Is FREE Anyway To Sell Books?

Is FREE Anyway To Sell Books?

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Everywhere you look, there is an advertisement for a free product. Just click the button, and the free product will be yours! In many cases, the so-called free item is a ruse to get you to pop in your credit card so the company can bill you for something at some point. Not so much with free books. As of September 17, 2013, there were an estimated 62,967 free books on Amazon. No strings attached. It turns out that writers are jumping on the “free” bandwagon as a way to sell books.

So what in the world is perma-free? It’s just what it sounds like, something that’s permanently free.  If you’re just now hearing about this concept for the first time, you’re probably scratching your head and saying, “I worked hard on that book! Why would I want to give it away?” If you only have one book, you probably wouldn’t.  But if you have several books or even better, a series of books, giving the first book away might be the optimum marketing tool for attracting the most readers. While it seems counter-intuitive to give away a book with the hope of attracting readers, proponents of this marketing strategy have varying opinions on its effectiveness.

Greg Standberg shares his experience with perma-free ( http://bit.ly/1qlYna4) pointing out that offering a free book makes sense for: Selling future stand-alone books or books in a series. He’s not the only writer using this strategy.  Brian Cohen wrote a free companion novel for a course on his website.  In a guest post (http://bit.ly/1qgEq6A), Cohen describes his perma-free experiment, stating: “In August alone,  there were close to 40,000 downloads of my little-book-that-could. The book stayed in the top 100 for several weeks before dropping out. It has yet to leave the Kindle Top 500 since.”

Should you ever offer a book for free even on a limited basis? The answer: It depends on the book and your intention for making it free.  Last year, I wrote a poetry book, Dangerous DANGEROUS WOMENWomen, for personal reasons.  Anyone who writes poetry knows that this is not a well-selling genre, particularly for an unknown writer,  so my decision to give it away was really more about sharing than earning.  This book will always be free on Smashwords.com, but Amazon still lists it for .99¢, because I couldn’t elect to make it free on Amazon. No doubt, this little collection of ten poems has fallen through the pricing cracks, because it simply isn’t on the ranking radar, however, these discrepancies in pricing underscores the potential for a writer to have a free book on one site, and the same book with a price-tag at other sites.  Though filters exist to correct this discrepancy in Amazon, readers are instrumental in getting the free price match implemented by notifying Amazon that the book is free elsewhere. Lower-ranked books with little traffic may never be reported for price correction.

After a day spent researching free books as a marketing tool, I’m coming down on the side of offering free books under certain circumstances:

1) Offering a free book works best if you have more than one book, and preferably no fewer than three books.
2) Release two or more books at a time.
3) Plug your second (third, fourth…) books or parts of a series in the front or back matter of the first book and vice versa to drive traffic back and forth.
4) Expect that some people will download your free book and never read it or buy anything you write. Apparently some people just like “free” stuff whether they’re really interested in using it or not.
5) The big FREE tag on your book is sure to increase your website traffic and, with a little luck, your Amazon ranking.
6) A free book has to be of the highest quality to drive readers to books you want to sell. That may mean investing in a professional cover, editing and proofreading services and paid promotions if you don’t have the skill-set to do it yourself.  Readers have to want to click the link on your back-list (or the next book in a series).

What do you think? Are free books a solid marketing strategy or do they dilute the overall book market? I’d love to hear what you think.

 

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Writing Character Emotions: Lessons From Walter White And Jessica Meuse

Writing Character Emotions: Lessons From Walter White And Jessica Meuse

“Wit is the epitaph of an emotion.”

Friedrich Nietzsche

REMOTE CONTROL

 

Okay, I’ll be honest. In the winter, I become a TV junky.  While I’m confessing, you may as well know that I’m also a closeted fan of American Idol and The Voice. These shows create enough white-noise to make me forget I’m writing, especially at the end of the day when the need for sleep tangos with my goal of reaching a higher word count, and my neck is stiff from sitting at the computer all day.  Determined to meet or exceed my productivity goals, I often take my laptop into the family room, settle into a comfy chair and let the television drone in the background.

Last Tuesday, I was hammering away on the first draft of a novel that seems to have more tentacles than an octopus, half-listening to Jessica Meuse’s performance, when American Idol judge Harry Connick, Jr., completely punctured my writing bubble with a jarring critique, not of her song, but of her facial expression during the performance.  I really want to like Jessica.  She looks every inch the rock star with her hot pink hair, and she writes her own music (http://bit.ly/1jjAMJt).  I have a natural inclination to support her based on writing solidarity, and yet, I can’t shake the feeling that something is missing.

Harry asks Jessica, “Why were you smiling? Do you understand the words?” The song, Pumped Up Kicks is about a school shooting (“…you better run, run, run, there’s a bullet in my gun…”). He has a point.  A song this controversial should invoke all kinds of emotion in the audience, but there is no such emotional UMPHHH to the performance. In fact, the expression on her face reminds me more of a beauty pageant contestant than a musician. I feel like I was expecting a ride on the Ferris wheel and ended up on a Big Wheel, instead.  For all Jessica’s beauty and talent, she comes across as emotionally wooden. 

SMILE

The last thing I want to do is dismiss or disrespect this contestant. She has the courage to stand on stage and sing for millions of viewers, knowing that, within minutes, her performance is going to be analyzed publicly.  I can’t imagine standing on a stage having chapters of my book read while millions of voters weigh in on the material after a panel of judges have ripped it to shreds. But the fact remains that, during each performance, she has the same one-size-fits-all smile, the same detached look in her eyes.  As a performer, she’s probably heard it all before, and her expression verges on boredom as the judges speak. Two of them dismiss the notion that it is inappropriate for the contestant to smile while singing about a school shooting. Harry disagrees, and I think he has it right. Music should move people, one way or another.  The song she chose should be offensive or disquieting or provoke some emotion, but it doesn’t, because the emotional cues are missing.  If this performance were a book, I would wonder why I should care about it.  A book that doesn’t grab me quickly is doomed to be returned the library, deleted from my iBook shelf or donated to charity.

SAD CHILD

What  makes my lack of emotional connection remotely relevant is that I’m such an easy mark. Thirty seconds into Josh Groban’s performance of his song You Are Loved,  I was struggling to hold back tears.  I nearly got kicked out of a bookstore for openly weeping while reading Marley and Me in the aisle.  Okay, that’s not true. They didn’t threaten to kick me out, they just suggested that maybe I would be more comfortable if I finished the book at home.  Garth Stein’s book, The Art of Racing in the Rain, left me feeling ragged and completely drained when I finished it. It was that good. I walked around for days after I finished the book wondering what my dog was thinking. Christopher Moore’s book, The Stupidest Angel (http://bit.ly/1gOCOJO) had me howling with laughter, while Gillian Flynn’s, Gone Girl (http://bit.ly/1fSz2yU) chilled me to the bone.  I can only aspire to write something as emotionally brilliant as these writers, but my point is this: For me to feel nothing means that the entertainer (or writer, if it’s a character in a book) is not there on some level.

Infamous chemistry-teacher-turned-meth-cooker Walter White is an enviable example of writers who clearly understand the impact of character emotion. Love him or hate him, Walter, seamlessly portrayed by actor Bryan Cranston, is not someone who makes the viewer feel nothing.  Far from it. By the time the Breaking Bad finale aired, Walter White was not in the least redeemable, and yet, I sat glued to the storyline to the bitter end, holding on to the edge of my seat, waiting to see what new catastrophe Walter’s miserable choices would bring him and those he loved.  Walter’s weakness, his greed and narcissism and the way he mentally pimped his cancer so he could continue to cook meth for reasons which had nothing to do with providing for his family, stirred my feelings of contempt and disgust.  Watching this character unravel was a primer in how to create complex character emotion. With each character arc, we move further away from the pathos of this desperate, panicked, vulnerable man, to an arrogant, hardened criminal, who, by his own admission continued to cook meth long after he needed the money for one simple reason: “Because I liked it.”

Feeling nothing is the last emotion a performer or a writer wants their audience or their readers to experience.  Becca Puglisi’s book The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression gives writers solid tips for creating character emotion.  Writing a character who responds in an unconventional way isn’t a bad thing, but if there is no emotional response in the character, we have to know why.  A character who doesn’t react to winning the lottery or being told a loved one has died is an emotional minefield, rich with conflict, but the writer has to give us insight about why he reacts (or doesn’t react) to a situation that calls for a strong reaction.  I struggle with creating authentic character emotions, but I know when I have character responses right within a scene, because I feel it.  My heart races when a character is in danger, or I become angry at a particularly nasty character and have to stop myself from prematurely offing him. For writers who have difficulty visualizing the show versus tell technique with writing character emotions, Karen Lotter provides excellent examples of original and reworked passages in her blog post at http://bit.ly/1gfRlTy.

Like singing contestants vying for votes, writers also compete. We compete with ourselves to improve our craft with each revision, each new project, always aware that readers have a vote, too. They can buy our books, or they can bypass them.  A great cover may attract their attention, but the characters hold (or lose) their attention for the long haul.  As a reader, I have read both great and mediocre books, and I’ll bet you have, as well.  Be honest.  How many bestsellers have you picked up and put down because you couldn’t relate to the characters? My answer is too many to count.  How many times have you finished a remarkable book by a brand new author, and immediately searched for a backlist? My answer is still too many to count.  Books like this draw us so deeply into the story, that there is almost a sense of loss when we have to part company with the characters.  Emotions make or break our writing, our performances, and in the end, whether we have a book that the reader not only connects with, but one that impacts her long after she has turned the last page.

WHIMSICAL GIRL

Self-Publishing Success: Hopeful or Hopeless

Self-Publishing Success: Hopeful or Hopeless

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Writing and publishing a book seems a lot like having a baby. There is always a stranger who wants to tell you their awful story.  They had to use the paddles during my C-section.  Worse, you could be trapped in a corner for hours while a new mother shares all the tiny details of her child’s very routine birth,  measured out in breathy bursts (“and the baby CRIED when the doctor…”).  Like a baby, “delivering” a book  is hard, painful work, but worth it when the precious bundle is sitting in your arms (or on your bookshelf). Imagine how much harder it would be if a line of people stood right outside your hospital door waiting to tell you that, not only is the baby ugly, but she probably won’t amount to anything so maybe you should just admit that the situation is hopeless and give up now.

The topic of self-publishing seems to bring a similar line of people hell-bent on telling us just how spectacularly we are going to fail in ever getting decent book sales, let alone making a living doing what we love. Turn on any podcast and you will hear industry experts stating that the e-book “boom” has come and gone and sales are now winding down, while yet others say that the industry is changing to one driven by hybrid authors (traditionally and self-published) and success is possible if only one finds the magic formula of producing a great novel at the right time marketed just so and for the right price. As a newbie, I’m almost convinced that, for a reader to buy my book, they would practically have to live next door and follow the signs posted on my lawn “get e-book here!”

John Winters, a humorous and clearly talented writer, calls himself a self-publishing failure, equating self publishing with (gasp) masturbation, but “with less thrilling results.” The post is worth a giggle and found at http://www.salon.com/2013/04/02/im_a_self_publishing_failure/. Turn the figurative search-engine page and Patrick Barkham will tell you that you can be an e-book superstar, and “here’s how.”

Even my sometime idol, Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords has weighed in on the difficulties with the pitfalls of success as an indie author in this blog post http://blog.smashwords.com/2010/09/seven-secrets-to-ebook-publishing.html. I can easily forgive Mark. He gave self-publishers a platform, and like any good mentor who truly cares about writers, he wants to maximize our success and minimize our disappointment. Without visionaries like him, we wouldn’t have the luxury of asking the failure-success questions.

Successful authors like Amanda Hocking (http://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/jan/12/amanda-hocking-self-publishing) or Blake Crouch may seem like anomalies, but are they? Hocking says that she never expected much from her books. In fact, she doesn’t want all this rags-to-e-riches recognition based on how she sold her first books, but for the books themselves. Hocking designed her own covers and took the road that many traditional publishers are still trying to shame indies from taking: self publishing without an editor, an agent or a cover designer. Blake Crouch, another hybrid author success story is the opposite of self-made millionaire Hocking. While Hocking’s first e-novel, My Blood Approves, still sells for .99¢, Crouch, an author with an agent and traditional publishing contract, states (http://thenextweb.com/media/2011/03/07/the-economics-of-self-publishing-an-ebook/ – !u6mgy) that he can’t justify selling his novels for such a low price. Crouch, unlike Hocking, has used industry services such as cover designers to facilitate sales of his books.

While Hocking has recently gone the traditional publishing route—it’s tough to be a one woman business and still produce books—I believe her journey is more relevant than ever. The publishing industry is built on a rejection model that assumes cream will rise to the top. How many industry backed best sellers have you picked up but couldn’t finish because you kept falling asleep or couldn’t care less about the characters?

The industry is changing and it has to change. Jenny Trout’s excellent blog post, Our Exclusionary Attitudes Toward Self-Publishing Must Change ( http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jenny-trout/our-exclusionary-attitude_b_4602996.html ) is a brilliant perspective on attitudes toward self publishing.

Writing heavy hitter, Anne Rice, posted this response to Trout’s blog post on her Facebook page: “Our Exclusionary Attitudes Toward Self-Publishing Must Change” — by Jenny Trout. Excellent article and I agree with her all the way on this. Thanks to Jeffrey Brasher for the link. (By the way, I personally prize fiction as the creation of an individual soul. If I suspect a book has been re-written by a committee in a New York publishing house, or smoothed out and edited for popular consumption by in house editors, I don’t read it. If you read the article you’ll understand why I’m saying this.)”

Bear in mind that writers who fail may sell you on their failure, not because they want you to fail, too,  but because that is their experience and they may extrapolate it to the entire industry. Not all books are timely, well-written or what the consumer wants. Bryan Hutchinson makes excellent points about what makes a successful book—and it doesn’t have anything to do with a grammatically perfect, industry-approved style of writing. He shares the criteria for the books that sell at http://positivewriter.com/blogs-books-fail/.

At the beginning of my journey, I bought any and every book out there on the subject of self-publishing before I realized that, ironically, self-published books on self-publishing are sometimes written by people who don’t know anymore than I do. Taking writing advice about your writing future is like anything else in life: to be taken with a grain of salt,  because—until you write it—no one can tell you how successful your book will be. Advice that is worth the price you pay for How To books should focus on what you can do to improve your craft and promote and market your product (anyone else tired of the word platforms yet?) or what to avoid, such as sites that charge author-hopefuls for services rather than promoting their books and taking a fee from sales. One author-entrepreneur with a pay-it-forward attitude who demonstrates compelling fiction writing skills as well as balanced writing and publishing advice is Joanna Penn (aka J.F. Penn of http://www.thecreativepenn.com/). Penn is often one step ahead of the industry, taking the time to research and learn what is working, what isn’t, and where we should go as writers. Her book How to Market a Book is more than worth the price.

We’re not idiots. We know the path may be rocky or uphill at times, but it’s a complete waste of time to focus on what we can’t achieve.  Writing is hard enough. We don’t need to get sucked into the notion that we are failing before we start. The only thing we can control is the quality of our books, our attitude toward writing and publishing, and what we choose to carry as we travel this path.

As Emily Dickinson so eloquently said:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

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How I Lost 20 Pounds and Gained 50,000 Words

How I Lost 20 Pounds and Gained 50,000 Words

Pen-on-writing-copy

Back in March, I was stuck.  I wanted to write, or so I told myself and anyone else who would listen, but I routinely bypassed my writing desk.   I wanted to lose weight, and yet, I sat in front of the television with a bowl of ice cream nearly every night.   Stuck in a job and feeling powerless, I watched my self-esteem shrink as my clothes grew.

And then I lost my job.

This is the part where you’re thinking that the bowls of ice cream get bigger, right?  Surprisingly, no.  Awash in a sea of confusion with what to do with so much free time, I realized that, when my job went, so did all of my excuses.  I could write or I could talk about writing.  I could lose weight or I could eat ice cream and wonder why I was over weight.  Rather than feeling stuck and overwhelmed in my job, I was now overwhelmed with more than a little fear.  Fear that my writing wouldn’t be good enough or that, no matter how hard I tried, I would fail to lose weight or get published.

Like many people stuck in a wrong career choice, I made the best of it, but once the job was gone, the noose around my neck squeezing the creativity and the hope out of me loosened.  Over the years, I have survived several bouts of unemployment, and I knew (prayed) this was temporary.  The luxury of what, for the moment, seemed like an infinite degree of free time, the opportunity to dive head first into my writing projects, might never come again.  True to the neurotic writer stereotype,  I tangoed with a fair amount of guilt for being…well…happy that I had some time to write.  While being unemployed wasn’t necessarily new for me, something about this period of unemployment seemed different.  Like a lost opportunity regained.  A lost love rediscovered.   If I wanted to write, really write, it seemed like it was now or never.

So, I made the most of it.  I got up at 6:00 a.m. each morning, readied myself for the day, kissed my husband as if it were any other work day and walked down the hall to my writing desk.   I worked from 7:00 a.m.  until 4:00 p.m., learning my way around social media sites, setting up a website, blogging, researching and writing.

Losing weight was a little easier and more straight forward than writing.  I downloaded an app to my phone called Lose-It and tracked my calories and exercise.  I started going to the gym two to three times per week.  If you’ve read my other blogs, you know that I’m a fan of spinning.  Dragging myself out of bed to get to spinning classes was a challenge.

But it was all worth it.  In ten weeks, I lost 20 pounds.

WHITE-SCALE-copy

In eight short weeks, I wrote and published two ebooks, Why Can’t Dad Swallow, a guide for caregivers of the elderly and Dangerous Women (free), a book of poetry.  My novel, Dreamwalker is about 30% completed.  Prior to this, I hadn’t written or published anything since I published  Call Me, an erotica romance, in 2010.

During this time, employers started knocking on my door again.  I’ve worked more at my “real job” in the last seven weeks than I did before I lost my job.  I won’t lie.  Once I started working at my day job again, I gained a pound and had to backtrack to lose it.  My writing took a hit, too.  Work sucks my creative energy, but I don’t have to let that noose tighten around my neck again.

As much as I’d like to believe I can do it all, thinking along those lines leads to a vat of Breyer’s Lactose Free Vanilla ice cream swimming in a sea of Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate Syrup, topped with crushed almonds, smothered in whipped cream and  Six Feet Under marathons.  But that’s not what I’m hungry for these days.  Give me a fresh blog post, a quirky character trait for my protagonist or a few hundred new words each day on my project and I’m in my element.

I can’t do it all. But trading 20 pounds for 50,000 words is a pretty sweet start.

You can find my books on Amazon and Smashwords:

Swallowing_Disorders_Cover_for_KindleDANGEROUS WOMEN BRIGHTCallMe3 ]

Own Your Writing Power

Own Your Writing Power

Young People - group of women and men - doing sport Spinning inSitting on my spinning bike this morning, listening to the instructor belt out advice on how to “get to the top” of the metaphorical hill, it struck me how much exercise and writing have in common.

As my face grew hot and sweat trickled into my eyes, I fought to stay where I was, to not bag it and head to the shower.  That nagging little voice that tries to protect me from failure  (but ultimately protects me from success) made the ride hard for the better part of twenty minutes.  Somewhere near the top of the “hill” I saw what was happening, how warped my thinking is about my power to live in a better body and be a successful writer.

In that moment of complete clarity, I placed my D’s (distractions, drama, difficult people) in my review mirror and told them to eat my figurative “dust.”  I replaced my old recorded  message with a new one:  All I have to do is stay on the bike for an hour.  I can do anything for an hour.  As I powered up my legs, and pushed to the finish, I pictured the problems and people shrinking behind me in that cloud of dust.  On the other side of the hill, I could see a slimmer, toned, and more vital future me; a me that was sitting at a table stacked high with my latest best seller.

Forty minutes later, I climbed off the bike, exhilarated.  I stayed on the bike for an hour!  Characters for a novel that I have kicked around but seem to not be able to pin down began to materialize.  I often get my best ideas in the garden, the shower or at the gym.  The problem is that I often leave them where I found them.  I moved to the weight machines and lifted, working hard to tone my muscles, layered as they are under excess winter fat.  As I lifted, I thought about the flexibility and strength of writing muscles and what we layer over them.

Becoming overweight is not an accident.  We turn our frustrations or lack of energy into powerlessness and give up.  We stop eating right and exercising.  We replace our vision of ourselves with that of a powerless, undeserving person.  As the pounds pile up, our reflection in the mirror seems to confirm our worst opinion of ourselves.  We do the same thing with our writing.  We don’t write because we fear we are not good enough to publish, or because our day jobs make us tired, our kids, pets and television need us more than we need to write.  We buy into the notion that it’s just too hard to publish; that we will never achieve recognition or success or be great writers.  Pretty soon, our writing muscles are flabby and buried under layers of negative self-talk, insecurity and detachment. Our writing image reflects exactly what we put into it.  The hope of having a successful writing career is often dashed by an industry that tells us we have little to no chance of ever being successful, and even if we are, we can’t give up our days jobs if we want to survive financially.

I say piffle to that idea!  I refuse to believe that writers are powerless because the writing “hill” is too challenging to navigate.  We have power.  We just don’t always recognize or own our power.  Amanda Hocking is a prime example of an unknown writer who became highly successful on her own through self-publishing thanks to visionaries like Smashwords founder, Mark Coker.  Coker created a platform (www.Smashwords.com) on which writers can build their careers through self-publishing one book at a time.  According to Wikipedia, Hocking worked a day job and wrote 17 novels in her spare time.  She averaged selling 9000 copies of her self-published e-books per day in 2011, earning $2,000,000 without the help of an agent or a traditional publisher.  The industry came calling after she became successful.

The publishing industry doesn’t have a crystal ball or a magic formula for which writers will or won’t succeed.  I may never wear a bikini, but that’s not why I spin or choose to eat in healthy way.  I do it because I owe it to myself to live an authentic life in a healthy body.  I write because writing is integral to who I am as a person.  Amanda Hocking clearly didn’t buy into the “never-going-to-be-a-success” idea either.  She owned her writing power and created her own opportunity for success by doing something that is within any writer’s power to do.  She stayed in the chair.  And we can do it, too.  Power up our writing legs and stay in the chair.   Even if it’s just for one hour.  We can do anything for an hour.  We can leave negativity, our sense of powerlessness and the notion that success is an élite club for  a select few in our review mirrors, eating our collective dust.

Why Are We Listening To The Naysayers?

Why Are We Listening To The Naysayers?

Dog On The Phone   When I was three years old, I had a temper tantrum.  I can just hear the “big deal” forming in your brain as you yawn and start looking for something more interesting to read.  Stick with me.  I do have a point.

The upshot of this tantrum is that, at three years of age, I knew with every fiber of my tiny being that I wanted to write stories.  Now!  And I wanted to write them in cursive.  Sure, I was precocious, but fully articulated stories with a beginning, middle and end written in cursive? Well, that would be genius territory.

I stood on tip-toe to reach the drawer that housed the pencils and paper, and when I couldn’t reach the drawer handle, I dragged a chair over, climbed up and pulled every pencil from the drawer and all the tablets I could hold.  Parked on the kitchen floor, sitting in a circle of pencils and paper, I scribbled for the better part of half an hour, shrieking when it didn’t make sense.  I rolled on the floor crying and pleading with my mother to tell me the secret that would make me a writer.  She tried to get me to form letters with crayons, patiently explaining that I needed to learn the alphabet first.  I threw the crayons across the room, screaming, “That’s for babies!”  Exhausted with my refusal to listen or play with other toys, she finally gave up and left me to howl out my frustration until I fell asleep, my face plastered to a tear-soaked tablet, the pencil clutched hard in my hand.

Years later, the details of this memory are less vivid,  but that white-hot burning desire to write is just as intense.  That urgent voice telling me to write was drowned out for while, lost in the din of naysayers that seemed to surround me; a husband who wanted me to earn as much money as possible before I die. Friends who were probably worried that I wasn’t good enough, discouraged me when I said I wanted to be a writer.  The message was the same from person-to-person.  “You’ll spend your whole life broke and hungry.”

I ignored what I knew in my gut.  I listened and added the weight of their fear about “never making it” to mine. I earned a master’s degree in a field that offered me a “secure, well-paying job” instead of pursuing the one thing in this life that has made me the happiest:  A writing career.  People were very impressed.  I was miserable.   After 17 years in that secure, well-paying job,  I hit a fork in the road and had to choose ethics or employment.  I chose ethics.

Rather than seeing myself as unemployed, I decided to see this as my second chance to do what I should have been doing all along.  And then the voices started again.  This time, not from well-meaning friends or relatives, but from the last place I expected:  Other writers.  Starting a new career, learning the plethora of rules of publishing, the guidelines, finding platforms and learning to market my work, not to mention mastering the learning curve that comes with self-publishing, is enough to freeze any newbie in her tracks.  It seems that everywhere I turn, there is some blog, podcast or article telling me to stop writing and give it up before I even get started.  We all know the drill.  We are but grains of rice in the vast publishing (and self-publishing) paddy. 

Traditional publishing may be loosening its iron-fisted grip on the industry with the advent of self-publishing, but the attitudes are pretty much the same.  People who should know better, who are fighting or have fought the same battle to be published as we new writers spend a great deal of energy discouraging us.  They not only make us feel small, but encourage us to think small as well.

What coach ever takes his team out to the field and proceeds to tell them all the ways they are going to fail?  How many games have you watched where the players stand around commiserating about the impossibility of winning before they start to play?  Coaches understand that the players mental state is as important as his or her level of skill.  That’s why they have cheerleaders.

As a hungry new writer, I listen to dozens of podcasts, looking for advice, encouragement and guidance.  It is surprising at how many podcast hosts or guests promote a “writing show” or offer “writing advice” but proceed to talk negatively about writing as a career.  The real purpose of these podcasts, it seems, is to promote the host/author’s book.  One author, when asked what advice he had for new writers, stated, “Don’t do it.  There are too many of us as it is.”

Using the podcast to promote a book is fine, but luring aspiring writers under the guise of offering useful information, and then discouraging them from pursuing a writing career is pure exploitation.  If a book is good, I’ll buy it.  If the podcast is helpful, I may even buy it whether it’s good or not.  Asking me to buy the book but to give up on writing because of the many pitfalls involved  is a questionable marketing tool.  I won’t be motivated to write or buy the author’s book.  I will probably be searching for the Xanax instead.

Though legitimate, high quality writing podcasts can fire me up to write, I don’t really need to look outside for inspiration or motivation.  I’ve always had it, even as a three-year old girl who knew exactly what she wanted to do: get her stories on paper in a way that made sense.  This is the secret to being a successful writer; listening to your heart, writing from that place, and putting the words on the paper in a way that makes sense.

Have you had an epiphany about your writing journey? If so, I’d love to hear about it.