Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Letting Go

My guest today is author Sharon Hamilton, who writes paranormal romance and contemporary SEAL romance in Northern California. 

Is this Indie craze for you? Are you too late?

There are so many wonderful opportunities today for authors, especially with the rise of the Indie publishing wave. At the recent RWA Convention in NYC, I heard it said that this phenomenon is broadening the window a bit, giving readers more variety, and therefore expanding the numbers of authors who can participate. Indie has not only changed the lives of authors, but it has changed strategy for literary agents, and for publishers as well. The reader is now getting a plethora of new authors to explore, getting these books faster and cheaper. Will more books be sold? Are readers reading more than before? I don’t know the answer to those questions.

As with any changing market trend, there are pros and cons. Just when we think we’ve learned how it all works, everything changes again. Authors who never made much money on their books that languished out of print can resurrect them, dust them off, edit and re-launched in eBook format, where they can keep the lion’s share of the profits. This new life has brought instant riches for not only NYC best-selling authors, but mid-list authors as well. Author’s backlists are paying some serious bills, and allowing some to look forward to an actual retirement. Every week we are flooded with names of people making mega six figure incomes. It all looks so easy.

But this is only happening to some authors. In fact, most authors are not having this kind of success. And that’s what I want to talk about today.

I’ve already heard the grumbling about what way is the right way: traditional publishing vs. Indie publishing, and whether or not you can or can’t do both. It is an individual decision, and a hot ongoing debate. Not everyone likes to do self-promotion, multiple blog hopping. Not everyone wants to hire an editor or design their own covers. Some people lack confidence and others are fearless. Both of these groups will have failures, and successes.

With all the blogs and loop news, it’s pretty hard not to feel, if you haven’t tried Indie publishing, that perhaps you have missed the boat already. Or, if you have, and your sales are not phenomenal, like other author’s sales, that perhaps you aren’t a good writer.

I’m happy for the successes I read about. But some days I have to work to remind myself, “Don’t compare your insides with someone else’s outsides.” Now that sales and rankings are so public, it’s harder to ignore the boisterous whoo hoo’s on our loops. For some writers, all this good news can be debilitating. We question ourselves, when we should be doing the opposite. And who said a top-ranked book on Amazon is any better than a non-top-ranked? Haven’t we all read some real NYT- Best-Selling stinkers?

What I say is just let go of all that chatter going on inside your head. Just focus on telling the story you were born to tell (thank you, Brenda Novak for that jewel). Be the best writer you can be. Expand and try something new, but do it your way. Your way may not be the way everyone else does it. AND THAT’S JUST FINE.

If you are new to this, try putting something up Indie and dip your toe in the water. It’s like eating the elephant one bit at a time. You can’t do it all at once, or you’ll spread yourself too thin. But if you jump in, just a little, you’ll find it not as scary as it seems at first. If you’ve been a successful traditionally published author and don’t want to try the Indie craze, don’t. Stick with what works.

Be realistic about your craft level and your ability and desire to promote yourself and your books.

Remember, most Indie published authors don’t get the home run the first time they hit the market. It often takes 3-5 books before sales start increasing. And I’ve talked to authors that had to get 8 up before they saw their sales figures start to spike. We all know the authors who wrote a dozen or more books before they sold their first one. Guess what? Some things never change!

It can be discouraging if you haven’t sold lots of books, either traditionally published or Indie. No one knows the answer, or has the monopoly on all the good ideas. Most of it is trial and error.

I say don’t let the success or failure of those around you, or even your own ego get in the way. Tackle a few new things and incorporate what you comfortably can into your writing lifestyle, and run with it. Don’t try to do it all. Ask for help, but don’t expect you’ll be able to duplicate what they do.

We always overestimate what we can do in a day, but underestimate what we can achieve in a year. Give yourself the time to grow into the writer you want to be.

Mark Twain said the difference between a published author and a non-published author is that a published author kept writing until he got published.

Becoming a great writer takes focus and the desire to be great. It doesn’t happen by accident. And it has little to do with natural talent, and everything to do with stamina. Other authors might make it look easy. But the reality is, becoming a successful author is still a lot of work.

I leave you with one of my favorite quotes, from G. Eliot: It’s never too late to be what you could have been.

For more about Sharon, you can find her at her blog and at her website. Her debut novel, ANGEL, is available in eformat.


M.E. said...

Thanks for inviting Sharon to the blog, Terry. She offers seasoned advice for the newbie (like me) to get into the publishing merry-go-round.

She's right - becoming a great author is a LOT of work.

Jemi Fraser said...

So many quotables in this article! Awesome - thanks so much :)

Sharon Hamilton said...

Thanks, M.E. and Jemi. There are so many directions we can go now. I have to remind myself that's a good thing. Sometimes it can seem like I'll never get there...

And actually, I probably never will achieve all I want in writing. But I'm sure not going to stop until I get there. Stamina, guts, not quitting.

Not ringing the DOR bell.

Elaine Cantrell said...

Amazing article. It deals with fears and frustrations common to so many authors, including me.

Sharon Hamilton said...

Thanks, Elaine. When we started writing, all we thought we needed was the inspiration, right? Turns out we need a lot more than that. Thanks for showing up. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Carly Carson said...

Great advice, Sharon. And yeah, inspiration is the least of it. A few people get struck by lightning. Most of us don't. So we just have to keep working and learning and doing our best.

Brenda said...

What a fabulous reminder. We must pace ourselves and enjoy the process. It's not all about the end result--it's more about the personal satisfaction and friends you make along the way, right? Thanks, Sharon!

Sharon Hamilton said...

Carly, We all do the best we can do. How grateful for this group of readers/other writers who light our path...

And speaking of which, Brenda, thanks so much for your great quote I have used just about every week. You and your good words have strengthened us all. If you don't know about her auction to benefit Juvenile Diabetes, you're missing a great example of writers helping other writers.

Thank you for everything.

Anonymous said...

At age 71, with my first published memoir, I agree: it's never too late. Then there's Harry Bernstein, Jewish author; first memoir, age 96, then two more before he died at 101. HE cheers me on!

Thank you, Sharon, for these wise words--and thank you, Terry, for hosting her.
Ann Best, Author of In the Mirror, A Memoir of Shattered Secrets

Sharon Hamilton said...

Anne, your comments touch my heart. Thank you so much. Now, thanks to you, Mr. Bernstein inspires me as well. May we all live to be so productive, and relevant! I'm honored you'd stop by today.

Arletta Dawdy said...

Hi Sharon,
Ah, stamina...you have hit the nail on the head. It is so easy to get discouraged and let go, fall into avoidance of the process (as I've been doing for several months) and find ourselves lacking in direction and determination. I think it is time to take a dose of courage...thank you!

Sharon Hamilton said...

You're so welcome. Yes, I have to tell myself this every day. Sometimes every hour.

Karen C said...

Even though your post dealt with writing and publishing, I 'heard' so much more.
I heard: be yourself; let go of the negative thoughts and focus on the positive; be realistic about your goals; and so much more. Reminders we all need to just to live our daily lives trying to be the best we can be in a chosen career, as a friend, or as part of a family.
From a reader, thanks for the reminders.

Sharon Hamilton said...

What a nice message for any writer to get. Thank you for your heartfelt response. People like you are who we write for! And why we go through this journey. And you're right, it's much more than just writing.

Thanks for stopping by.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful blogpost, Sharon! Just what I need to get me back in the saddle on my Addie rewrite. Thanks for sharing!

Sharon Hamilton said...

Hey Robin. You know, this applies to riding horses too! At some point, the rider has to trust the horse, and his/her own knowledge of riding. Thanks for showing up.