One of the things I do the most in my job is to be a cheerleader of sorts. To write emails or make posts to our EIC’s and authors on FB about how things aren’t as bleak as they seem. I don’t mind doing this. We all lose sight of the big picture some days.
All authors are subject to insecurities. We’ve put something we created, our ‘baby’, out for public scrutiny. We want it to be perfect. And we’re afraid any perceived problem (real or imagined) is why it’s not selling. When you’re a teen author, this is compounded.
I wrote one of these emails last week. To a teen author with Solstice Publishing. But it resonates so well with so many people, I was told I needed to share it with more than just one or two people. So, here’s your cheerleader post of the month.
Don’t panic. I’m not emailing you as COO right now. I’m talking as an author.
It’s time to let go of your book. Not in the sense that it should be forgotten, but it’s on a new part of its’ life now. That is, by far, one of the hardest things to do as an author.
Errors happen. There is no such thing as a perfect book, film, song, or piece of art. Every creative person wants to change one more thing with their creation. You could ask J.J. Abrams and he’d be able to tell you he wishes he could do tweaks to some of his films. Heck, George Lucas DID. And, in my opinion, he shouldn’t have touched them. The original Star Wars movies (which I’m old enough to remember seeing in theaters) may be hokey by today’s CGI standards, but they were state of the art for my childhood. I really didn’t appreciate him messing with the magic I remembered.
One or two typos is not going to make or break the book. You have done something few adults, and even fewer teens, have done. You wrote a book, and it was published. Yes, you’ll get friends and family who may point out errors. And it’ll make you stress out. Take it for what it is – they’re envious that you did what they can’t. It’s not a reflection of your ability as an author, but their character. Heck, I had one family member try and tell me they thought I should change the name of a character because they couldn’t pronounce it in their head. They honestly thought I should pull it from publication, revise it to suit them, and then re-release it. We aren’t talking a minor character, but the main one.
Our job as authors is not to please every single person. It’s impossible. And our friends and family will be our second harshest critics. We’re our worst. I have to write with my eyes closed. Why? Because, if I don’t, I’ll spend 15 minutes trying to decide on a single adverb. I’m that critical of my own writing.
We all doubt the words we put to paper. I take a deep breath before I read a new review, convinced they’re going to shred my book. It hasn’t happened. Yet. But I’m waiting for it to.
On average, it takes a new author 5 years between release of their first book to being ‘found’ by readers. Any sales you get before then will be hard fought. By promoting, staying positive, getting reviews, you’re connecting with readers now who will be with you for your entire career. You’re going to get people who can claim they ‘found’ you first, and wait anxiously for your next release. Sure, you won’t be able to pay for college off your royalties. My first book came out 2 years ago. I’ve got 7 titles out now. A good month for sales for me is 4 or more copies sold. I’m still trying to get noticed. It’s frustrating to beat the band. And I’ll vent privately (never vent about bad sales online in a public forum…you’ll kill your career before it gets started if you do) about someone who writes crappy books selling ten times as many books on just one title. It feels like I’m pushing my minivan up the side of Mt. Rainier with the parking brake on. But you have to keep smiling, staying positive, and pushing.
Oh, and the few errors? Figure out a funny story to ‘explain’ how they happened. Even if it’s not 100% truthful. Say your cat jumped on the keyboard every time you tried to correct a certain typo and switched it back so you kept it to honor the feline. Quirky little things like that are going to endear you to readers. It’s a connection that they’ll understand. I’ve got 2 or 3 private jokes/stories for each of my books that I can use if someone asks about certain things. They’re all true. Mostly. But by sharing them with readers when asked, I move from the realm of AUTHOR to real human being. And that’s going to get you a reader for life.