After I signed my first contract a couple of decades ago, I’ve gone through several phases of fear. I was scared no one would like my first book; or that no one would show up for my book signing. I needn’t have feared; the book was successful and there was a line out the bookstore door (mostly friends and family, but they count, too).
While working on my second book, I had a “friend” tell me that if my first book wasn’t a bestseller, I’d never be able to publish another one. Fear struck again. But my agent sold the second and third books, each within a few weeks of submitting my proposals. I’ve learned not to take unsolicited postulations, opinions, or advice seriously.
Social Media Panic
A few years ago, when the book publishing business underwent a drastic metamorphosis, and authors had to do much of their own promotion, mostly via social media, I froze. It was so easy to walk into a bookstore for a scheduled signing, sit behind a table, and wait for customers to come to me. Back then, the publishers arranged most of the signings, radio interviews, and sought out reviewers. I sent out postcards; made a few phone calls; and waited for my checks to come in the mail. And back then, there was no Facebook, Twitter or Goodreads.
I read an article that said if I wanted to succeed in this business, I had to connect with media outlets and start a blog. I was afraid I couldn’t learn this new trick; afraid I wouldn’t have enough to blog about; afraid I would do it wrong and look like a fool. All these fears materialized, but my skin thickened and I persevered. Because there’s something new around each social media corner, I’m still learning, but I don’t scream and pull at my hair anymore when I make a mistake because I’m not alone in these endeavors.
As more of my books made it to the shelves and book signings were becoming things of the past, I realized I also had to get out there and publicly sell my books, which meant speaking engagements. Up until that point, the only pubic speaking I’d done was to my seventh graders. But that was easy because my paycheck didn’t depend on them listening or giving a hoot about what I had to teach.
At the time my whooping crane book was released, I scheduled presentations at Audubon chapters, community organizations, libraries, wildlife refuges, and bird groups. There were about sixty people present at the first event. I was terrified. My guest-speaker part occurred at the end of the meeting, and my presentation went on too long. A few folks fell asleep and a couple more left. But I sold some books and received a lot of complements. I tweaked my presentation and the next time it was easier. Since then the comments have become blushingly wonderful and several organizations have scheduled repeat performances. I’m a regular at a nearby public library. I love what I do.
Are the fears all gone? No, and the never will be. There’s always something new to make me shiver. I just signed with a new publishing company. Soon after I became a bit afraid. Will they like me? Will my books sell? Will they be easy to work with? Will I have to time to work on two mystery series at the same time? The good thing about experiencing new fears in this business is that they don’t seem to last as long or be as scary.
So, be not afraid; and have a happy Halloween.