Thursday, November 17, 2011

It's a Marathon, not a Sprint

Tomorrow, daughter #1, Hubster and I are heading out for Tempe, Arizona, where daughter #2 (by 3 minutes) will be competing in her first official Iron Man triathlon.

She's been training for triathlons for a couple of years now. She started by joining Team in Training to help raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. She thought she'd give it that year, but went on for another year, this time as a coach. That grew into her setting up her own business, NEO Endurance Sports as a coach for endurance athletes. (And yes, there's a writing tie-in, so please keep reading)

During that time, she ran her first full marathon. That's over 26 miles, for those who might not be familiar with the distance. And, the first marathon runner died at the end. Not something a mom likes hearing when her child says she's going to run that distance.

Nicole finished the race, and said she'd probably never do it again—she just wanted to prove she could. You can imagine my surprise last year when she said she'd signed up for the Arizona Iron Man. She's going to run a full marathon AFTER she swims over 2 miles and bikes 112 miles.

How did she prepare for this? Slowly. Gradually increasing distances, doing more workouts (even if it means getting up 2 hours early—she has a full time job and husband as well), and totally changing her eating habits. This was the child who existed on bread and potatoes, with the occasional ear of corn. Her idea of a green vegetable was canned green beans. Now she's making and eating things like kale, and adding veggies to every meal. According to her records, since January 1st, she's spent 200 hours on her bike logging 3115 miles, 108 hours have been spent running 568 miles, and 293,451 yards were swum over 125 hours.

As writers, especially those of us stepping into the world of indie publishing, it behooves us to remember that we're entering a marathon. We see authors like J.A. Konrath, Bob Mayer, or Barry Eisler who are bringing in huge sums of money. But these authors started in traditional publishing and came in with their established brands and followings.

The rest of us have to understand that things build over time. More books out there means more sales. We have to do our training and change our routines, because we must deal with things like paying for editing, cover artists, and spending time doing marketing and promotion—things traditional publishers do for their authors.

Maybe you're thinking of putting your first book out as an indie author. And you think you'll rake in the royalties the way you've seen others do. Think again. Just as you wouldn't enter an Iron Man without putting in the sweat and tears of training, you probably aren't going to hit the best seller lists and buy a new home with the royalties of your first book.

The sprint mentality has you checking your sales figures hourly to see if you're making progress. Hard as it may be, you're better off checking once a day--better yet, once a week. (I'm not there yet!) 

I mentioned in an earlier post that I lowered the price of What's in a Name? to 99 cents. I'm not a known commodity, and many readers who are willing to try someone new for 99 cents won't do it for $2.99. Sales are increasing at a slow but steady pace.

I'm seeing some evidence of this with my Pine Hills Police books. Although FINDING SARAH, HIDDEN FIRE, and the stories in FINDING FIRE were all published traditionally, sales of those books are slower than for my others. I haven't spent the same amount of energy promoting them. But growth is slow, and sales for all my books are creeping up across the board. They're just not doing it at a sprinter's pace.

I'll be back on Tuesday, but please don't forget the blog. I still need followers and "likes" and hope that when I return, I'll be giving away a bunch of books from my overflow shelves. And there's always the newsletter signup, as well as sharing recipes and pictures that will get you into the drawings.

And if you have a moment to give Nicole a virtual cheer on Sunday, that would be great! She'll be wearing Number 374. She estimates she can do the course in 13 hours (gasp!) And if you're really dedicated, you can follow the action at Everyone starts at 7 AM, so she thinks she'll finish around 8 pm. I'm so proud of her, even if I can't bear the thought of anyone actually doing an Iron Man. And, to help keep her motivated, she'll be running for her local Team in Training "hero",  3 1/2 year-old Emmy with leukemia, as well as several other family members who have had or do have cancer. Think about them for her, as well.)

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Cindy Keen Reynders said...


This is such a timely post for me. My first "Indie" book just came up on Amazon. My first two books were traditionally published, so this is a foray into unknown territory for me. And all the things you've talked about hit home. It's rather lonely going out on your own, and I'm trying to remind myself this will take time to build. I was feeling rather down this morning about the whole thing, and this has lifted me up. Thanks, Terry!

Cindy Keen Reynders said...

And yes, I'll be "virtually" cheering for you daughter, too! Yipee!!! You go girl...

Anonymous said...

Terry, this is just mind-boggling! I cringed at the first mention of 26 miles - and that first runner died! It would make me want to grab my kids hand and run too - the other way! It's good to let people know how much preparation, personal sacrifice, determination and training these wonderful marathon runners have. My admiration and good luck wishes are with you, darlings. :-)
Jackie Griffey

Terry Odell said...

Cindy - glad the timing was right. If you're writing because you love it, hanging in there becomes easier.

Jackie - it was 26.2 miles; believe me, if you're going the distance, those last yards can't be discounted! But yeah, although I'm immensely proud of Nicole and her accomplishments and dedication, the mom in me wishes she'd stuck with something like her drumming (although at the time, I'd never have believed I'd be saying that.)

Ray said...

Even before your daughter does the Iron Man she is to be congratulated for the preparation. I have never even run a full marathon, but I once did 23 miles before it got dark and I was afraid of tripping. That was over twenty years ago so the only marathons I run are in my imagination.

The "first marathoner" was Pheidippides who ran from Marathon to Athens to announce the defeat of the Persians in the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC. He ran the 26 miles and then collapsed. Some texts give different names, some say died.

So if you or your child want to get into endurance sports then do it the way Nicole did the training. Do the dietary changes, get a cardiac stress test to exhaustion and a medical OK and there should be no worries about that first marathoner.


Nancy Jardine said...

Yep! Stay the course and set your own that the maxim, I wonder? So far I only have 1 published novel, and a second now contracted so maybe in a few years I'll be revisiting your marathon analogy, Terry! Re: the marathon. My niece-by-marriage recently entered a charity cancer marathon and had a leg injury at 22 miles. She struggled on but had to give up a couple of miles later. She was so disappointed with herself but that's not's having the courage to do it in the first place! Good on your daughter! ***

Terry Odell said...

Ray - thanks for the added info. I recall when she ran her first (and only full) marathon and said it was a struggle, but she was glad she'd done it. Imagine my shock when she said she was going to do an Iron Man...because she'll have to run that full marathon AFTER the other two events.

Nancy - I know it's about the courage, but I really, really hope Nicole manages to finish without serious mishaps. After all the training (not to mention the entry fees!) it would be a shame not to cross the line.

Ray said...

There is no shame in not finishing as long as she competes to the best of her ability. She is a winner for completing her training and a star if she finishes the race.


Jemi Fraser said...

Good for Nicole! Competing in an event like Iron Man is incredible. Takes a lot of heart, commitment, spirit and guts! No wonder you're proud :)

Nicole said...

Thanks for all the support! I'm excited to give this Ironman thing a go! Might be a long day but should be a fun (a word for which I will have the chance to define, probably in many different ways, over 140.6 miles).

And just to add a note on my first and only stand alone marathon (Denver 2009), it was painful because I thought I could maintain a pace faster than what was realistic. My legs basically said "WTF!" at about mile 17. But I trudged through the final miles...

My outlook on Sunday will be to enjoy the day and take it easy! I'll be with about 2500 others for a nice swim, cruise on a bike, and a trot from aid station to aid station!

Juliette Springs said...

Writing is totally like a marathon. It's painful, long but so worth it when you finish. Good luck to your daughter (yay for her). I signed my first contract for a book I started over ten years ago.....a very painful I''m working on a new novella and am considering self-publishing. Thanks for your insight.

Terry Odell said...

Jemi - yes, we're very impressed. Incredulous, too.

Nicole - thanks for stopping by. We're all wishing you success. See you soon!

Juliette - congrats on your sticking with it with your writing. I wish you great success.

Jess said...

I'll stick to throwing people and swinging swords. That running thing is beyond me! I have a minimum of another 18 months of training before I can test for my next black belt, tho. Hard to maintain the long term focus!

Anne K. Albert said...

"It's a marathon, not a sprint" are the exact words my editor said when I felt overwhelmed re marketing and self promotion. Repeating that phrase has kept me going.

Kudos to your daughter, and kudos to you, Terry, for a great post!

Anita Clenney said...

OMG, this is amazing. I can't imagine running that far. Kudos to her!

Terry Odell said...

Anne, Anita - thanks for stopping by. I think Nicole's approach ('trot from aid station to aid station') also points out that we can't look at the whole thing, which becomes daunting. Rather, we need to break things into manageable pieces.

Maryann Miller said...

The Iron man is grueling. My daughter did it when she was in the army in Hawaii. I will be virtually cheering for your daughter. It is always so exciting, yet a little scary, when the kids do something like this that has inherent dangers.

Maryann Miller said...

"My outlook on Sunday will be to enjoy the day and take it easy! I'll be with about 2500 others for a nice swim, cruise on a bike, and a trot from aid station to aid station!"

Great way to approach the event, Nicole. Good for you.

Anonymous said...

Sending good wishes. Love your daughter's great attitude, Terry.