If At First You Don’t Succeed…

Today I’m going to be brave and talk to you about failure. My own recent failures, or at least, things that have not gone as well as I hoped. Talking about failure is not easy. We don’t like to admit failure to anyone, let alone ourselves.  It’s embarrassing when something is not a success.  Just lately, I’ve tried out a few bright ideas and they have all sort of bombed. I’m mostly an optimist and try not to feel down for too long, but I’ve got to admit, the perceived failures dented my confidence at the time. My head is ruled by two opposing voices. I have one constantly telling me how crap I am, how everything I do is utter, pointless rubbish. And then I have this other voice piping up constantly; ooh I’ve got another idea! Let’s try this! These voices have 50/50 control right now. I think I’m rubbish because something didn’t go as planned, and then the other voice suggests something new to try…so I keep going. I’m going to list the recent failures below and talk about how and why they failed, and how also they sort of succeeded as well…

Cancelled a workshop due to lack of interest… Back in March, I ran my first adult workshop under my Chasing Driftwood Writing Group business. I had already put on a few for Dorset Writers Network and I’ve been running kids workshops since 2015. It was scary to put on my first one aimed at adult writers, but Building Your Author Platform was a great success, highly enjoyable and I received terrific feedback. I ran another one a few months later which was less well attended but I still viewed it as a success. Some people requested I run the Author Platform one again so I decided to book it for November, thinking it would be nice to help these writers and make a little bit of money before Christmas. Despite my best efforts, I could not drum up enough attendees to make it worth running. I had three tickets sold before I decided to cancel it and refund them. This was a tough decision because I felt really bad about the people who had bought tickets, but I was also feeling very low about putting it on to so few people. It sucked, to be honest. I questioned my decision to apply for Chasing Driftwood to become a Community Interest Company (currently awaiting a decision on this) and I even thought about jacking it all in. The fact my last kid’s workshop also had very low attendance was playing on my mind. Maybe I should quit this. Maybe I am bad at this. But then I thought about the reasons it failed. I think a lot of it is lack of advertising, and the reason for that is financial. One of the reasons I am applying to become a CIC is to better access arts-based funding to put on various writing projects. Some of that money can go towards advertising. They say you have to spend money to make money. Well, if you don’t have any money, you have to apply for funding! Which is exactly what I’m going to do. If I still can’t fill workshops once I’m a CIC with a decent advertising campaign behind me then yeah…maybe time to think again.


Author Event at Library Cancelled…So, I can’t really take the blame for this one, though at the time it was frustrating and disheartening and I certainly viewed it as a personal failure. Last March my local library put on a very successful author event, where local writers paid a small fee to have a table in the library to sell books. I only sold a few but I really, really enjoyed the event. Coming up to Christmas, I wondered if we could capitalise on Christmas shoppers and have another one. The library manager was all for it, and we both contacted various writers to see how much interest we could get. We got none. Literally, none. The lovely manager said let’s leave it for now and so it never happened. I was gutted, but it did inspire me a bit too. I’ve had this idea for a pop-up bookshop for some time, and want to get started once (if) I become a CIC. The library have already agreed we could set up there anytime. If it’s just me it’s just me. But I’ve already got an email list of local writers I can contact when this happens. So, in this case, I’m viewing it as perhaps we’ll try again another time…

Hiding Books… Initially, this was fun. I had some stickers from The Book Fairies, and for ages and ages, I’d thought about hiding my novel This Is Nowhere around my village, as I set it here. I thought the local people might like to know there is a novel set where they live! It took a long time to gather the courage (I am genuinely scared of being told no) but I contacted the parish council who let me add a piece to the newsletter, detailing what I was up to. In other words, hiding four copies of the novel in the location it’s set in during a five day period. Slips of paper were included to politely ask if the finder could share pics to social media re where and when they found the book, and then rehide it to carry on the fun. It was daunting, to say the least, but I did it. I hid the four books and waited for communication. To date, I’ve heard….nothing. All four books have been taken. But I have absolutely no idea by who! They could all be slung in bins for all I know! I tried not to expect too much, but I did really hope to hear from at least one happy finder. Having said that, maybe I will. Maybe the books will get hidden again! Who knows? And I’ve talked myself out of viewing it as a total failure, as I did get one ebook sale for the novel when a local resident contacted me via Facebook asking how she could download the book… It is a shame I didn’t get more sales or communication from my local friends and neighbours, but what was nice was the response I got online from other writers. I posted on Facebook and Instagram and received such enthusiasm and lots of people excited to try the same thing. So, not a total failure. I just hope they get a better result than I did! Would I do it again? Well, considering how out of pocket I am, probably not. Not for a while anyway!

Christmas Pop-Up Book-Shop… Another great idea of mine. With the real-life pop-up shop in the pipeline, I thought why not try an online one, in the form of a Facebook event? I roped in my good friend Kate Rigby and the plan was to invite other writers to post links to their paperbacks into the event, along with other interesting things like maybe a giveaway or competition, and hope to entice some readers in to buy Christmas presents! We thought a great idea in theory. So was it a failure? Well, yes and no. If I’m having a bad day I’m going to throw it on my recent failures heap and sulk about it. But if I’m having a good day I’m going to remind myself that it was a trial run, something to learn from, something to try again bigger and better. The authors were absolutely fantastic. I bought a great book to give to Mum for Xmas, and I added some others to my to-read list. It was fun, but in terms of sales and exposure, well no, not really a great success. Hardly anyone from my friends list joined in. That always stings a bit, but then I remind myself that people are not always convinced by indie books. Also, in an online event, you can’t really pick the book up and flick through etc. Will we do it again? Yes, we definitely will.

Self-publishing… You might know by now that I have a love/hate relationship with self-publishing. I am, at times, extremely proud of my books and the platform I have been building, and everything else I have done. Then, at other times, I view self-publishing as a failure in itself, because I was rejected. Not wanted. Not good enough. I still think a lot of my friends and family have the view that self-published means not very good, and so they kind of ignore what I’m doing. I know that there are amazing self-published books out there because I mostly read indie books. It’s a bumpy ride. I don’t regret it because if I hadn’t done it, I wouldn’t have my books out there at all. But at times it leaves me with a bad feeling because I think I have not yet written anything really credible or worthy of being traditionally published and sitting proudly on the shelves of Waterstones etc. I expect I will always feel this way while sales are low. And sales are low. It’s not a nice thing to admit, but I know most indies are in the same boat, so I try not to see it as a reflection of my work. The endless problem is reaching readers when so many thousands of books are published every day. I think readers are much more likely to notice and buy and read the trad published books because they are so much more visible to them. So, the fight goes on.


Above are listed my recent attempts to better myself and my position, to achieve something new, to try an idea, and in many ways, they were all failures. But then I think, at least I tried. (In case you don’t know, I fully intend to have the Frank Turner lyrics from Eulogy engraved on my headstone; “At least I fucking tried”) Surely, the real failure would be in never trying at all? In thinking up these ideas and then ignoring them? In feeling great enthusiasm for a project, and then never trying it out in case it failed? In having dreams, but being too scared to pursue them?

I think so. And I also think that every failure shapes you and helps you progress in some way. You’ve got to be big enough to take it on the chin. You’ve got to be humble enough to admit what went wrong. You’ve got to be brave enough to get back up and try again. (After a mini-meltdown though, of course. Those are always allowed!)

And guess what? Since I started penning this post, I’ve had another big idea!!

So, what do you think folks? Do you want to be brave and tell me about your recent failures? How did you deal with them? Are you going to try again? I love it when you comment and please feel free to share!



20 thoughts on “If At First You Don’t Succeed…

  1. Oh Chantelle hang in there! It’s really brave to write all this down. I know how much these things hurt sometimes. If it’s any consolation, hardly any of my friends are interested in my writing either! One even said (in front of me) to someone else ‘she writes books you know’ but when the other person asked if they’d ever read one, they said ‘no’. But the pop-up shop was really good fun and as you say, a starting point. Don’t be afraid to maybe make a small group chat to work out what/when/how to do it again. Your books are great and your ideas are fab. It really is a shame about the workshop and the book stall but it’s not because you failed. I wish you all success in CIC but you are doing a great job. Because there’s nothing harder than picking yourself up and keeping on going.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you Paula. It actually made me feel brighter to list the things and talk about them. Otherwise, they were circling around in my head getting bigger and uglier. I feel like I can move on from them now, but also plan for better things in the future, hopefully!


  3. Thank you Paula. It actually made me feel brighter to list the things and talk about them. Otherwise, they were circling around in my head getting bigger and uglier. I feel like I can move on from them now, but also plan for better things in the future, hopefully!


  4. Wow! Chantelle, you’re amazing! Your imagination and drive are quite astonishing. I so admire all of your ideas, the way you’re tirelessly coming up with different ways to promote your work. My list of failures covers the usual ground – rejections (or being ignored by) publishers, rejections for short stories (often multiple rejections for the same story!) But the only reason my stories aren’t as varied as yours is because I just haven’t tried as hard as you to promote myself – far too cowardly, shrinking away from some writing opportunities in case of failure.
    I do hope you can plough on with your promotion ideas, that you’ll have more success in the New Year (don’t forget all of those people trying to improve themselves as January or spring come along – a good time to try more workshops?)
    Very best of luck to you


    1. Thank you for your kind words, Lynn! It’s great to hear from you. It’s hard isn’t it? Going back again and again, after the rejections! I hope the New Year brings you some luck too with whatever you are planning and hoping for! And you’re right, there are usually people thinking of taking up new hobbies or workshops etc in the New Year. I should definitely think about that! Thank you 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. To see my failures is to look around at my life. I have failed just about everything I’ve tried. I’ve been rejected by publishers and editors. I’ve worked to build a platform, which simply didn’t build. I’ve run giveaways which always end with books to spare, so I give these books to people I know and they don’t get read. I’ve started novels or fleshed out ideas, only to leave them incomplete. I’ve not even finished writing the third book in the All That Glitters series, nor have I finished the second book in the Dyrkon Tales collection, even though I have it and book 3 more or less fleshed out in my head and partially on paper. I’ve applied for job after job, only to be told ‘No.’ I ran out of money and can’t finish my degree, but I can’t get the great jobs I want without the degree, but I can’t pay for the degree without the jobs. I have experience, but not near as much as people would like (and since what I did for you was Freelance, then that’s shaky territory). I organized a pic/fic competition and had 2 submissions, one was my sister because I nagged her. I beg for comments on the chapters I post of this long-running fanfiction story (which I co-write, edit, format, and run the website for–and will be in charge of the ebook and possible paperback formatting and release–for no reward, since it’s illegal to monetize it). We get a depressingly small amount of fan interaction. And yet I keep having ideas and doing things for my fans, who don’t exist. “Oh, I wonder what people will think of this.” “I can’t wait for the moment when someone chokes on their drink over this part.” “I wonder if anyone is going to notice this crossover and think it’s cool.” But I hear nothing. And yet I keep doing it. I’m a ghost throwing slop at the padded wall of a well-insulated mental hospital. I scream and scream, or talk soft and quiet through a crack, and yet those who hear keep walking while the rest of them are deaf to my words. But if I don’t quit, you can’t. If you don’t quit, I can’t. You okay with that? Author reverse-suicide pact.

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  6. Oh, Shalaena, I’m so sorry to hear all of this. It must be so frustrating with the degree and job situation. Throwing slop at the padded wall of a mental hospital, that’s brilliantly witty and spot on, and so true! But this is it, as long as that little voice keeps piping up with new ideas, with enthusiasm despite the knockbacks, with optimism despite the disappointment, then I think we should keep listening to it. Definitely. And yes I agree, I won’t quite if you won’t, and vice versa


  7. Hi Chantelle – if you feel yourself a failure where does that leave me? I have been writing for nigh on 40 years and apart from my one trad published book (my 15 minutes of fame) I’ve not been able to repeat it. People rarely read or comment on my blogs – so I fail there too!

    I have a new book out and several people promised to review it but most of those haven’t materialised. But you have a huge success with garnering reviews! So big success there!

    But I am a great believer in it depends how you measure success. If we measured it always by enough sales to make a living then yes we would all be failures. But I view every sale as a success (I may not always say this on social media and will think ‘only one this week?’) But that one is someone who chose to buy mine. Something there must have stopped that person and prompted them to buy it.

    I also think the online Christmas pop-up shop was a success. If I’d have done it alone it would have sunk, I’m sure!

    As for the Book Fairies – I give up with them because they never reply to my emails.

    I think part of the problem is that the market is over-saturated with books and not just books, other art competing with only the same number of hours in a day.

    So keep at it – my approach is if you throw enough out there, some of it sticks. And you never know which until you try, as you have. Sometimes, it’s not the thing we think 🙂


    1. Thanks Kate! I agree, it is about how you measure success. On good days I do feel successful! I like ‘if you throw enough out there, some of it sticks’ – I will remember this! 🙂


  8. Well you might remember I wrote a blog about failure earlier this year (or late last year) so you’re not alone in feeling that way. Failure is the constant companion of creatives but if you never give into it then it never wins. It’s a simplistic statement I know, but one that’s very true. We just keep going somehow because what else can you do?

    I hear you regarding indie vs trad pub. There’s distinct pros and cons to both and if you’re struggling in one area the pros of the other one look all that more appealing! One thing I would say as a member of the Alliance of Independent Authors is the horror stories I often hear from traditionally published authors who’ve gone back to indie. It seems that a lot of the bigger publishing houses will still expect you to do all the promotional legwork and at least with indie you have control over the cover etc…and they won’t try to rebrand you to fit with the market. Chantelle Atkins -YA rom-com? Having said that, I’m sure there are smaller publishing houses that might be a good fit for you. We make the best of what we’ve got and keep chasing the rainbow on the horizon 🙂

    I admire your energy and drive, especially with all the kids and pets running around. Keep on keeping on 😉


    1. Thank you, Mark. Yes I remember your post! Another indie friend of mine linked me to a similar post she penned a year ago too! Maybe this is the time of year for reflection?! I think as long as I keep getting crazy ideas I will keep trying them out. I was thinking today that there are a lot of things I could improve on for some of the mentioned ventures, so it’s definitely got my brain ticking. I hear what you are saying re indie vs trad. I’ve got a very, very small list of small presses that I think would fit me, and I did send the last book to this list and was rejected by each. I will try again with this next book, but I am already trying to come up with cover ideas etc and will have to plan a bigger and better launch when I inevitably do self-pub again! Thanks again for reading and commenting 🙂


  9. Never, ever give up Chantelle. You are an inspiration to so many people and in many ways. I am sure you are right about CIC being a springboard for your ideas and efforts to take off in the ways to which you aspire and bring your energy and passion to a wider audience.
    So, maybe everything you tried didn’t work quite as much as you had hoped – that’s not failing- it’s the first few steps in the right direction ! So keep going step by step by step.


  10. I love the idea of hiding the novels, what a lovely thing to find. I am the worst when it comes to failure but you need failure in order to learn, grow and appreciate success. Hang on in there xx


  11. you’ve done alot! anyone who fails is someone who is doing something if you can write an entire post on things you did and failed at you’re definitely on the right track and besides as your pic says they aren’t failures but lessons.


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