4 Ways To Cope With Rejection

One thing is for sure: rejection sucks.

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Last week good friend of mine’s manuscript was rejected by a publisher with whom he had past success and got along with exceptionally. In fact, he’d signed with this publisher when they were just beginning as a newbie imprint ready to take on the world.

A manuscript may be rejected for any number of reasons. Aspects of the story or writing may be problematic. Or the story and writing might be great, but the genre doesn’t match the imprint’s mission. Or an editor/agent isn’t confident that the book can sell. And sometimes it’s just a matter of personal taste. What one reader loses sleep over might be another reader’s insomnia remedy.

One thing is for sure: rejection sucks. The act sucks. The feeling sucks. The aftermath sucks. Especially when you thought you wrote a sure thing. Especially when you were hopeful or, more than hopeful, longing.

This kind of rejection not only happens with a manuscript, but also with a book. An author may be showered with praise and critical acclaim from editors, marketers, fellow authors, and readers; and yet, the book still manages to commercially tank. Or a slew of scathing reviews file in. I’ve experienced this with one of my own books.

I don’t know of any author who hasn’t experienced some kind of crushing disappointment at some point during their writing career.

So how do we cope? How do we get past the hurt? How do we not internalize it, let it affect our self-esteem and our writing process?

Here are four things that work for me:

 

1. Look for the Positive Aspects

I try to do this with any negative or challenging situation. For example, if I’m stuck in traffic, I find positive aspects in the comfortable car, good music on the stereo, full tank of gas, no snow or ice on the ground, etc. (Of course, some situations are particularly arduous, like the tragic flooding we’re seeing in Houston.) In the context of writing and rejection, it may be difficult to find positive aspects when a manuscript you’ve pored over for weeks, months, even years, has been turned down. But it’s possible, for example, that rather than your story not being right for the publisher, the publisher wasn’t right for your story. Maybe there’s someone else who will not only be able to see its potential, but also know how to capitalize on it. Maybe the rejection has given you an opportunity to develop the writing, collaborate with someone you’ve always wanted to work with, or independently publish.

If I’m really struggling to find positive aspects in the moment, then I’ll usually trust that they will reveal themselves in time. For example, my decision to self-publish my debut novel, Faking It, following the rejection of some fifty agents, was probably the most positive aspect to have come out of the situation. But at the time I wasn’t sure if I was committing writing career suicide or taking a leap of faith.

 

2. Be Like Jed Bartlet

At some point, after the sting subsides (and even before), I ask myself the famous words of The West Wing President Jed Bartlet: “What’s next?”

Asking What’s next? is about being proactive. Are there other agents or editors you can pitch to or query? Is independent publishing an option? Is it best to put the manuscript aside and work on something else in the meantime? (Temporarily setting a manuscript aside isn’t throwing it away or invalidating its worth; it’s just taking a break from it and returning to it at another time with fresh eyes and renewed momentum.) Are there lessons to be learned for why a book failed following its launch? Perhaps a new cover design or marketing strategy is in order?

My husband had written a novel that had been rejected by both his agent and his editor. He put the manuscript away and moved on to a new novel, one that was published and sold well. A good friend of his, however, thought that manuscript was excellent, and would occasionally ask my husband about it, urging him to do something with it.

Years later, my husband opened the file, read the manuscript, and saw what his friend had seen in it. He revised and edited the story, designed a cover, and released the book under his own imprint. Not only has Julep Street been critically acclaimed, its story is also more timely now than it was when my husband had first submitted the manuscript.

The point is, you have options. As a writer, you probably have more options than ever before. Explore each one. If you love your story, if you believe in your book, then you owe it to yourself and your brainchild to leave no stone unturned. What’s next?

 

3. You Are So Much More

As I’d mentioned, at least fifty agents as well as a prominent acquisitions editor had rejected Faking It. Since its publication, approximately 10% of its Amazon customer reviews are 1- and 2-stars. And while each rejection stung, some more than others, it didn’t change the fact that I believed I’d written something good. (In fact, none of the agents or the editor had said the writing was the problem.) Moreover, the poor sales of one of my published titles didn’t change the fact that I’d had exceptional sales of others. It didn’t change the fact that I was a good writer—better than some and not as good as others—or that I loved to write. It didn’t change the fact that readers liked my books. It didn’t change the fact that people liked me.

Because that’s what I believe we internalize most when our writing is rejected: I am not good enough. When I think those thoughts, feel unworthy, I change the thoughts to I am good enough. More importantly, I am more than my manuscript, more than amazon sales rankings, more than other people’s reviews, more than the books I write, more than my career. I am more than a writer. I am so much more.

 

Perhaps the most important way to overcome rejection is this:

 

4. Persevere

Just as I have yet to meet a writer who hasn’t experienced rejection, I also have yet to meet a writer for whom patience, persistence, and perseverance hasn’t paid off. As in life, a writing career is all about ebb and flow. Embrace it. Jump in. And keep swimming. Or, if need be, just float.

 

Note that I am not advocating a just-get-over-it approach. I think rejection needs to be validated and recognized, and that you need to allow yourself to feel the pain of it. Lean into it, if you must. However, you don’t want to wallow in rejection for so long that it paralyzes your ability to keep writing or jeopardizes your self-esteem. If these approaches work for you, put any or all of them into effect as soon as possible.

 

Discussion: As a writer, how have you coped with rejection? Please share in the comments.

 

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My Writing Space: A Feng Shui Analysis

The good thing about writing is that you can do it almost anywhere. But I find that a space, and one that makes you feel good while you’re in it, is an important part of the process.

In my new novel, Skye Littleton becomes a certified feng shui practitioner. At best, I dabble in the practice. I very much believe rooms (and homes) contain energy, and I do my best to balance those energies, especially on a limited budget.

The previous house I lived on Long Island in had extra bedrooms, one of which I converted into an office space. I also put my treadmill in there, thinking it could be a place of “productivity” no matter what. However, the energy always felt “off” in that room, and when I brought in a space clearer, even she noticed. As it turned out, I lived in that house for no more than one year. Maybe it was always meant to be a transitory place.

When I moved to Billings and my husband and I bought our house, we converted the two basement bedrooms into side-by-side offices. I wanted a wall color that stimulated creativity, so I opted for a bright tangerine color—for the entire room. Western feng shui says the color orange stimulates creativity, and I have to agree. I also wanted the bright color because the room was sub-level.

Using a bagua map, I positioned my writing desk in the wealth and prosperity corner of the room. I also keep two coin banks nearby, and placed a Japanese token of luck and prosperity that a friend had given me in the “power corner” of my desk.

I surrounded other areas of the room with special items:

  • A framed photograph of my meeting Duran Duran bassist John Taylor, the two of us holding each other’s books, along with a photo of JT holding his copy of Friends of Mine.
  • Side-by-side prints of Wonder Woman and Superman in the relationship corner, connoting strength, power, bravery, and fun.
  • A framed photo of my husband and me in the relationship corner of my desk, along with a photo of my grandmother and me.
  • Two bookcases, both filled.
  • My bachelors and masters diplomas.

 

One thing I’ve always strived to achieve in my writing spaces is less of an “office” and more of a “studio.” I had intended to put a couch in the room, but I couldn’t fit one because of the narrow staircase and the angle of the room’s entrance. I do miss having that studio feel, so that’s one thing I hope to change, if I can find the right couch.

When we first converted the rooms, I’d liked that they were separated from the rest of the living space—as if we could go to work and leave work every day. However, I was soon bothered by the basement’s “bottom” energy. It was also colder in the basement than anywhere else in the house. So I posted notes on bulletin boards (I put up a vision board too) such as “I’m on top!” and “My books are warm and fuzzy.” (Getting a space heater helped as well.)

The space is definitely a work-in-progress, as is my writing. It can always be better. The good thing about writing is that you can do it almost anywhere. But I find that a space, and one that makes you feel good while you’re in it, is an important part of the process.

Want a FREE bagua map? Get one at elisalorello.com! You’ll also be entered to win a tote bag full of books! Details here.

 

Discussion: Where do you write? Do you have a special space devoted to your writing? What would your ideal writing space look like?

My two feng shui go-to books:

The Western Guide to Feng Shui: Room By Room

Sacred Space: Clearing and Enhancing the Energy of Your Home

 

Big Skye Littleton is here!

In this warm, high-spirited contemporary novel, big love can happen in the smallest of spaces.

I am happy to announce the launch of my eighth novel, Big Skye Littleton.

I am so proud of this book, which takes place in my adopted city of Billings, Montana. It was fun to write, and I’m thrilled by the response it’s already gotten.

Here’s what some of the early reviews on Goodreads have to say:

This book has a huge heart. A real feel-good story that feels personal and leaves you warm inside.

A delightful, contemporary read that you simply can’t fail to love.

It’s a fun roller coaster ride through the beautiful city of Billings, MT and one that I didn’t want to end.

Big Skye Littleton is a super good book. I could not put this book down. I loved the story and the Montana setting. Lorello is a new author to me and I was impressed by her writing and will be reading more of her books. If you enjoy a good romance this could be the book for you.

In this warm, high-spirited contemporary novel, big love can happen in the smallest of spaces.

Skye Littleton said goodbye to her job, her best friend, and her home in Rhode Island to start over in Billings, Montana, with Vance Sandler, a gorgeous guy she met online. On her cross-country flight, Skye shares her happy story with her seatmate, Harvey Wright, a Billings resident who knows Vance—and his reputation for heartbreak. Harvey’s infuriating advice to Skye? Go home.

When Skye arrives, she discovers that Vance has changed his mind and wants nothing to do with her. Despite the setback, Skye is determined to rebuild her life and begin a new chapter in Montana’s largest city, which sometimes feels like a small town. With Harvey’s help, Skye finds a job—and a passion for organizing closets and clearing out clutter. But as she grows closer to Harvey, she finds herself homesick for her former life. Could Harvey be her future, or is she his chance at revenge? Can Skye finally trust her own heart enough to let it show her the way home?

Available in paperback (ask your local bookseller to order it!), Kindle, and audiobook. Buy a copy today!

To lean more, go to elisalorello.com.

 

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What’s It Like Being Married To an Author?

We love this story. We don’t ever want it to end.

If you’ve been following me on Facebook, Twitter, or this blog, then you know that I’m married to an author.

We’re still newlyweds, in fact! We got together a little over two years ago, evolving from a friendship that followed our meeting at a publisher’s party in New York in 2011 (we also share the same publisher).

Craig Lancaster is best known for his Edward series. In fact, quite the fan following has developed in the UK thanks to some rather devoted followers of #TeamEdward, as they say.

Earlier this year, I had put out a call for “Ask the Author” questions to respond to on my author blog. One of my husband’s most loyal fans asked me this:

What’s it like waking up with a literary genius each day? Do you have to pinch yourself?

I never answered it on my author blog, so I’ve decided to respond here:

What literary genius?

Oh. Right. My husband.

Yes, of course I’m kidding. Is he a really literary genius? It depends on how you define that word. I don’t see him as such, nor do I believe he sees himself that way either, and he’s OK with that. That said, the truth is that my husband is one of the most talented writers I know, and I know a lot of them.

I like being married to a fellow author because he understands both the process and the business of writing. He understands the core philosophy of The Writer’s HabitKnowledge + Skill + Desire—and, like me, believes in the importance of craft. Like me, he believes it’s not just about the words, but the story. It’s about the truth that lives in the heart of the lie—the “lie” being the fictional world we create and, for a time, live in either as a writer or a reader. I like that he understands the struggles. I like that I never have to go far to get help on a scene, a sentence, or a conflict.

It’s also rather nice that I get to spend most days with him. Even when we’re both holed up in our offices, he’s just a door away. We’ve even started a freelance business together. Our combined skills pack a good punch.

Plus, our own conversations ultimately end up as novel dialogue. It’s inevitable.

But here’s the really awesome thing: One of my favorite pastimes is when Craig and I read our books to each other prior to publication day (we’re currently in the middle of my new novel, Big Skye Littleton, which launches on August 22). In fact, this is the first time we “read” each other’s work in its finished form. I’ve written about the intimacy of such an act, and how we became close because we told each other our stories over time. And as we continue to grow together, our story develops. New chapters. New scenes. New snippets of dialogue. New conflicts and resolutions. We love this story. We don’t ever want it to end.

And that makes me want to pinch myself. Because this love story is very real.

Think You Don’t Have Time to Write? Think Again!

I kept a time journal. I made just about every minute of the day accountable—mealtimes, showering and dressing, running errands, and—the one almost everyone doesn’t want to admit to—time spent using my phone for Facebook, Twitter, texting, etc.

Every job and teaching position I’ve held has had one common denominator: when it comes to evaluation and assessment, my superiors all said the same thing: Elisa needs to improve time management skills.

Don’t think I haven’t tried over the years. I’ve kept fancy datebooks and planners. Used alarm clocks. Read books on the subject. I have success for a week or two, and then everything falls apart. I like to use my Italian heritage as an excuse—we’re stereotypically poor planners and organizers. But regardless of the cause, it’s something I’ve simply come to accept about myself.

That doesn’t mean I don’t want to keep trying to improve, however.

It’s been even more of a challenge since becoming a full-time novelist. Never one for a traditional nine-to-five schedule, I don’t keep “regular” hours, meaning sometimes I put in a few hours of writing at night, and sometimes I take weekdays off and work through the weekend. It’s especially easy to succumb to distractions from people who either don’t realize or who take advantage of the fact that just because you’re home doesn’t mean you’re not busy working. And I confess that I like to schedule certain appointments and socializing during prime work hours because it’s simply more pleasant and convenient.

In the quest for better time management, I’ve come to accept some things along the way. One is that multitasking is overrated. If you Google the subject, you’ll find that the research agrees with this. The other is that less is more. I no longer attempt to check off all twenty-four items on my to-do list. Rather, I find the most important tasks and do my best to complete them. Usually, this is no more than one or two tasks per day.

But sometimes even completing those two tasks is a challenge when I’m faced with distractions, family responsibilities, and migraines.

Of those things, the one that’s most within my power to change is distractions. So I took a step last week and kept a time journal.

How? The same way you might keep a food or spending journal. I made just about every minute of the day accountable—mealtimes, showering and dressing, running errands, and—the one almost everyone doesn’t want to admit to—time spent using my phone for Facebook, Twitter, texting, etc.

I kept this journal for one week, and what I discovered was eye-opening:

In short, I spent more time on social media and/or email than I did writing.

On one hand, I can make a case for this. For instance, last week I ran a special promotion for Duran Duran Appreciation Day and my memoir, Friends of Mine, that required me to interact quite a bit on social media. Thus, on August 10, social media was my job and my priority, and I’d planned accordingly. Also, as a novelist, part of my job requires marketing and promotion, and that involves social media and email campaigns. Creating graphics, drafting and revising emails or media posts, and interaction (I like to follow up and connect with readers) all falls under that umbrella and can be time-consuming.

But, as I learned the hard way earlier this year, if I spend all my time on social media (even if it’s directed) and little to no time on writing, then I’ll have nothing to market or promote. What I had realized was that writing always needs to come first.

And yet, when it comes to the clock, I still haven’t made it the priority it needs to be.

 

The time journal is, I hope, the first step toward my making changes. Here’s what I think needs to happen:

 

1. Abandon my phone during meals

 (Especially when my husband and I are together). Doing that alone would free up 10-20 minutes per day. Think that’s not a lot? Set a timer for twenty minutes, write non-stop, and see what your word count is at the end!

 

2. Check emails after the first task is completed or after lunch

 I already failed this one yesterday because my first task involved an email. Once again I allowed myself to get sucked into my inbox rather than wait until I either finished my first task or my lunch. Not only that, but I want to allot myself a limited amount of time to respond to email. I think up to one hour is reasonable. That means no checking the inbox after that hour is up until the second task is complete.

 

3. Time-blocking

This is a concept I learned after reading The ONE Thing. I have yet to make it a habit, but when I time-block—two hours uninterrupted (that means door closed, phone off, and no internet access) goes a long way. For example, I can get up to 3,000 words written in a manuscript when I time-block those two hours. If I could schedule two 2-hour time blocks per workday, imagine the possibilities! If I devote both to writing, that’s up to 6,000 words. If I devote one to writing and the other to marketing, website maintenance, email campaigns, etc., then I still come out ahead.

 

Finally, the most difficult change I’ve had to make is:

4. Get out of bed earlier

Those who know me well know I am not a morning person (my husband, on the other hand, is quite chipper at the crack of dawn; it makes for a lot of cursing on my side of the bed). Last week my husband and I recommitted to going to the gym. I knew that if we did, then I wouldn’t be able to stay in bed until 8:00, which was my happy rise-and-shine time. I considered how important exercising was to us, and made that commitment. I still curse and complain in the morning, but seeing how exercising gives me the energy I need for the rest of my day, it’s worth losing the extra minutes of comfort in bed, and it’s prompted me to power down and go to bed earlier.

And that’s really what you need to ask yourself when it comes to your writing goals:

How important is this to me?

 

The ONE Thing says any action or behavior change requires 66 consecutive days of practice before it becomes a habit. I have yet to achieve this, but I’ve made it my new goal. How important is it to me? Very.

So, if you think you can’t find or don’t have the time to write, think again! Start by keep a time journal for one week–in fact, make it this week’s Writer’s Habit Activity. Log everything, from minutes spent checking your phone, checking email, social media, running errands, rise and sleep times, meals, and work-related tasks. . I’ll bet you’ll be surprised at what you find.

 

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What Writers Can Learn from Duran Duran: 5 Secrets of the Fab Five’s 40-Year Success

The first song my husband and I danced to at our wedding was Ella Fitzgerald’s rendition of “If I Could Write a Book.” The second was Duran Duran’s “Pressure Off.”

I’ll bet you didn’t know that Duran Duran is still around, did you? In fact, they’re celebrating 40 years next year.

Or maybe you didn’t know there’s such a thing as Duran Duran Appreciation Day. It’s today, in fact.

If you know me, however, you know how big a Duran Duran fan I am. In fact, I wrote a memoir about my thirty-plus-year-long “relationship” with the band. And so, I thought today would be the perfect day to share the tenets of that success, and how writers could learn from them.

 

Duran Duran Had A Definite Plan

Founding members John Taylor and Nick Rhodes had a vision—not only for the sound, but also for the look and trajectory of the band. They were among the pioneers of the fusion of punk and disco called New Romantic, a hybrid of David Bowie and Chic. In the way the Beatles had donned mop tops and suits, they had donned frilly shirts, leather pants, and makeup. They wanted a record deal with a major label. They wanted to play Madison Square Garden by 1984. And guess what—they did. In fact, some say they achieved the kind of stardom that hadn’t been achieved since the Beatles.

 

Writers can sometimes be vague in their intentions. “I just want to tell great stories,” they say. Or, “I want to be on the bestseller’s list someday.” The lack of a definite plan makes those goals more difficult to achieve. Telling great stories means learning everything you can about the craft—how will you go about that? By reading great stories. By reading about how to tell great stories. By learning from master crafters. How will you get on the bestseller list? By continuing to write great stories. By researching the benefits of getting a literary agent and a traditional publishing contract as opposed to the benefits of self-publishing. By learning everything you can about marketing and promotion. And so on. The more clear you are about what you want, the better you’ll be able to plan for it.

 

Duran Duran Endured Setbacks

In 1985, after having back-to-back #1 hits (“The Reflex” and “A View to a Kill”), coming off a mammoth tour, and being arguably the most successful pop band in the world, Duran Duran’s performance at Live Aid was the last time the original lineup performed together for almost two decades. The 80s, it seemed, had ended in 1985. Although the band produced another hit with the single “Notorious,” album sales dropped. So did their popularity. Princess Diana’s favorite group went from being a quintet of pinup stars and fashion icons to a trio trying to re-invent themselves musically and visually. They also struggled personally. For example, bassist John Taylor has talked and written openly about his cocaine addiction during that time.

No matter what, they didn’t quit. If an album failed commercially, rather than walk away from the music business, Duran Duran went back into the studio and made another one. They toured and played each venue as if it were Madison Square Garden. And something happened along the way. They matured. They improved at their craft. They persisted. Moreover, the teenage fans grew up with them. And guess what? They came back—first in 1993 with their hit “Ordinary World,” again in 2003 when the original five members reunited and toured, again in 2011 with their album All You Need is Now (produced by Mark Ronson), and again in 2015 with their hit “Pressure Off” (produced by Nile Rodgers).

 

Just about every writer/author goes through peaks and valleys throughout their careers. Whereas my debut novel Faking It has sold over 150,000 units, my seventh, The Second First Time, face-planted right out of the gate. That hasn’t stopped me from being proud of both novels and both efforts. I’ve seen changes in the industry and in consumer behavior in the last seven years. I’ve had four different editors since signing with my publisher. It would be easy to long for the years when I sold 5,000-10,000 units a month, or for another one of my novels to hit the way Faking It did. It would be even easier to quit altogether, thinking, “What’s the use? I’ll never be on top again.” But it’s better to persist. Persistence pays off—not always extrinsically, but intrinsically. It makes you a better artist, composer, musician, performer, writer. It makes you focus on what really matters—not the glory, but the work itself—and it makes you grateful for what you’ve learned along the way, as well as for those who stuck with you no matter what.

 

Duran Duran Never Look Back

The band could have easily become a “nostalgia act”—going on tour year after year and capitalizing on their catalog of 80s hits. (And I’m not knocking those bands that do—they make their fans very happy and put on great shows.) Or, they could have capitalized on the sound that made them so popular (their albums Duran Duran and Rio) and made various incarnations of them over the years. But Duran Duran has never looked back. Regardless of an album’s commercial standing or what’s trending in music, when they go into the studio, they strive to never repeat themselves. The result is 14 albums and counting—the fans love some more than others—but each album is different in theme and design and production while still retaining the Duran Duran musical identity and brand. That is the sign of musicians who are in touch with the creative process. And yet they still aim to be trendsetters and produce music that people will dance to when the world around them is dull or discouraging. Every show echoes this.

Even All You Need is Now, which was touted as “the follow-up to Rio,” contained the perfect blend of modern and retro. It wasn’t a throwback to or repeat of Rio as much as it was an evolution.

 

As an author, I don’t seek to write a repeat of Faking It—I don’t think I could even if I wanted to. I can, however, identify those traits that keep readers coming back to my novels and turning pages. Crack dialogue. Engaging characters. A good, entertaining story with a sound structure. I want to keep evolving in my creative process. From a place of craft, I want each book to be better than the last. And I don’t want to dwell why some books exceeded expectations while others greatly disappointed them. Like Jed Bartlett on The West Wing, when I’m ready to get back into my writing studio, I say, “What’s next?”

 

Duran Duran Appreciate their Fans

We’ve stuck with them for a long time. And some are just discovering them in the last year or two. Regardless, the band has always expressed gratitude, be it in their performance onstage (like playing a deep cut or a classic B-side), at a record store signing, or in an interview. Today may be the official day for Duranies to appreciate Duran Duran, but it’s also the day John, Nick, Simon, and Roger (and Dom!) honor and appreciate us right back.

 

My husband recently had this to say about readers:

Readers are wonderful. Readers are a gift. If you want to write, and you’re actually audacious enough to think that your words should be printed and bound and distributed, readers are who you want on your side when it’s all done. Absolutely, you want your agent to be your champion. You want an editor who’s in love with your book and can persuade all the other people who have to say yes to love it, too. You want booksellers who adore your book so much they put it in the hands of their customers and say, “You HAVE to read this.”

If a reader loves your book, she shares the love. She tells her friends, and her brother, and her mom. You end up getting these messages: “I bought five copies and gave them to all my friends for Christmas” or “My aunt gave me your book for my birthday, and I loved it!” And you’re so touched by that, you cry. Why wouldn’t you? That’s an amazing thing.

Here’s another amazing thing: If you have ten readers or ten million, you have gold.

He’s right in every way.

 

Duran Duran Always Puts the Music First

If you came of age during the 1980s, you probably couldn’t walk five feet without seeing Duran Duran—on a teenage girl’s t-shirt or pinned to her denim jacket, on MTV in one of their videos shot in Sri Lanka or Antigua, in the record stores or pop magazines or on the radio or at the top of the Billboard charts. An outsider might think they were all about image. But an insider knows they’re all about music.

They wrote and played their own music. Became masters of their instruments (“Roger uses two hands for his!”). They famously said they wanted to be the band everyone was dancing to when the bomb dropped. When they play “Ordinary World” in concert, they dedicate it to “lost friends” or someone who has passed away, or a group in need of comfort. “The song is no longer ours,” singer Simon LeBon said. “It belongs to all of you now.” I still have my pin-ups and posters and pins and scrapbooks from those teenage years. Saved all my ticket stubs, and still collect memorabilia every now and then. But what has kept my torch burning all this time has been the music. I listen in my car. Or when I’m on the treadmill. When I need inspiration. When I need a pick-me-up. The first song my husband and I danced to at our wedding was Ella Fitzgerald’s rendition of “If I Could Write a Book.” The second was Duran Duran’s “Pressure Off.” (I think they would have approved.) In their hit song “(Reach Up for the) Sunrise,” which has become something of an anthem, the lyric that has summed up everything about the relationship between the band and their fans is “The music between us.” Andrew “Durandy” Golub showcased this in his book of the same title.

 

As writers, publishing contracts and literary agents and Amazon rankings are great, especially if things are going in your favor. But never forget what got you there. Never forget why you got into this racket in the first place. It was the writing. You couldn’t not do it.

Wishing you all a fab Duran Duran Appreciation Day, and happy writing!

 

WANT A FREE COPY of FRIENDS OF MINE?

Go here to get one! (one day only!)

 

FoM title page signed by the band!

Nothing to Lose: 3 Steps to Beat the Writer’s Biggest Fear

Being an author isn’t just about writing and publishing and selling books. It’s about mindset. It’s about desire. And it’s about conquering the fear of losing everything you worked so hard for. The fear of losing the joy.

A good friend wrote her first novel around the same time I wrote my first. She’d had a lot of fun writing it, and when she was finished and found that it was good, she’d decided to self-publish it. Fortunately, she came in during that golden age when self-publishing was shedding its stigmas and the Kindle was turning e-books into a cool commodity. Like me, she soon won the attention of a publisher, who offered her a contract and re-issued her novel. It continued to do well.

However, she has yet to publish a second.

The most common misconception people have about authors and publishing is that everyone has a Stephen King or EL James level of success. They think we become instant millionaires, quit our jobs after we sign the contract, and live free and clear.

The truth is that the majority of authors sell fewer than 10,000 units per year. We keep our day jobs. We raise families and struggle to make ends meet while we also carve out time to write the next novel, and the next. Even with four or five books under our belt.

I was one of the lucky ones. For the first five years since resigning from my teaching position, I’ve been able to make a living. But I confess: were it not for my husband, I would have been pounding the pavement for additional employment this year. And that’s with 10 books and seven translations. My husband tells a similar story: “I used to say I was an author who occasionally worked a pipeline job. Now I’m a pipeline worker who occasionally writes novels.”

I thought it would get easier. It seems to be getting harder. And I had to come to terms with that this year.

As for my friend, I totally get where she is coming from. And I think many authors, in one form or another, have been where she is. Like her, writing my first book was fun. I spent more time writing it than any other novel to date—not only because I was teaching a full course-load, but also because I was under no pressure to publish. Thus, I could revise it, share it with critique groups, and revise it again. Faking It had already been two years old when I started querying literary agents. It was four years old when I first self-published it. Five years old when it hit the big time. And six years old when it was reissued and hit yet again.

When I’d first self-published it in paperback, I’d sold less than fifty copies in six months, and thought that was a terrific start. When I uploaded it to Kindle and sold 73 copies in the first month, I was ecstatic. (I sold only 12 the second month.) Every sale was a celebration. Day by day, I continued to promote and sell it, all while writing the second novel, and starting the third. And still enjoying the process.

In short, I had nothing to lose. Neither did my friend with her first novel. Or my husband with his first. Which made their successes that much more exhilarating.

But after the success—after that first contract, when now you’re tracking more than sales and rankings, your outlook changes.

Because now, there’s a demand for a second novel. And a third and a fourth. A demand for better numbers. And more followers. And you need to get it done and published as quickly as possible to keep up the momentum and not to lose your followers.

And there’s the magic word again: lose. Because this time, you have a lot to lose. And if you did quit your job, then you have even more to lose.

Suddenly, 72 sales per month is nothing to celebrate. It’s something to lament, to worry about, to lose sleep over.

Suddenly, you’re in the business of writing and publishing. And for some, that’s when it stops being fun.

Being an author isn’t just about writing and publishing and selling books. It’s about mindset. It’s about desire. And it’s about conquering the fear of losing everything you worked so hard for. The fear of losing the joy.

So how do you maintain the joy and relieve the fear?

By knowing what you want.

It’s OK to keep writing books as a hobby. It’s OK to publish them on your own time and schedule and appreciate every sale you get.

It’s OK to stop at one book and appreciate the ride it took you on.

It’s OK to want more success, and to set goals and make a plan to achieve them.

It’s OK to want to maintain the momentum.

As long as that’s what you want.

And as long as you also remember why you started writing in the first place.

You started writing because you enjoyed it. Because you loved the process. Because you loved the escape. Because you loved the story you were telling, and the characters that came into your life, and the conversations they had. You started writing because you couldn’t not do it.

Because you had nothing to lose.

And the mindset to maintain, difficult as it may be, is to act as if you still have nothing to lose, even if you have everything to lose.

So how do you do that?

 

  1. Gratitude

Give thanks for every book sold—even if you’ve only sold one per month. Give thanks for the reader who took the time to post a review, even if it was unfavorable. Give thanks for the reader who took the time to write you a personal note of thanks, telling you how much they loved your book. Give thanks for the fun you had when you wrote it, for all those who helped you birth it—editors, beta readers, distributors, friends who told their friends to buy it.

Gratitude is the reminder of why you keep doing what you do. What’s more, gratitude keeps the worrying at bay, because gratitude also keeps you in the present moment. You don’t judge how well or poorly it’s doing, whether it’s better or worse than your last book, whether it’s better or worse than someone else’s book that is selling more. You simply appreciate what it is, where it is, how it is, and that it is.

 

  1. Positive Aspects

 When I fear loss, I begin listing all the positive aspects of my current situation, such as:

I’m not at the place where I need to look for additional employment. Even if I was, I know I will be OK because I can keep writing if I want to.

I’ve already had the kind of success many writers dream of and beyond what I imagined.

I am paying my bills each month, and I have a beautiful home in a lovely neighborhood in a majestic part of the country. But I also know how to live in a two-bedroom apartment if need be.

I remember that the most important thing is to live joyfully, regardless of which form that takes.

Positive aspects pivot you away from worry to better feeling thoughts, including gratitude, and help you see your situation in a different, better perspective. As Wayne Dyer says, “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

 

  1. Affirmations

Affirmations keep you aligned with your desires. I always structure mine in the present tense:

I am making a sustainable living as a full-time novelist.

I am a thriving author who publishes and sells books.

I give thanks for every sale and every reader.

It’s fun to be a writer and an author.

I bring joy to everything I do.

In fact, one of my repeated affirmations is Jerry Greenfield’s (of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream fame):

if it's not fun graphic

You’ll be surprised as the pressures begin to melt away, or, if not disappear altogether, diminish greatly, freeing you from the fear that is stopping you of writing your next book, or moving forward in a way that is in alignment with what you want. It’s all about breaking free of that fear. It’s all about the mindset.