Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Confessions of a Newbie Author

Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books for teens in lots of weird genres like, fantasy (Blood of Kings trilogy), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). Find Jill on FacebookTwitterPinterest, or on her author website.

After I signed my first book contract, I set to work marketing. I went ALL OUT. Truly, I was out of control, but I didn't know any better. I was new!

I did everything I could think of and more to market my first book. You can learn some of the [good] things I did by looking through my old blog posts here. The truth? Marketing consumed me. As did thinking about the fact that I now had a published book.

Basically, I thought about myself ALL THE TIME.

Why? Because I was terrified that I would fail. That my book would bomb. I wanted to do the best I could. And I desperately wanted people to love my book as much as I did. So, wherever I went---whoever I spoke to---in my head I was thinking, "I need to tell this person about my book! How can I find a way to bring it up and not look like a pompous jerk?"

Most the time, thankfully, I didn't bring it up.

But there was one time I went too far. I found a forum where people talked about books they liked. And I thought, "These people NEED to know about my book! How can I make use of this forum?"

So I made up a fake username, signed up for a membership, and wrote a post that raved about my own book.

Yep. I did that. Classy, I know. And I thought I was pretty clever too. Until I got an email from the forum moderator. It said that he had deleted my post because authors are not permitted to post about their own books.

I about died of humiliation and shame.

I still don't know how that computer genius knew I was the author. It wasn't THAT much of a raving post. I had tried to be subtle. It probably had something to do with my IP address. Who knows? It didn't really matter. What mattered was that I was instantly humbled. Why had I done such a thing? I had been blinded by ambition to the point of shamelessly plugging my own book. I couldn't believe I had sunk so low.

But it's true. I had.

I'd let fear overwhelm me. I didn't trust that my book would stand based on the amount of hard work I put into it. I was trying to control things by being manipulative.

It doesn't work. And it's SO not cool.

Since that humbling moment, I rarely ever plug my own books in person or online, with the exception of my personal website and social media accounts, which is where that stuff belongs, to a certain degree. Or unless it comes up naturally, for example, "Nice to meet you, Jill. What do you do for a living?" "Oh, I write books." "Really? What kind?" etc. But here's the lesson I learned really quickly back then: Yeah, do what you can to market yourself. But give up control and fear. Let it go. Move on. Trust that control and fear won't change a thing. So, don't let your thoughts be consumed with your book, whether you're afraid or the opposite, obsessed with your own awesomeness. Both are dangerous places to live.

Let your work speak for itself. If it sells wonderfully, great! If it bombs, take a look at any negative reviews to see where you might need to work on your craft for the next book. And if sales are simply mediocre, well, join the club. Few authors break out. The majority of us just keep writing new books as best we can. We develop a small group of loyal followers, and we write for them with all our hearts, thankful and blessed to have any readers at all.

Have you ever done something like this? You don't have to say what happened if you don't want to. I just want you to know that we've all been there. Even if an author never shamelessly plugged her own book online, the thought still ran through her mind at some point early on when that first book was coming out. These thoughts are normal. As are thoughts of jealousy and comparing ourselves to others. But that doesn't mean you should feed those thoughts. Catch them before they get too overblown in your mind and tell yourself, "No way! I'm not going to give in to the fear. I'm going to trust my writing to speak for itself."

Then keep on writing.

23 comments:

  1. That's good to think about, Mrs. Williamson. Thanks. :) Don't think I've had any issues with that thus far, but all the same...thank you for the warning and for being honest!

    (And by the way, By Darkness Hid IS awesome. xD)

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  2. Way to be honest and open with us, Mrs. Williamson. (I know Stephanie is alright with us using her first name. Which to you prefer?) It's really easy to think we need to do all this marketing stuff in our own power.

    I try to remember that ultimately God is Lord over everything, even my books. But that's hard to do sometimes. No one likes giving up control.

    Thanks for sharing!

    ~Sarah Faulkner

    www.inklinedwriters.blogspot.com

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    1. Yes, you are all welcome to call me Jill. I always think it's cute when you guys call me Mrs. Williamson, but then I feel old. Ha ha. I think that when I am old, I'll be Grandma Jill or something...

      And that is a very wise attitude, Sarah. It's easy some times, but hard other times. Ah... if only it were easy all the time!

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    2. LOL! Sorry! I have been raised to not call an adult by first name only. xD Even if it's the first name, it's got "Miss" or "Ms." in front of it. :P

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    3. No problem. You were raised right, Amanda! There are too many people who have no manners at all these days. :-)

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  3. Wow. Thanks for being so open with us anf sharing your fear. This post is a good warning and reminder of where control really lies. Thanks for always encouraging us to do our best... and then let go of the results!

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  4. Wow, it's really brave of you to share that. Thanks for the warning, Jill. I can see a publishing-crazed version of myself doing something similar. I guess we've all been there, even if just for a second.

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    1. Yeah, it was a bonehead moment for sure! :-P

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  5. Great post Mrs. Williamson! So far I am not even close to finishing my book yet but this is certainly something to think about. I have learned that as much as I like getting to take a peek inside other teen writers books, (I know, I'm a shameless snoop) I really shouldn't do it because it always makes me depressed. I think," Oh their writing sounds soooo much better than mine" or " Their book flows so much nicer than mine does." But I am slowly (very slowly) coming to realize that the way they write is not the way I write. I am a different person, I have a different writing style. And I need to learn to be happy with that. God gave me this gift. He gave me this writing style. And if He had wanted me to write like somebody else He would have given me that writing style, but He didn't. I just need to learn to be content and to not read other peoples book excepts until I can handle it. :)

    HP

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    1. I know that feeling too. I'm so glad you've come to that conclusion, HP! That's a great attitude to have. And it's very true. There is already a Rick Riordan and a John Grisham and a Nick Sparks and a Stephanie Morrill. Are we each need to be ourselves because there is only one of us. Unless you're a clone, but then Martyr would tell you that you're still unique. Ha ha.

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  6. Oh my goodness, thanks for telling me this. You just saved my life, *looks down at hands*. this is totally something I might have done!! :P Thank you, Mrs. Williamson!!!! :D

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    1. Ha ha. You're welcome, TW. It can be easy to get sucked into this kind of a thing if you aren't prepared. So I'm glad my mistake could be used to plant a few seeds of warning. :-)

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  7. Thanks so much for sharing, Jill. I have several similar "die of shame" moments, though none book related yet. Despite being very extroverted, so far I think I lean more towards needing an extra push to talk about my writing. It's hard to come up with natural ways to bring it up on my blogs or social media accounts.

    One of my favorite comments about marketing your own books came from either Rachelle Gardner's blog or the Books and Such blog. In any case, it suggested that authors look at marketing their book not as promoting themselves but on trying to put their writing in front of people who would genuinely enjoy and benefit from it. To look at it as a service to others instead of a service to self. That has really stuck with me and I hope it will be helpful when I start marketing my own books.

    Thanks again for sharing, Jill!

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    1. That's a good point, Leah. Marketing is never about promoting yourself, but spreading the word about a product. Authors are not products. We are people. But we tend to associate our value as a person with the success of our book, which isn't so good.

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  8. Wow! I want to get one of my books published, so these are great tips!

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  9. Mrs. Williamson,

    It's nice to know we've all been there. :) I just signed with a publishing company a month ago, and it's amazing how I can relate to this! Trying to reach the fine line between happily promoting my books and my services and talking about my book out of attention or fear has been a bumpy ride, but I've learned a lot from it. I don't believe it's wrong to be excited about getting published, but it becomes wrong when we take that excitement to an idolizing level. I believe that most of all, we authors need to aim to be real.

    Thanks so much for your post!

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  10. I totally understand the need to "get the word out"...great post! For me, though, I tend to hide that I write. Because I'm scared my writing sucks/no one will like it. XD It'll be interesting for me, in the future, actually admitting I write and learning to promote it.

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  11. It is incredibly tempting to shout from the rooftops about your shiny new book, but unfortunately I have done the same thing in my time. I think that is why I am so much better suited to being a ghost writer, we just have to keep ourselves to ourselves. This stops me making any more silly mistakes, also I am not a marketer so that is not what I want to do. I want to write.

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  12. It seems really common for everyone to think everyone else writers better, faster, more easily, etc ... than they do. You could probably ask two people their opinion of each other, and they would both think the other wrote better, faster, etc ... than they did. :P

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