Words of Wisdom from Cara Bristol
This is for The Author’s 100 Days of Writing Challenge, because I couldn’t figure out how to get the links to all work in Facebook. Ain’t technology grand?
By Cara Bristol
You probably started writing because you had a hot idea that you couldn’t not write. You wrote from pure inspiration, pure joy, and you loved the experience. Still buoyed, you decided to publish your completed manuscript.
And then writing, publishing, promotion became work. Some days you hate writing. The words won’t come. You’re not selling as many books as you think you should, and you see other authors writing similar stuff who seem to be farther ahead. You wonder if writing is worth it.
It’s often said at writer conferences that to become a success, you have to love writing. That’s 100 percent true. If you don’t love it, the process will wear you down, because success is a long, hard row.
Maren asked me to share some motivational words of encouragement. I hope she meant an ass-whoopin’ because that’s what I’m about to deliver.
Becoming a “successful” author takes time (years), and you’re going to have to work your butt off.
Being an author isn’t like working for an employer where you get paid for showing up, regardless of what happens there. Whether you are traditionally or indie published, when you are an author, you are self-employed, you are a business owner, you are an entrepreneur. If you don’t work, you don’t get paid. You are going to have to write when you don’t feel like it, when you don’t feel inspired. You are going to have to produce words whether you want to or not.
And I’m sorry, Buttercup, but writing represents only half of the job.
I’m talking about the dreaded P word: promotion. There are hundreds of thousands of ebooks and millions of print books on Amazon. The odds of anyone seeing your book without you actively promoting it are nil. Every job has its downside. Doctors, attorneys, teachers, nurses, librarians experience aspects they don’t like. You think promotion sucks? Try being a roofer in the middle of August or pumping septic tanks day after day.
I get frustrated when I hear authors say “I don’t promote because I’m an introvert, and it’s hard for me.” You’re a writer, aren’t you? Write a flippin’ promo post! You don’t have to talk to anybody. You don’t have to be an extrovert to blog, to tweet, to buy an ad or to post on Facebook. If you’re such an introvert that you can’t communicate in an email, then writing is not the profession for you. There are many ways to promote a book. If you truly hate and dread a task, pick something else.
You will make mistakes in your publishing career. There will be setbacks and failures. Success will come two steps forward, one step back. And it will take far longer than you’d expected.
Other authors will seemingly zoom ahead of you, but you won’t be seeing the whole picture. Only their successes are visible. You don’t see the mistakes (they’ve made them), their failures (trust me, they have them), the years it took to get to that point, the hours they spend every day, and the money they pour into advertising.
I got published in 2009, and I’ve written/published about 30 books. My first year published, I made $300. My second year, I made $800. I didn’t start making any appreciable money until I published my third book and changed publishers in year three, and still didn’t earn anything close to a livable wage until 2014.
I’ve made a ton of mistakes. Sometimes I think I do more wrong than I do right. I wasn’t prolific enough in the early years. After starting a successful series (Rod and Cane) I switched gears and wrote a couple of standalones in different genres. I didn’t start my author newsletter soon enough. I wrote stories for anthologies that weren’t related to an existing work. Sometimes I released too many books too fast and flooded my own market. I’ve wasted time doing things “the old way,” not realizing that the market had changed or didn’t want to face the truth.
I’ve had to restrategize, relearn, retool, readjust. Just when I find something that works, it stops working. I’ve achieved a measure of success, but while it has gotten easier, it’s still not easy. As my author friend Lisa Medley says, “You can’t ever take your foot off the gas.” Cruise control is not an available option in publishing.
But I love what I do. Writing novels is my dream job. If I won the lottery, I would still write. There isn’t anything else in this entire world I would rather do.
So know that if you’re having a hard time getting ahead, congratulations! You’re in the norm! Be prolific, make quality a priority, strive to improve your craft, and work your ass off. Those are the secrets to success.
For more specific tips, refer to 12 Truths About Publishing.
USA Today bestselling author Cara Bristol writes steamy science fiction romance with an emphasis on the characters and their romance, with a little humor, heat, and danger added for fun. She is the author of three science fiction romance series: sexy cyborg Cy-Ops Scifi Romance series, the dark erotic Breeder series, and the new humorous Alien Mate series. She likes to say that she writes science fiction for readers who don’t like sci-fi. Cara lives in Missouri with her alpha hero, her husband, and Hannah, her cat, aka her writing supervisor.