I am currently reading Kate White’s I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This: Success Secrets Every Gutsy Girl Should Know. There are bad books, okay books, good books and great books. But there is another kind of book and it’s the rarest.
White has a witty, sassy style. She is seamlessly intelligent and down-to-earth in her fiction. And guess what? Her nonfiction delivers more of the same.
I’ve never recommended a book I haven’t finished, but this one has me far too excited. Even if Ms. White devolves into dirty limericks for the rest of the book? I still feel I have spent my money well. There are some points she makes which I feel are especially poignant and applicable to writers.
Part of the reason I’m referring to her book in this blog (even though I’m not yet finished) is that I might just chicken out unless I jump in. I have come to the conclusion that…
Good Girls Don’t Become Best-Sellers
Before you throw digital knives at me, please hear me out. I’ve been doing this social media thing since MySpace was big. I have three books under my belt, 900 blogs, and thousands of hours of teaching. So I’ve been around long enough to at least make a very unscientific study of human behavior and I can tell you that men almost always have the advantage in the new publishing paradigm. They have the edge for the same reasons they gain the advantage in the workplace.
Those lessons our mothers and grandmothers passed on could be the very behaviors that have us standing in our own way. I feel this is particularly true for the writing profession since it is largely comprised of women over 30.
Women over 30 have lived long enough to see this world change more than it ever has in the entire course of human history. Who would have imagined we’d say things like, “I want a picture. Hold on while I get my phone!”
We were born into a world where women became nurses, not doctors and now we are finding our way in a world where a woman can finally be bold enough to run for president (not vice-president).
Many of the writers I work with believe they are struggling with branding because of the technology, but I don’t agree. I think women are finally in a position where we must choose. It is live or die. If we listen to our rearing we will lose and lose BIG.
We don’t like the new paradigm because we can’t hide behind an agent and wait meekly for outside approval. The new publishing paradigm lands us smack dab in the place we are most terrified.
What I am going to address can help the men (the “Nice Guys”) and it does apply to younger women. But us older gals? I could kick myself for not seeing this earlier and it figures it would take a former Editor in Chief of Cosmopolitan Magazine to help me see the light. I’m going riff with some of the ideas presented in Ms. White’s book and apply them to women in the world of publishing. We are taught to be Good Girls and is this having a devastating impact on our careers.
Then, since I hate whining and love solutions, we will throw out the rule books and explore what it is to be a “Bad Girl.”
#1 Good Girls Are Modest
It is unbecoming to brag, so we are modest and humble and we are shooting ourselves in the foot.
In the corporate world, men are more likely to own their accomplishments, whereas women tend to minimize their achievements. To paraphrase White:
If a man has four years of college French, he has no problem stating he is fluent. Women, on the other hand, will downplay their abilities. We say we have a “conversational grasp” of the language.
When it comes to writing, the second a man even starts a novel, he has business cards with “Author” as his title and he is securing a website. Women, on the other hand? Let’s pause that thought for a little test.
How many of you are aspiring writers? Raise your hand. No one will see.
Now, use that hand to smack yourself soundly and never call yourself that again.
Writers write. There is no try. There is no aspire. Aspiring is for wimps. It takes guts and blood to be a writer.
No one will take us seriously unless we do it first.
#2 Good Girls Need Permission
I cannot count how many writers (usually female) have written a novel, numerous novels and yet still refer to themselves as “aspiring writers.” They are waiting for permission to even use the title even though they have a blog and have written hundreds of thousands of words.
Men don’t do this. At least not in the same numbers. I can attest to that. I’ve met men whose writing was so bad they should have been banned from downloading Word until they took some grammar classes, but that didn’t stop them from having a marketing plan or hiring a PR person. They don’t hesitate to secure a domain, build a blog, or hire the best person to design their cover and if they can’t get an agent? They are more likely to self-publish without needing outside approval to do so.
#3 Good Girls Don’t Have Desires
So many of us gals are afraid to want something. Why is it so hard for us to admit we want something? To claim a certain life? Why do we feel such shame and a need to hide who we are and what we desire?
It is okay for a man to want
sex a promotion a raise to want to be a New York Times best-selling author, but for us? There is almost something dirty about wanting to write. Wanting to write and get PAID to write. Wanting to write and to…be famous for it.
Oh no! Kristen has gone TOO FAR! And there is only one punishment for lighting the grail-shaped beacon…
Dirty, naughty Zewt!
Spank us all!
If we are wives and mothers? The problem only compounds from there. I have a hard time expressing I want to go to the bathroom alone, how am I supposed to say I want to be
published a LEGEND?
#4 Good Girls Are Demure
As a social media expert for writers, do you know one of the biggest mistakes writers make in branding? They fail to use their names. They tweet as @fairywriter or @ILuvBooks or @dragongirl. They do all of this wonderful networking for months and years and yet it is almost all wasted effort. Why? Because unless I am going to change my name to Fairy Writer and slap that on a cover, that twitter handle is doing zilch nada nothing to build a brand.
Remember what a brand is?
A brand is when our name alone is a bankable asset. It is when a name alone has the power to drive sales.
When I get on social media and see writers using monikers, by and large it is women. Men do this too, but not in the same numbers. And, even if men use a moniker, the second I point out the fallacy, they are far more likely to change it. Women on the other hand are terrified of using their name and take way more convincing.
Men are also far more likely to start a blog. Women?
They have to have three angelic visions, four miraculous encounters and a committee of family members to tell them it would be okay to BLOG. Why is blogging so scary? IT IS FREAKING WRITING. It plays to a writer’s strengths, but I might as well ask writers to perform brain surgery from space with a Chia Pet and an egg beater.
What if people find out I like to write?
Don’t you think they should if you hope they will pay money to read your books?
#5 Good Girls Feel Comfortable Losing
Well, I tried and that’s all that counts.
We women are notorious for placing ourselves in no-win situations. Out of one side of our mouth we say we can’t be on social media because we don’t yet have a book for sale, but when we do have a book for sale? Oh, well I feel so awkward talking to people because they might think I am selling my book.
*bangs head on keyboard*
When a man publishes a book, he is there to win. He isn’t there to see his name in print. He is there to see his name in lights.
But us gals? We are notorious for settling. We feel awkward admitting we maybe kind of sort of would like to be number one. Men have no problem admitting they are on social media because they would like to sell books.
Okay, enough of the “Good Girl” stuff.
I hope I’ve made my point. Now *rubs hands* it is time for me to help you cultivate that inner Bad Girl.
If you want this dream, the first step is to know it is okay to want it. Many of you are moms, wives, and caretakers. Maybe you already have a great career and it is “selfish” to want to write. And I am here to say, YES. It is. And sometimes a little selfishness goes a long way. Men outpace us because they are better at being selfish.
We must learn to stuff a sock in the inner Good Girl’s mouth and channel that inner Bad Girl because she is dying to get out more. Being a Bad Girl doesn’t mean we aren’t still kind and gracious, but it does mean things are going to change.
#1 Bad Girls Do It Afraid
Nothing remarkable happens in the comfort zone. You are going to have to suck it up and writer up. Only sociopaths don’t feel fear. Fear is natural and normal but it gets in the way of greatness. I feel women are far more afraid of failure than men. We wait to be “perfect.” We can’t say anything until we have the perfect book. But perfect is the enemy of the good. Do it afraid.
Yes. You might fail. Odds are you WILL fail and good! Keep failing. It’s how we learn.
If we aren’t failing, we aren’t doing anything interesting.
So understand everything I am about to tell you is likely going to scare your pants off.
It’s okay, the erotica authors can lead the way 😀 .
Pay attention to that feeling because you will need to remember it. If something scares me (like writing this particular blog), likely I am onto something BIG. It is a sign I am heading in the right direction.
#2 Bad Girls OWN IT
Good, bad, ugly. We own what we do. I admit when I left sales and dreamed of becoming a writer, I wrote the world’s worst novel. It was being used in Guantanamo Bay to break terrorists until it was banned under the Hague Convention as torture.
But you know what? I finished a novel. I did something everyone says they want to do but then never actually do. I own the bad, but what’s been harder? Learning to own the GOOD.
It took weeks for me to put the emblem on this blog that I was named one of Writer’s Digest’s 100 Best Blogs. WHY? Because I am a work in progress, too 😀 .
#3 Bad Girls ASK FOR IT
How many writers are waiting for someone to deliver their big break into their lap? We go to conferences and practically throw up in our shoes at the thought of asking an agent if they’d like to hear about our book. WHY? It is their JOB. Agents don’t have a job without writers.
Ask for what you want. Guess what? All they can do is say no. But, they might just say, “Yes.”
When I wrote my second social media book, I had the terrifying task of finding blurbs. So, I took my own advice and did it afraid. I made a list of all my favorite authors and then…asked. Guess what? New York Times Best-Selling Author James Rollins said, “Yes.”
He already knew me and loved my book.
But I never would have known had I not dared to ASK. Bad girls don’t hear, “No.” We hear, “Not yet” 😉 .
#4 Bad Girls DO IT
We write. We blog. We tweet and by golly we slap our name on it while we are there. I get that the house is a mess, but guess what? It can wait. Most men aren’t waiting until the house is immaculate and all the laundry is done and the kids are all asleep to take time to write!
How many of us are getting up before dawn or staying up after midnight because our dream might just inconvenience someone else? Let them be inconvenienced for a change!
We ladies bend more than the karma sutra and that is okay, but if our husband actually has to watch the kids for an hour in the evening that is too much?
#5 Bad Girls Are In It to WIN IT
Again, I love, love, love Kate White’s book because it reminded me of so much I’d forgotten. Yes, I am a full-time author, blogger, and C.E.O. but I am also a mom and spend way too much time in yoga pants and covered in crumbs. It is easy to forget to be hungry. It is easy to lose our way unless we are vigilant to keep the path. It is easy to let other people’s opinions matter too much.
Lionesses do not lose sleep over the opinions of sheep.
Bad girls don’t whine. We don’t make excuses and we do not politely wait our turn. We understand life is short and we need to make our time here count.
Understand that this is an amazing world that is rich in bounty and there is enough to go around. Don’t let anyone diminish you. This is your dream. It isn’t your little hobby or your “thing” it is YOU. It is your dream and it is OKAY to WANT TO WIN.
This seems like such a simple thing, but I hope you see how pivotal this realization is. I can give you all the branding and blogging lessons in the world and it won’t help. We don’t have a technology problem, we have a confidence problem.
Vow today to make a change. Start by admitting you want the dream then, for the love of all that is chocolate, slap your NAME on it. No more hiding. I will find you on Twitter and pull your @FairyGurl wings off 😉 .
What are your thoughts? Do you see any “Good Girl” behaviors that have been undermining you? Do you have a hard time calling yourself a…writer? Do you have a hard time with the notion of social media because the thought of admitting you have a dream scares you spit-less? Have you bothered to get a domain name, a website? Blog? Are you afraid to ask for what you want? Do you put everyone and everything ahead of your writing? Are you waiting for permission? Do you feel like you are a poseur or a fake? Do you struggle with perfectionism?
I LOVE hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of OCTOBER, 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. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel.
For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook.