How Publishing Made Me a Mean Person
So, two weeks ago I wrote a blog post about how I was experiencing a "down moment" called The Dumps. It's a writer's worst nightmare, but it's something we all go through from time to time and I felt that I'd be back on my feet and writing again in no time.
I am writing again! Due to a publisher request I had to pause on Aeon Project, so I decided to start the third and final book in the Mythical Madness series. Book III is called ShadowBound and details the adventures of Jakim and Shayna on their way to the Air Palace. It all sounds amazing, right? I've always wanted to be a published author, and I had a lot of expectations for myself when I got an offer to publish my first novel.
I know you saw the title of this post and you might be a little confused. Amy, you're a published author! Yep. Yep, I am. What I didn't know about becoming a published author is that it would soon skew my vision of "success" and "self-worth" and make me into a mean person.
I have always been a nice person. I prided myself on being polite, I always say yes ma'am and no sir and I say pardon me and excuse me and mind my manners just like my mama always told me to do. I cry at sad movies and felt bad for homeless people, and I wanted to adopt all the shelter dogs. I tried to lead a humble, grateful life and do my best at everything I attempted. When I started writing, I was writing for myself. I had stories that I was anxious to put down on paper and I thought, "Hey, these are pretty good!". No one really read them, and I kept them secreted away in a drawer. Still, I derived a lot of pleasure from creating worlds and characters that I thought were "pretty good". When I finished Between at the behest of my mother, I took everyone's advice and began to submit it to publishers. I received the standard rejections, of course, but always with great feedback. Finally, I got the great news that a publisher wanted to accept my book!! I was so excited, and I decided to learn everything I could about the new world I was entering in to. I thought that this endeavor, like everything I tried my best at, would work out. I listened to experienced authors, went to webinars and tried to gain the knowledge and know-how to navigate the world of a published writer.
I began to notice the changes in myself about two years into the publishing journey. I'm a fast writer and was able to publish several novels in a row. I felt like I was following "the plan". I had meager sales and reviews, but hey, I was a newbie, right? I began to invest in promotion, started my newsletter, and began to expand my social media platforms. The more time I began to invest in my "author persona", the more expectation of return I had. Sales were still meager but people were following me, liking my Pinterest boards, and joining my facebook group. Finally, I thought! This is it! My career is about to go to the next level. Um. No.
That's about the time that my sales came to a halt. I thought that maybe I was doing something wrong. I went to marketing seminars, I reviewed my platform and branding. I did everything. And the more I did--the more frustrated I became. The more frustrated I became--the meaner I got. I was to the point that I was checking my Amazon ranking daily. Sometimes hourly! I was following the marketing plan and putting hours of work a day, after my regular day job, into my author platform. Nothing was working. I became more frustrated. More mean. I was angry that others around me seemed to be finding success doing the EXACT same things that I was doing-- and here I was digging farther and farther into the dirt. Where was my traction? Where was my readership? I began to resent the time I spent on my writing and marketing. It wasn't working, so why bother, right? I threatened to quit EVERY DAY. I went to bed and cried at night, unsure why I kept putting myself through the rigamarole. It was obvious my stories were awful and nobody wanted to read them.
I will be 100% honest with you. This was the way I was feeling until very recently. I was so depressed, so obsessed, with NOT selling, that I got angry just thinking about writing and publishing. I began to think about the reasons I started this journey in the first place. I didn't want to be resentful, angry, or mean. I wanted to be excited and happy like I was when I got that first acceptance letter. So what had changed?
My expectations had changed. Despite all advice and evidence to the contrary; despite assurances that I wasn't the only one, I had begun to expect more of my publishing career than it was ready to give. I have often told other writers that I view writing as a long game. Right now I'm three strokes in on a par 5. I keep expecting a birdie and that pressure that I'm putting on myself turned me into a person I really don't like. When I am frustrated by my day job and I think "If I was a better writer I could just make enough money to quit", I have done a terrible disservice to myself. I didn't write these novels to get rich. I wanted to entertain people. I wanted to make them happy and remember what it's like to fall in love. I recently took a mindfulness class and I tried to refocus my energy on creating stories that accomplish those original goals that I had set out. For now, I'm a work in progress. I've deleted my Amazon Central button on my phone and I decided to focus more on the stories and less on the marketing. My time will come, if it's meant to be. I'm not giving up, I'm not slowing down. I will still try as hard as I always have to bring romance and adventure to my readers' lives.
Thanks to all my friends who have put up with me over this long and arduous journey, and though there will be many bumps in the road, I hope that I am up to the challenge. I'm anxious to hear from readers, others authors and the public in general. What do you think about the expectations of success in today's publishing market? Am I wrong to push back the idea of making millions for the love of the art? Let me know how you feel in the comments and as always you can find me on Facebook and Twitter.