A Learning Year
I began self-publishing back in 2016. I wrote for many years before that, sharing my stories with friends and even posting online for strangers to read before I realized actually publishing, through Amazon or other retailers, was even a real option. I outlined a set of five books I wanted to write, and since I loved reading romance and had spent my youth writing fan-fic, I decided the romance route was the one for me. I thought it would be easy, I loved to write, I thought I was pretty good at it given what friends and those online strangers had to say.
I was oh so wrong.
I mean, the writing part is easy, for some of us. Characters talk to us loudly and often, stories hit us while we're driving to work or taking a shower or trying to sleep. Thanks for that, creative brain. But the writing is just step one. A prologue if you will. You don't get to the meat of what publishing is until you write the end and then all the other work starts. Editing. Rewrites. Marketing. Branding. More rewrites. Promotion, social media, networking, and the list goes on. Putting a book out for the world to enjoy is not as much fun as I once thought. Oh, but the writing is and that is why we keep doing it.
Many an author came before me and I could reach out to ten of them and get ten answers on how they did it, how they hit big, how they made this their career. Or, which seemed more often the case, they would ignore or even misdirect me. No time to help someone else up a ladder they were still climbing. Even if they were at the top and settled nice there. I get it, this is a business and often in business the other guy is merely competition.
Within a few months of me uploading my very first book, I knew I was drowning. I was clueless, udder less, and up a proverbial creek without a paddle in sight. But I kept pushing. I tried to build a tribe of other authors like me, the uncool kids who don't get to sit at the cool kids table. That ship capsized and I was not just alone without peers who understood what I was going through when I saw preorders trickle in and sales peter out, but I felt as if I wound up ashore, watching others like me sail right past me as they hit bestsellers lists and announce they were going full-time because they were making money.
One year became two and I quietly celebrated any little success. My own website? Awesome. Five whole books published? Amazing! I got ten reviews, and they were mostly good? What is happening? I got my first orange banner with my first anthology? Get out! I never talked about my high peaks and low valleys--mostly low valleys--because when I compared myself to my peers, to authors publishing the same sort of books, at the same pace, I was standing still while they were shooting forward so my idea of success felt miniscule in comparison.
Again, I was oh so wrong.
Along the way I have had a little more success, I have not stacked up orange banners or thousands of dollars, or even hit any bestseller lists--but I am working at it. And the work to get there, that should be celebrated. It should be talked about proudly and I should be tooting my own little horn when I achieve something that I worked so hard for. There is a difference between being cocky or boastful versus being excited about little triumphs and proud of your work.
Yesterday, I found a list I made for myself for 2020. It struck me because I was already thirty or so books into my publishing career, had not yet profited, felt as if I would never be seen or truly heard, and I was still not ready to give up. I was not just unwilling to give up--my vigor was renewed. To learn, to grow, to figure out how to be seen, heard, and even, yes, make a profit.
Among those notes?
Start doing all kinds of learning about better marketing, better promo and networking. Ask authors, stop being so shy.
Reach out to bloggers more/again. They serve a purpose and even if I get no's, I asked and tried.
Set aside money every month for promo. 10 a week, 5 a week, anything. This is a business.
Get swag made finally. More bookmarks, fun stuff, etc. etc.
Track everything. Costs, sales, etc, keep track of what I put in, what comes back.
Keep writing. Keep learning.
Despite making no money, usually losing money in fact, I was not giving up. And I was positive and hopeful ending 2019. Now we all know the past few years have been less than positive in lots of arenas, but I kept pushing, I kept trying to learn and trying to grow and I will hold onto that spirit this year, let myself grow but also celebrate how far I have come, and all the little triumphs I have had. There is nothing wrong with bragging, humbly, about hitting a goal or even making money.
I am yet to get rich off of my writing, doubt I ever will, but my soul is rich. Richer each time I publish a book and see a review saying it was loved and enjoyed. And I want to keep my soul rich by appreciating my work, my dedication to this passion of mine, and the people who support it and have been there from the start!
Celebrate yourself, Dolls, love your journey and the paths you took to get there. Celebrate your triumphs, big or small, and let the world know you are proud of yourself without shame!