Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Author Exhaustion: When Things Get Tough

I came across this post by an author friend this morning on Facebook:

Sometimes I get so tired I wonder if I can keep going, but the only other option is quitting, and that I won't do. -Maria Kelly

Maria's quote hit so close to home with me that I couldn't let it go without a blog post. The irony is, honestly, I don't have time to write this; I'm behind on all of my goals.  But I need to write this.  Because I think many writers, especially Indie authors, go through what I'm going through right now. And just to warn you, this post is going to be brutally honest.

When I published my first and even my second book, things were fairly simple. I was focused on the mechanics of finishing the books, getting them edited in the best way I could afford to, covers, formatting for various venues, and publishing to the world with a blog tour and some advertising.  I did these things, and was very excited and surprised by the success my early books achieved. I was able to balance writing with marketing and social media.

Flash forward six books later, now I'm juggling development, marketing, and PR for titles under two names,  and three potential series. And I don't usually talk about this, but besides being a mom, I'm a caregiver for a family member with a long-term illness and that role has pulled me away from work this year. There is such thing as a sales arc. Books are somewhat like balloons.  You knock them up with one hand (tours, advertising, marketing)  and they gradually float back down to earth. So you do more marketing. Tapping the books up again and again over time. 

But I didn't write this to whine.  I wrote to talk realistically about author exhaustion. I hear about authors setting crazy goals for themselves, 5,000 or more words per day 6-7 days per week. These are moms, dads, have other jobs both full-time and part-time, and I think to myself, that is AMAZING. You are AMAZING if you can keep that up and have a family life, and act as your own PR and marketing professional. And hopefully, it will pay off. Hopefully, those words aren't forced, will be used in your final version,  and will connect with your audience. Hopefully, you won't regret what you missed while meeting those goals.

My warning is, sometimes it doesn't pay off. Here's my story. Most people know me as the author of the Soulkeepers Series, but in 2012 I published a book called Grounded. Grounded took a year to research and write. It was professionally edited by an experienced editor and read by more professionals before publication than any of my other books. It is my highest rated book by far and, believe it or not, actually spent time with an agent before publication.

I was so excited to release Grounded, a book I considered to be my personal best, and thought for sure  with all of its professional development, it would be a bestseller.  Well, it's not.  In fact, it hasn't done overly well. Like I said, the ratings and reviews are great, but sales? Not horrible but not terrific. Grounded was written to stand alone but intended to be the first in a trilogy.  Now, I am in the unenviable position of considering sending the synopsis for books 2 and 3 to an early grave. 

My point is that we as authors need to have a healthy balance in our lives.  Author Hilary Wagner often says to "write the story that's in your heart." I've thought about that over the last year. We as Indie authors do the work first then, maybe, if we are lucky, get paid later. If you don't enjoy the work, if the story isn't in your heart, if you're not "feeling it, it's hard to keep going. (I think that's why I connected with this post by Megg Jensen about changing her course to write Shucked.)

So, I'm admitting I'm at a crossroads.  I'm a little exhausted. And I have to decide what comes next after the last two books of The Soulkeepers Series. For now, I'm:
  • breathing deeply
  • writing when the muse grips me
  • planting a garden
  • enjoying my family
  • critiquing and helping other writers where I can
  • and not forcing anything.
And as Maria Kelley says, I'm not giving up. Not an option. Just taking a beat to rest up, regroup, and revisit my goals.

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