On Writing New Books
“I don't think you have time to waste not writing because you are afraid you won't be good at it.” - Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird
It's officially been a year since I released Deep Cries Out into the world. A friend recently asked me how my sales were doing and I confessed that I hadn't really tried to sell them since shortly after they were released. I've sold a handful of signed copies here and there, but ultimately, I think I just stopped believing in that book. I didn't know if it was good, in spite of all the wonderful e-mails and reviews I received. But ultimately, I stopped believing that I could be successful at writing. I barely promoted it. I never had a marketing plan and just kind of threw it at the wind and hoped it would do well.
About a month after its release, I had my first panic attack and we all know what's happened since then. A full year of testing, ER trips, doctors' appointments ... As a result, I lost my drive. At some point, I decided to stop writing for people and focus on getting better at it. You can only take your natural gifts so far, and I realized that my writing, while good, was far from where I wanted it to be. So I bought a few books and I've learned and improved and am kicking myself for waiting so long to let other people teach me how to be better. Pride is a powerful poison.
When my battle with anxiety and panic attacks started to lighten and the fog that it created began to lift, I sat down and wrote down everything that had happened to me that year. I wasn't trying to write it for anybody, I just needed to get it out. I was three sessions into therapy and my brain was exploding with realizations and the dots were connecting and I was finally understanding what I was going through. I needed to sit down and write everything out, because that's what I do.
Thirty minutes after I typed the first word, my hands were shaking, my heart was racing, and I was shamelessly cry-laughing. I took a break to compose myself (and look at my phone to ignore the people staring at me) and texted my husband, "I think I have something here." I wasn't intending to write a book outline that day, but when I sat down and read what was there, I knew what it was.
I've been working on it for a few months now and the process has been so different than with Deep Cries Out. That book was, in many ways, disappointing for me. I am proud of it, but it wasn't what I wanted to write. It was just all I had in me. Deep Cries Out came from a very dark and broken place in me. This book is different. It comes from healing and perspective. It's insightful and helpful and I'm just really excited about it.
I've been deliberating about how I should go about publishing. Self publishing is a WHOLE THING. It is work, but you get to keep most of the profit and it gets released a lot sooner. On the other hand, it's been a life long dream of mine to be traditionally published. So I don't know. At this point, I don't have enough sales of Deep Cries Out to impress a publisher. An editor told me once that unless you have at least 3,000 sales to not even include that in your proposal. I've barely sold 1,000 copies, so. Not really impressive, but not really a deal breaker either.
If I decide to go the traditional route, I have a lot of work to do to convince a publisher that I can sell books. Two years ago, it would've been easy, but now that I've all but completely disconnected from the internet, I'm kind of starting from scratch. I need more facebook followers, more monthly readers, more email subscribers, more comments on my blog posts. It's a lot of work to prove that people will buy what you sell. I don't like playing the marketing game, but that's what it takes.
If I self publish, I have to invest money I don't have into hiring editors and graphic designers, purchasing books and marketing materials, and babysitters for my kids. Once the book is finished, I become a full time marketer, something that I'm pretty good at ... except when I have to market myself. It's a lot easier to convince someone to read someone else's book, but when promoting my own, my style has been ... less convincing. "Buy my book! Or don't. You might hate it. I won't tell you what to do." Either way, I have to decide if I'm ready to commit myself to this thing. The more I get into the business side of writing, the more I realize it's mostly just convincing people to buy your brand and I just don't wanna! I was about that life for two years and it drained me and my desire to write.
So that's where I'm at now. Writing, reading, learning, questioning my abilities and wondering what I'm even here for. But I hear that's what all the best writers do, so I guess I'm on the right track.