My 19 yr old daughter is a rare person, someone who has known who she is from a very young age. Her interests and character were formed virtually in infancy, and while she’s grown and matured just like anyone, the foundation of who she is has never wavered.
She did not get this wonderful self-awareness from me. Nor from her father. Both of us spent all of our twenties and some of our thirties thrashing about trying to figure out what the hell we were supposed to be doing and who the hell we were. Luckily, at some point we got it together. But understanding yourself, knowing what works for you, and what doesn’t, is important in all aspects of life, and specifically, in your writing career. Because being a genre fiction writer especially if you’re Indie, is a world of limitless demands–on your skills and your time and your knowledge. The demands can be relentless, and if you don’t know how to filter through it all, you’ll end up miserable.
My pumped up backlist this year has enabled me to take some time during this last quarter to really think about my next steps, and part of that process has been remembering who I am. Being in the daily grind of Indie writing and publishing, it’s all too easy to move from one “marketing/promo/productivity/craft” trend to the next. You know exactly what I’m talking about, don’t you? The latest ad hack, the latest productivity app, the newest social media craze. Every single week there is something new you can chase and do and analyze and regret. Some of these things will work. Most for only a short time. But how many of them really suit YOU?
Because that’s what’s so easy to forget. The pace of this business can make it very hard to take a breath and think about whether doing FB live videos or co-promo or rom com really suits you. So my advice to you today is this: Instead of jumping right into next year’s plans this December, spend some time remembering who you are.
Here’s some of what I’ve had to remind myself:
- I’m an introvert. I’m going to be very blunt now, and if you’re a reader seeing this, please know it’s not personal, and I am very grateful for you, but here’s the deal: I hate signings. Yes, I know, those fun, frothy things that everyone posts pictures about and gushes over. It’s like having my fingernails pulled out one by one. I despise them. I’m a writer, not an entertainer, and while I can small talk with the best of them, I don’t like being the focus of attention, and the idea that I’m trying to sell you something (me as well as my books), just turns the whole experience into a sort of personal hell. Does this mean I won’t ever do another signing? No, but it does mean they’ll be carefully chosen and no more than a couple of times a year. You can find next year’s list here:
- I suck at networking. Part of that whole introvert thing (and I’ll be honest, it’s beyond introvert, I have social anxiety) is that I’ll never be good at networking. I’m a good friend–loyal, trustworthy, and honest–but when it comes to buddying up to the “right” people, or participating in certain projects and events solely because of who will be there, I suck. All I know how to be is me. And me picks friends by whether I feel comfortable with them, not their sales numbers. Networking in this business can bring you a lot of success. For real. If you’re good at it I applaud you and advise you to use that shit to your advantage. But for me, there’s no point in even pretending I can do it.
- I’m not data driven. I was an English major, yo. I don’t do numbers. Consequently, any new fad or marketing technique that requires analyzing data is a big NO for me. It’s dumb of me to even attempt it, and thus, if I absolutely have to glean that kind of information or track it or analyze it, I need to accept that I’ll have to hire someone to do it for me. I also have to remember this so I don’t waste money on courses or apps that rely on me doing numbers.
- I love change. Mr. L and I are sort of change junkies. We change houses every five years, and when we were first married he changed jobs (via promotions) every year and a half or two for several years. I’m not scared of change, and while when it comes to my kids growing up I can be as maudlin about the changes as anyone, change in my life has almost always heralded improvement. One of the reasons I love being an Indie author is that it’s full of that change. But remembering who I am becomes essential so that I don’t chase after every change that hits my inbox. Change is good, but change that’s tailored to who I am is even better.
- I need goals and objectives, and most of all…HOPE. Mr L’s family came from Scandinavian working class roots. Those people can grind through life like no one’s business. They’re hardy and determined, and completely unlike me. I can work damn hard, but I have to know that at the end of it there is HOPE. Hope that it will be a success, hope that it will accomplish what I wanted it to, hope that it will lead me to something new and challenging, and fun. This year Contemporary Romance ceased to be that for me (and a lot of other people). The overcrowding of that market, the lock put on it by the top 100 or so Indie superstars, the chaos of a million and one rabid authors clamoring for attention left me hopeless. And that’s not a place I could continue to live. I’ve made some big changes, and I’m starting some big new projects, and I have hope again. Lots of it.
Here’s my challenge to you for the New Year: make a list about YOU like the one above. Admit to some of the basics of who you are, your strengths and weaknesses, your tendencies and habits. We always look at New Year’s plans and resolutions as a time to try to mold ourselves into who we think we SHOULD be. What if instead we used it to acknowledge who we ARE? What if this year you based your Indie business plans around whether things fit with you instead of how you can fit with what seems to be the newest fad? What if you said, “This is me, it’s not good or bad, it’s just who I am. I’m going to plan my business according to what I’m good at, what I enjoy, what I feel right doing.” And going forward, before you hop on any new Indie trend or practice, stop and say to yourself: Does this fit ME? If it does, then fantastic. If it doesn’t, find something else that does. There is no one right way to succeed in this business. You do you.