The Temptation to Do Nothing

No one ever said that being an indie author would be easy. It’s not. It’s hard work and I made my peace with that a long time ago. I never expected to sell thousands or even hundreds of books. I’ve always reminded myself that to sell anything at all is a massive achievement, and I still believe that.

Over the years I’ve been doing this, I’ve had a bumpy ride, full of highs and lows, expectations and dreams, disappointments and achievements. Again, I remind myself when I feel thwarted, or dispirited, to look back and see how far I have come. And it works. Mostly. I do sell books every month. I have never had a month without sales since I started in 2013.

Every now and then though, I feel the need to stop, take stock of what’s going on, what’s bothering me or making me anxious, and do nothing. I don’t mean stop writing. I could never do that. If there is one thing I am certain of it’s that I will never ever stop writing and releasing books. I’m desperately addicted to writing, it’s who I am, it saves me on a daily basis, makes life worth living, fulfills me in so many ways, and allows me to release what is inside of me. I love it, and if you follow this blog, you will know that.

It’s trying to sell books that I often consider quitting. Trying to sell books is stressful. Without money, it’s almost impossible. I feel I have worked really hard over the years to build my author platform. Building up this blog, my facebook author page, Instagram, newsletters, you name it. Writing articles for Authors Publish and more. There is nothing I have not tried. Nothing free anyway.

And I guess, to some extent it works. I get sales every month. Some months are better than others and I can never work out how or why. No one ever said that selling books was easy either.

I’ve seen so many indie authors quit over the years. Announce they are closing their blog or their Facebook page, that it’s too hard and they can’t justify the time and effort anymore. I get that totally. But that will never be me, not while I still have so many books lined up to write.

Selling books is hard if you are naturally an introvert. You’re drawing attention to yourself. You’re saying, hey look at me! Look over here! Buy my books! You’re sending out free copies with your newsletter. You’re offering people ARC copies of upcoming releases. You’re contacting reviewers and bloggers for help. You’re messaging friends and relatives to see if they’re interested. You’re setting up street teams and asking for help. Introverts do not like asking for help. Introverts will do everything themselves and then cry about it. There’s a martyr inside every one of us, I swear.

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It makes us uncomfortable. And then come the rejections. Of course, you’re used to rejection if you’re a writer. You’ve got the scars from endless rejections from agents and publishers. You put on your big girl pants and went solo. Became an indie. Fab stuff. Only now there’s no one to help you, you have to force yourself to be brave, day in, day out. Put on a big professional sunny convincing smile when really you just want to climb under your duvet and hide.

I’ve had a lot of disappointments lately. I’m not going to go into them, because I really don’t want this to be a pity party. I hate it when authors moan on social media about being an author and not getting sales. I don’t want to be that person. This isn’t really about sales either. This is about being tired.

I’m tired of doing everything I can only to have it not make an impact. I’m tired of giving away free books that people don’t then review. I’m tired of the expense of sending out paperbacks that people don’t then review. I’m tired of asking and hoping and suggesting that people share my posts, comment, read or review. I’m tired of feeling like I am wasting my time. I’m tired of sharing my books on Twitter and Facebook when I know there is no point. Every time my finger hovers over the share button I’m so tempted to do nothing. And every now and again I let it win and I go with the temptation to do nothing and I hide away I write my books and my blogs and my poems and I hide away from sharing and trying to sell.

Maybe it does me some good every now and then to have a little retreat from the business of selling and just focus on the writing. I am so tempted to do that again right now. But then I feel guilty about my books, and I so want people to read them, I don’t want to quit or be a quitter. Maybe I just need a rest. A chance to refuel and come back stronger.

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Because if you don’t try, you can’t fail. There’s nothing to lose. But if you do try, and try and try, then you have to deal with the inevitable disappointments. It’s tempting not to try, believe me. And I’ve been here before. I didn’t try to publish my books until I was in my mid-thirties. All those years I wasted because I was too afraid of failure to even try. I got over that somehow, and I’ve moved on. But there it is again, the urge to do nothing. If my books don’t sell, it’s because I’m not trying and that’s easier to deal with.

But then I got thinking and I remembered a quote from a song that I once decided would look good on my gravestone. This is the full quote;

Not everyone grows up to be an astronaut,
Not everyone was born to be a king,
Not everyone can be Freddie Mercury,
But everyone can raise their glass and sing.
Well I haven’t always been a perfect person,
Well I haven’t done what mum and dad had dreamed,
But on the day I die, I’ll say at least I fucking tried.
That’s the only eulogy I need,
That’s the only eulogy I need.

(Eulogy, by Frank Turner)

It struck a chord with me the first time I heard it, and I laughed and joked that I’d have those words on my headstone. At least I fucking tried…

Some days that doesn’t feel like enough.

Other days, calmer days, sunnier days, it really, really does.

Because it’s pretty fucking brave to keep trying.

It would be so much easier to quit. And I’m going to have those days. I’m always going to have those days. I’m going to wallow in it some days. I’m going to cry about it on others. I’m going to seethe and fret and grumble and moan. Mostly to myself. I’m always going to have days where self-doubt gets it claws into me and won’t let go. I’m going to hear those voices in my head that have been with me for so long…you’re rubbish, you’re stupid, you’re ugly, you’re fat, you’re a joke…

But that’s okay. That’s being human. Deep inside, we all want attention, we want validation, we want to know what we’re doing is worthwhile and appreciated, and when we don’t quite get that, we turn on ourselves pretty viciously.

But I suppose the thing is to let those days run their course, as they will do, again and again, but then come out of the other side and just keep going. Just keep doing it anyway. Because at least you can say you gave it your best. So for now at least, for me, it’s business as usual. The temptation to do nothing has not won.

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Things I Fail At On Social Media

When I first started my indie author journey, I had a very rocky relationship with social media. In truth, I didn’t like it or understand it. But over the last few years, I have stuck with it, worked hard at it, and yes, even grown to enjoy it. However, I do still feel like I am not quite getting it right. I’d say I am definitely most comfortable on Facebook, still don’t understand Twitter, and really need to learn how to better utilise the ones I enjoy such as Instagram and Pinterest. Sometimes I feel like I have no idea what I am doing! Here is a list of things I currently and consistently fail at;

  • What to add when I Tweet. I see other people write some brilliant tweets. I know you’re meant to ask a question or come at it from another angle, not just retweet the post without comment, but all to often I click share to Twitter and then sit there for ages thinking what can I say about this? Great post? I really liked this article? Great tips here? Read this? And then I give up because life is passing me by and I just hit Tweet.
  • Remembering what hashtags to use. I really should list them and stick them on my wall. I remember #amwriting but that’s about it! And I know you shouldn’t go over crazy on hashtags anyway, but again, how many to use? How many are too many? Which ones are the most useful or relevant? Sometimes I have a moment of clarity but mostly I pick a few boring ones and hit share feeling like a total Twitter loser.
  • Twitter in general. I really want to like Twitter and get more out of it. Every now and then I do make a conscious effort to play the game right. I do understand that like with all social media sites you’ve got to give, in order to expect anything back and you’ve got to build relationships not just tweet but never comment, share or engage in return. I get it. I just don’t have time for it. It’s more fun on Facebook for some reason so I find myself retreating there.
  • Making memes. Some writers/bloggers are soooooo good at this. I am terrible. I can never find the right picture and if I do I can never think of a witty line for it. I am one of those people who can’t be funny if I try. I’m only funny when I don’t mean to be.
  • Finding images. I hate looking for images. For Pinterest, or the blog or anything. I know images are good because they make your post more visual and interesting but bloodyhell it takes a lot of time searching for the right ones, and they never seem to be quite right.
  • Knowing how much time to spend on it. It’s always a bit hit and miss with me. I can get very easily distracted by Facebook and Pinterest, and to a certain extent Twitter if I actually go on it, but knowing whether this is time well spent or not is never a certainty. I’m very good at blogging on a weekly basis and keeping my Facebook author page busy, but the rest of it is totally inconsistent. Maybe that doesn’t matter, or maybe I should be spending equal amounts of time on each site?
  • Turning social media into sales. Then again, this is a tricky one. How do you know your social media engagement has resulted in sales unless people tell you? There is the shop button now on my Facebook page, which is helpful and depressing in equal measures. But other than that…? Who knows what is working and what is not?

I’d like to get better at all of these things. How about you? What are your social media strengths and weaknesses? Please feel free to share and comment! And let me know what has worked for you!

 

Social Media, Distraction and Guilt

Me and social media have had a bumpy ride to date. There was the initial stand off, followed by sluggish efforts, which were then followed by a relationship that can only be described as love/hate. In this day and age, social media is essential for indie authors who want to connect with more readers and build a following. I accepted this early on, but I didn’t have to like it. It felt really odd in the beginning. I needed to be active on as many sites as possible, but didn’t really want to be on any. The whole networking thing was a complete mystery to me and I didn’t know where to start. And then when I did make the brave move of starting this blog, joining Twitter and setting up a Facebook author page, I found I had two main problems. I didn’t know what to post and when I did post, I was just talking to myself!

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These days things are very different. I’m happy to report I now have a far more positive and realistic relationship with social media. I have my little following, for which I am extremely grateful. I have learned what to post and when to post, and hopefully, I maintain likes, follows and engagement, by posting interesting things!

The problem I have these days is a little different, and it might be one you are familiar with. Social media, now that I have fully embraced it, is one major distraction, for which I feel endless amounts of guilt. Know the feeling?

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As a new author, I started with this blog, Facebook and Twitter, but I obviously wanted to spread the word far and wide, so I collected a few more here and there. Goodreads, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Wattpad. And just last week, I added a shiny new one to the social media collection, Instagram.

I thought it would kick me up the bum a bit to try a new one. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, and all that. And as I already mentioned, the problem I have these days is rather different to the one I had in the beginning, where I viewed promoting via social media as a kind of cold sell out that somehow devalued what I was trying to do. These days, the problem is it is too tempting to be on as many as possible and for as long as possible!

It’s great that I genuinely enjoy social media these days, but it can be incredibly addictive and it can be hard to strike the right balance.

A while back I deleted Facebook from my phone as I was scrolling through my feed and posting things all through the day, and this was making me feel constantly depressed and angry about the state of the world, as well as terribly guilty for being on my phone whilst I have a beautiful little boy to care for.

I felt much better after it was gone. I limited myself to social media in the evenings only, a bit before writing and a bit after.

But now I’ve got Instagram on the phone. And…um, Facebook is back too.

I have to be strong though, and keep reminding myself that I am on both of them for business, ie book promoting reasons, only. I don’t have the time to go scrolling through feeds all day and missing time with my child. If I only have a few minutes here and there in the evening, then that’s all I’m going to get. Of course, I would love to spend hours and hours on social media, finding interesting articles on Twitter and Medium to share to my pages. I would love to be pinning all day and adding to my boards, and I won’t even go into how joining Instagram has had me viewing everything in hashtags since last week. It’s just weird!

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So, how to you avoid getting totally distracted by social media and then feeling guilty as a result? My advice is to set yourself rules and stick to them!

You don’t need to post on all of them, all of the time. I posted on Instagram for the first time a few days ago. I decided to start off I would post a series of photos in the style of a ‘day in the life’ type thing, I took pictures of things that happen in my life every day, ie walking dogs, baking, gardening, parenting, and at the and of the busy day, writing followed by reading. This was really fun to do. But now I intend to leave it alone until I next think of something worth posting, for example, scenes that inspire or are in my books, front covers, extracts of work, events and so on. I don’t want to get addicted to it as a site.

The same applies to Pinterest. It is very addictive and a lot of fun to play around with, but I only dip in and out when I need to. This is the sort of site you can totally ignore until you need to make use of it. I update the boards when I have a reason to, and will be paying much more attention to the site when I have a new book to launch and promote.

There are going to be times when it is much more important to use certain social media sites, such as when a new book is coming together or about to be launched. But my advice would be the rest of the time, to stick to the three that you deal with daily or weekly, and take a break from the rest.

It’s not a good idea to dip in and out of all of them for example, so if Facebook and Twitter are your thing, then stick with them, and post consistently and engagingly in order to build a loyal following. Just don’t feel like you have to be doing this all day every day with ALL of the sites you are on.

My last piece of advice? Give yourself one day or night totally OFF. I’m the sort of person that would be writing all day every day if I could. I hate not writing and when I am not writing, I always wish I was writing and I am constantly thinking about writing. This includes time spent increasing my social media content. But once a week I turn it all off and step away from the wi-fi. It’s a no go area, and it really does me the world of good. I curl up with my kids, leave my phone off, watch TV and chill out.

It genuinely feels like a day off ‘work’ and of course, we all need those.

Please feel free to comment or share! How many social media sites are you on? Do you feel guilty about the amount of time you spend on them? How do you strike a balance between work, social media and home life?

 

Indies!! What The Hell Are We Doing?

Indie writers, if you’re anything like me, you ask yourself the same question on a regular basis. It looks a bit like this;

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I’m sure my family think I am mad. None of this really pays off, let’s be honest. My husband chuckles when I declare I am going onto the laptop to ‘work’. He thinks I am crazy for giving myself so much stress.After all, it’s not like I have a boss breathing down my neck! I don’t actually have to do any of this, do I?

He can’t understand when I announce that ‘I have a lot to do tonight’. To explain, it usually goes a bit like this; ‘I’ve got to finalise the short story for the newsletter and I’ve got to fiddle with the template, plus I’ve got to share the newsletter link to my page before it goes out, so I can try to pick up a few more subscribers, then I’ve got to go over this week’s blog, because that goes out tomorrow and I haven’t added images yet, and I’ve really got to start hitting some book review blogs and I’ve really got to start submitting to some competitions, but I’ve got to finish this book too, and plan this other one…’

And I’m sure he’s thinking; um no, you don’t actually have to do any of that. You could have a night off and watch TV or something.

Indies, I’m sure you can relate to how I feel when I regularly ask myself; what the hell am I doing? Why am I doing this? Why am I writing another short story to add to another newsletter than only 19 out of 34 people will even open, and out of those 19, only 2 will go on to open the file and hopefully read the story? Why am I sharing my thoughts, my progress and my blog posts to Facebook so that it can show them to only 23 people out of 1027? Why am I asking for reviews when I might as well be banging my head against a brick wall? Why am I writing a book when the ones I have released already barely sell? Why do I constantly feel like I am fighting a losing battle? Why am I forever looking for the holy grail of ‘making it’ as writer? Will I even know it when I find it? Why the hell am I doing this to myself?

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I think it’s common to feel thwarted, frustrated and downhearted as an indie writer. You constantly swing between feeling like an outsider, and feeling proud to be doing it your own way. You feel like you have something to prove, when surely having a nice, fat traditional publishing contract, would be all the proof you’d need? As an indie, you keep one eye on the sales, you pester and beg for reviews, you enter competitions, and do all you can to promote without becoming an annoying spammer. You lose yourself in social media, and it is all for your books. Sharing interesting writer advice to Twitter, pinning funny writing quotes and making storyboards for your books on Pinterest, running events and giveaways on your Facebook page, and starting an email newsletter to try to gain a decent, loyal following. You do it all, don’t you? And wonder when on earth it’s going to pay off…

How do you know when you have succeeded? How do you measure achievement when you’ve chosen the indie path?

Maybe it’s enough money to live on, or to at least pay a few bills. Maybe it’s some level of fame, recognition or critical acclaim? Maybe it’s wonderful reviews, or just a nice, steady trickle of sales? Maybe it’s just becoming a better writer.

Sometimes I have to stand back and force myself to ask some awkward questions. What if I never sell lots of books? What if I never get the amount of reviews they say you need to get Amazon on side? What if I never win an award? What if I never get any recognition or any level of success?

Would I stop doing it?

No.

Never. And when I remember this, I think, fuck it, and keep going.

And what is success anyway? Yes, more reviews, more sales, an award or too etc, would all be lovely. Of course they would. They would make it all worthwhile. They would help justify the hours, the blood sweat and tears and sanity invested in all this. They would help alleviate the crippling self doubt and the gloomy, why am I bothering days.

But you can measure success in other, smaller ways too.

Such as, where was I a year ago? Or two? How about six?

Well, six years ago I was still working on the early drafts of The Boy With The Thorn In His Side, having dragged it out from the dusty suitcase under my bed where it had been living since I last worked on it aged 16. With my then youngest child starting school, I’d felt the strongest urge ever to get writing again, as that book had just never stopped talking to me.

In the years that followed that decision, I’ve published four novels and one short story collection. I’ve finished two more novels and am working on getting them released soon. I’ve started a Facebook author page and slowly but surely reached over 1,000 likes. I started this blog which also has over 1000 lovely followers. I’ve had many articles about writing published by Author’s Publish. I’ve fallen back in love with writing short stories. I’ve started my own writing business, Chasing Driftwood, running adult writing group and children’s creative writing workshops. I’ve been asked to run several workshops for children and adults by the Dorset Writer’s Network. I’ve become a reviewer for Underground Book Reviews, where I actually get paid to read books! There is so much more I want to do too, such as working regularly with schools, running workshops for aspiring authors and after school writing clubs. I want to write all of the books in my head! And if that’s not the main motivation for all of this craziness, then I don’t know what is!

Plus, I have a confession. I do moan, I do lose heart, I do get frustrated and I do have ‘I’m just gonna’ give up’ days, but do you know what? The truth is I actually enjoy all the craziness that goes with being an indie. I’m proud to be doing it my way, I’m proud to be learning from my mistakes, I’m proud to be getting stronger and more confident, I’m proud of the sales and reviews that I have, and the messages from readers. And as for all the other stuff; Pinterest, tweeting, author page, email newsletter…yeah, I have to admit it is all quite fun. Admit it!! It is fun!! Plus, writing blog posts, learning how to master social media, attempting articles and short stories, will all help make you a better writer. You may be doing them for promotional reasons, but the process is going to help your writing in the end, so that’s a win-win!

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Now, over to you, fellow Outsiders. How often do you feel like quitting? How do you really feel about being an indie? How do you measure your own success? Do you enjoy all the promotional activities that go with being an indie, or are they a curse? Please feel free to comment and share! 🙂