The Comfort Zone is for Pets, Not Professionals
It’s a Purrgenomic Keyboard
I’m back! Just so you guys, know, I really missed you. Before we address today’s topic, some industry news. Months ago, I wrote a post Bracing for Impact–The Future of the New Publishing Paradigm where we talked about the problems with the publishing industry and I even offered some solutions to the indie bookstores’ problems. Stop fighting digital and get creative—pair paper and digital sales.
Then, two weeks ago, I wrote a post declaring that Big Six Publishing is Dead. In this post, I pointed out that Amazon would need to get its Kindles into a physical bookstore to survive. B&N stores had Nook, Target was partnering with Apple for the iPad, Kindle would HAVE to get its tuchus in a store because there is something about putting your physical product in the customer’s hands.
I said we should not be surprised when Amazon opened their own bookstores or partnered with a bookstore. Some cried that I was MAD! MADNESS! Amazon partnering with a bookstore? That is like Lady GaGa and Rush Limbagh going shopping together. Again, MADNESS!
Yes, sometimes even I think I’m crazy. Okay, well I am crazy, but my Publishing Magic Eight Ball was apparently right again.
Waterstones (a chain of almost 300 bookstores) just signed a deal with Amazon that will put Kindles and e-books in their bookstores so that customers can browse paper, but also choose to download the digital. And there will even be helpers there to show customers how to use their new device…which sounds a lot like my blog WANA Plan to Save the Bookstore. Yes, Waterstones has signed this deal, even after managing director James Daunt described Amazon as a, “ruthless, money-making devil.” Hey, apparently the devil pays the bills.
So I just had to give y’all the news because 1) this is a seriously cool development and is real business creativity and 2) I was RIGHT! Ha ha ha ha ha. Okay, I’ll stop *does cabbage patch dance*
This past weekend I attended the DFW Writers’ Workshop Conference, and it has to be one of my all-time favorite conferences. They always have some of the best talent in the industry teaching, and the panels are always well-balanced with experts from all areas of the emerging paradigm. Yet, one thing disturbed me this past weekend and I felt this blog was a great place to address it…so it might benefit all of you.
I watched a panel of experts who were talking about the changes in publishing, and virtually every expert from traditional publishing in NYC said one thing that bothered me deeply:
“We don’t expect our writers to do anything (regarding social media) that makes them uncomfortable. If you aren’t comfortable, don’t do it.”
And what I find fascinating is it is exactly this advice that is crippling NY’s ability to be competitive in the new paradigm. Over and over I had writers tell me, “Well, the editors said that if we aren’t comfortable blogging/tweeting, don’t do it.”
My answer? SERIOUSLY!!!!???? People who love you and care about your future don’t hand you a Snuggie.
If we are comfortable, we’re dying. Nothing great happens in the comfort zone. In fact a lot of creepy stuff that involves the fire department cutting you out of your house happens when you get too comfortable.
Every day you should do something that scares you. I do. In fact, I challenge myself once a day to do something truly uncomfortable (beyond wearing pants that actually button). Those actions that scare us are the most important; they are the game-changers that can take us warp speed to the next level.
You Have Not Because You Ask Not
Learn to ask. Ask a lot. Ask for stuff that frightens you. Four years ago, I had never even met a New York Times best-selling author in person. I was a member of the DFW Writers’ Workshop group and I happened to attend the OWFI Conference. I spotted NYTBSA Bob Mayer and attached myself like a burr in his sock.
Later that year, the DFWWW was planning the next year’s conference. I suggested that I could ask Bob to be the keynote, then immediately hoped they hadn’t heard me. But they had heard me, and the liquor store was already closed.
Even though I had been teaching Bob all about the wonders of social media, he still kind of terrified me. I was just a lowly unpublished nobody. But, shaking, I wrote the e-mail THAT NIGHT, before I could talk myself out of it. Not only did Bob say YES, but later I became WDW’s (now Cool Gus Publishing’s) first outside author and my book became a #1 best-seller that has changed a lot of writer’s careers.
What would life have been like if I hadn’t dared to ask the question?
Same with James Rollins. He was my all-time favorite author. I
stalked talked to him on Twitter and later, dared to ask the stuff that scared me. I asked for a blurb for my second book, and Jim, being the awesome person he is, not only said yes, he read my first book We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and loved it so much he bought a copy for his agent Russ Galen…who is now my agent, too.
All because I asked.
Create the Habit
Make no mistake, I’ve had my share of disappointments and embarrassments. I’ve asked plenty of times and gotten a “no.” Sometimes those “no’s” were two steps away from a restraining order. Yet, the more we ask, the more we push into what makes us afraid, the easier it gets. This is why it is so critical to challenge yourself as much as you can. The worst advice anyone can give you is to “maintain comfort.”
Pets are allowed to maintain comfort, not professionals.
Comfort and Lazy are Close Cousins
We all seek comfort. It’s human nature. But it is also human nature to be lazy and the line that defines the two is very, very thin and undefined. Lazy people are rarely successful. They are the lotto winners who are back on food stamps in five years. Comfort can easily infect our character and create bad habits that will slowly erode our success. We must be ever-vigilant. I know if left to my own design, I am so lazy I could slip into a coma…probably a sugar coma, because I don’t feel like cooking.
What I found interesting at the conference was that the self-published and indie published authors were all about trying new stuff; new tactics, new technology, and really challenging themselves to learn as much as possible. If they didn’t understand formatting, the taught themselves or took a class or read a book. They tried new tactics and if they worked? GREAT! If not? Learn something, try something, do something else. FAIL. FAIL BIG and FAIL A LOT. Failure is always guarding the door to success.
Does this give a little hint why the indies are thriving while NY is dying? NY doesn’t want to be uncomfortable. They don’t want to let go of the old print/consignment model. They tell their writers not to do anything on social media that makes them uncomfortable.
Ways to Defeat the Lazy
1. Go THAT Way
If something makes us feel uncomfortable, likely that is the direction we need to go.
2. Get Educated
Sometimes things make us uncomfortable only because we don’t understand them. If Twitter makes you twitch, buy my book, take a class and learn how to use it. Follow these instructions and start using the #MyWANA and let the WANAs guide you. Plotting make you uncomfortable? Read James Scott Bell’s Plot and Structure or take one of his classes.
3. Suck It Up
Just do it. Every day write down something that would possibly be a game-changer…then do it FIRST. Is it writing a synopsis? A query? Writing a favorite author and telling them why you love his or her work?
4. No WHINING
Hobbyists whine, professionals roll up their sleeves and get to work.
5. Choose Friends Who Command Excellence
Step #4 is easier if you surround yourself with excellent friends who are also professionals. They will catch you in your whining and smack you around. I know this is why my closest pals are Piper Bayard, Ingrid Schaffenburg, Donna Newton, Kait Nolan and Jenny Hansen. I can count on them to knock me around if I start to whine too much. They keep me accountable and if you follow their blogs, you will see they are definitely committed to excellence.
Ingrid is my business partner and a former professional ballerina. I asked her to be my partner for good reason. Rumor has it that former ballerinas make excellent military drill instructors.
So what are your thoughts? Do you believe my advice is misguided? Maybe making people uncomfortable is a bad thing? What are some ways you get yourself out of your comfort zone? Do you have any tools, tactics or ideas you can contribute? Any places willing to rig a desk chair with electricity to keep writers from goofing off on Twitter?
To prove it and show my love, for the month of May, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.
I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of May I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!
***IMPORTANT MESSAGE–For those who have not gotten back pages. My web site fiasco has been responsible for eating a lot of e-mails. Additionally I get about 400 e-mails a day and the spam folder has a healthy appetite too. It is hard to tell since some people never claim their prize, but I could have very well just not seen your entry. Feel free to e-mail it again and just put CONTEST WINNER in the header so I can spot you easily. (especially if your message is kidnapped by the spam filter).
I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.