(My blog revisited from October 2011)
A lifetime ago, it seems, I sold products for a kitchen ware company at home parties. During one of the training sessions a woman said something that stuck with me forever. I took that advice and applied it to my life from that day forward. If you say it's so...then it shall be. Now I've taken liberty with that saying a bit, but what she said was this. "If you want to be a director, then call yourself a director." Hmmm. That made sense. If you put your thoughts into place you'd eventually be so comfortable you'd be there.
So I set forth to be a director in this company. I thought like one. I acted like one. I worked like one. And...I became a future director. Okay, so I missed the mark before I moved on to something else, but it worked. I thought like a director and I felt like I was on the right track.
Take that same mentality to my martial arts training. From the moment you step on that floor with a white belt tied around your waist you're instructed to act like a black belt. If a black belt kicks above the belt, then you need to work at your kicks until you can kick like a black belt. A black belt has discipline, courtesy, integrity, self worth, and the list goes on. They list for you all the good qualities that had you signing up to begin with. With every belt you think more and more like a black belt. And one day, you receive your black belt and you realize all along you've been a black belt, because you thought like one.
Now, I'm a writer. (Yes... a writer with a 2nd degree black belt!)
So to be a writer I must act like one. I must take seriously the time that it takes to put together a book. I must name it. Carefully construct it. I must love it. But above all I must realize that a writer would not argue that they are wasting their time. An author would say they are working.
I had gotten that part down very well. I'd been writing since I was 12. I got my first request at 16. But until I boarded that plane for San Francisco to attend my first RWA conference, I'd only been dreaming about being a writer. Until I actually walked the walk among authors, some big, some not. I hadn't truly convinced myself that I was in fact a writer. But something happens to you when you sit in a room with Nora Roberts. When Debbie Macomber walks across the room and introduces yourself to you and shakes your hand, you're IN! When you're walking down the hall and taking pictures of the line at the signing (which the you eventually get to take part in) and a woman laughs and joins you. You walk down the hall and she introduces herself and says, " I'm Christina Dodd" you think, this is for real! I am an author! And in my head I no longer waste my time writing. This is my career. I am a writer.
You would have thought it ended there...nope! There's always more.
Now I'm a publisher! I'm out of my element and people have decided to join me. I have 26 authors, besides myself, who depend on me. I have 6 editors who are anxiously awaiting the next great book to edit and the next author to help prepare for stardom. I have a deadline calendar. I have a daily ToDo list. I have a bank account. And I have a company name. All of this is because I thought I was a publisher and I made it so. Some things come easier. This decision to be a publisher was easy. The process of learning continues, but I'm excited. When I wake up and get dressed I think, "if I were at conference how would I dress as a publisher?" And I act on that. Because I want to be successful with it, I take it very seriously.
So, what's next? What shall I say so that it will become? My karate master gave me the answer the oneday. He said, "When can I start telling people I promoted a New York Times Bestselling Author to black belt?" and I smiled and said, "Say it now. Because if you say so... then it shall be."
What do you want in your life? Start putting yourself there and it will come.
Music is my muse; Silence is my style
Growing up I was lucky enough to have both my grandmothers in my life. Both women were always home, but that is where ALL similarities ended. One thing I think about when I think about my grandmothers is that my mother's mother would spend her entire day alone in her house in silence. (And still does) There is never a radio on and the TV doesn't come on until Jeopardy. My father's mother, on the other hand, never ever turned her TV off! It ran almost 24/7.
I laugh when my mother says she has the TV on for noise. I get that. When I'm folding laundry I turn on NCIS for the noise. But when I work...there is silence.
People ask me all the time how I can work with 5 sons running a muck. Somewhere I have learned to tune out the chaos and get my writing done. But when they are at school, and I have the house to myself...there is silence.
I don't listen to a radio, iTunes, Pandora...you name it. There is no TV on for noise. I can sit at my computer for six straight hours and not have another sound, but the sounds I make. (I do admit to having conversations. What good writer doesn't?)
Now, that's not to say music isn't important. When I run I notice that if a certain song comes on I run faster or I slow down. Very powerful. And in the car...I can't stand to have it quiet (most the time.) Music feeds me. I've written more than one book off of no more than ten words in a song. I don't write the book off of the meaning of the song, but the words spark something. Yes, I wrote a whole book off of a line that talked about tapping the brakes to show the tail lights!
So, music is very important in my life. I live it, I breathe it, I enjoy it. But when it comes to working...silence is my style.
What's your style?
You are a new author. You wrote a book and you were lucky enough to have it published or you published it yourself. CONGRATULATIONS!!! You have done an amazing thing and it's only going to get better from here! But first you're going to sweat it out. You're going to cry, scream, and get mad as hell. Then you're going to have to go back and keep working. Why? Because if you haven't been on reality TV making a fool of yourself, you haven't won an Oscar, and you haven't been naked on the pages of some magazine...no one knows who you are!
Now don't let that discourage you. But think about it. Who knows you're going to put a book out? Your parents, siblings, aunts, uncles...you get my drift. And when they all buy your book you've sold maybe 10 copies that day. And this is a sad fact.
I'm not going to say that it happens to all of us. But yeah, for the most part this is how the day goes. You've made it to be something bigger in your head, but let me tell you in the nearly 4 years of publishing new authors I have only seen a couple books go bestseller on release day from unknown authors. (And all but one were in obscure categories.)
On my last release day I found it most interesting that new authors were coming to me to ask about my success. 7 of the last Keller Family series books have gone bestseller before they were released. I'll tell you, that never gets old!!! But when I was a new author (mind you I had one of those publishers everyone warns you about...and she did nothing but put the book up on her website then tell me she was surprised I didn't sell any...sigh...I digress) no one knew me either. It took me busting my butt everyday to get the word out there just the slightest bit. And it took me writing and writing and writing more books. People want to say, "Oh, cool, she has another book!" The Merger was my 21st published book in 3 1/2 years. That's right, I didn't stop with just one book and hope it was going to do all the work. I kept working.
I did everything I could to splash social media...in a personal way. I made friends. I connected with readers. I was personable and I think that alone wins over some votes. With the indie movement at such a height readers are finding now that there are some talented authors out there and they can connect with them. Authors who hide behind their craft and don't come out for air...I feel they are selling themselves short. Just to chat on your Facebook page once a day isn't a big deal...but it is to a reader.
The small publishing house I own is a work in progress. Every author teaches us something--some good--some bad. But we learn. Our marketing department is forever in process. The marketing director is fueled by finding the right fit for all authors. But the hard and horrible fact remains. If the world doesn't know you're coming nothing is going to sell.
Okay, this post is depressing! But the underlying fact is you have to keep working. Fine, book one is out there. People are going to find it. Get book two and three and four out there. Do it in a timely manner and do it well. In the not to far future someone who read one will read two and then three. They will tell their friends and so on. Book four might just launch on the bestseller list and isn't that what we all want? But remember, book one...that one is for you. Still enjoy the moment, just remember that you still have some work ahead of you, but dang it you did good!!! You wrote a book! You got it published!!! There are still people out there saying "I'd like to write a book someday." Hold your head high and thank mom for buying your book! Now...get to work. One book needs another and you ARE bestseller material!
Muffin Tops are In!
You’re thinking…really? I know, as a child of the 80’s, I had a smokin’ body with thanks from plenty of aerobics and sit-ups, well hidden under my two layered shirt, skirt with leggings, and three pairs of socks. Fashion- maybe. Lack of self confidence? More than likely.
Now I look around at these girls, and they’re wearing minimal fabric on their bodies, and I’m not sure they know what a sit-up is. That muffin top roll is prominently displayed for the world to see. But what else do I notice about these girls with muffin tops of all sizes? I notice them walking with their chins up, and shoulders back as if they could care less that my mouth is wide open and I’m shocked at their appearance? They have confidence, oodles of it, and what a beautiful thing.
I think growing up, and growing older, self-confidence is something that has been hard for me to grasp hold of. I can’t even begin to tell you anything I was confident about before I was twelve. In junior high I was a good student. Straight A’s with that one pesky B blocking my perfect GPA. (But just for the record it was an 88%) In high school, I was a good vocalist. In fact, my professional voice coach told me I had a voice of a classily trained opera singer. It usually took 20 years to accomplish that kind of voice and I was 10 years ahead of most people. What I didn’t have was the confidence to carry though.
I never aced an audition, because I didn’t have the confidence to do it my way. I’d take the easy route. I didn’t have the confidence to try things in college or get more involved, because I just might fail if I got that far.
I never submitted my manuscript because someone might just turn it down.
KaBoom! Hit with the grenade of truth!
If you don’t have confidence in yourself, well you’re hiding your muffin top. How can you be a successful writer if you won’t let someone read your work? Guess what. I got shot down, over and over and over again. It hurt. When someone tells you, “This is so bad I wouldn’t even consider it if came across my desk,” you tend to shed a few tears. Or, “If I buy you a box of commas will you use them?” (This is classic. This was a contest and those two comments paired with someone who gave me no comments and a very high score. Helpful, huh?) This tends to make you hide your muffin top under layers and layers of rewrites.
Then one day you decide you’re worthy of the tighter shirt. You have nothing to hide. You attend a local RWA meeting. You get a critique partner, actually two and one happens to be a retired language arts teacher. You learn that you use and a awful lot. You begin to understand that you shift POV much too often. When a critique partner says, “This isn’t making sense to me,” you realize that you haven’t looked at that story. You hid it, because you didn’t want to show it to the world yet. You have to revise.
Once you expose that muffin top, you don’t care who is looking. You push your shoulders back and walk with your chin high. Then you begin to feel the power. That first person asks for a partial manuscript, which leads to a full. You have Beta readers who come back and ask for more. The book becomes reality and people come to you crying because what you wrote moved them so deeply and changed their lives. You become someone asked to attend signings, be on committees, and the glorious part – you’re asked to write more books.
Suddenly you realize you’re showing off your muffin top in a bikini! You’re totally exposed! But your head is high, shoulders pushed back, and you’re feeling that self confidence like you never have before.
So I wonder, who will those girls who bare their muffin tops become? Will they take over the world someday in their tight shirts? Perhaps. Until then, I’ll hide my literal muffin top under a peasant shirt, but keep my chin high, shoulders back, and I’ll keep writing because that’s what I love to do!
POST ORIGINALLY POSTED ON THE WARRIOR PRINCESS ROMANCE WRITER BLOG ON 7/31/11
Bernadette Marie is an Internationally Bestselling author of Contemporary Romance as well as a mother of 5, and owner of 5 Prince Publishing and Illumination Author Events. Read her full bio here.