By Patricia Zick @PCZick
As I read about how successfully to market my books, I keep coming back to one word of advice: WRITE. To make a name for myself as a writer, I must always remember to keep writing. When I look at my discouraging book sales, instead of hanging my head, I must keep my fingers flying over the keyboard.
And when I write, I must write great stuff. Or at least, I must write pieces that satisfy me. It’s always true that as writers we must determine who the audience is, but that can be carried too far if we forget our No. 1 audience is the person cranking out the words.
For so long, I wrote with far too much focus on audience. When I worked as a journalist who depended on a paycheck, it was essential. When I worked for a state agency as a public relations director, there was no choice but to write for everyone but myself. But as a novelist and blogger, I am freed from some of those constraints.
When I published my first novel in 2000, I think I expected instant success. The day I sat in a bookstore next to a life-size poster of Harry Potter the same year J.K. Rowling became a household name and sold one book during a two-hour signing, I realized success was not knocking anywhere near my door. I wrote more novels, always chasing that nebulous dream of “success” and writing for that and not myself. I didn’t know what success meant, except as described by others.
“Send the book to Oprah,” friends said.
I did send five books of that first book to Oprah and her producers. That’s the last time I wasted my money so foolishly – even more foolish than playing $20 on a slot machine at the casino.
I gave up on publishing in 2007 and became a cynic about my chances for success as an author. I still wrote fiction, but put a first draft away in a drawer and actually finished another novel all the way through the editing process. Then I put it away in a drawer. And I continued to write for other people in a stilted, non-creative way. If you’ve ever had to write a news release in less than an hour with four scientists and the director of a state agency breathing down your back and shouting edits as you type, you’ll never understand how my creativity left me for a few years. It’s not recommended, unless you treat the job as a research position for your next novel – which I did. Trails in the Sand is the result of that internship. My next novel uses some of my research time as well. I probably have ten novels inside me based on that experience.
I’ve changed as I’ve moved into this new phase of my writing career. I’m no longer working for a paycheck. I’m working for myself. It’s been a strange transition, not always a comfortable one, but I’m growing into it.
I realized how far I’d come when I finished the final edits on Trails in the Sand. I read the last paragraph of the book and found myself crying. The story moved me. I realized in that moment, nothing else mattered. It didn’t matter what the reviewers said or if I became an overnight sensation or if I sold more than a dozen books. In that moment, I was as successful as any author can ever be. I pleased myself with my writing and knew that I’d written the book I wanted to write.
That profound moment forced me to make some changes in my day. Instead of writing at the end of the day after marketing and dealing with social media, it’s now the first thing I do. Writing takes precedence over everything else because above it all, I am a writer.