Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Don't let publishing kill your soul

If you're wondering where this morning's inspirational message comes from, for several days I've been exchanging emails with other writers on their struggles in publishing. One has retreated in a cave of self-loathing because her debut has been targeted by a gang of jealous internet bullies, all because she self-published her work. Another long-time, dear friend of mine has been offered a deal with the devil in her latest contract, where she's expected to sign away rights to her book for the copyright period. Someone whom I'm greatly admire has been reduced to bitter tears of frustration because she hasn't enjoyed the successes of other writers, despite her own terrific skills. Another has stopped querying altogether after receiving the last rejection of his poetry anthology and has no plans to self-publish.

To all these friends and others like them, I say do not let the business of publishing rob you of the desire to write, query, pursue a traditional contract or self-publish. You make your own success and you won't do it by giving up on your goals. Define success by your own terms, and if you have to start in small increments, then so be it. Some writers are lucky to sell thousands of copies in their debut month. Be happy for them or not, but focus on your own writing efforts. Keep realistic, positive and attainable goals in mind. "I want to sell a hundred books this month" is a common goal I often hear  from other writers, but what happens when readers don't respond the way you want them to do? Does that mean you stop writing and just wait around for those hundred sales?

As much as we can't lose sight of our goals, we also can't treat our publishing efforts as anything but a business. That means putting forward the best product possible; it is the only thing we can directly control. Some will love it, others will hate it for reasons that have nothing to do with us, all revolving around their own expectations. We only, truly fail when we don't try harder, when we let publishing turn our love of writing into something we loathe or no longer recognize. Don't let this business kill your soul.      

14 comments:

sharongerlach said...

I'm really glad I stopped by to read this. There are times when I feel crushed that I'm not enjoying the skyrocketing success of some other indie authors. My time to promote is limited what with the evil day job, and I'm not much of a look-at-me look-at-me kind of person - I don't want to always be talking about myself.

I offered my first three books for free in December and January. The books were gobbled up like candy.I gained lots of fans and followers. Sales are picking up.

But I've come to the understanding that book sales are pretty incidental. Yeah, I'd like to make money at this; what writer wouldn't? But I'd write even if I didn't get published, even if I didn't make any money, and I think that some writers often lose that focus - the "why do you write" focus - in the Great Quest for Publication. If you're writing for money, well, good luck chasing that holy grail. If you're writing because there's a deep need inside you to do it, then you'll be able to assign your own definition to success, and it may not necessarily involve heaps of money or NY publishing contracts.

Consuelo Saah Baehr said...

Lisa, thanks for this post There are so many things beyond our control in this business. We forget that there are mischievous people in the world. There are also generous good-hearted people that help us keep going.

Lisa Yarde said...

Sharon and Consuelo, thanks for stopping by. One of my fellow writers had me in tears over her feeling of failure. It's so important to remind ourselves that everyone of us goes through periods where we feel absolutely gutted when publication hasn't gone the way we want. A support network is critical.

Sharon, I definitely share your views. Money's nice but I'd do it even without the promise of some revenue every month. Consuelo, I see Daughters did really well during your promo. Hope to see even more of your successes online.

Anita Davison said...

Great post, Lisa and excellent timing. You are quite right, the only aspect I can control is the quality of my finished product - everything else is down to luck, trends, word of mouth and the tooth fairy. Point taken.

Michelle Gregory said...

i think the problems of self-loathing, jealousy, comparison, and wrangling with the publishing industry have always been there. now with self-pub and vanity pub in the mix, there's one more thing to come between writers. we should be supporting each other, not tearing each other down because of our choice to self-pub, go with a traditional pub, or whatever. if the goal of writers is to tell a good story (which i think is the best reason to write), then anytime a good story goes out to the world, shouldn't we celebrate that?

Lisa Yarde said...

Oh, there was no point directed at you, Anita. LOL

Michelle, so true, but even I'm guilty of comparing myself to certain folks and feeling like I come up very short. Just have to remember that envy's natural, but it won't help you write or sell.

Rory Grant said...

Excellent post - although it does happen success rarely appears overnight. You gotta keep hammering away at it till it breaks for you.


I never forget how many rejections J K Rowling received for the Harry Potter books, or the fact it took 'Twilight' 3 years to take off. I dislike both works lol - but kudos to the authors for never giving up.

Rory

History and Women said...

What a beautiful post. I'm so glad I read this. Love the positive thoughts.

Lisa Yarde said...

Rory and Mirella, thank you both. We all need these reminders, cause I swear this business will drive you crazy sometimes.

Johanna Garth said...

Such a great post Lisa!

I've never understood writer jealousy. We're all in it together and one person's success doesn't determine another person's failure.

Keep writing and things will happen...eventually, with patience!

N. Gemini Sasson said...

I wish I could remember which writer/blogger wrote a post on the differences between dreams and goals, but it was golden. Goals are things you can control - daily word count, finishing another book, sending off X queries, completing X steps towards marketing this week. Dreams are what happens when you open your mind to the possibilities of where you'd like to be one day. Some dreams are attainable, some we have no control over. Talent and hard work certainly play a part, but luck is a factor that can be elusive.

I succumbed to the jealousy thing big time a couple years ago. After years of plugging away, writing multiple books and doing the query rounds with editors, I saw someone zip onto the scene with their first book, get their first agent and garner a deal with the first editor's desk it landed on. It didn't seem fair. So I wallowed for awhile. But eventually, I didn't like being there. So I just let go of the whole stupid dream, because that's what it seemed like at the time - stupid. I focused on things I could control and went through the motions, with no expectations. It was liberating. We all have a different journey to follow.

And yeah, people can be mean bullies. It happens in every aspect of life. All you can do is hope that karma takes care of those with good intentions who help others and spread kindness, and comes back to bite in the butt those who are vindictive and disparaging. No idea if that actually works, but it helps to believe it.

Lisa Yarde said...

Thanks Johanna and Gemi, I'm learning that the jealousy thing rears it's ugly head when you least expect it, but you can't give in to those ugly feelings. They certainly won't help you write your books.

Patricia O'Sullivan said...

Thanks for this, Lisa. There are days when I think I'm deluded but I know I have to keep moving forward. With the publishing industry in transition, things are wide open, but also that much more uncertain. Sometimes this uncertainty is a real downer. Thank goodness for your pep posts!

Deana Zhollis said...

I don't see many posts/blog that talk about the less positive side of trying to achieve the novel dream. It's mostly those posting how many thousands of books they've sold, and you do begin to feel left out or as if you're doing something wrong. It's good to see that you're not alone in pursuing your own personal dreams and the disappointments one can feel for some time before you revitalize what your dream is. My dream was just to have a few strangers say they enjoyed what I wanted to share in a story, and I got just that. So, no, I haven't sold hundreds, and barely 2-3 per month, but with just those few purchases, I have to remember that my dream is still being met. Thanks for posting an uplifting insight.

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