Marketing, Writing and Editing

8 Questions From A Book Launch

So, I held a “Book launch and reception” at my local public library last Thursday night. It was, by all relevant accounts, a success. More than twenty people attended, only one of whom is related to me. I read a passage from my new novel To Hemlock Run, gave away a gift certificate for our local bookstore, and answered several interesting questions from the audience.

Since I can’t share the homemade cookies, I thought I’d share some of the more interesting questions I was asked.

The passage you read (about sneaking through the night time woods on a deer trail) was so vivid and so realistic, how did you do that?

Well, I carefully chose specific sensory details—mainly of sound, temperature, and wetness—and used those to build the atmosphere. I then used specific incidents such as crossing a small stream and climbing over a fallen tree to add realism and give the reader the illusion of the passage of time.

Informing all of these choices were the memories I have of wandering around the neighborhood forests when I was a young teen. I still remember how those woods we knew as well as our own faces, became a different, alien, world when the sun went down. I tried to convey that faint sense of threat in the passage.

How do you plot out your novels? Do you know how they’re going to end before you start writing?

No. I almost never know how the story will end when I begin. It isn’t the most efficient means of writing a book-length work, but I generally start out with a character and put him (or her) into a problematic situation. Then I start asking questions. How will he react to this situation? Why has this situation occurred? What are the bad guys’ motivations? How do they conflict with the good guy’s intentions and go from there. I usually conceive of the final ending when I’m about three-quarters through the first draft.

Like I said, it isn’t the most efficient method of writing. Many writers work out the plot in an outline before they ever write a line of prose. I’ve never been comfortable with that. I want the first draft to be the first time I write the story. Besides, if a plot twist surprises me, it’s more likely to surprise the reader. Right?

How much do you read, on average?

Over the last couple of years, I’ve averaged fifty novels each year. But this year, I’m trying to slow myself down and read less, but better. I’m trying to alternate reading fun, genre-style novels with classic literature. So I read a Craig Johnson “Walt Longmire” detective novel (which I really enjoyed if you’re keeping track) and then read In Dubious Battle by John Steinbeck. Right now, I’ve just started Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woof.

Do you like the college prep reading lists?

I think there is a lot of great writing and great thinking in those lists. One could always gain something by read Plato, Dante and Shakespeare. But many of those titles can also be very challenging reads. You really have to work to read and understand James Joyce, Dante, or Chaucer. There’s a danger in making reading so difficult that it is now longer fun. Reading should always be fun. That’s why I’m trying to lighten my load by allowing myself to read some less challenging material.

What are you doing to promote your book?

I’m limited greatly by my budget, but I’m doing the reading tonight and will be at another reading next month. I have a Facebook page for the novel and another for myself and use those, as well as a handful of book-related groups. I am also listed on Goodreads.com and have two ads running, though they haven’t been very effective up to this point.

Next month, I hope to schedule a blog tour, which is the online version of the old book signing tour. For a fee (or a lot of work if you want to set it up yourself) you are set up with a number of book-related blogs. Depending on the blog, they will review the book (also posting the review to Amason and Goodreads), post an interview with the author, or feature a guest post by the author. Whichever they decide, it will increase the book’s visibility and introduce it to people I cannot otherwise reach.

Are you working on a sequel to this novel?

Not actively. Right now, I’m working on a serious of short stories I couldn’t work on over the past year because I was concentrating on writing the novel. But, that being said, I am working ideas about the next novel-length work.

I am also hesitant about diving too deep into a series with the same character. Most authors like series because they take away one of the toughest parts of the job: creating a whole new set of characters with individual tics, problems, and backstories. In a series, the main character (and many of the supporting characters) are already designed, ready to go.

The one problem with a series is, unless it is a murder/police/detective series set in a major city, it starts to stretch disbelief. They really have multiple murders every year in that quiet rural town in Nebraska? I want to avoid that.

How long have you been writing?

In one form or another, since I was in high school. I realized fairly early on that I was easily able to express myself through writing and initially intended to go into journalism as a career, doing my fiction on the side. I first went to University as a journalism student, but quickly realized there was way too much competition for the jobs available. So I turned to English literature and became completely unemployable.

But throughout it all, my long term goal has always been to write fiction: novels and short stories.

So how did you make a living in the mean time?

With whatever I could find. I worked construction for five years in Texas until the oil boom of the eighties crashed. I returned to Oregon and found myself working in restaurants, managing several fast food locations, before switching to full service restaurants, where I worked as a waiter, a cook, and manager.

In 2010, I was able to retire on disability because of deteriorating scoliosis in my back. Since then, I’ve writing as a full-time occupation.

At this point, we needed to wrap things up so the library staff could go home.

It was an interesting, engaging discussion. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Nearly as important, because of the flyers the library distributed around town and coverage in the local newspaper many people weren’t in the audience are now aware that I have written a new novel. Perhaps at some point, they will buy a copy.

Oh, I also sold two copies of To Hemlock Run after the event and one copy of Deception Island, the first novel in the Jason Reynolds series. I might have sold more but most of the people at the event already had a copy. They were showing support, which is important.

So, I would say the book launch was a success.

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Marketing, Writing and Editing

A Writer’s Defense of Public Libraries

Next week (Thursday, to be exact) the library in my hometown will be hosting a book launch and reception for my new novel To Hemlock Run. Refreshments will be served, a door prize will be offered, and my books will be displayed enchantingly somewhere nearby. Of course I speak for a bit. Other than reading a sample passage from the novel, I really haven’t a clue what I might say. Probably some form of gratitude. Probably something about the forty years and counting struggle to become an overnight success.

I’ll figure it out over the next few days.

Now some of you might be wondering why I am holding the event at the library and not at our local (and very good) bookstore. After all, I’m in the business of selling my books, aren’t I? Libraries don’t sell books; they lend them. Right?

There are a couple of reasons for this. The first one is that the library approached me and offered to host it; the bookstore didn’t. And this is not surprising because bookstores are less and less willing to put on such events because—unless the author is a major national name—they don’t profit from them. In order to make the expense of labor, advertising, and general disruption worthwhile, they have to sell books. A lot of books.

Unfortunately, over the past few years, fewer people have been coming to these events and fewer of those who do come, actually buy books. The last one I did, a couple of years ago, lasted about an hour and was attended by about twenty people, most of them my friends and family. Unfortunately, most of my friends and family already had copies of the book. I probably sold five or six copies. So out of $90 dollars in gross sales, the bookstore netted $36, against $30 in labor costs and $60 in advertising.

The math just doesn’t work, so I fully understand why they are hesitant to host such events. It’s bad business.

Which leads into the second reason why I’m having this event at the local library: I am more than happy (and proud) to support my local library.

Libraries, particularly libraries in small, rural towns like mine are rapidly becoming the cultural and artistic centers of their communities, especially in modern times when local governments and school districts are too strapped for cash to sponsor such events. Where else, in a small town of 2000 souls can one attend—free of charge—a lecture on the efforts to save the endangered snowy plover; hear a demonstration of various musical instruments from exotic times and cultures; or meet and listen to the work of a published novelist?

Libraries are not just about lending books anymore.

They are also in danger. Libraries across the English-speaking world (I don’t know about other cultures but I assume they are facing the same forces) are being forced to shut down by calls for austerity. Taxpayers are disgruntled. They think they are paying too much and want the government to cut back and libraries are an easy target. More than half the adult population does not read for pleasure. To them the library is a waste of money. Others think everyone has access to everything through ebooks and the internet. To them the library is obsolete.

I think they are all terribly misguided. The library—any library—is neither a waste of money, nor obsolete. True, libraries have had to adapt to the new technology and demographics. Most now, in addition to books, allow you to check out DVD movies and television shows, as well as music CDs, audiobooks, and even ebooks. Some even allow you to check out a tablet.

Most also now have computers available for those who do not have their own at home, as well as wifi, and landline internet access. Many people, for economic reasons, would have no access to online media or services without the library. These same people, for the same reasons, would not read as much as they’d like to were it not for the library; they simply cannot afford to buy that many books.

Still, I hear someone whispering in the back, we’re in the business of selling books. The public library kind of defeats that, doesn’t it? After all, if you sell one book to the library and ten people check it out, that’s only one sale, versus ten. Right?

Right. But I think of it differently. I don’t think of it as nine lost sales. I think of it as ten readers I have recruited—especially if those readers actually like the book. Some of those ten readers can’t afford to buy my book and probably never will. If I was depending on them buying my book, I would never be able to count them as my readers.

Then some of them will be devoted readers who have never read my work before and have heard little about me. Realistically, probably the most challenging part of this writing gig is convincing someone who does not know you, your life, or your philosophy, to shell out $15.00 for your new novel. What if they don’t like it? What if it just isn’t their preferred genre? We’re asking them to take a chance here. We’re asking them to risk their money.

The way I allay their fears, is direct them to our library (which has all my novels) and have them check one out. It’s like the free cheese samples the grocers sometimes hands out. “Try it,” we say. “If you like it, buy the whole block.” The public library is the writer’s “free sample.” I’m not the sort who wants to sell my novel to everyone, whether they’ll like it, or not. I want to sell it to folk who will genuinely enjoy my stories and my style.

I do not write because it will make me rich. (And if that is your plan, I wish you the best of luck, but hope it is not your only motivation. The odds of becoming rich from your writing are approximately the same as winning the lottery. It happens, but not to people we know). I write to be read. And the library is one of the methods I use to do that.

Support your local library.

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Marketing, Uncategorized

To Hemlock Run

THR promo 3

When reporter Jason Reynolds is asked to look into the disappearance/abduction of a young woman in rural Washington State, he agrees to do what he can. What he discovers is this is no ordinary case of domestic abuse. Instead, he’s stumbled upon something bigger and more dangerous.

What he’s found is the Barton family, the de facto rulers of Dunham County. Not only are they the wealthiest family and largest employer, but they have nearly total political control of the county’s legal system. Residents of Dunham County like to say: “You don’t cross the Bartons; bad things happen to people who cross the Bartons.”

And no one has ever crossed the Bartons like Jason Reynolds crossed them.

Soon he is dodging the Bartons’ Sheriff’s Department and trying to find a way to bring them to justice without sacrificing his life and the lives of his friends.

Read To Hemlock Run by James Boyle, out now.

 

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Marketing

A Moment of Shameless Self-Promotion

I would like to impose on everyone a bit to introduce my newest novel: To Hemlock Run. Here is the description:

Where do you find justice when the criminals are the law?

Jason Reynolds, investigative reporter out of Seattle, does not think he can do anything to help his ex-girlfriend’s friend, Helen. She is clearly involved in an abusive relationship with a Dunham County Sheriff’s Deputy named Travis Wilcox.

Then Helen goes missing and Jason and Danielle “Danny” Hayden go to Dunham County where they face an enemy more dangerous than they’ve ever faced. For Travis Wilcox is part of the Barton family and the Barton family controls Dunham County. They are the county’s largest employer and landlord. They are the Sheriff’s Department, the District Attorney’s Office, and a judge. They can do whatever they want without any consequences. And they do.

Jason and Danny will need all their wits and imagination to bring the Bartons and Travis Wilcox to justice without losing their own lives.

Here is a link to its Amazon page:

https://www.amazon.com/Hemlock-Run-James-Boyle/dp/0692830235/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1484968542&sr=8-1

And here is a link to its Kindle page:

https://www.amazon.com/Hemlock-Run-James-Boyle-ebook/dp/B01MZ6UU93/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1484968542&sr=8-1

And you can find a free sample of the opening scenes here:

http://jamesboyleauthor.com/to-hemlock-run/

Thank you in advance for your interest and support.

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Marketing, Writing and Editing

Writing: Art Versus Business

I have been doing a lot of thinking lately about the place art (literary art especially) has in the business world and the power of the market. Because, like it or not, we all live in a system designed by and for business which, for better or worse, view the works we create not as works of art—unique and we hope transcendent—but as just another consumer product. As far as the business world—including all the financial, marketing, and branding machinery it uses—there is no intrinsic difference between the Mona Lisa and a roll of toilet tissue.

Both are products to be marketed and sold to someone.

Yes, writing is a business. So is painting watercolor landscapes, sculpture, music, and film. In each case, someone creates a work and tries to find a receptive market where someone will buy it. To achieve that, the smart artist will research prospective markets, learn the vehicles (media) she can use to reach those markets and then promote (advertise) their work to the best of their ability.

With hard work and some luck, they might be able to scrape a living out of the process. In reality though, very few artists do actually make a living from their chosen art. The success stories are so few and far between as to be the exceptions, rather than the rule.

Why is that? Because art and business are intrinsically different. Because of those differences, the rules of business don’t translate well into the art world. And art doesn’t translate well into the business world.

The primary difference lies in the purpose behind art and the purpose behind business. Art, in whatever its form, is driven by a passion the artist has for the medium and the way he can use it to interpret the world around them. For instance, a poet develops a love for poetry. She studies the masters who have crafter poems before her, practices and learns how to create her own and adopts poetry as the art she uses to interpret the world around her and express her emotion back to that world.

In contrast, the primary purpose behind the businessman is the making of money, of profit. Certainly, the good business person will study the business world just as much as the poet studies poetry, but in a more general way. They might study the financial aspect of business, or the marketing part, or the legal issues, but their commitment is still primarily to the desire to make money. The manner is secondary.

For instance, a man opens a restaurant specializing in hamburgers and fries. He hires good cooks and gives good service. He does okay. But talking to his customers, he notices that many of them would like burritos. Is he so committed to making good burgers that he refuses to add burritos to the menu? Probably not. Because he is not committed to creating and selling burgers. He is committed to making money. If he can do that making hamburgers, fine. If he needs to make burritos as well as hamburgers, then that’s what he will do.

The object of the businessman’s effort is not to sell perfect burgers, it’s to sell whatever the public will buy in order to make a profit.

Substitute the word “poetry” for “hamburgers” and “piano concertos” for “burritos” and you see the difference. Even if the public is clamoring for more piano concertos, the poet doesn’t switch to writing classical music. It isn’t her passion. Poetry is her passion and she will continue to write poetry, whether anyone buys it, or not.

The immediate problem this dichotomy presents is that despite all the study and hard work the poet puts into her craft, she may never sell enough of her poems to pay for having them printed up, much less make a living from them.

This holds true even if the work the artist produces wins contests and accolades from fellow artists, art experts, and scholarly authorities. This is because business is market driven and the market is not terribly smart. The market likes what the market likes. Quality has nothing to do with.

And the market is the only thing the business cares about.

For us writers, this means that publishers don’t care whether you’ve written the most ground-breaking novel of the last hundred years. They care about how many copies you’ll sell. And if they have to make a choice—and they do—they will choose the trashy erotic novel that will sell a million copies, then be quickly forgotten over a masterfully written one that won’t sell every time.

Because business is only concerned with making money.

And Kim Kardashian’s book of selfies will probably outsell 99 percent of all the novels published the same year.

So what do we conclude from this? Primarily, that if you’re hoping to grow rich by writing, especially writing fiction or poetry, you might as well quit right now. Sure, it can happen and I sincerely hope it does. It happened to Stephen King and J.K. Rowling and a handful of others, but they are the exceptions.

If you are going to write, you will be doing it because you love it. You love the form in all its living variations. You love being part of that wide sweep of literary history. You love the process of creating the work. You love seeing your ideas in print and you love the experience of having someone come up to you in a bookstore or coffee shop and tell you how much they loved your work.

It is love that drives you to even attempt to create something like you do. And it is love that is your payment for the work you do. Let that be enough.

Everything else is just business.

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Marketing, Writing advice

The Attention Deficit, Part Three (Fixing it)

Okay, we have decided that we really want to receive more attention for the work we have created. It is what we want and we want it badly enough to do the work necessary. Good. That is the first (and perhaps hardest) part of solving the problem, acknowledging there is one and that it’s important enough to make the effort to correct it.

The next question is how, exactly, do we earn this attention? As distasteful as many may find it, the answer is marketing. (Remember last week when I asked whether we were willing to do whatever it took—distasteful or not—to gain attention for our work? Now it comes home to roost.) The only way to get anyone who doesn’t know you to pay attention to your work is to efficiently and effectively market it to them.

Yes, this means advertising. This means putting you and your work in front of as many potential customers as you possibly can. It means advertising and posting images to social media and signing up to appear at book fairs and signings. In order to gain the public’s attention we have to place our work where they can find it. Right?

But we can do all that and still not gain significant attention. Many of us do. We place memes in social media forums; we buy advertisement in various publications; we do readings and signings and spend hours sitting at book fairs, trying to convince someone to take a chance on our new book and nothing really seems to work. Oh, we sell a few here and there, but in the great scheme of things, no one really notices our work.

Because, at the most basic level, we’re doing it wrong. We’re trying to gain the world’s attention by using an invalid argument.

Think of your favorite car sales person (your favorite successful one anyway). How does she close all those sales? How does she move all those cars?

She probably doesn’t sell many cars by telling the customer who designed it. Nor will she go on about where the car was built, or where the designer went to school. Someone looking to purchase a car honestly doesn’t care about any of that. What they want is safe, dependable transportation that’s pleasing to the eye and practical for their lifestyle. The good salesperson will not waste time trying to sell an Italian sports car to a Wyoming cattle rancher, or a four-wheel-drive one ton pickup to a suburban soccer mom. The sports car is undoubtedly a fine product. So is the pickup truck. They just don’t meet the particular customer’s needs.

The successful sales person matches the customer with the product that best meets their needs. They don’t waste their time trying to sell anything—no matter how good they think it is—to someone who won’t want it.

Why would marketing our books (or paintings, or films, etc.) be any different?

Too much of the time, we (and this includes myself) spend years refining our work, then send it out into the world, expecting people to notice it simply because we did it. That thinking doesn’t work for cars. It won’t work for books.

As authors, we need to identify ways our work may satisfy a need out there in the world and sell that aspect of it. John Smith in Omaha, will have no idea who James Boyle is and really doesn’t care that I wrote a novel. However, John Smith in Omaha is a devout fan of mystery fiction. The fact that James Boyle wrote a mystery novel might just pique his interest.

How do we do this? I would suggest you examine your work and make a list of every aspect and feature you think might be of interest to someone out there. Start out with the big, obvious features like the genre and work your way down to the smallest. The object is not to make a list of everything you will use. It’s to make a list of everything you might possible be able to use.

I made one for my novel Deception Island as an example.

Genre

Mystery/detective/thriller

With some elements of an espionage thriller

Author tie-ins

Gold Beach/coastal Oregon/Oregon/Pacific northwest/United States

Setting

San Juan Islands/Puget Sound Area/Western Washington/Pacific Northwest/United States

Seattle/Western Washington/Pacific Northwest/United States

Protagonist

Male/Investigative Reporter/Print Journalist/U of Washington alum

Antagonist

Greedy Corporation/Security Department/Private Police

Themes and background

Corporate ethics/Unregulated Capitalism/Greed

Secret crimes/historical cover-ups

The internment of Japanese during WWII

The salmon fishing/canning industry in Puget Sound, WA

Life in a small town/life on an island in Puget Sound/maritime life

Returning to your hometown

Police/legal investigation versus journalistic/private investigation

Having to choose between your career and relationship

Good versus evil

Wealth and power versus justice

I was able to compile this list in about a half an hour. Now let’s see how we can boil these down into something we can use to get people to notice Deception Island.

First, of course, is the genre. Most people tend to have their favorite genre and read more of those than anything else. So Deception Island is a detective novel, featuring an investigative journalist against a wealthy and unethical corporation. At its heart, it’s a sometimes violent battle between truth and power.

The second thing that leaps to my eye is Puget Sound in Washington. The story takes place there and therefore much of the story background has to do with the location, culture, and history of the area. So the novel could be of interest to anyone who lives in the area, has visited the area, or is just interested in the area. That includes the history of the salmon fishing industry, the ecology, and what life is like in a small town in the area.

Third, a major feature of the novel has to do with the Japanese interment and how a crime committed during an episode much of the country would like to forget can return to affect lives two generations later. Though all of the novel takes place in modern times, the ties to history are strong and may be of interest to someone fascinated by U.S. history, Pacific Northwest history, World War II, or the history of civil rights.

Probably the weakest feature is the author. There will be a few who would be interested because they know me. There will be a few more who might be interested because of the “local boy makes good” aspect, but I wouldn’t count on such tribalism for much. In the long run, it will drum up more moral support than actual sales.

So now we’ve done our homework. How do we translate that into attention for our work? We use the promotional tools we already have to target those people most likely to find that our work will satisfy their needs.

For instance, were I to have a budget dedicated to buying print advertising in newspapers, I would ignore the larger markets back east, despite their massive readership, and spend most of my money on advertising in the communities around Puget Sound. Say from Vancouver, B.C. in the north, to the Cascades in the east, south to Portland, Oregon, west to the Pacific, and north to Victoria, B.C. This should encompass most of the people with an interest in the area.

I’m not going to try and convince a farmer in Nebraska that he should be reading this novel largely set in and involving issues about Puget Sound. I’m going to try and get people already interested in the Puget Sound area to see my novel as a work that will satisfy that interest.

As authors, as artists, this is what we need to be doing: finding people whose interests may be met by our work and introducing the two. If we are right, and the work does meet the buyer’s needs, they will be pleased. Not only will they recommend the work to others who share their interests, but they will (we hope) be more willing to take a chance on your next work.

And that’s how we start getting the world to pay attention to our work.

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Marketing

The Attention Deficit, Part Two (Or Is This Really What We Want)

Last week, I discussed a few points about the problem artists in general, and writers in particular, have in getting anyone to notice their work. I don’t know whether this is a new problem born of modern, high-tech times, or not. But I know it is a problem for me and anyone else who would like the products of their hard work experienced by a larger slice of the public.

So we have identified the problem: next to no one notices our work when we put it out there in the world. Why is that? Part of the reason for this lies in the nature of the world. It is very, very big with lots of things happening. Our novel, painting, or poetry doesn’t even make a ripple when it is released. People are also very, very busy. In the modern world, a person is bombarded like never before with competing interests all clamoring for a bit of their time.

A third reason for not getting anyone’s attention just could be us.

Us. As in you and me, the creators of the works which are going unnoticed. We could be part of the problem. As in many facets of life, we could be a large part of the problem, our own worst enemy. To find out, we need to ask ourselves some questions. They are often difficult questions, but we need to answer them honestly if we want to get to our desired destination.

(The following was borrowed and adapted from an article by Bryan Hutchinson on the Positive Writer website. Many thanks).

Have you decided that you truly want the world to pay attention to your work?

We have to decide we truly want something before we can attain it. You didn’t write that book because you thought it would be kind of cool to have written a book. You decided you were going to write a book. You worked at it. When you were tired and felt like just camping in front of the television, you turned away and spent that time hunched over the word processor. You decided you were going to do what you needed to do to write a book.

Gaining serious attention for that book is no different. You have to decide you truly want it. Because gaining attention for your art is going to change some things in your life and it’s perfectly acceptable to decide you like your life the way it is. There’s nothing wrong with that. But realize that you have to make the decision.

Are you willing and ready to do the work needed to get that attention?

Gaining attention for your novel or short story collection is going to take some work. (Actually, it’s going to take a lot of work). Millions of people publish every day around the world and most of them capture almost no attention. They haven’t captured yours, have they? This doesn’t mean their work is not good. It could be fantastic. It just means that there is just as much work to do after the work is published as before.

You’ve worked hard perfecting your writing craft and then worked hard at creating a work of art. Now you need to work just as hard to bring it to the world’s attention.

Do you think it’s all about you and your work?

Hate to say this, but it isn’t about you and it isn’t about your work. Not everyone cares about you or what you care about. Only a very few people are going to read your book solely because you wrote it. And you will already know all their names. If you want anyone who doesn’t know you to read your work you are going to have to find good reasons for them to do that and communicate that reason to them. You see, if you want to get some attention from people, it has to be about them. Reading your book has to offer some benefit to them.

So the first thing you have to do is forget about you for the time being and concentrate on your potential readers.

Are you willing to make a difference?

You must be willing to be passionate, willing to make a stand. The world doesn’t pay attention to people who only go halfway, hedge their bets. You must be clear about who you are, what you are writing about and that you truly believe in your work. You must convince them that you truly believe your work is good; you’re not just saying that to get the sale. You must be absolutely ready and willing to make a difference.

The audience doesn’t want to hear from anyone who is not willing to stand for something; they don’t have time for it.

Do you think you and your work deserve the world’s attention?

You’ve worked really hard for five years on this book; you’ve earned the world’s attention, right? Sorry. You no more deserve attention than anyone else. You absolutely do not deserve the attention more than someone who went out and did the work to earn it. The brutal truth is that everyone worked hard on their book and there simply is not enough time to give everyone the same amount of attention.

You have to go out in the world and earn its attention.

Are you afraid of being criticized?

Everyone is afraid of being criticized. It hurts, particularly the occasional, vicious, personal attacks. However, if you create a work that matters and share it with the world, you will receive criticism. It’s inevitable. If you try and hide from the critics, you will be hiding your work from the rest of the world too.

When the hate mail and bad reviews start coming in, welcome them. They are compliments. It means your work mattered enough for them to remark about it. How often do you comment on something that simply doesn’t matter?

Are you riddled with doubt?

Join the club. All artists worth mentioning are filled with doubt. The only people who never doubt themselves are those too blind or ignorant to realize their own limitations. Self-doubt is a good thing.

The only question that’s important here is whether you’re going to let that nagging critical voice in your own head prevent you from achieving your goals.

Okay, now we’ve done some serious soul-searching and decided in our heart-of-hearts that we really want to earn some attention for our writing. It isn’t easy. It involves a skill set every bit as difficult as the craft we had to learn in order to write. Like our writing, it will become a work in progress, much of it learned through trial-and-error. For, as in everything else we do, we often learn more from what doesn’t work than from what does.

Next week we’ll examine some concrete steps we can take to earn the attention we want for our writings.

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