I’ve written about it in my book, Finding Author Success. I blog about it. I speak on the subject all over the country. I even teach a workshop dedicated to it. I’m here today to tell you all that even the teacher falls on her butt sometimes. Read on with courage, this is the cautionary tale no author likes to hear.
We all do it. We start with great intentions and make charts and graphs; we watch our time management and plow ahead for author success. Whether we’re focused on meeting a writing deadline or reaching a certain number of sales, we’re as diligent as tiny ants building our anthill for the future.
Then something happens. Sometimes it’s something big, sometimes it’s something personal and often it’s something that entices us so much we lose sight of the career plan we had in mind when we started. Then … one day we wake up and realize we can’t even remember the last time we blogged or popped in at twitter or even thought about finding a new target audience to sell our book to. This, my friends is an ugly, ugly day. The best and most humble way I can help you all is to admit my own failure in this category. (Yes, I’m looking at my toes and blushing.)
Here’s my story, not that it matters much because all our stories are just excuses. My career took off in directions I totally didn’t expect. Over the past 18 months, I’ve moved from Los Angeles back to my east coast home town of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. I’ve lost nine (count ‘em, 9) family members and attended nine funerals. That averages one every two months! It’s a very large, very old Italian family and should be expected, but Italian families, socializing and food go hand in hand so lots of time beyond the heartbreaking mourning was focused on these events. Also during those eighteen months, Cold in California and Monkey Jump, books #1 and #2 of the Twice-Baked Vampire Series were released. In November of 2011, Finding Author Success was released and therein came the complication. All my wonderful platforms for my fiction were in place and singing when suddenly, I was in demand as an Author Success Coach. I became booked to speak with several writing groups and at several conferences, I rejoined the Pennsylvania writing organization (Pennwriters) and found myself running one of the local monthly meetings. Authors continued to reach out to me and sign on for one-on-one coaching, I became heavily scheduled to teach online and live workshops … and on top of all that, I found myself flirting with and being wooed by a new, very inventive and interesting publisher. The love affair grew and I’m now with Assent Publishing as their Romance Imprint Editor, AND as the Dean of The Accent Academy, a unique, specially created marketing training program exclusively for contracted Assent authors. There’s more. Now I blog and actively do social media marketing for the Imprint, field queries and edit contracted manuscripts … oh … and we’re currently running the GREAT ROMANCE contest. Yes, I’m still writing too!
So … pretty damn productive, right? Yes, right, and a little bit wrong too. What happened to my own fiction and nonfiction marketing activities over these recent months? Um … right. Neglected. Not intentionally neglected, I guarantee you, I’ve felt regret and remorse with every month that passed but what’s an author to do? It’s not my first time at this rodeo, I trip and fall like everyone else. What I’ve learned is that the only way back up onto the horse is to … get back up onto the horse.
BACK UP AND PUNT! REGROUP! AND FIND THE CENTER!
Those are the three tricks for regaining that power grip on your marketing trajectory. Whether you’ve simply gotten too busy with family things or that wonderful new manuscript you’re working on, or your career suddenly sprouted a plethora of new branches like mine, we all lose traction and when we look up, discover that we’re nowhere near where we thought we’d be. Here’s how to get back on track.
Take inventory. Are you miles from where you were, or just a few yards from that first down? Have you lost a huge number of your blog following or fan base, or just had a little hiccup that can easily be corrected. How far off the mark are you? Be honest. When was the last time you blogged or tweeted or visited your own Facebook page? How are your numbers – book sales, blog visits, and website stats? Have you fallen from receiving 1,500 hits at your blog every day (whether you do a blog entry or not) down to ten or fifteen a day? Doing an honest evaluation of your current status based on your standard performance before the fall is the only way to fix this mess.
What’s salvageable and what’s not? Sometimes it’s just a matter of getting back in the saddle and spurring ahead. Picking up where you left off is good, but remember, everything works hand in hand. If you’ve been away from everything and you write a new blog entry, tweeting and facebooking about it won’t get the same results it did before you went AWOL. All your friends and followers have moved on to other things and people. Besides, they’ll need a little proof that they can trust you again. That you’ll be there as consistently as you were before, and your blogs will hold their interest or give them that added value they used to love. One blog won’t do it. Not even two blogs. It could be just like it was at the very beginning and you may need to consistently blog, on time and with great content, for months before you can regain what you might have lost. It’s okay. It’s sort of like giving birth. The labor is terrible, but the results are fantastic. Getting your 1,500 blog hits back will be the reward you need to keep going and remember how good it felt to do this blogging things well. Make a conscious effort to rebuild your Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Yahoo Groups and Blog following. You remember from before, it only gets easier from there.
How did this happen in the first place? Were you desperate to have a normal life and enjoy the weather or your family or maybe even reading other authors’ books? Or did you overload yourself to the point of exhaustion and resentment? Did you find yourself in the magical vortex of a new story you needed to write, or did you look for a reason not to market? Did you find yourself taking on more and more all in a scattered effort to grow your career (guilty), or did you face a crisis of faith about your career? Whatever it was, you should take a few moments to identify and analyze it so that you’ll be better prepared next time it looms its ugly head. Too busy? Streamline your activities. Take a good look at what you’re doing and how it fits into your plan. Too many projects at once? Consider doing one at a time. Too many commitments away from the keyboard? A little tough love might be required to grab hold of your time again. Have you lost focus on your original goal? Or has that original goal changed? Figure it out, stand next to it and own it. Finding the center is all about balance and the ability to understand ourselves. I’m not talking about the labels we all hold on to – I’m a workaholic, I’m a perfectionist, I’m lazy, I’m special, I’m not important – I’m talking about the deep reality of ourselves. Sometimes it hard to face the fact that we can’t do ten things at once, even though we tell ourselves we’re the master multi-tasker of the universe. Finding the center is a reality based fact-finding mission we should all embark upon at least once every year. It requires taking every aspect of our life into consideration and never squashing one for the other. It means taking special efforts to never become overworked because every Wednesday afternoon we go out for a walk or take the afternoon to play with the cat. It means honoring the whole person who contributes to the whole author we are. Find the center and it will be a piece of cake to get back on tract for the career you want.
I’ve started. I’ve taken inventory, streamlined my commitments and have seriously respected the center and balance I need.
And … I’m back. I’ve missed you all! I’ll be blogging here every month. I’ll tweet like a songbird again. I’ll be at Facebook asking my question of the day. And because I’ve told you all … I am accountable.
FREE Ten Tools for Author Success Handbook available for download at The Author Success Coach website.