The other day, I was talking to my mom about how my career went this past year. In 2016, I felt like I finally carved out a tiny little space for myself in the industry. It’s tiny, but it’s kind of cozy. I’m wiggling as much as I can to keep making the space bigger, of course. I’ve gained a better understanding of my strengths and weaknesses as a writer and as a professional author. I’ve also been more comfortable in my little space, less like I’m flailing wildly. It’s warm in here and I have snacks. I can completely sustain my own business and contribute financially to our household.
My first book was a self-published novel (which I’ve since pulled to revise), which I published in 2013. I had no idea what I was doing, but I learned a whole hell of a lot. Eventually I sold a novel to Avon Impulse and that was MAKE IT COUNT, which was released in the summer of 2014.
It’s now the end of 2016, and so much has happened since I started on this path, that’s for sure. I blocked out a lot of the growing pains I’ve had so far. While talking to my mom, she reminded me how discouraged I was back when I first started. How talking about my books felt like I was shouting into an empty room. How I busted my ass and wrote non stop, and my royalty checks–to be blunt–kinda sucked.
I closed my eyes and I remembered some of the phone calls we had. The ones where I cried. Where I told her that I always quit shit when things got tough. And this authoring shit was getting tough. I was working my ass off and results were slow.
Now, nothing in publishing is guaranteed, even with hard work. But I felt in my heart that this career was what I wanted, so I kept going. I just kept writing. My agent was a constant source of encouragement. She didn’t let me flounder or wallow. Instead she’d ask, “when are you sending me the next proposal?”
The tears dried and I kept writing. Things didn’t happen overnight. There were still bitter phone calls to my mom or venting sessions with my writer friends.
But I kept going. And now I’m staring down 2017, with a full plate. I have some successful series under my belt. I’m a USA Today bestseller! I was in the Washington Post! I signed a print deal with Grand Central Publishing and I’ll be in bookstores in 2018! I was asked to be a part of 1001 Dark Nights! I’m still a little tiny fish with a tiny little swimming space.
But it’s all relative. Every day I see fellow authors struggling, and it took my mom jogging my memory for me to recall just how bad I struggled. I’ve been that person in tears ready to delete Scrivener off of my computer. Sometimes I get asked what I did to get here where I am now, which isn’t even that far in my journey to be honest. I got all kinds of goals moving forward. 🙂
And I’m not sure how to answer that question when I get asked. In the end, there is no secret sauce. There is no magic wand. I have no secrets to what I’ve been doing for two years, or what I’m doing now, or what I plan to do in the future.
I don’t know what else to say other than I. Finish. Books.
It’s not glamorous. Writing is hard as fuck. I’ll be writing a black moment while my kids are grinding Play-Doh into the carpet. I’m wracking my brain for a blog post. I’m emailing bloggers, reviewers, etc., sometimes 20 at a time when I first started out. It. Is. Work. Every day I’m hustling.
I didn’t know anyone in the industry. I had no connections. I don’t think you have to be friends with people, I don’t even think industry professionals have to necessarily like you. BUT I think you have to present yourself in a way that shows you are willing to work, meet your deadlines, and be someone that is pleasant to work with. I really do think those things are important, and working hard at presenting myself that way HAS opened doors. No doubt about it.
*Caveat that publishing is weird and there’s no guarantee of success just because you work hard. But there’s DEFINITELY no chance of success if you don’t get your butt in the chair and produce a finished book.
So I guess this post is kind of a ramble and reflection. But it’s all to say that it’s normal to have days you want to hang it up. Very few of us wrote one book and knocked it out of the park. For most of us, there is no man behind the curtain, nothing we do that is special other than the words we put on the page, words in a sequence telling a story that only we can. It’s consistently writing and publishing books.
One other thing I did this year that made all the difference is that I stopped looking at everyone else. Publishing isn’t a competition. No one has my same goals. This is my career. And once I wrote down the goals that were unique to me and focused on them, I found myself a whole hell of a lot happier.
Anyway, these are thoughts that have been circulating in my head for a while and thought I’d write them down. Maybe they’ll help you. Maybe not. I’m not writing this because I think I’ve “made it” but I do get emails and messages sometimes from people asking me “what I do.”
I write. That’s what I do. I write and I try to be as professional as possible. No one else is writing these books for me, or networking, or sitting at a signing for six hours. It’s work, plain and simple. Good thing I love it.