Random Thoughts and Comments 20230219

I submitted another of the cozy audiobooks for approval the other day so I’m back to the “what next” stage where I read a few books and fiddle with numbers before launching into the next project. This always generates random thoughts about various things.


First, it occurred to me the other day after I wrote that post about my pre-writing career progression versus writing that maybe that “job” mindset could be useful when applied to writing.

Years ago I remember a woman on Kboards who had done well enough with YA romcoms who decided she was going to move into a completely new genre. And at the time I thought, “why?” because she was doing better than most people there at the time.

But just like sometimes people need to move to new jobs to get better opportunities or pay or challenge, sometimes authors need to think about “quitting” their current writer job and moving to a new one.

I know more than one author who started writing one thing and moved to another over time and did better at the second genre or topic. A friend of mine had been trying to juggle two very different pen names the last couple years but realized that it was time to let go of that older name and just focus on the new one that was doing so much better.

As writers we (universal we, not me particularly) have a fan base that would like us to keep doing the exact same thing we’ve been doing. But that’s really no different in a sense from an employer who would really like you to keep working for them. I guess the only difference is the employer accepts that you moved on to something new, whereas the fans send the occasional “when’s the next book coming out” email.

And, of course, with writing someone can circle back to an old series twenty-plus years later. So in writing no door is ever permanently closed. (Not even when an author dies, really, as evidenced by all the names that have been continued by ghost writers or co-writers.)

But it seems to me that maybe writers should be better at letting go of what doesn’t work.

In a sense I’ve done some of that. Three of my pen names are basically dead. The content is still out there but I don’t advertise them at all. Occasionally I might do a new cover, but that’s more the fun of doing covers than anything. I also did do some short audio on two of them last year as a build up to doing the full-length novels.

They bring in a trickle of money, about $500 in profit last year, but at some point I decided that my time was better spent moving forward than trying to bring everything I’d ever written along with me. There are only so many hours in a day and letting go of things is as important as choosing where to go next.

The other thought I had was around burnout. A few years back I became a Gallup-certified Strengths coach because I found Strengths so incredibly valuable in helping me understand myself that I wanted to know ALL THE THINGS about Strengths. (I could’ve saved myself a substantial amount of money if I’d realized the coaching packet could be ordered without taking the very expensive class, but, well, there you have it.)

Anyway. Every year they have some special sessions for the coaches and one of the sessions this year revolved around burnout. I think they’ll be publishing those findings in early March to the public, so definitely keep an eye out for that.

But what was interesting to me listening to that talk was comparing my writing life to my pre-writing life. I am an Achiever with high Responsibility so I don’t actually burn out from having too much to do. I burn out when I can’t get things done because of politics or bureaucracy. Or when someone is indecisive so the goal posts keep shifting.

Set me a target and I will get it done. But don’t tell me the target is A on Monday, B on Wednesday, and C on Friday because I will glare daggers at you for not knowing your shit.

One of the things I thought about, though, listening to that talk was how many writers I do know burned out in the last five years. Because they were full-bore ahead, cranking out a novel a month in a popular genre that maybe wasn’t a natural fit for them.

I can’t count the number of authors I knew five years ago who’d say, “well, I’m writing X because it sells but someday I’d really like to write my true passion, Y”. It was all over the place back then.

I think sometimes it isn’t the career that’s the issue when it comes to burnout, it’s how we approach the career that drives it. Or it’s the specific employer. Or department. Or manager.

There has to be an alignment between the person and the role. I know some writers who absolutely revel in writing spicy stuff so high-heat romance is a perfect niche for them. It would not be for me. And if I tried to force myself into that box to make money I would eventually burn out.

So if someone out there is feeling burnout, figure out what it is about the current set-up you’re in that’s driving that and see if you can fix it. It doesn’t have to mean walking away entirely.

(I have a few friends in non-supportive marriages with young kids and high-powered jobs who really can’t fix things so much as endure until the kids get older. So sometimes there is no short-term fix. But oftentimes there is one if you step back and think about it.)

That was one of the interesting lessons of that burnout talk. For executing-type folks, their default for dealing with stress is to just dive into the work or exercise. And it does help.

I think it was the influencing-types whose default was to spend time with friends and family. And again, it helps.

But for both they would be better off sitting down and thinking about the situation and how to improve it.

(Don’t quote me on that, by the way. I may be slightly off in how I interpreted that presentation. I just remember walking away with the idea that people would be better served taking a bit of time and thinking through how to better address their situation.)

Finally, I continually circle around this notion that the world, at least the one I live in, has the wrong focus and priorities and it makes things worse for so many. But that to reset that would be highly destructive and disruptive for probably fifty or more years.

So what do we do? Go on squeezing more and more people to the breaking point while a very small number live very good lives?

It’s the constant issue. People choose not to experience short-term pain or suffering only to ultimately choose even more pain and suffering long-term as a result. Because ultimately we’re all tied together.

Also, I think very few people actually see what can be versus what is. Strategic is theoretically one of the top five Strengths around the world, but…hm. I don’t know.

Then again, there is a vast difference between saying, “this is the top way in which you can be successful out of 34 choices” and saying “you are the strongest person at this way of seeing or approaching the world.”

Kind of like the difference between “your best feature is your eyes” and “you have the most beautiful eyes of anyone I’ve ever met.” Yeah?

Anyway. I’m off to probably not be productive. Then again, it’s Sunday here so that’s probably an okay thing all in all. Although it pains my Achiever soul nonetheless. Haha.

Checking In…

I haven’t been posting much, mostly because I figure I can post annoyance at the world or I can put my head down and do something productive that moves things forward. So I’ve been working, working, working.

Yesterday in the mail I received the paperback proofs of the large print versions of my YA fantasy novels and the hard cover proofs of the large print versions of my cozy mysteries and I have to say they look really good and I’m glad I took the time to do that project.

Large print was something I sort of tried doing a few years back but I didn’t do enough research I don’t think to really get it right. It’s more than just a larger font size. For example, no italics. Those have to be replaced with bolded text. And font choice matters. So does placement of the chapter name and page numbers, etc.

I figured I’d judge the success of the large print books by sellthrough to the rest of the series. If people buy book one in large print and no one buys book two then that means I failed somehow on the formatting. But the cozies are showing good sellthrough. (Once I went into the Amazon listings for the regular print versions and told people how to find the large print version. It seems Amazon buries the large print version so that you have to be Houdini to find it and I don’t expect my cozy readers are.)

What else? I don’t know if it’s 2020 or it’s me, but things seem to be taking longer to do these days than before. I’m working on some new editions on the non-fiction side and I swear the books that were supposed to be revisions of old titles are taking twice as long to create as they did the first time around.

This is what it means to be a Maximizer in the CliftonStrengths world. I can’t pass up an opportunity to make something just that little bit better, which in one case led to rewriting 80% of the book. It wasn’t bad to start with but I was combining two books and for that to work I needed to change the approach substantially. (I know, I’m being vague but you’ll see when I publish what I was talking about.)

What else? I find myself glad I write both non-fiction and fiction books because this time of year, if you’re not pushing your fiction, can be brutal for sales. Fortunately, it’s a good time for print sales and with non-fiction I can price competitively enough that I don’t take as big of a hit as I would if I only did fiction.

Which is a reminder when looking at other’s recommendations and advice to pay attention to what they write. I find the fiction advice I see is often bad for non-fiction. Like don’t worry about print, price your print with thin margins, put your first title free, etc.

Same with if someone has a well-selling ten-book series. What they can do with that versus the author who has two or three books out is vastly different. I also think sometimes people who are a lot farther along on their path forget some of the struggles of being new or close to new. Like, they have books that just sell and don’t understand that that’s really not the case for most new writers.

And, of course, the genre differences. Writing for an audience that devours books and marketing to that audience is vastly different than writing for an audience that reads, but not at a book-a-day, give-me-the tropes pace.

Of course, every time I’m tempted to wander off into the wilderness alone and just stop listening to anyone anywhere and do my own thing, there’s something that comes up that makes me stay connected through FB groups or forums or whatnot.

This year the ACX returns thing finally blew up and it was good to know it had since they won’t delist my books but also ignore my emails and no longer even send me those helpful updates that others get. And I was able to get access to Nook promos which have helped. And I think I may have access to Apple promos now but haven’t looked closely at that email yet to be sure of it.

All of that comes from being tied in through groups here or there as painful as the experience sometimes is. (Kboards is such a pale version of what it once was that it’s kind of sad…)

Oh, and I put my books in for Amazon promo consideration but not holding my breath there. But good to know you can at least do so now.

So, yeah. We’re heading towards 2021 and I’m neither glaringly optimistic about it all nor darkly pessimistic. Thanks to EIDL and PPP I made it through 2020 unscathed (knock wood) and able to keep writing and publishing. We’ll see what 2021 brings.

Another thing to think about is property ownership. I was burned to the cost of $30K when I left full-time consulting and sold my condo in DC so I don’t always think that owning property is the best bet, but I am very grateful that I bought my house that I live in now because that property appreciation certainly helps. It’s the cushion that lets me take some of the risks I do. I can look at that equity I’ve built up and think, “Worst case scenario…”

Anyway. Pup is crying to be fed and then I have to proof three books and get them off to the printer for print proofs, so back to the grindstone. Hope you and yours are well.

We All Have Different Reasons

I recently wrapped up the third round of Advanced Strengths for Writers coaching with Becca Syme and it had me thinking a lot in the last few days about motivation and goals. (Next session is in late October for anyone interested: https://betterfasteracademy.com/strengths-for-writers/)

What I found interesting about the sessions I did this time around was that the “answer” for each person was vastly different.

I had one person I coached where we discussed their dissatisfaction in only hitting six figures a year self-publishing and how they didn’t see why they shouldn’t strive for more than that. Given their Strengths my answer for them was that there was no reason at all they shouldn’t strive for more, the only question was how to do so in a way that played to their Strengths instead of trying to emulate an author who I suspect is high Discipline.

With another person we ended up discussing whether any form of publication made sense. They have a day job they love that feeds their Strengths in a way that fiction writing probably never will, so full-time writing has the potential to actually be unsatisfying for them because they will lose something vital if they give that day job up.

I also had more than one discussion about which path made more sense: trade publishing or self-publishing and how each person’s Strengths played into that decision.

So often these days writing conversations are based on the idea that you must get published and you must earn as much money as possible from that publishing. (One I tend to personally follow, admittedly, as seen in my post on mindset.)

But I’ve come to realize that’s not what drives every writer.

Some writers just want to indulge their creative side. They want to imagine worlds and people that don’t exist and flesh them out until they could be real, but that’s all they want.

Some want to be part of a community of creators. They want to interact with people who are imagining these new worlds and to be part of that community they feel they too must create.

Some love to tell stories and even to share those stories but they have no desire whatsoever to commercialize their writing. They just want to do what they want to do in the way they want to do it.

Some do want to sell their stories. They want to master the business side of writing as much as the creative side. But maybe they don’t care about maximizing profits. They want sales, yes, but will choose to write something less desirable if it scratches an itch for them.

And some would love to spend the rest of their writing career in the #1 slot of every bookstore on the planet and won’t be satisfied until they make that happen.

Any of those options is fine.

We each have to find our own path.

I think a lot of the stress or dissatisfaction I see in the writing community comes from writers in one category trying to discuss how to do things with writers in those other categories.

The key is to figure out where you fall and then surround yourself with the people who support that view.

Ask yourself why you do this. What do you want from it? What do you need from it?

Once you have that answer, don’t let anyone knock you off your path. Your choice is just as valid as theirs is.

Advanced Strengths for Writers Class

I think I’ve mentioned on here a few times that I took a great class on CliftonStrengths for writers that really helped put my professional experiences into perspective for me in general and also helped me narrow down what type of writer I am and how to best be that type of writer.

I liked learning about Strengths so much that last year I became a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach myself and have been working with authors as well as professionals and a sports team to help them apply their Strengths results to their professional challenges. (I’ve blogged about that a bit here.)

Well, now I’m excited to announce that next month I will be helping Becca Syme coach the Advanced Strengths for Writers class. The class comes with three one-on-one coaching sessions. This time around writers will get one session with Becca, one with me, and then a third session with either Becca or myself.

The great thing about having two coaches to work with is that Becca and I have different Strengths we pull on so we see author challenges and opportunities from different angles. We also have different coaching styles. (I am, not surprisingly, a little more blunt at times because of my Command and lack of Woo…) So it’s kind of a little extra bonus perspective for this cohort. (I will say I am also extra fierce in the “own who you are” department so for those with say, Significance, who’ve been taught to doubt themselves, I’ll set you straight.)

The class starts on April 17th and is $399. (You can do that in payments as little as $50 a month if you want.) So if you’ve been hearing about Becca’s classes and Strengths and want to take a deeper dive, now is the time to do so.

Also, I don’t think I’d mentioned it here (I did on my personal Facebook), but Becca published a great book introducing people to the concepts in her classes earlier this year. Check it out if you haven’t already: Dear Writer, You Need to Quit.