When it comes to Christmas decorations, no matter when they go up, they always come down by New Year's Eve. The family has adopted my wife's idea that you don't start a new year cleaning up the mess from the old one.
Well, I didn't follow that advice in terms of my writing.
I've been reviewing my existing-yet-not-finished stories at the beginning of this year. The good thing is that all this reviewing is helping me see what each story needs and all the tweaks along the way. The irritating thing is that I didn't do this in December. Or finished them in 2019.
Be that as it may, I wanted to wrap up these outstanding stories before tackling a brand-new one here in January. But something else sidetracked my review.
I received an email from a relative on my wife's side. Turns out there are a couple of writers in the family working on various books and the relative was wondering if I'd have a chance to offer any advice on the publishing and writing business.
Happily I agreed. I'm always eager to help writers no matter if they are far ahead of me in the business or just starting out. I've made course corrections along the way based on advice from veteran writers.
Wins and Losses?
Here's the thing about the writing business: it's competitive, but not always against fellow writers. It's a competition for the eyes and attentions of readers. We don't rack up wins and losses against other writers. And if you have that mindset, well, there's a better way to look at the business.
Think of it as a learning experience.
Let's say you've written a thriller. You've done your research and you have a book with a good cover, decent blurb, and is available in all the channels. It goes on sale on New Year's Day. You advertise in whatever form you choose. Yet there's another (actually a lot more) thriller book that was released on the same day.
And that other book is the one that's most popular with readers.
You'll get frustrated. You might even get upset. But you can't control what happens when you release your book into the world. You can only control that which you have direct control: cover, blurbs, and the book itself.
If you think that other author "beat" you, do some research. Buy that other book. Read it. Figure out why it is resonating more with readers than yours. If you see something, feel free to learn from that other book and incorporate those learned lessons in your next book. Nothing wrong with that.
Just don't fixate on wins and losses. The only person who loses there is you. And your potential readers. Just continue to be yourself and readers who like your stuff will find you. It'll take longer, perhaps, but avid readers are the best.
Internalized Lessons Learned
Back to the e-mail. So my relative put me in contact with the other writers and we emailed back and forth. The writer (also a she) shared some details about where she is and a choice she's contemplating. It's whether or not to sign a contract for a publishing firm not based in New York. Not one of the Big Five.
Indie that I am, I started listing the reasons I went indie and continue to stay that way. I discussed all the things I've had to learn over the five or six years I've been doing this side hustle: how to make covers, where to find editors, how to make paperbacks, how to format ebooks, etc. My response back grew longer and longer.
And I didn't even have to reference anything. I realized I have internalized all the indie author/publisher lessons so thoroughly that I can just spout them off at will.
It was a nice feeling...and it really made me want to get started with my 2020 publication schedule. It also helped me realize I enjoy the challenges and the rewards of an indie writer life. Still would appreciate the opportunity to do fiction writing full time, but the life I've carved out for myself is pretty grand.
Article of the Week
So, all of what I've described occurred prior to Thursday's post by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. She has had a decades-long writing career, both in the traditional and indie world, and now preaches the good talk about the indie life. Every Thursday, she posts about the business of an indie writer.
This week is title "Fear and Publishing." It is very insightful and well worth the time to read.
Book of the Week
The first novel I'm reading in 2020 is now four years old. It's ORPHAN X by Gregg Hurwitz. This series, about Evan Smoak, a highly trained assassin, has been on my radar for a couple of years. I saw the fourth book at Barnes and Noble over the holidays (in paperback) with a fifth book coming out this year.
Why not start?
So I picked up the first book and have really enjoyed it. How much? Well, I'm reading an actual book (bought the paperback) and have carved out time specifically to read. I get most of my books via audio, but I aim to have 2020 be the year in which I read at least a book a month and listen to another book a month.
I'm only a hundred pages in, but I'm really digging this book. What's even more ironic is the timing: My NaNoWriMo 2019 book involves a character who is off the grid like Smoak or Jack Reacher (also not read any of his books either). The sands of time and interests, every now and then, come together.