Sunday, September 1, 2013

Labor Day Weekend and Lessons Learned

After a somewhat slow July, I was blessed to have an absolutely tremendous August, with over 3500 ebook sales.  The numbers received an obvious boost from the release of Mutation, and - needless to say - I'm over the moon about the results and thrilled that readers seem to be enjoying my work.

Of course, my journey as an author is only just getting started in earnest, but I couldn't help reflecting back on the path I've taken thus far.  With that in mind, I thought it might be worth sharing some of the things that I feel were helpful to me on a number of levels in terms of my writing:

Find inspiration wherever you can - especially in the little things

Before I published Sensation, I would occasionally get this nagging thought that I shouldn't be wasting so much time writing. To a certain extent, it seemed like a healthy, creative outlet for which I merely had grandiose dreams, so doubts about how successful I could be in this endeavor would sometimes flit through my brain.

Anyway, I was getting ready for the day job one morning, with the doubts and nagging thoughts pecking away at my resolve to have a writing career, when I heard these words:

"There are people who find their own path. Chart their own course. Who never stop moving forward, and never, ever back down. Entrepreneurs; journeymen; mavericks; and pioneers who believe the American Dream doesn't just happen--it's something you have to work for."

I'd had the television on a morning news program while I was getting dressed, and what I'd heard was from an ad for this Southwest Airlines commercial:

I know it sounds hokey, but those words resonated with me. I'm not saying it was like Robert the Bruce getting motivated to drive the English out of Scotland by watching a spider build a web, but I felt inspired. I must have rewound that commercial and watched it twenty times in a row (I'm not even sure if I paid attention to the rest of it). I left for work that morning with a completely different mindset. 

Basically, I think you have to find inspiration wherever you can (yes, even in a commercial) and use it as a driving force in your work, regardless of whether that work is writing or something else.

Treat writing like a business

Back when I was in college, there was a restaurant not far from campus that purportedly had some of the best food in town (for student budgets). However, they never seemed to have consistent operating hours. Regardless of the posted opening/closing time, the owners just seemed to open their doors whenever the mood hit them - and they'd close in the same fashion. For example, if the cable went out in the restaurant so that they couldn't watch TV in the back office, they might close so that they wouldn't miss The Price is Right or some BS like that. Obviously not a great way to do business.

Likewise, if you are intent on becoming successful as an author, I think you have to treat writing like a business, with yourself as CEO. (In fact, that are many successful writers who say that this is a must.) You want to produce a quality product that the general public will want to buy. At the same time, you need to be writing regularly and consistently. I don't know that you need to write every single day, but you should probably be typing something 5 or 6 days per week. (Taking a day off every week is probably a good way to recharge your batteries and stay fresh.)

In short, you have to keep regular hours, keep your shelves stocked with product, etc. - the same things you'd do with any other business. If you treat it like a hobby - building model planes and whatnot in your spare time - then you'll get hobby-like results.

There's more than one yellow brick road to Oz

Everyone has their own definition of success and their own means of getting there. There are lots of successful writers who willingly share what they feel is the secret of their winning ways, and I'm grateful for that. Occasionally, however, the advice of one author may conflict with that of another.  In my book, it doesn't mean that either of them is wrong; truth be told there is more than one path to success in this business. I think it's worthwhile to see what a number of successful authors did and then cherry-pick the ideas, strategies and tactics that make the most sense to you.

In short, there's not just one yellow brick road to Oz; there's a million of them. You just have to find the one that works for you - and it may be a road that hasn't been laid yet.

Make your own luck

A while back I had dinner with one of the senior people at my office, and we got to talking about what makes a successful career, and how it's not always about who's the smartest or most talented.  In hearing about some of his experiences, it seemed to me that sometimes his success came as a result of catching a lucky break, and I said as much.  He laughed and agreed, saying, "Sometimes you get lucky. And sometimes, you make your own luck."

Those last five words really caught fire in my brain, because I felt like I knew exactly what he was talking about. To me, there are occasionally doors that open a crack - opportunities that present themselves for a limited time - and you need to have positioned yourself to take advantage of them. 

By way of example, I know of a company (we'll call this one Little Co.) that put in a bid for a big project and got selected for a second round of interviews with the corporation (let's say Huge Corp.) soliciting proposals. When Little Co. came in for their interview with Huge Corp., they said, "We don't want to sit around and talk about our proposal. Instead, we'd like to spend that time working for you, showing you what we can do and the quality of our product. Then, when we finish, you can decide."  Huge Corp. agreed, and (as you might have guessed) Little Co. ended up with the work - despite the fact that they were not as established or well-known as some of the other bidders.  They made their own luck - and so can you.

Greatness awaits

Finally, for those of you doubting yourselves, I ask, "Who are you not to be great?"


  1. I was wondering if you have any updates on when we might expect the second book of the Warden series?

    1. That is a very prescient question. I was actually going to draft a post about it tonight, but here's the short answer:

      The sequel is complete. However, my cover artist is currently working on the cover for a short story in my "Kid Sensation" series. I hope to have him start on the cover for Warden #2 as soon as he finishes that. Depending on how fast that process goes, I anticipate having the second Warden book out before the end of the month. (Keep your fingers crossed...)


Total Pageviews