Irrefutable Law of Success #3—We Learn By Doing
Theory is great, but it may or may not jive with reality. My goal as a blogger, author, teacher is to equip you guys for success from all angles—craft, brand/platform, and business. Yet, want to know what all these have in common?
We have to DO them to get better.
We can read all the craft books in the world, but we only grow as writers by writing. We improve on Facebook or Twitter with practice. As authors, we are corporations of ONE. We need to make business decisions. The more decisions we make, the more we grow.
One of the biggest business decisions we’ll make is which publishing path to take. This is why I dedicate a lot of time to educate you guys about how all forms of publishing work in my new book. We have to choose a path that fits our personality, our lives, how much time we have, and any operational constraints (four kids, day job, genre, budget, fear of clowns).
Sometimes our plans can have the best of intentions, but we don’t know what’s going to work until we try. For instance, my first books were published indie and I’d hoped this would translate into a traditional deal. I wanted to experience all forms of publishing so I could connect better with my readers.
After two years of a proposal going nowhere in NYC? Time to change plans. Thing is, I didn’t know it wouldn’t work until I TRIED.
Some Things Can ONLY Be Learned By DOING
As an author and business owner, I can tell you that hindsight REALLY IS 20/20. I look back at dumb moves, missteps, mistakes and go, “Yeah, that was stupid.” Yet, here’s the thing, it seemed like a good idea at the TIME.
Any of you who’ve ever DATED know the feeling.
We learn by DOING. We can’t learn to ride a bike reading Internet articles. We have to hop on and expect a lot of skinned knees and elbows.
Blogging is one of the best (and most stable) forms of social media. Yet, we only get good at it by doing it. Yes, readers love this blog (and I SO THANK YOU for that), but I’ve written over 700 blogs. My first blogs?
*insert crickets chirping*
I remember not wanting to delete spammers, because it meant I’d have NO comments.
This is the best infermentation ever. You are change my mind. What is your browser? You are brilliant person! My brother recommended me here. Your site has great spam filter.
He could just be foreign, right?
As I mentioned yesterday, plan your work, then work your plan. Plans are only good if we are using them. By using them, we see the flaws, the stuff that doesn’t work and then we can CHANGE direction. That author (I mentioned Monday) who was sniveling about spending a bazillion hours on social media and his book wasn’t selling?
CHANGE THE PLAN, DUDE!
All of us start with great ideas and intentions. That’s the prototype. Yet, once we build the prototype, we need to try and wreck it. Some flaws only come to the surface when rubber meets the road.
Do Stuff that Makes Sense—CONTEXT
All righty, we’ve talked about making a plan and testing a plan, but let’s start with not making a STUPID plan. I can’t count the number of times that social media, PR and marketing experts have cited examples of success that are OVER TEN YEARS OLD. If something was successful ten years ago? Likely NOT a good plan in a completely different paradigm.
Recently I had a conversation with an Old School PR person (A BIG PR person). I was trying to impress the importance of an author blog. Actual conversation:
Expert: Well, sure a blog is great. It worked for Julia & Julia. Blog a topic and get a book deal.
Me: Blogging a topic will pigeonhole a modern author and burn them out. Blogs need to be more dynamic. The Julia & Julia example is outdated.
Expert: What do you mean outdated?
Me: Okay, the blogger had to start the blog. Then she had to blog for well over a year to capture enough interest for a book deal. So that’s another year to two years to write the book and get it to market. Then the book needed time to take off in order to be optioned by Hollywood and, last I checked, films take time to make. Another year to two years to turn the book into a script, cast and then produce the film. And aside from all of that, it’s already a four year old film. The example isn’t relevant because it’s easily eight years old. Modern audiences have been spoiled by Reality TV and want to connect emotionally as people. They want to talk about cats and zombies and laundry with their favorite authors.
Expert: Yeah *laugh* I don’t see how blogging about cats is going to get you very far.
Me: Haz Cheezburger just sold for a couple million dollars and it’s simply cat memes. Also, Jenny Lawson not only hit the New York Times best-seller list, her readers crashed Goodreads when she tried to do a Meet the Author. She blogs about cats, zombies and her fetish for taxidermy.
Expert: Jenny Who?
After the conversation, we were on the same page and the expert was awesome and generous and grateful for the help, but this illustrates a point. When people (experts) cite what worked for The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood? Use critical thinking skills. Remember that success happened in THE 1990s.
Yes, Rebecca Wells traveled to the indie bookstores and created relationships and did readings, etc. but this was before Borders and Barnes & Noble all but wiped out independent bookstores. Granted, Borders is dead and buried and B&N is hemorrhaging. This means the small bookstore is making a comeback…but it still isn’t the influencer it was in the early 90s (but feel free to pounce if it makes sense for your book).
Remember, in the 1990s most people couldn’t afford computers, the Internet was in its infancy, and the bookstore was the main point of discovery. That’s no longer the case. When we make any plan, yes look to other successes for ideas. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Yet, at the same time, be smart. Your time is valuable.
This is why it is incumbent upon us to be knowledgeable. What is the market climate? Who are our readers? What do they want? Where are they congregating? Is my plan relevant or am I trying to recreate ten or even twenty-year-old magic?
Then try it. Put a foot in. If The Red Sea doesn’t part? Step…out (thank you, Joyce Meyers).
What are your thoughts? Have you been Wile E. Coyote and tried stuff that just went BOOM! Stuff that seemed like a good idea at the time? Do you look back at some of the people you dated and ask, “Was I on DRUGS? How did I EVER think that was a good idea?”
I LOVE hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of August, 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, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
ANNOUNCEMENTS: I have a class coming up SOON, Creating Conflict and Tension on Every Page if you want to learn how to apply these tactics to your writing. Use WANA15 to get 15% off.
Also, August 21st, I am running a Your First Five Pages webinar. Bronze is $40 and Gold is $55 (I look at your first five pages) and use WANA15 for 15% off.
The webinars are all recorded in case you can’t make the time and a PDF with notes will be sent to you following the class.
Also, my new book, Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World is NOW AVAILABLE.