When does a writer become classified as a failure? Who makes that decision? Is there a secret number that if you don’t hit it you are forever ranked as a failure?
There seems to be this idea from non-writers that if the author they know hasn’t hit the New York Times Best Seller List then they’ve failed. I don’t agree, but there comes a time when you probably need to reevaluate what you are doing if you aren’t hitting the goals you set for yourself. (As long as they are realistic goals)
A couple of things happened this past week that have caused me a bit of self-doubt and admittedly some tears and made me wonder when someone becomes known as a failure. Is it after they try to do everything that everyone says works and steering clear of the things that supposedly don't work? Or is it just as simple as, they are a failure when they think they are one?
1) I see authors behaving badly on social media. Responding to bad reviews, calling out their friends for not buying their books, bad mouthing other authors, and throwing themselves pity parties all because they’ve been doing this for so long and have nothing to show for it.
They do the one thing that every single Marketing book says not to do and yet they are top-selling in their genre. Although if you listen to them they are barely selling, but look at their numbers and they are tops in their genre.
This leads me to believe that maybe people really do inherently flock to drama. Maybe these authors aren’t so much “behaving badly” as they are marketing geniuses!
That’s crazy, you say? Really? On any given post on social media by an author bashing a bad review, talking about giving up because sales are low, or threatening to cull their friends lists to get rid of “haters” you will find – I shit you not- between 25-100+ comments on those threads. Either backing up the authors claims that the bad review is bullying, ego stroking them to tell them not to quit and recommending friends to buy the authors books, or begging to stay in that author’s “Inner Circle” because they are such loyal fans.
It’s a marketing win! Hello! These people are getting fresh exposure whenever they do these posts. It’s genius.
I still won’t go that route… But hey, they found something that works, and even better not a lot people do it (since we all read the books that say it’s a no-no). They reap the benefits. Good on them, but it still leaves me feeling blah about my own marketing. And so, I need to reevaluate my plan. Their plan won’t work for me but my current plan isn’t working so well either.
2) The other issue comes from family. Extended family, but family none the less. I could probably just leave it at that, since Family, even distant family, always knows how to hurt you most. They know the weak spots in our armor.
An extended family member asked me how my “little writing thing” was going. When I said, “It’s going.” They asked how many books I’ve sold… I hate that question. It seems so inappropriate. I would never ask someone how much money was in their bank account or how much cash they have in their wallet, but for some reason being invasive is okay when the person is merely writing “little stories”.
Anyways, I told them my numbers and they gave me one of these --> O.O <-- looks and said, “Wow… That’s it? I think it’s safe to say it’s time to throw in the towel and call it a good try.”
I didn’t feel up to arguing after that ego punch so I simply nodded and walked away. When I got home I let it eat at me. In truth it is still eating at me. I started looking at all the things I am doing wrong…
I’m spending too much time with my family. I could be writing more if we didn’t go do things or if I sent my kids to tutoring instead of helping them with homework. I spend too much time with my animals. I could probably learn something like formatting if I didn’t give them so much of my attention… But honestly these are things that I will not give up.
So I started looking at the other wrongs I’ve committed: I don’t have a dedicated editor. I rely on beta readers and numerous rounds of edits. Sure I’ve had people (several different people) edit my books, but I have no one who I have their full attention because the people I work with also write for themselves and have work of their own to do. So I started scanning the internet trying to find someone affordable… Still waiting on that.
I don’t know how to format. I have to rely on others and hope that I am not imposing on their time to get my stuff formatted.
I don’t know HTML… That could be useful too.
As my extended family member reminded me the other day: Successful authors pay for editing, formatting, and web-based stuff… Hell they have assistants, street teams, agents, etc… And I am here trying to do it by myself with the help of friends and trying to offset favors with trades and in the end feeling like I am spread too thing and failing.
I told my husband the other night “I’d rather quit than be a failure.” He said, “You’re only a failure if you quit.” (Which is what Alex said to me too.)
Would I really quit? No, not really. I just needed to say it out loud for a moment and embrace my own private pity party. I’ve been writing and telling stories long before anyone cared to read them. So no I am not quitting.
I don’t have huge sales, I’m not selling 50 books a month. I don’t have 100+ comments on my posts, but in the end what I do have is a handful of real friends who read what I write and tell me they love it. I have some solid reviews, even if they don’t number in the thousands. And lastly, I have my kids and ironically an estranged husband who are proud of me for doing what I am doing and for not giving up and who will always indulge me when I need to cry, or vent, or have myself a pity party.
That’s really all I need. I’m not here with delusions of making it big, hitting #1 spots on lists, or to have 5000 friends. I’m here for me, my stories, and for my friends and family who support me in this adventure.
Am I still feeling blah? Sure, but later today I’ll fire up Scrivener and write some more, because I can’t – not write – it’s in my blood and if I stopped I wouldn’t know what to do with myself.
P.S. After writing this all up I received an email about my Ellora’s Cave book, I got my first blog review for Twisted Revenge and it was a 4.5 star review. That helped make this day less gloomy. So while that has nothing to do with the self-publishing aspect it serves as a reminder: There’s always a silver lining.