Month: June 2012

Why I Think Some Authors “Go Hermit”

This post isn’t about me, specifically, but about what I’ve seen many author friends go through. It’s an exploration of what many of us authors have seen happen during our journey. Some of it relates to directly to me, of course, but happily, I’m not going hermit, so yay! In the end, I’m so happy for my experiences, for the friends I’ve made, for the ones who stick around no matter what, and for what lies ahead of me.

#1 – When an author is published, they become attached to a product. Something that is supposed to make money. This is, of course, problematic.

#2 – When an author is attached to a product, that product has to be marketed if it’s going to be considered monetarily successful (and yes, most authors want to be monetarily successful because that means they can keep writing books and make a living at it). This means the publisher, whoever that may be, has to market the book, but so does the author. This means the author ends up networking online. This means the author creates relationships with people, sometimes even close-knit friendships.

#3 – When an author creates relationships and close-knit friendships, these can often interfere with relationships and close-knit friendships outside of the online sphere – otherwise known as “the real world” or some other silly phrase.

#4 – The worst thing possible happens. This “real world” begins to clash with the online world. The author begins to think of people in their life as “writing friends” and “real world friends.” Sometimes they are both. Family begins to notice that this author only talks about her books online. Uncle so-and-so starts to complain that Miss Important Author is apparently too important to like or even read his posts anymore. And Real Life Friend Sally starts to feel left out too. And all those Book Fans are starting to get annoyed that Miss Important Author is talking about her poodle’s diet when all they are really interested in is her Books. Keeping all this separate, all these friends and family and readers seems seriously impossible. They all overlap, but are different at the same time. And no matter what Miss Important Author does, someone gets offended or upset.

#5 – Miss Important Author does not see herself as Important. At all. In fact, she’s starting to feel like a Big Jerk. This is because this product she is tied to makes her money, and it puts her into this world where people are watching her all the time, what she says on her blog, how she presents herself. And as she becomes more and more busy with marketing and writing more and more books and trying to take care of her family and just keep her house clean, people she used to talk to online all the time before she got all Important and Published slip into the background. Friends start to think she doesn’t care anymore, when in reality, she just needs more time and energy to keep up with this ever-mounting pile of things (and a lot of it isn’t just book-and-writing stuff – it’s other stuff, like funerals and babies and birthdays and, you know, life), and what if those twenty years of freaking hard work she has put into this career come crashing down around her and FAIL and it was all for nothing and in the end she is left with a bunch of people who think she just left them in the dust of her sparkling career that popped up out of nowhere? When in reality it wasn’t really sparkling at all … and it definitely didn’t pop up out of nowhere – it is a lifelong work in progress – but people don’t see all that – they just see sparkling career because, well, that’s part of marketing a product. It’s supposed to look all sparkling and successful. You’re supposed to be proud and always happy, but if you are, then some people secretly hate you because they want what you supposedly have, and if only they knew that there is no greener grass. It’s all just … grass … and we’re all standing on the same thing.

#6 – Miss Important Author is told by several people in her life that her writing career has changed her and they don’t like it. They don’t like that she is Miss Important Author now, even if she doesn’t see herself that way. They don’t like it. And they leave. Sometimes with dramatic exits, and even worse, with quiet, sad exits that break her heart. They are the people who will probably never read these words, and will probably never understand that Miss Important Author’s Real Self is hidden beneath about a thousand layers of insecurity and fear that this writing career – these products now, have piled on top of her – a thousand layers that come off looking like Ego and Importance and Busy-ness, when it’s all really just scrambling to stay afloat, her hands reaching for anyone who will hold on while she figures it all out. Luckily, some do hold on. Forever. And it is the only way she has survived so long.

#7 – Miss Important Author is not Miss Important Anything, really. She is just a person with feelings, and she doesn’t want to be tied to a product, but that’s the nature of publishing, so there’s no way around it. She is not a product. She is not All Important no matter what all that marketing and staying afloat might make her seem. She is just a person like anybody. Any writer. Breathing. Telling stories. Reaching out no matter how much it hurts.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in All Things Publishing, 0 comments

How to Stand Out in a World Crammed With Books

Color me surprised. Overall, The Breakaway did so much better than my other books in the first few selling weeks. I think it’s a combination of factors – the first being that the book hits an apparently huge niche market for young adult and adult readers who love kidnapping/captive/Stockholm Syndrome books. I had no idea such a market was out there for this genre, but it’s big. And it’s also picky, I’m finding. This specific niche market loves a certain type of ending, I think, and The Breakaway messes with that type of ending. So I’m really not sure how well it will keep doing. I have no idea. The other reason I think The Breakaway did so well (and will hopefully keep doing well) might have to do with the marketing tactics my publisher took – several that they did not do with Monarch because they hadn’t explored those avenues yet. But Monarch is also adult and a thriller and not really a true thriller, at that. Other reasons for The Breakaway’s success might also have had to do with the fact that it is young adult, the cover people seem to love, marketing tactics I took, or, well, sheer dumb luck.

So all of this one-book-doing-better-than-another thing has me thinking about a lot of publishing points. I have asked myself if I would be as jazzed about publishing more books if The Breakaway’s sales had been the same as Monarch and Cinders in their first few weeks. I worry that I question too many things. I worry that the sheer dumb luck I mentioned above is a bigger factor in all of this than I’m willing to admit. Because, honestly, that’s what it seems like at this point. I did less marketing for The Breakaway than any of my other work. I cared less. Maybe that was important. Or maybe it’s because I have other books out and I’ve built more of a readership. Maybe it’s because I’ve focused more on marketing to readers than writers. Who. The. Heck. Knows.

And I walk into a bookstore and realize that all the books on the shelves are like .0000001% of the books out in the world, and I get short of breath and realize that my books are only a tiny speck in the huge cosmos of stories out there. How … I ask myself … how in the world will I ever make it? How will I ever stand out in a world crammed with books?

My answer to that is: I already do … in certain people’s worlds. And that’s what matters.

But … I don’t write to take over the world in general (hahaha, if only), and I don’t write to stand out everywhere, and I don’t write to be on every shelf in every bookstore, and I don’t write to please everyone, and I don’t write just to make money and sales. I write because I write and want to keep writing. And the small, beautiful success I’ve seen with The Breakaway is a happy perk and something special I treasure right now. But quite honestly, while all those sales will always be awesome, they do not feel as poignant as that first sale I made on my little self-published book, Cinders, when I felt even smaller than I do now. And that’s what makes me stop and think. I look at the authors I love and wonder how small they feel, even if they are big in the publishing world. I wonder if I will always feel insignificant standing in a bookstore or sifting through hundreds of books online.

And I sit here and fret and worry about my next full-length book, Bonded, and how it will fare compared to The Breakaway in its first few weeks. So far, each book I have put out has done better than the last, but I am not sure I can top The Breakaway, and that scares me because beyond hundreds-of-thousands of dollars I don’t have to spend on marketing, there’s not much me and my publisher can do beyond what we have done for my other books. At least so far. I am sure my publisher will keep surprising me with their brilliance in marketing! And I know it’s not always about “the first few weeks” … it’s often how your books do overall over a long period of time, but still, the beginning can say a lot.

Everyone says Bonded will do amazing, but I have my doubts. Bonded is completely different, and it’s a collection and fantasy/fairy-tale based. Is that market as big as the market for The Breakaway? The first novella in Bonded has a controversial ending. The second novella, Thirds, is happy, but will people keep reading after Cinders and all the punches I pull in there? Perhaps not. The third novella, Scales, is far from a happy ending, and it’s my very favorite, like a piece of dark chocolate I think should be savored. Some people hate dark chocolate.

I guess this is enough rambling about all my worries and fears. It all reminds me of a post I wrote last year right before Monarch came out. I had cold feet, but I came to a conclusion I need to remember now. I need to staple it to my forehead: So bring on the cold feet. I know I’ll still worry and fret as the release date grows closer, but for me, the best part of the book has already happened – the fact that I finished and got it to a place where I’m 100% happy with it. Nothing will erase that. Ever. Remember, published or unpublished, you are a writer, an author, and a creative person who strives for the ultimate goal of creating something you’re proud of. Don’t ever let the little publication tag get in your way (and I need to add here that sales numbers should not get in your way either), because it doesn’t change anything in the end. It only overshadows the best part.

In the end, the only thing to do is write your next book, and at the end of the day, I’m pretty happy with that. So I’m going to go work on my next book and stop worrying.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in All Things Publishing, Books, The Breakaway, 0 comments