Friday, 24 June 2011

From crippling self-doubt to ultimate self-belief - what a difference a day makes...

I love writing.  I also love going to Take That concerts and pretending I'm 23 again but if I did it every day I'd be exhausted and start to get bored.  Which is why yesterday was a bit of a turning point for me.  And I'll tell you why...
I started writing - seriously writing - just over a year and a half ago, after deciding that it was now or never if I wanted to follow that dream of becoming a writer.  In that time I've completed three novels and spent copious amounts of time researching and contacting suitable agents, stressing over the impossible task of writing a-one-side-of-A4 synopsis (you try doing that for a book that spans 20 years!) and then feeling that disappointment kick you in the stomach every time a rejection e-mail comes through.  You take the (very rare) advice that some agents give you and you work on that, send out your next book in the hope that that is the one which will gain their attention but it's never to be. It certainly wasn't for me.  The rejections kept coming and I'd started to lose all faith in myself and my writing.  I'd loved my books when I was writing them, and I loved them once they were edited, edited again, then finally finished.  But with so many rejections for all of them it's understandable why so many authors begin to wonder if it'll ever happen.  And that's how I felt.  It was beginning to feel like an impossible and thankless task, that I was wasting my time concentrating on something that was never going to happen.
And then a friend sent me a link all about eBook self-publishing, and all of a sudden I had a new found energy for writing again.  I had a purpose, something to aim for.  So, I set about re-editing my completed novels and quickly published two of them on Amazon.  At first the excitement of finally seeing your books out there for real, actually there and for sale, it's quite exhilirating.  But it's a short-lived high, believe me.  Because, as I've mentioned before in a previous post, self-publishing also means self-marketing and that is where another seemingly impossible task and a hell of a lot of hard work really begins.
So, I've published two books, they've sold a handful each in just under 4 weeks but in those 4 weeks I've been through so many emotions, so many highs and lows I can't begin to tell you.  Ranging from utter excitement and deluded expectations to crashing lows and a complete loss of faith and lack of any motivation.  Once again my love of writing had waned, given way to thoughts of just giving it all up as a bad job and forgetting that dream I'd carried with me for so long.
'No Matter What'. My first eBook.

Why?  Because all I've done since I published that first book just under a month ago is look at marketing strategies, think of ways to get my name known, try and work out how to sell these books that I worked so hard on because, at the end of the day, I wrote them to be read.  And the fact they're just sitting there and nobody's buying them isn't because they aren't any good, it's because I'm not marketing them well enough.  So I became obsessed almost with eBook marketing.  All day every day I've been consumed with it, my head spinning with things I've read, information I've tried to take on board, and I think it all came to a head this week.  I'm not ashamed to say I had a mini-meltdown round about Thursday lunchtime, just as 'Bargain Hunt' was starting.  No, yesterday was not a good day for me.  I was on edge, probably a little crazy at times, and everything - as far as I was concerned - was pointless.  Writing was pointless, researching anything was pointless because I just couldn't do it, I'd lost it basically.  The self-doubt was, indeed, crippling.  I was questioning everything about myself and my writing.  Was I good enough?  Were my books good enough?  Would people ever want to read anything I wrote?  And getting into a Facebook discussion with somebody who basically thinks any form of self-publishing is Satan's tool probably wasn't the best idea but I wasn't in a good place yesterday afternoon!  And it was like a red rag to a bull when she asked me if I'd considered "improving my writing" by joining a writer's club.  No, I hadn't considered it and I won't be doing so any time soon.  I'm not saying my writing is perfect - whose is?  As writers won't we always question our own work, I mean, I've edited all my books God knows how many times and I know if I was to read them through again I'd still find something I could change so there has to come a point when you just have to leave well alone - but I don't want to join a writer's club, and that's just a personal choice, for personal reasons.  To be also told that authors who self-publish only have a "one in ten million" chance of making it was also a comment that didn't sit well with me, not because it wasn't true but because thinking that the odds are any better once you're signed with an agent would be incredibly foolish.  To begin with, getting an agent in itself, as I've already mentioned is an uphill struggle of mammoth proportions so I'd like this person to come back to me when she's found one to represent her and then tell me how easy it was.  And secondly, once you have that agent there is no guarantee that your books will even get published let alone sell.  I read an interesting blog yesterday (whilst having a cup of tea and 3 packets of chocolate digestives, always good for meltdowns!) by an author who had several agents, and a suitcase full of problems with all of them.  They couldn't manage to market her books or find a publisher for her and when they did the books just weren't selling.  The agents then either just "disappeared" or refused to contact her and give her any help at all.  So she got rid of the agents, turned to eBook self-publishing, and sold more books and made more money than she ever did with an agent.
Now, I know this is not the norm, and this particular author mentioned nothing about how she marketed her own books once she was doing it all alone (which I would have been very interested to know about) but what her blog did do was give me a little glimmer of hope.  And, believe me, I needed that glimmer of hope more than anything.  I had so much negativity floating around me yesterday even the dog was keeping well away. 
'Too Much Trouble in Paradise'. My second self-published eBook.
But I still wasn't feeling in any way positive about anything, even after switching the laptop off for the day I still couldn't switch off my brain.  I still had God knows how many things on my mind and I did not appreciate my husband's comment about how he thought I was becoming more bitter as each day passed because I wasn't selling millions of books!  Bit harsh I thought, considering I hadn't done anything to provoke that comment, I was just trying to watch a particularly explosive episode of 'Come Dine With Me' and minding me own business.  It also wasn't true.  I am not becoming more bitter as each day passes because I'm not selling millions of books.  I don't expect to sell millions of books, but I would like to sell some.  I would like people to read what I've written ebcause that's the whole reason I went into this in the first place.  But it was that (uncalled for) comment from my husband that kind of brought me back down to earth with a bump.  It was the turning point, the thing that made me ignore 'Eastenders' and instead think of just what it is that I want to achieve from publishing my own work as eBooks.
You see, what had happened yesterday was that I'd burnt myself out almost.  I'd come to a point where I was just going round and round in circles and achieving nothing because I was pushing myself far too hard, and expecting far too much from myself far too soon.  I published my books under 4 weeks ago, and I've sold some, it's not like none have sold.  But somewhere along the line I'd started expecting more of myself than was necessary, and I suddenly realised that I didn't have to be marketing myself all day every day to the point where I was starting to annoy people and put them off my books rather than make them want to read them.  I'd turned into this crazy-deluded-eBook-author and all of a sudden writing had stopped being fun; it had staterd to become a chore.  And that was something I had never wanted to happen.  I love writing.  I love that I can do it every day if I want to, but I'm not sure doing it every day is always the best idea.  Same as spending every day marketing and promoting is also not the best idea.  A happy mix of both is the way to go, and why I couldn't see that before I have no idea.  Well, I do actually.  I'd just been taken over by the need to get people to notice my books and read my stories because for so long that is all I've wanted.  But what I have to realise is that this is a marathon, not a sprint (the old analogies are always the best!).  Things are not going to happen overnight.  Things are going to be slow, and I have to get used to that.  I do everything at a million miles an hour in life but this is one thing I cannot rush.  Slow and steady, and hopefully I'll get some results.  I'm not expecting to be the next JK Rowling, I'm not expecting to become a million-selling author (won't knock it if it happen though); all I want is for my name as an author to be known, and for my books to be read.  And it won't happen without me putting in some hard work, but burning myself out and turning into a crazy, gibbering wreck because I'm trying to do it all in a matter of weeks, well, that won't help anything.  Least of all me. 
So, yesterday was a bad day, an horrendous day, but a day that probably needed to happen in order for me to gain some focus - something that has evidently been missing for me since this all started.  I'll take the weekend to think about a proper and sensible plan of action as far as marketing and promoting my book is concerned and stop steam-rollering into everything with no idea of what I'm doing or where I'm going.  I'll also start doing some serious writing again.  Because that's what's got lost amongst all this marketing craziness.  I'd lost my love of writing, and writing is what I love.  That's why I'm doing all of this in the first place.
So I'll continue to keep on pushing my books, and I'll continue to write more.  But I'll continue to do both at a sensible pace, and not wish for the world.  Because that way, anything and everything that happens will be a bonus.

Follow michellebetham on Twitter

1 comment:

  1. I hear you Michelle. Ignore the doubters, take a step back and try to just enjoy a little writing again. You've got bogged down in all the marketing stuff and probably need to just get back to doing what you love best.....writing novels that make people feel good.
    I love your blogs, I feel as though I'm coming along on the journey with you a little bit and I hope you continue to update them.Chin up girl and you keep heading in the direction you feel best,don't let negative folks put you off your stride.

    ReplyDelete