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Saturday, January 12, 2013

Focus Locked: Target Acquired

If you compare yourself with others,
 you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
--Max Ehrmann

As 'tis the season and all that, I've been doing a fair bit of pondering about my focus as a writer. Why DO I do this...thing, where in I pour my guts out onto the page, subject the result to ridicule via rejection, review and rantings from dissatisfied readers. The grueling, sometimes disheartening editing and revision process follows even after I've managed to find someone willing to touch what I've written. I try to re-craft the story by blurb and cover art next, knocking my head against the wall of re-re-creation of my characters and story into pictures and a few pithy sentences that will make that elusive unicorn--the Average Reader--pick up the thing and read it.

Then OMG OMG OMG RELEASE DAY, that seems so Climactic..... until you realize how anti-- it is.

And then...obsessively checking rankings and ratings and reviews on Amazon and Goodreads until figuring out that you probably should stop doing that, if you plan to keep your self-esteem intact.

And then: the promotional bonanza/blitz/extravaganza/blog tour-o-ramas begin as you beg, plead and gnash your teeth until people agree to at least read your blurb and give you a "thumbs up" on a book site.  While trying very hard not to throw your laptop into the drywall as you watch books you've read and discarded as simple/bad/trite/formula climb charts you can only dream about associating with your own, hard-working author personna.

Do not get me wrong here gang. I'm not whining. But every single one of you/us has been in these various positions at various times in our "process," hoping that our indie/self/small pubbed masterpiece will catch the wandering eyes of those agents who've been "snapping up" all the "new adult" novels and slinging them up on Those Lists. And don't kid me. I know we all hear words like "St. Martins's, Kensington, Harper Collins Penguin (some of you the Big H and/or Carina) and get all dewey in our lady parts.

So, what to do? How to focus? How to fix your sights on a goal and work your way towards it with all the "do this, no do that. Blog. Don't Blog. Self-pub. No, just write and you'll get heard." advice swirling around us like a noxious mosquito cloud that simply will not disperse?

I try to draw parallels between the trajectory of my writing career and my brewery's success. They both started pretty much about the same time, back in 2008/2009. When I used to walk into Whole Foods, or Meijer, or Kroger, or (in Southeast Michigan) Busch's Fresh Market and Hillers I would go straight for the beer cooler and gaze, longingly at all the "shelf space." Which is our term in the retail goods business for the highly sought after real estate at eye level or near by for our products. I would plan, and plot and blog and study and read and brew a little with my brewer, then go back to planning, plotting, blogging, face booking--the usual stuff. Hoping to make that break. I never got red in the face furious over the stacks of Bells' Brewing Oberon or the Founders Dirty Bastard, or any of the other Michigan brews.  No, I understood where they came from, how they got there and was willing to bide my time and provide a product people wanted, trusted and loved.

Conversely I would go into a bookstore (you remember those, right?) and get so upset I'd have to walk right out again. All those books, so many of them just crappy in my English Major's opinion but making zillions, with  "expansion packs" and gaggles of readers surrounding their Big New York Paid for Promo Table Right in the Front, or whatever the hell. I would nearly choke over their....success.

So I have been taking a few steps back from that self-righteous nonsense, and thinking hard about the way I feel when I see the entire cooler filled with Bud/Miller/Coors and the other cooler that I must share with twenty, or thirty or, yes fifty craft microbreweries.  I don't want to scream and make a scene in the beer aisle. Those companies have had years, decades, in some case centuries to get where they are. I, on the other hand, have had about four years.  We've come a long damn way in that time, and are acknowledged as one of the few breweries to: 1.  turn a profit in year one and 2. expand after 18 months.

As a writer, I am ahead of some of you. But am way behind the successes of many more of you. It's how things work. People write books and become successful,  working hard to write more books and become even more successful. I'm sure Ms. James has her next set of books ready as we speak, no?  You guys EARNED your place, just like the Boston Brewing Company, Yeungling, Shiner, Bells, Dog Fish Head, and all those guys did. Working hard, taking the steps, doing the time, and starting over again determined to craft quality and make it better every time.

I have some goals, sure. And one of them involves writing a mainstream, political, thriller set in the not so distant future when the wealthy upper class of women suddenly become infertile and the government takes over of the once natural process of procreation. A bit of a Handmaid's Tale/Logan's Run/Children of Men mash up if you will sans the creepy sex surrogate stuff. I am going outside my comfort zone with it and will shop it to some of those panty-dampening Big Dogs just to see if I can be heard.  However, lucky for me, I am getting heard by a few more, every day, and get up every morning determined to hit whatever stage I'm at with whatever book and whatever promotion and beer of the month and keep gathering them in. One reader and drinker at a time.

Don't give up. But don't let the success of others discourage you. It's tempting. I know. I've done it. (And I still can't get past That Table in Barnes & Noble so I just don't go there anymore).  But I've got my target acquired now and plan to hit that bullseye, once my dues are paid.

Shameless Promotional Moment: Healing Hearts, the launch novella for Decadent Publishing's Challenge Series has been receiving lots of great reviews. The most recent is here:

AND because I really do want to know the answer: Tell me what you do when you feel like all that you're doing (writing, revising, editing, submitting, revising, editing, promoting, writing) feels like a long slog to nowhere?  Because we ALL get that way....c'mon, give it up.

****all photos are the property of the author****


Sandy said...

Yes, Liz, we've all been there. I'm one of the ones behind you. Even though I've had three books and a novella e-pubbed it's been over a year since I've submitted anything else.

I voted for you at Love Romance Cafe.

M. S. Spencer said...

Liz--you make my day! I think that's the best post I've ever read--on any topic. But this one of course is particularly near & dear to my heart (writing, not brewing--thank God I'm only at the receiving end of that business). And I agree totally with everything you say. Now, can I have a cookie? :) Meredith

Liz said...

thanks guys and yeah Meredith---here is your cookie. Sandy. thanks for your support!

Liz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Melissa Keir said...

You are my goal these days. I want to be you...I know that someday it will happen if it is meant to be but in the mean time, I'll keep enjoying your work and wishing I had a tenth of your talent and drive.

Congrats on your many recent successes!

Molly Daniels said...

Same here Liz; I'm applying the 'slow and steady' approach; my first book was pubbed in 2009, 2nd in 2010; three more in 2011; three more in 2012; and still three or four more planned for this year. I figure if I dangle my books long enough in people's faces, year after year, name recognition will kick in, lol! And yes, my hubby would prefer one of my books to 'go viral', but don't want to be a flash in the pan author. I've seen a lot of authors release many books, then suddenly disappear. I'd rather be consistent year after year.

And I tried that Book-of-the-Month club (releases every month, not reading, lol!) once and it nearly wore me out! Don't know how people can find time to write during all that promotion!

And got my vote on the LRC poll too....:)

Nicole Morgan said...

I think I *may* have felt that way a time or two. Oh... Okay, so I have been there a lot! Great post! Now... did I hear there were cookies? :D

Liz said...

ahem: F$#@ cookies. here is a beer. It's 5 pm somewhere.

Cathy Brockman said...

I understand!1 i got so overwhelmed last year! I had a couple books started then got to blogging, interviewing joining groups (building platform I think its called) I got overwhelmed and fell right off that platform..luckily I survived the fall and have started a schedule with less goals with the main one to get a book done!! good luck Liz!

jean hart stewart said...

I'm publishing well but could use some reviews on my latest books. Been ignored there lately. One thing I know, you ignore whatever's bothering you and WRITE!

Liz said...

great advice Jean.

Paris said...

Congrats on the LRC nomination! You must be doing something right:)

Liz said...

thanks Paris. I have no doubt that I will not win the thing, I'm too new of a voice I'm guessing and don't have a big name contract with anyone but it's cool to be nominated for certain.

Marianne Stephens said...

Liz...your "voice" has been heard and your never can tell about LRC polls.
I've "been there" and stopped writing romance to try some nonfiction. I'm back to writing romance as soon as this kid's book I'm doing now is done.
I too get tired of the "only big names" being pushed. Many are well-deserved. But, some are no longer authors I'll read.
New voices/new publishers with different approaches to stories interest me. I won't hesitate to read new authors.
Sure, we'd all love that "pie-in-the-sky, big NY contract; but that's not a reality for most. Readers are becoming more savvy now in choices they make and will buy indie/small pubbed books.
Think positive and write what you love.

Liz said...

Oh, I am writing what I love Marianne without a doubt! I love pushing boundaries and even the haters and flamers I've collected for doing so (now that I know how to properly process and ignore them) are somewhat gratifying. one of the BEST things has been this group however, such support, top to bottom no matter what!

Janice Seagraves said...

Hi Liz,

You're the only one that I know who can compare book sales to beer sales, lol.

I know it seems like a hamster wheel sometimes, but I think you're on your way. Just keep doing what you are doing.


Carly Fall said...


Great post, and so true! You can't be worrying about everyone else, just keep doing what your readers like and measure your success by YOUR standards.
Is there any beer left?

Liz said...

Carly--You're late but yeah, there is ALWAYS Beer left #goblue #beatohio

Katalina Leon said...

I got to the party late, but I think your voice would lend itself very well to an edgy psycho-sexual thriller!
Go for it!

Cara Marsi said...

Liz, I understand perfectly what you're saying. I've been there, done that. Writing is a roller coaster.

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