Nasty Naysayers Beware

a-to-z-letters-nI’m my biggest critic. Neurotic thoughts often swirl with negativity when I think about myself -when I think about where I am now and where I want to be. The gap between my ideal “me” and the real “me” is wide. For me, writing is personal; my words are part of who I am. While my need for external validation is strong, I know that successful writers learn to tune out the naysayers and the haters.They set aside the rejections and move on.

Fear kept me from putting my words out there in the past; that fear of rejection and not being good enough. Yes, I write for myself, but the smile that comes with a positive comment or a great review of one my books is addictive. I indie-published two romance novels over that last year. I didn’t even try the traditional publishing route. For one I hate waiting and for another I didn’t want rejection to discourage me from my dreams. I did a lot of research before going the self-publishing route. I corresponded with and read the blogs of many romance authors who ditched their traditional contracts and re-published their back lists via self-publishing. These authors were succeeding and making more money than they had with their traditional contracts.  So in the end I decided in this new age of electronic books that I could reach more readers quicker as an indie author.Yet, still nagging the back of my mind  was the thought that I wouldn’t be a real “author” unless a traditional publisher published my books.

This notion led me to enter my first novel in Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award – the winner of which would get a publishing contract with one of Amazon’s publishing imprints for romances, it’s Montlake. You have no idea how elated I was when I found my “pitch” made the cut and my excerpt would be read by expert Amazon reviewers. A month later I read two glowing reviews from those experts and moved on to the quarter-finals. Out of 10,000 entries only 500 remained. I started to feel like a “real” author. I knew my chances of making the semi-finals was slim. Only 25 entries moved on to the next level and only five in the romance category. What excited me though was that a Publisher’s Weekly (PW) reviewer would read my entire novel and provide feedback.

This morning Amazon announced the semi-finalists. My book did not make the grade. Don’t get me wrong. I’m fine with that fact. I’m not complaining (much). What I wasn’t prepared for though, given the fact that my first-round comments were so positive and the majority of reviews from my readers were complimentary, was the harsh, borderline-nasty review my book received. I know the PW reviewer gave what he or she thought to be an honest critique, but it felt mean. I write contemporary romance, not suspense or erotica. Yet, the reviewer bashed the book for being too “unexciting and slow-paced” and for not having enough sex in it, saying it was more “sad than sexy.”  I guess it’s a good thing I wasn’t going for sexy.

I’m sure there’s a lesson in there somewhere. If anything, it made me realize I am a real author regardless of whether I have a traditional publishing contract or not. Being an indie author gives me the flexibility and control over what I write and when that I need. It also taught me that not everyone will like my books and that’s OK. Its find for someone to write a negative review so long as they aren’t nasty about it.

Walking On Sunshine….Oh Yeah!

A few weeks ago, a few days ago even, I was plagued with self-doubt. Yes, I love to write and tell stories. Writing is one of my passions in life. It’s what I want to do, what I’m compelled to do. But loving to do something and being passionate about something is not the same as being good at something. And, I am one of those people who likes to be good at what I do, and if I’m not I move on. I try to think of it more as knowing my limits as opposed to being a “quitter.” Practice makes perfect, hasn’t always rung true in my life. After eight years of piano lessons, I knew I’d never be a concert pianist. Two years of gymnastics, two years of CYO volleyball, eight years CYO basketball and an athlete I’ll never make. Yet, writing was something I always something I thought I was good at. The words flowed through my fingers naturally, effortlessly. My talent. So why the sudden, “am I good enough” self-doubts?

Last fall I blogged about my “dream deferred.”  Throughout my life, I’ve taken a lot of the “safe” paths. I took the writing jobs that provided and still provide and steady pay check and benefits. Those are all good things. I get paid to write, which is wonderful, but I wanted more. So I started this blog as a creative writing outlet. But, the big dream was to write and publish a novel. And in May, I fulfilled that dream with my contemporary romance, called Take A Deep Breath. When I finished the book, when I saw it the Amazon store, when I held the paper back in my hands for the first time, I felt wonderful. An author at last!

The problem? No one was reading my blog. No one was reading my book. Why? The word haunted me. Why? Was I just a wanna be? Did I even have any talent as a writer? Sure my family and best friends, reassured me. But the niggling pessimist inside me, kept saying, “They just don’t want to hurt your feelings. They’re just being nice…” I started wondering if I was just wasting my time trying to publish my novel, the blog and should just “move on.”

And then, three things happened. The first my best friend, who is in marketing, offered to help me with my marketing efforts. She sent me a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) and had me fill it out. It gave me a lot to contemplate. She is working on completing the SWOT and giving me some other ideas. The second thing that happened was I read a novel called “Forged In Fire” by Trish McCallan. At the end of her novel she asked readers to write a review, lend the book, etc. and that she would send those that did a copy of her next book for free. What a great idea! I loved her book and wrote the review. I emailed her afterwards and told her about my book. She gave me some great ideas about marketing and told me about a Yahoo group just for indie romance writers. The last thing that happened was I attended my first Maumee Valley Romance Writers of America meeting and met some very successful and inspiring romance authors.

This weekend everything culminated for me. I added a similar blurb about writing a review to my book, submitted it to the Kindle Select program, and  offered the book for free on Amazon. I spread the word about the book via Facebook and Twitter and the Yahoo group. Perhaps the biggest difference, though, was that I notified Michael Gallagher about my book, and he included my book in his Free Kindle Books and Tips blog. Readers started to download my book. As the number of downloads grew larger, so did my smile. No, I wasn’t am not making any money, but people were downloading my book! Then within 24 hours of the first downloads, I started getting reviews. Wonderful comments and 5 star reviews! Readers liked my book. People that didn’t even know me liked my book and wanted to read more!

I know external validation isn’t the end all and be all. I know I don’t need someone to tell me, “I’m good enough,” but it sure helps!  For the next couple of days, I am going to bask in this success. I know if no one else reads this book or leaves a positive review or even if they leave a bad one, that I am good enough.  And so today…I am walking on sunshine! Oh Yeah! And tomorrow, I’m working on my next book (already in progress)!

BTW – if you are reading this blog before midnight Pacific Time on July 31, 2012, you can still download Take A Deep Breath for free from the Amazon Kindle store.