I’d like to welcome to my blog today author Sarah Madison, here to promote her book The Boys of Summer along with an excellent post called “The True Secret to Being a Successful Author”. Take it away, Sarah!
It’s the end of the quarter.
You know what that means. Every author is getting that royalty statement, that email that validates them as a writer. They immediately head out to their favorite social media site to crow about their successes—real or imagined. I commiserated with a Facebook friend today about this time in the lives of writers. It’s a moment where too many of us compare ourselves with everyone else around us and decide that we’re never going to be part of the elite crowd, the best-sellers, the people being quoted on USA Today, or winning a prestigious award (you know, the kind that comes with an actual physical trophy to place on your shelf).
Well, guess what. Writing is a lot like acting. There are a lot of us out there, but very, very few of us are pulling in the kind of bucks that the cast of Friends used to make with every episode. I sat down and figured out once what it took to be successful as a writer. You either make it big with a phenomenal success, like the Harry Potter series, in which case almost everything else you produce will be brushed with the same golden touch, or you write a lot of stories. There really doesn’t seem to be a middle ground, as far as I can tell.
Talent alone doesn’t cut it. There are tremendous best-sellers that despite major flaws, somehow caught the public imagination and caused people who normally don’t consider themselves readers to buy the book. There are brilliantly beautifully written stories that only a handful of people have ever read. Luck has a role in it, as well as timing, two factors that are largely out of your control. Most of us aren’t going to have a runaway bestseller; that’s like winning the lottery. We might keep buying tickets, but it would be foolish to count on winning.
In fact, I believe the secret to being a successful writer is a lot like the secret to dieting and keeping the weight off.
It’s hard work, plain and simple. But like the diet industry, there seems to be a lot of books, and classes, and online courses aimed at showing you how you can circumvent the hard facts and beat the system without putting out the effort. We all know what it takes to lose weight. Burn more calories than we consume. True, I believe that much of what we consider food today has a huge impact on how hard it is to lose weight, but that’s a bit like whining that we haven’t sold many books when we haven’t had a new release in almost a year. There is an awful lot of information out there on how to make social media work to your advantage. You know what? It’s easier to sell books and classes on social media than it is to sell the message, “Write. Write a lot.”
I came from a background in fanfiction. One of the things I learned there (that I forgot in the push to become a ‘real author’) was that readers are like stray cats. Put a story out there, and they start showing up. Feed them on a regular basis, and you have to wade through cats to get to your car each morning. I never advertised. I never spent one time in promotion. I wrote stories from the heart and posted a new one nearly every month. It is my belief that a good original story requires more than a wham, bam, thank you, ma’am approach to production, but I do think you need to write more than one major story a year. That might have worked for Dick Francis, but sadly, most of us aren’t in that same bracket when it comes to earnings and audience.
Feed them. Feed your readers. A steady output of stories is your best advertisement. Not paid advertisements, or book tours, or spending hours on social media each day. Not that these things are without merit, it’s just that they should never replace the writing itself.
Social media is incredibly addictive. We love it because most of us are exhausted by our workload, and a moment or two spent on Facebook or Tumblr while at work can boost our spirits and give us the emotional strength to make it through the afternoon. Many of us are lonely, too, and due to the nature of how difficult it is to juggle career and family, it is sometimes easier to have a stronger connection with our internet friends than the people in our daily lives. After all, most of our internet friends know more about what is going on in our daily lives than our ‘real’ life friends. The problem comes when we’d rather answer our 80+ emails and notifications than interact with our families. When we waste precious writing time looking for funny pictures of cats or sharing the latest internet meme.
The average person has four to five discretionary hours of time each day in which to get everything done that they need to do outside of work: to shop, cook dinner, walk the dog (or get in some other form of exercise), tend to our families and loved ones. One of the decisions I made in order to be a writer was to spend less time in front of the television. But I’m thinking now that the internet has become a seductive replacement. Worse, the internet is even more likely than television to make me feel inadequate and unsuccessful.
So here’s my simple plan for being a successful writer:
- Write. Every day, damn it. Write like a mofo. This is your *job*.
- Stop comparing yourself to others. Stop checking your sales stats, or your Goodreads reviews. If Facebook and Twitter updates are making you depressed, stop going to those sites for a while. If you know your author’s list is going to burst into self-congratulatory posts about robust royalty payments, stay off the list at the end of the quarter.
- Read. Good writers are readers themselves. Make sure you read the good stuff, though. People tend to imitate what they are exposed to; if you read crap, you’ll write crap. Read your favorite books by your favorite authors over and over. Figure out what makes this story a favorite with you and learn from those you admire.
- Spend a little time in the real world. Yeah, hard to believe, but if you spend 99% of your time at the keyboard, it shows. Make sure you love the people and things in your life while you still have the chance. Experience the outdoors. If the words aren’t flowing, don’t click on Facebook—get up, get moving, and do something else. Here’s a thought: clean the house! Walk the dog. Do something physical that doesn’t engage 100% of your mind. It’s astonishing how often your brain will suddenly provide you with the solution you’ve desperately needed to a thorny plot problem when you’re raking leaves or mucking stalls.
- Remember why you became a writer in the first place. It wasn’t because you wanted to make a lot of money. It wasn’t because you were hoping it would help pay the bills. It wasn’t because of a secret yen to be famous. You wrote because you had a story to tell and you couldn’t rest until you’d told it. Embrace the passion of writing for writing’s sake, and forget about sales.
It’s really the only way to truly be successful. To create stories that you love and are proud to share with others.
The Boys of Summer
Contemporary/Historical M/M Romance
This couldn’t be happening. The plane couldn’t be going down.
As production assistant, David McIntyre has been enjoying the heck out of his current assignment: touring the Hawaiian Islands in search of the ideal shooting locations for a series of company projects. What’s not to like? Stunning scenery, great food, sunny beaches…and indulging in his crush on his hot pilot-for-hire, Rick Sutton.
Everything changes when a tropical storm and engine failure force a crash landing on a deserted atoll somewhere in the South Pacific. Sutton’s injuries and a lack of food and water make rescue imperative, but it takes an intensely vivid dream about the Battle of Britain to make David see that Rick is more than just a pilot to him. Will David gather his courage to confess his feelings to Rick—before it’s too late?
On Amazon: http://amzn.com/B00CCUVR7G
On Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/306320
Bio: Sarah Madison is a veterinarian with a big dog, an even bigger horse, too many cats, and a very patient boyfriend. She is a terrible cook, and concedes that her life would be easier if Purina made People Chow. She writes because it is cheaper than therapy.
On Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B004K9QY5C
On Facebook (Author page): http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Sarah-Madison-Author/106445646104338
On Facebook (Profile page): https://www.facebook.com/akasarahmadison
On Twitter: https://twitter.com/SarahMadisonFic
Goodreads Profile: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4057853.Sarah_Madison
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