In year’s past, I’ve done a general New Year’s resolution post. These are things and ideas that anyone can use to boost their writing career, or simply get more enjoyment/productivity out of their writing. If that’s what you’re looking for, visit that link because this post isn’t like that.
This year, I wanted to write about my personal resolution. Maybe it will resonate with some of you, maybe not. But something’s been bugging me for the last few months and instead of letting is fester (which has been my MO up to this point), I’m resolving to fix it.
In 2017 I’m going back to the basics with my writing. What does that mean, exactly? I’m going back to the way life used to be, back when I actually enjoyed writing. I’m going back to BP: Before Publication.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m extremely happy to be traditionally published. It was, after all, my dream for many years. To achieve that is wonderful. I’ve enjoyed many of my experiences thus far. But being published, especially as a new author who’s had to invest a ton of time on marketing, social media, and publicity, has pretty much killed my actual writing.
Publication is a double-edged sword. Yes, it’s the culmination of years of work and dreaming. But it’s also only the beginning. There is a constant need to promote the book(s) so that the next book(s) will do better, your current publisher will still love you, future publishers/agents will take notice of your work, and you’ll be allowed to continue riding the crazy publication carousel. In short, it’s a buttload of work and I think a lot of authors gloss over it or intentionally omit the pain from conversations, instead preferring to tell everyone publication is completely wonderful.
Admitting that it’s overwhelming is akin to saying that you aren’t immensely grateful and happy to be published. That’s not true, of course. Happiness and unhappiness can exist at the same time. Every job, no matter how wonderful, has aspects that are boring and sucky. But in publishing, it’s a bit different. With freelancing, there are aspects of the job that I hate. I despise having to ask for payment from a forgetful client, for example. However, doing that doesn’t take me away from my work. It’s one phone call out of the day and then it’s back to work. There’s no danger that asking for payment will take over my whole day.
But when you’re writing novels plus trying to promote them, the promotion so easily becomes the whole job. Especially when you’re published with a small press that doesn’t have a huge marketing budget/department (and you can’t afford to hire a PA). The author is responsible for setting up bookstore events and attending conventions, posting on all forms of social media, running a website, handling all inquiries, running sales, giveaways, and other fun promotional things (and creating all the graphics/banners/parties that go along with that) and generally doing everything there is to do to promote and sell books. All of this alone easily is a full-time job. For someone who already has a full-time job (and needs to keep it to pay the bills), adding this to writing is too much at times.
There. I said it. Go ahead and crucify me or call me ungrateful, but it’s too much. Any author with a full-time job, family responsibilities, and other life obligations who says otherwise is either lying, or never sleeps. Marketing on top of all the rest of life is too much. You have a choice: You can market your existing work, or write new work. Not both. Not unless you have the money to hire some outside help.
There have been days lately when I find myself questioning if it’s all worth it. It seems as though my efforts haven’t moved the needle on sales as much as I would like. The best marketing tool is more books, but marketing consumes so much time that I’m not writing nearly enough. And it feels as though if I abandon the promotion, whatever traction I’ve gained will vanish, but that’s what has to happen if I’m going to write more books. Catch-22 at its finest.
I’ve been very close to giving up lately. There simply are not enough hours in a day to do it all. And even if there were, it isn’t healthy or creatively satisfying to spend so much time the the cesspool known as social media. All the negativity on there these days isn’t helpful for anyone’s mental health. Plus, the entire experience has soured me on more than writing. I’m finding I don’t even enjoy reading any more because I can’t separate it from work. I’m always reading now with an eye toward, “Why is this so successful? What’s going on here that I’m not doing?” The joy of escaping into a book is just about gone, and that’s a tragedy.
I’m not happy and as the movie title said, “Something’s gotta give.”
So this year I’m going back to the way things used to be. I’ll still be blogging here because it feeds my creativity to write longer pieces. I enjoy the process and the thinking that goes into blogging. And I’ll still have big events and lots of happenings around the time of any book releases. (Assuming I ever finish another one, that is.) But I’m pulling away from other media/promotional activities for the time being. I’ll still be around, posting things here and there, but I’m cutting back. Way back. And I’m going to discipline myself to stay off of social media unless I’m actively posting. Doing otherwise leads to too much wasted time. (BP I never had this problem because I wasn’t even on social media. Now I know what a time suck it is and, sometimes, I’m sorry I ever started with it.)
I began writing books because I loved the act of writing. Telling stories, working through them in my mind, creating characters, and seeing the whole project come together was the fun part. I didn’t get into it for the money, or to parrot, “Buy my book,” all day. Spending time agonizing over Amazon sales, keywords, and author ranks is not fun for me. Posting my book all over the internet in the hope of just one more download isn’t what I want to do. I’m not a shill and I don’t like feeling like I’m running some MLM scheme.
Writing is what I love and that’s what I’m going to do. I’m at a point where I’m willing to say, “Screw it,” to the constant marketing and promotion and just get back to living my life and writing my books. If the sales come, so be it. If not, well, then at least I’ll be happier.
Publishing isn’t what it used to be and the pressure to promote and scream your own name from the rooftops is immense. And you have to do it fast. You’re not allowed to build a readership over time any longer. You must succeed right out of the gate or be shut out forever. However, the marketplace is crowded and it’s almost impossible to be seen in all the chaos. You have to succeed, but the only way to do so is to give up on writing and become a full-time promoter. (Either that or get lucky enough to have a miracle hit your book and lift it to the top.) It’s frustrating to feel so powerless.
The only power I have is my writing. I can’t control the marketplace, or people’s reactions to my books. I can’t control whether or not my efforts hit pay dirt, or fly into empty air. All I can do is write. The rest has to come organically, but it won’t come without more books. And I won’t be happy unless I’m writing. So for 2017, I’m making the conscious decision to step off the treadmill and write. If I’m lucky, I’ll rediscover my love for writing and books in general. Hopefully it’s not too late to recapture the magic.