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Archive for December, 2013

Yesterday, my husband and I were headed into a very busy post office when we were met by a toddler charging¬† full speed toward the door with a harried mother close behind. I stepped into the little guy’s path, slowing him down enough that Mom was able to scoop him up and head back to the counter to try to finish her business.

The toddler wasn’t going to make it easy. He squirmed so much that Mom had to place him down on the floor again just so she could pay for her outgoing packages. With the determination of a toddler, he once again focused on the front door. I quickly moved around the counter and into his path and began talking with him. His curiosity about me deterred him long enough that Mom was able to finish her business, gather her young son in her arms, and go on her way. But not before giving me a huge smile and thank you.

As we were leaving the post office my husband scurried ahead a bit to open the door for an older woman who seemed to be struggling with the heavy door, and that’s when I began thinking about the spirit of giving and the importance of just being there to help in a myriad of situations. Gifting doesn’t always involve money, although financially helping others in need is a wonderful way to express the spirit of giving, and it certainly isn’t limited to the Christmas season. My thoughts went to the many times throughout the year that I received gifts from wonderful random people:

  • The homemade Christmas card that was in my mailbox from the young couple across the street.
  • The man in the Starbucks drive-up line who had apparently handed the cashier a sum of money and told her to pay for as many people behind him as the money would allow. I was one of those delightfully surprised people.
  • The many times someone will open a door for me.
  • The woman at the grocery store who stopped her shopping and moved out of the crowded aisle to let my daughter who had just had back surgery, maneuver the “drive yourself” cart through the crowd.
  • The kindness of my fellow authors who donated books to a library in my mother’s name when she passed away this year.
  • Text messages in the middle of a busy day from people who just want to let me know they’re thinking about me.

And the list goes on. Each week, my life is made better by the thoughtfulness of the people around me. And that spirit of giving exists all year long, but we often don’t stop to think about it or even recognize it. Thanks to the busy little toddler and his mom, offering a spirit of giving every day and appreciating all the ways that I receive are now tops on my list of “to do’s” this Christmas season and every day thereafter.

 

 

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While reviews are an essential part of being an author and building the fan base we need to sell and promote our books, reviews can also be swords that cut right into our hearts and leave us bleeding and gasping for breath. For me, the balancing act of being a published author is reading each review with respect for the person who wrote it and being open to constructive criticism that will help me become a better writer without taking the bad reviews so seriously that I want to crawl into a hole, never emerge, and certainly never write again.

I was recently reading the reviews of another author with whom I work closely. The majority of her reviews are great with people enthusiastically enjoying her characters and stories. Yet there in the pile of all those glowing reviews are those prickly, pointy ones that not only slice her characters and story apart, but blast her editors as well.

I’m a realistic person. I understand that not everyone will like everything that an author has written — no matter who the author is or how famous he or she may become. And, I realize that from a marketing perspective, there is no bad review because anytime someone has taken the time to read and review a book, attention is given to that book and author. In fact, a bad review can often bring as much attention to a book as a good review because other readers want to see if they agree with the review.

For most authors, our brains know all of that, but our hearts have minds and emotions all of their own and whether or not we tell ourselves that we will take the bad reviews in stride, they stick in our minds like rubber cement, not wanting to let go.

Every author deals with reviews in their own way and perhaps the famous authors who have dozens of books in the marketplace hardly pay attention to the bad ones. But for those of us who are new to the marketplace and the spotlight of other peoples’ opinions, reviews can have us jumping around with glee or hovering in an emotional dark corner questioning not only our writing but our very existence.

 

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That’s a question I’ve started to ask myself on a pretty regular basis as my book goes through the processes of getting ready for the marketplace. There are millions of people who dream of becoming successful authors, and a good portion of them don’t sell more than a few hundred or a few thousand books, no matter how they’re published. Why? What makes the difference? And am I ready to do what it takes?

While it’s a good dream to think that my book will be published, get into the marketplace, and be a best seller without any effort from me, it’s far from reality, especially in today’s world when hundreds of thousands of books are entering the marketplace every year. As I began putting together my marketing plan, there were many pieces that I just wanted to skip over: contacting book stores is scary, networking is not my forte, websites are not my area of expertise, social media feels like a foreign language to me. I like writing and speaking . . . can’t I just do those things and forget about the rest?

It sounded like a good plan for about three seconds until I realized that it would be like planning to bake a cake and only wanting to beat the eggs and sugar together because I didn’t want to sift the flour, measure out the rest of the ingredients, or put the cake into the pan to bake. I might have a good time beating the eggs and sugar and they might look really good when I was done, but just that step and those two ingredients wouldn’t turn into the cake I wanted.

Sure, I can sit back and expect my publisher to make me a success. But then I look at authors like Nicholas Sparks and Anne Rice who have great websites, a constant presence on social media, do newsletters, make appearances, attend book signings, and all of the various things that an author needs to do to be successful. I’m sure these successful authors have people to help them, but they didn’t start out that way. I remember hearing a story that John Grisham sold his first 1,000 books out of the trunk of his car. Am I willing to do that and all of the other things that these well known authors have done and continue to do? How big is my dream and how much of myself am I willing to put into creating that dream?

“Creating the dream” is exactly what we are called to do if we want to become successful authors. Someone else can’t create that dream for us, no matter how much we want them to or how much pressure we might put on them to “make it happen.” So, I continue to ask myself “How serious are you about becoming a successful author?” And, the answer differs a bit from day to day because I’m human and life can emotionally and mentally punch me around a bit, but my overall intention is clear: to be a good writer and do everything within my power to create my dream and become a success.

Exactly what “success” will look like for me is yet to unfold. Not every author makes it to the New York Times Best Seller List and not every author makes millions on their books, even though I’d be happy to be a part of those numbers. Yet many authors touch lives, change hearts, and bring smiles to readers all over the world. That kind of success is definitely something I am willing to work for.

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