it, but when I look back I can see just how much has happened between now and then, and just how much I have grown.
That is, perhaps, the largest bit: that I have grown -- as a writer, and as a person. Learning more about business, especially this fickle and often tiresome business, has lead to definite changes in my life, some good and some bad. But overall, I feel that through experiencing the ups and downs that I have managed, I have come out all the stronger for my challenges.
So I will offer some advice, as I often like to do. This advice doesn't stretch just to publishing, but to life, as well:
I often like to speak on the topic of being yourself, because the more I go through, the more importance I put upon it, and the more I realize its importance, but the other two I don't speak concerning quite as often. They are immeasurably important, however, as I said, not only in the publishing business, but in life, as well.
There are plenty of stars in the sky, but some shine brighter than others -- so are there people, and thus do they shine. It isn't due to the fact that some people are not "worth" as much as others, because everyone is worthy, but because some people are not afraid to take their life by the reigns, and drive themselves forward. I am working on not being afraid.
It takes a mass amount of courage to write a book, and to publish it, but as I am finding, it takes an even greater amount of courage to go against the grain. In this sense, I mean to allow a book the time it needs to become, to really shape -- to allow ourselves time to get to know our characters, to plot out our plot, to do our best to make this book into everything it can be. We all too often try and rush to the next thing, while the moment, the journey, slips past us. It takes courage to slow down, to wait. We might have to let go of some things in the process, and we might have to devote more time, but this is where our passion appears.
Publishing is about more than just numbers, sales, and how many retailers you have your book available through -- or it should be, at least. I think the thing that writers often forget is that, self-published or not, we are writers first, and owe it to our stories to allow them to be crafted with care, not ease.
As I look back over four years, I can definitely see a change in my schedule. I used to, prior to publishing, spend months and months, sometimes even years, on a project, but once I started publishing I wrote faster, released faster, and attempted to keep up with the other writers. This may work for some people, but not so for me. What resulted were multiple unfinished or half-finished products, books I eventually had to pull off the proverbial shelf because I so hated them, books I had to re-write and re-release, or abandon forever. I nearly lost my will to write last year, so caught up in insecurity over not writing and releasing fast enough, and feeling as though I would never get anywhere in publishing because of it. Can you see where confidence might come in?
I have always known, and heard, this, but last year really drilled it into my mind: if you are publishing to make money, then you are in the wrong business. Most to-be authors will, when told this, point to moneymakers in the writing world, both traditionally and self-published, and expect to become them. It is possible, certainly, but it isn't likely. The mere math concerning how many books are available, not to mention published weekly or daily, or even monthly, is both astonishing and will make the blood leave your face. The probability of success as determined by plenty of money is not high in this business, but if we are writers working by passion, then that doesn't really matter.
Stop crunching numbers, writer, and get back to writing. It's a sad truth that you may never sell a million copies, that you may never even see any money until your fifth book or later, and that even then you may not make more than $500 per year, if that, but don't let that stop you. Passion isn't about money, it's about work, and if your work is writing, then get to writing. The passionate writer has to write in order to be, money or no money, so don't give your passion away simply because it isn't lucrative at the moment, if ever -- as Tolkien wrote: "all that is gold does not glitter". Indeed.
This leads into confidence, even when it seems as though we are "failing" by not making money (which I utterly believe is a lie). The confident writer is the writer who gets things done. The moment the writer loses their confidence, or allows lack of confidence to creep towards them slowly, is the moment that they either have trouble or give up writing. We cannot afford to think that our writing will always be terrible, that we don't write as well as we once did, that we are going to write the story "wrong", that our ideas are terrible, or that, worst of all, maybe we have lost our writing talent. Confidence doesn't mean that we can't admit to our faults, admit to the parts in our story that need work (because a story always needs work after its first, second, etc. draft), but we shouldn't be so terrified of our abilities that we feel inadequate. Having confidence isn't having haughtiness, merely being centered in the fact that we can do our work, and do it well. It doesn't matter if anyone else is doing it, or if it has been "done" plenty of other times, but with other twists; you are not out to please anyone.
Repeat after me: I am a fantastic author.
Whenever you are feeling depleted or as if you are on the edge of losing confidence, as my French teacher used to say: répéter, répéter, répéter!
After I realized that the way I was writing was not working for me, I began to change things, to have more confidence. It wasn't easy at first, with a few years of "I'm not keeping up/I'm not good enough" behind me, but I managed -- one step at a time, one affirmation at a time. Now I am beginning to exercise confidence not only in what I'm writing, but in how I'm writing it; I may not be as fast as others, and I may take longer, but I am confident of my own process and what it puts forth. The moment we start to sink into old thoughts of "not good enough", we can shake them off with affirmation, and keep working. All diamonds need polishing before they can shine.
But I will step aside from the writing process for a moment, because one of the things that I've learned about publishing is that we do need to, even on the business side, be all of the above things, as well. Perhaps confidence is an obvious asset, but what about passion and self? I see so many writers on social media, throwing their books at others, clogging up internet space, sometimes being unknowing nuisances, and I wonder what type of passion they have, because often I can't see it.
I cannot say that using social media to get word out about your books is bad, because it isn't -- it's a necessary tool -- but in the same token, all too often the author's sense of self disappears, whether for the author themselves, or for the reader of their social content. I am not a person who could stand on the side of the road, flashing a sale sign, like others I see (especially around this time of year, the Holidays). I like to talk about my stories, but more than anything, I like to talk about stories -- to share information, essays, critical analysis, things that inspire me; I am an intellectual, stimulated by knowledge, not a billboard. If I were to only promote my books, and nothing else, I would feel like a fake -- and I can't say that I haven't felt like a fake in the past, and don't still feel like a fake at times, when I do promote my work, because I am also someone who finds it difficult to spend much time on social sites.
The act of promotion isn't a bad thing, rather how you go about it. I've said before that doing things your way, matching your marketing, etc., to your abilities and desires is a good thing, but as often, it takes me a while to listen to myself.
The heart of the matter lies within the fact that we as authors, publishers, and people fall too far into the crowd and the way that things "should be" done, rather than living and working with passion, confidence, and self. The heart of the matter is always the story, the words, the literature, and that is what should be shared -- the story and the author, from whence the story comes. Sales are great, reviews are great, but what about the work, the passion that went into it, the confidence that it's amazing, and the writer who brings all of these things together?
There is so much to write about publishing and writing itself that it cannot all be contained in a simple post -- or even three. Life itself is a learning process, not to mention publishing, but the thing that is amazing is that at hallmarks, such as my publishing anniversary, we can look back and see how far we have come -- not with a frown or frustration over what could have been done, but with pride that we have matured and come so far forward.
So, keep moving forward, writer, keep going towards whatever you want to accomplish. This is your life, your legacy, what you will devote hours and years of time to. Make it count, and make it beautiful. Have confidence that you are doing your best; allow your passion to drive you even further into artistic heights; enjoy the journey as you be yourself, and become closer to your work.
If you've lost that wide-eyed, enthusiastic draw towards writing that you had once, before all of the "not good enough" and the "this is the right way" comments, then chase after it, writer, and grasp onto it with both hands. This is your life, your writing, your stories, so make the most of it.
Don't go backwards, but forwards.