A few weeks ago I was presented with the opportunity to speak to a group of teenagers about my career as an author. I was actually taken aback. What the hell was I going to say to a group of teenagers about my career as an author? I had to take a step back and look at what that really meant. Lots and lots of hard work. Pay checks that barely can pay my electricity bill sometimes, and one big one that allowed us to move forward with buying a 100% financed house (because there is still costs despite that 100% there). My main pain behind thinking about this talk was how I could make it inspiring that my career as an author is a constant struggle–a battle over who I am as a person and balancing that with who I am inside of the pages I write. That as a Amazon Bestseller, I sold 5,000 books in a year and made a half of that amount in a pay check. That’s right, because distributors make 70% of what I list a book for. *cringe*
So I started thinking about how I was going to go about this, and then like so many things, I stopped thinking. That’s what being an author is about–stopping the thought process and just letting go. So I had a few talking points and then I just took it from there.
How many of you are writers?
That’s how I started the conversation, because as a trainer at the bank, I know that the way to kick off a good solid meeting is with a question. It makes you pay attention. A few kids raised their hands.
How many of you want to be authors?
Of course, all the hands stayed up. I smiled, and swept my hand across the room.
Each one of you is one singular step from being an author. That’s right. One step. First, you need to think about what you want to accomplish as author.
What do you want to accomplish as an author?
Do you want to be the next Stephanie Meyer?
At one point, I did too–or the next Colleen Hoover, or Tamarra Webber…or any of those self-pubbed indies who have blossomed in what seemed to be an overnight phenom. I started thinking about those authors the other day–what were their circumstances that set them on that path? While this is a general statement, many of those authors were stay at home moms. Yeah, I’d love to be an author mommy– but they already were staying at home. They already had a significant other who was bringing home the money that allowed them to stay home. Being an author who is successful was a bonus for many of them. I don’t have that. My husband and I both have successful careers. I have an amazing day job–one where I was promoted twice in one year. I like my day job, so no, while I still dream of being any of those authors with success–I don’t aim to set that as my primary goal. That’s not why I’m an author (anymore).
Do you want to a major publisher to come find you, or to get an agent?
I’d love for the first to happen, because I have no want for ‘getting an agent’. I don’t like querying. I can write a proposal to the CEO of a 1.4 billion dollar business and pitch things to the Senior Management like no tomorrow. I still don’t like querying. Can I be picky? Sure can, because this is my author career.
Do you just want to reach people with your writing?
This is the reason I write. Yeah, I’d love to be Meyer or have Little Brown come knocking on my door, but that is not why I chose this. It is not what I concentrate on. As an author I concentrate on building the brand of me–and writing quality novels that touch people–even if it’s only 50 people. I do it the way I want to do it, and I do it when I can.
What do each and every one of these goals have in common?
Social Media! And the kids sitting in front of me have an advantage over me–even as young as I am. I wasn’t practically born into SM. Granted, it was just picking up when I was a teenager, but I wasn’t one of those addicted teens. At 19 I was married. At 20 I was working full time and going to college. At 23 I was still working full time, published a book and still in college. At 25 I was an Amazon Bestseller– Love Exactly sold 600 copies over night. At 26 I’ve been asked to replace the Director of Marketing at the bank I work at as the Marketing Project Leader, and I have yet to replicate the Love Exactly sales–but I do have seven published novels to my name, 700 ratings on Goodreads and 300 reviews. What does my Marketing Project Leader position have to do with SM? HA! Everything. I’m responsible for the brand of the bank, just like I am responsible for the brand of me as an author–and right now, that starts with Social Media. From the beginning of marketing to now, word of mouth has been the core reason for success of a company. Social Media both makes this easier and harder to accomplish at the same time. Over 6,000 tweets go out every minute. How does one stand up against that? That’s what we all have to figure out. To be a stand out brand we must rise against the virus that is tweeting, and become the virus that spreads the most. Going viral. That’s what made Hoover, Webber and Hocking. So, no matter what reason you want to be an author, you have to un-hobitize yourself. Get out of your cave, bridge, or whatever you’re hiding under. Find the best social media outlet for you, and master it. It’s better to have one or two platforms and master them then be on all of them.
That’s my next step. Master what I do not fondly call Failbook. Twitter is give or take for me, since 6,000 tweets means I have to have a somewhat spammy presence to make a dent, which doesn’t lay well with me. It does help connect with readers and other authors, so I will continue to use it that way.
Facebook. I will conquer you.
What else is important in the journey of being an author? Find yourself as a writer and stick to it.
I love Rowling and Austen, but I sure as hell don’t write like them. Apparently, according to I Write Like.com– I write like Margaret Atwood. She’s a spec fiction writer. Maybe we write alike, but she’s not competition since we don’t write the same stuff. I don’t even have an interest in any of her titles. So what inspires me if it’s not the writing of someone?
Music. It’s as simple as that, and as callus and selfish as this sounds–me. I inspire me. I sit down and write and then I read it, and I love the feeling when I think Crap, I wrote that. That’s one of the best feelings in the world. The other best feeling in the world — when someone emails you and tells you that you made them step back and think about their life and how they should cherish it.
That’s the reason I’m a writer and author. My goal is simple. I want to touch people.
Is it easy? Far from it, but the gratification and amazement in that one email is worth months of emotional turmoil, endless marketing and sometimes feeling like an epic failure. That one email means I’m not. You as a reader have that power. So, I’ll add this one pitch here, go review that book you just finished and loved. If that author is like me, you’re the reason she does this.
I don’t know if I inspired those kids, but I felt good at the end of it–that I had made something that is a constant struggle for me sound amazing without sugar coating the fact that sometimes it’s not. I also talked about how my day job is pretty epic.
I love what I do during the day. I love what I get to do when I come home at night.
I get the best of both worlds, but hey, Little Brown, I’m open for offers!