Writer Victory!—Turn Over the Future & Focus on What We CAN Control

Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Mr. Muggles.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Mr. Muggles.

We’ve been working through an Author Acrostic the past few posts. Why? Because a zillion craft books and workshops can’t do it. We can be the most talented writer the world has ever seen, yet go to our graves with no one ever knowing our names. How? This job is as much about our hearts and minds as it is our hands. This profession is largely mental. We’re athletes of the mind. We have to train our will along with our skill.

V was for Voluntarily Submit. I was for Identify Problem Areas. C was for Change Your Mind.

Today, we are on T.

T is for—Turn Over the Future. As professionals, it is key to cast our care and keep our responsibilities. Too many writers waste valuable time on crap they can’t control, all the while ignoring what they CAN. It’s an easy snare, which is why ALL of us have to remain vigilant. Even me. Maybe especially me.

Social Media Snare

Image via QuickMeme

Image via QuickMeme

This might sound bizarre coming from the Social Media Jedi for Writers, but social media does NOT SELL BOOKS. When I say, “social media” I mean, the book spam, the promos, the ads, the impersonal fluff we’d luuuuv to automate, outsource or measure with an algorithm. This stuff doesn’t work. I’ve said this approach would’t work since MySpace was around (and time has redeemed me).

This is why I created the WANA method. WANA methods have sold hundreds of thousands of books, have launched unknowns into the record books. But WANA methods can’t be automated or outsourced (Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World). We have to turn over our future and trust that, if we plant love and grow relationships, then pair those relationships with a clear brand and excellent writing? Harvest will come.

This traditional marketing-advertising behavior is a dinosaur. It’s responsible for an abysmal .001% of reasons people decide to buy a book.

Recently, I heard mega-agent Donald Maass speak and he’s the one who gave the statistic above (not sure where he found it) but he said essentially what I’d blogged about only a couple weeks previously in my post Social Media, Book Signings & Why Neither Directly Impact Overall Sales.

Social media is the human connection, and is taking the place of the traditional book signing. Book signings don’t sell books. Never did. BUT, they were the only place readers could come and get to know and connect with the author in a meaningful way. Book signings were the way to cultivate the long-term fans.

Social media now is a way we can easily do the same thing from home and all it costs is TIME. We can use social media to rise above the din in an age where discoverability is becoming a nightmare. Social media is far more effective than books signings because geography, status, and money are no longer limitations.

What Can the Pre-Published Author Control?

Virtually the same things we published ones can. Hone our craft. Write the book. Finish the book. Query. We can’t control getting an agent beyond the query (or networking). Even when we land an agent that doesn’t guarantee that agent can sell our work. Even if our work is sold and published, it might tank, or take off. We can’t tell.

Screen Shot 2014-01-06 at 1.17.53 PM

But, we can control writing more books and better books. In between, while taking a break? Build that platform.

The rest is trying to read chicken bones.

If we hope to be relevant in the Digital Age, then the question is not longer whether we will do social media, rather, how we will do it.

Look to those who are successful and who will remain successful. Look to Anne Rice. She’s on Facebook A LOT. Talking to her fans. Asking questions, sharing, discussing. Why? She’s an ICON! Exactly, and she is putting in the social sweat equity to remain that way. She understands the fans are EVERYTHING.

I was recently talking to Jonathan Maberry at a conference. This man practically lives on the NYTBS list. He turns out a novel every two and a half months and write columns, novellas, short stories and also is one of the lead writers for Marvel Comics. His novels have been optioned for Hollywood and his Rot & Ruin series is now being made into a television series.

He works an hour, then spends ten minutes on social media connecting.

Social media is something we can directly control. Sales? Forget it. I see so many authors running around like a wind-up toy. They check their algorithms and beat up stats on Amazon. They research another way to promote, send mailers, hunt for new and improved ways to do blog tours or hold contests. They futz with the price of their book more than Kim Kardashian posts selfies.

And the sales don’t budge.

Original image via NASA Blueshift courtesy of Flickr Commons

Original image via NASA Blueshift courtesy of Flickr Commons

Look to the Pros

Pros understand what they can control and focus there. They write. They finish. They ship. They study. They read. They know that cultivating an on-line community is key to relevance in The Digital Age. They also write more books instead of camping on top of ONE.

Pros know to start where you ARE.

Maberry didn’t always write full-time. He worked as a bouncer at a strip club and later as a bodyguard. He fit the writing in between crappy jobs because he knew a life getting beat up and stabbed was not his ideal career plan. James Rollins fit in writing after a long day working as a veterinarian. Tess Gerritsen began with a short story she wrote on maternity leave. Her next novels were penned while she was working as full-time doctor.

We will never have optimal working conditions. Accept that reality and this career will be far less frustrating. As I write this, I have a fever. I’m achy and miserable and would rather be in bed. But, I’m abysmally behind and I need work. While I am getting a cramp from kicking my own @$$, that isn’t very fruitful. I’ve dropped the ball, but I CAN pick it up and RUN.

It’s life 😀 .

I must remember to focus on what I can do NOW. In the present. What can I control? I can get my butt in my seat and do my job if I want to be like the legends I revere. Pros don’t worry and fret over how many Twitter followers they have or if the latest algorithm on Amazon is favorable to sales. They work. Hard. They work…smart 😉 . They trust that incremental investments every day add up and that the future is uncertain. Cool thing is, we can do this too!

What are your thoughts?

I know when I am feeling like the world is crushing me, I am focusing too much on stuff that’s out of my hands. What about you? Do you drift into that territory? Do you often get overwhelmed and realize you’re spending too much time and worry on something you have no power to control? Does it feel better to know that it is okay to focus on the “little” things?

I LOVE hearing from you!

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. 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).






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  1. Writing is the work I love to hate making time for, but should. Silly, but I am going to start putting the time on my calendar as appointments so I can guilt myself into taking/making time. Now back to the day job….

  2. Reblogged this on writeknit and commented:
    How many times do I have to hear Get Serious! before I actually pay attention? I guess I’m a slow learner. But maybe I need to start blogging my progress to get a schedule rolling 🙂

  3. The fact that you can write this well when you are under the weather is awesome, just say’n. Feeling like you wrote this for me, I’m hanging on to this line “They trust that incremental investments every day add up and that the future is uncertain”. So sick of social media and trying to figure out whether to self-publish or start querying so I get lost researching those ideas and ugh…. I sometimes think that I would actually be published by now if I spent less time trying to figure out how to get published. Feel better soon!

    1. My thoughts exactly. I’ve been comotosed in bed for days with the worst headache. Thanks for the great advice. Get well soon.

  4. Hi Kristen,
    You know, I feel like more and more I’m hearing that if you have a good idea for a book, you should start writing it even if you’re already writing a book. That advice just seems…scary to me. I’d be worried that if I left my original story behind, I wouldn’t come back to it. Also, if you always start writing another book when an idea comes, won’t you start to lack discipline, and then you’ll NEVER finish a book because something else comes along?

    • laurieawill on May 19, 2014 at 12:02 pm
    • Reply

    It is really hard to focus on what I can control when there are so many ‘scary” unknowns out there. There worst part is if I spend too much time dwelling on it, I become overwhelmed and get nothing done.This is a good reminder. I think as humans it’s the same with many areas of our lives. We need redirection from time to time.

  5. My biggest fault is not finding the time after the writing. I get the drafts and the editing, and then . . . where’s the publishing? I keep leaving that part out, because I’m always too busy writing. That’s where I need to make my time, because with my backlog, I could spend six months self-publishing stories.

  6. I particularly like Mayberry’s idea of writing for an hour before hitting social media for ten minutes. When I was working, I used to block my calendar so that I could get work done. We should do that as writers. Since I write every day now that I’m retired, I set limits on social media using a 15-minute egg-timer. When the sand runs out…

  7. Writing isn’t work to me at all! It is permenance and wisdom. I actually wish that somedays I could turn off my writer’s brain. Though I need to start thinking about the query end of it all. Not quite on the mid-point of my book and I’m afraid to become too occupied with the business of it all while still writing. Your blog is so helpful! Thanks! ~Karen~

    • Donna Fasano on May 19, 2014 at 12:24 pm
    • Reply

    I agree with everything you’ve said. Every. Thing. Great post. Now all I have to do is apply the knowledge.

    Donna Fasano

  8. Jonathan Maberry is awesome! I’ve known him for years. And he is a great proponent of the ideas you espouse about writers lifting each other up rather than competing with each other. I’ve been watching this mindset take root and flourish in my area (where Jonathan lived before moving to CA), and the success stories have been rolling in. WANAs know that a rising tide lifts all boats, and that’s what I like about the WANA community!

    • rachelshubin119066650 on May 19, 2014 at 12:38 pm
    • Reply

    This is all really encouraging. I just finished first draft of a novella, and I’m in the beta reader/editing phase and trying to figure out to do with it once I’m done cleaning it up (actually, it’s 8500 words. Does that count as short story or novella?). I’m assuming Amazon is the way to go here? It does seem like there are mountains of marketing ideas, so it’s helpful to have some of that weeded down. Again, very encouraging. Thank you.

    Also to writeknit:
    Starting a blog just so I could keep track of my program has been hugely helpful and encouraging for me. I post my word count or what work I did on the sidebar and whatever random writing stuff I’m chewing on at the moment gets a post. That sidebar has turned out to be extremely satisfying.

    • Tamara LeBlanc on May 19, 2014 at 12:56 pm
    • Reply

    I drift into that crushing territory all the time, Kristen…especially lately. I’m overwhelmed with bills and trying to take care of the finances on my own (which I never did before. Dusty had always wanted me to learn, but I’d had no interest and had no problem letting him take the reigns- mistake) take care of the house, meals, the yard, laundry, a college and high school aged son and daughter…..AHHHHHGGGGG!!! And then I should find time to write?
    Um, yeah, Tamara, that’s exactly what you need to do.
    Tess Geritsen did it, J.K. Rowling, Mayberry & Rollins, etc. etc.
    Sure, things are different for me now. I miss Dusty like I’d miss my heart if it were ripped from my chest, but I’m still here and I have to carry on and millions of people deal with loss, whether its through death or divorce or abandonment and millions still forge ahead and go to work or school or both and end up finding time to write their book, sell it and market it.
    Whew. So far this comment is more for me than for you 🙂
    Anyway, I have a lot to focus on, and much of it IS in my hands, but there is also quite a bit that I have no control over and I have to stop stressing and worrying about those things. I need to take one step at a time, one day at a time.
    Thank you for reminding me to stop all my futzing 🙂
    Have a great afternoon!!

  9. Kristen after DFWCon, I was flying until I got home and seriously began revisions on my MS. Then, for the span of two weeks, I really began to hate life. I was (and am) SO stressed because I know I need to get my submissions in to the agents I queried, but I am so worried about submitting the cleanest MS I can….and then I almost cried my eyes out! I found that the key to calming myself down (outside of alcohol) was “budgeting” time everyday after work, to work on my MS. It’s hard balancing the full time job, writing, and social media, not to mention being a mom and wife, but it helps so much to have friends like WANA….otherwise I don’t think I would be this far!!

  10. I might add it takes a team. It is wise to belong to a group where you can share information. You are among the lucky should you have beta readers. A reliable editor is a must. Reading blogs like this, creating your own. You might be alone with the initial writing, but there are lots of folks who will form a valuable circle of comrades as you venture forth.

  11. Social media is a great distraction and interaction but sometimes it seems, at least in no man’s land, all work that doesn’t really work. Or, I’m just not trying hard enough. Could be that…

  12. Ever since my youngest son plunged from our second story window (15 years ago and he is fine now), I have learned to release control of many things. Safety of my children was the biggest one. But it feels so different with writing. If I’m querying and not getting any takers, how do I know what needs to change? How long is long enough to market one manuscript?
    I’m nearly to this level with my first novel (in twelve years) and I will keep writing while I query. But how can I learn to let go of the querying angst. (Never mind the irrational flashes of insecurity when I reread certain pages of my novel.)

    • Stephanie Scott on May 19, 2014 at 3:09 pm
    • Reply

    When I start down that road of speculating what will happen if no one wants to publish my book, and whether any of my ideas are good, I go back to my current project and work on making it the best I can. I really don’t know anything else that works other than to shut down that speculation brain and use my time and energy to write a better story. I wish there was an easy answer for all the stress!

    • Carol Caldwell on May 19, 2014 at 3:21 pm
    • Reply

    On the issue of book signings not selling books. Recently a friend held a book signing on her first book. There were a lot of people in attendance and most bought her book, some bought more than one copy. So, I think it depends on how connected you are with friends outside of the internet. Are they willing to leave their comfy spots, brave weather and traffic to get a signed copy?

  13. I am a control freak! I hate giving up control… even of things I can’t control 😉

    That being said, I am taking a few of your lines, printing them out and posting them on cork board as daily reminders. In particular, the write more books and write better books while waiting for those things that are out of my control… right now, this is my lifeline.

    Awesome, as always!

  14. Reblogged this on Penamon Perks®.

  15. Great advice, Kristen!!

  16. Thank you for putting this writing thing into perspective. It’s about the writing, dammit, but it’s so easy to forget that and get caught up in blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc. I’m bookmarking this post and adding it to my Kristen Lamb collection of wisdom.

  17. Well, you’ve been right about everything else so I’ll keep writing, though I might keep those chicken bones in a box in case I want to refer to them. 🙂

  18. I find social media frustrating. I’m either talking to the same handful of people all the time … the only ones who comment on my posts … or I get cricket noise, but … I’m trying other things now to see if something can build traction.

  19. I’m all about writers engaging their readers. Neil Gaiman is a great example of someone doing this RIGHT. So far, I’m stuck in a weird limbo of no one seeing my tweets (except for the same few people, like CCKoepp mentioned).

  20. Thanks very much for this post, Kristen. The self-doubt goblin has been bugging me of late and it’s crimping my productivity. Thanks for putting things back into perspective! 🙂

  21. Another post full of good advice, Kristen. Thank you.

  22. I really enjoy your blog posts, Kristen, and take from them a lot of valuable advice and tips. Thank you! I self-published my first book this month and it’s taking a lot of effort not to keep checking stats on Amazon. Sometimes, we need to be reminded to do what’s important and stop focusing on what’s not. Looking forward to your next segment.
    Feel better!!

    • Lisa on May 20, 2014 at 8:46 am
    • Reply

    Thanks, Kristen, this is great encouragement! So many things are out if our control, but staying focussed on the work is one thing we CAN do. Working “smart” is the key, for sure, but sometimes it’s hard, as a newbie, to understand what “smart” means. Your posts help clarify so much of that!

  23. LOVED this blog. I agree about the non-optimal working conditions. I often pride myself that while others in my writing group are retired and writing or have a large inheritance that allows them to write all day, I squeeze it in. In the carpool lane when I’m parked, stuck and waiting. At lunch break, after dinner and when my husband is watching soccer. I read at football games and waiting for the Spring Show to start to keep up my reading.

    I know too much pride is not good, but this blog made me feel proud of my pre-published accomplishments. Written two books, one a collection of ghost stories that I will self pub. The other a novel which a few agents are reading, (keep fingers crossed), and working on the second draft of the sequel!

    Not mind-blowing, but not bad for working full time with two active kids, a book club, writer’s group, garden, dog, two cats, five chickens, and tea club.

    Sometimes I need permission to toot my own horn. Thanks for giving it. Best to you Kristin :)pride myself that while others in my writing group are retired and writing or have a large inheritance that allows them to write all day, I squeeze it in. In the carpool lane when I’m parked, stuck and waiting. At lunch break, after dinner and when my husband is watching soccer. I read at football games and waiting for the Spring Show to start to keep up my reading.

    I know too much pride is not good, but this blog made me feel proud of my pre-published accomplishments. Written two books, one a collection of ghost stories that I will self pub. The other a novel which a few agents are reading, (keep fingers crossed), and working on the second draft of the sequel!

    Not mind-blowing, but not bad for working full time with two active kids, a book club, writer’s group and tea club.

    Sometimes I need permission to toot my own horn. Thanks for giving it. Best to you Kristin 🙂

  24. Feel Better, Kristen. Thanks for the encouragement. This might be one thing that, so far, I might doing right. Really, I hope you feel better soon!

  25. Reblogged this on An Author in the Works and commented:
    From the time I decided to start my blog I’ve felt this way about promoting my books. It’s really about connecting with people, which is why we write in the first place. Well, it’s why I write, anyway. Enjoy this article!

    • Ron Estrada on May 20, 2014 at 11:42 am
    • Reply

    Oh I hear ya. I’ve got one, maybe two hours a day to write. I’ve beat myself up over not getting a blog posted or posting the advised 5.3 tweets per day. Thank you for the permission to write. Good grief, if I can’t get that right then I’m better off spending my time watching American Idol (I know…shudder). Get well. Thanks for being a great cheerleader.

    1. If no one else believes in your dream, at least know I am rooting for you ;). Often it is that one voice that keeps us pressing. ((HUGS))

  26. Thank you for this post. It is just the inspiration I need. I am notorious for letting things get in the way of my writing. I am going to bookmark this post and read it whenever I start feeling like I have no time to write.

  27. Just what i needed to hear today. I’ve been feeling crushing deadlines as i am as well abysmally behind. I usually illustrate my books and i do not think that will be happening this year and I have been beating myself up over that now. I mean i’m still doing the illustrations but i was just going to offer them as additional swag at the local convention coming up the end of june. Your opinion is welcome on that Kristen of course, but yeah I feel you. I’m trying to work my way up to writing more actual books in a year than just one, but like you said time crunches kill and I cant control how busy my day gets. Like you i have a child and family. Not a spouse but i live with people and we are all a family in our own dysfunctional right. This year was hell with moving and starting a crappy day job so I suppose i should stop kicking my own ass about what i didnt get done within all of that and focus on what i can and did.

  28. Reblogged this on remnantscc and commented:
    Celebrate the small victories and look toward what you CAN do.

  1. […] « Writer Victory!—Turn Over the Future & Focus on What We CAN Control […]

  2. […] can only achieve what we can first conceive. Make your mind and set it and keep it set. T was for Turn Over our Future. When we let go of things we can’t control, we’re far more powerful to drive and direct […]

  3. […] was for Turn Over our Future. When we let go of things we can’t control, we’re far more powerful to drive and direct […]

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