Monday, January 27, 2014

On Being Brave by Betsy Ashton

Facebook meme
This past weekend I went to Roanoke Regional Writers Conference, one of my favorite conferences. I've been four times out of the six years it's been held. I've spoken on panels in the past. I will teach a course in the future. It's local. As a result, I know about 80% of the participants and nearly all of the panelists and instructors.

Every year this is a reunion of NYT best selling authors, small press authors, indie authors and yet-to-be-published writers. I probably talked to everyone of them before we left yesterday for our homes. I asked them what they feared most when it comes to writing.

After dozens private conversations and a couple of panels, I reduced our collective concerns to a scant few.

As a group, we feared loss of focus. That's a broad topic. For some, loss of focus fell within the end covers of their manuscripts. They can fix that with a good set of beta readers and distance. All agreed they needed to step back and the the manuscripts rest.

For others, loss of focus involved time management. We all concurred that, while we have to have that all-mighty presence on SOCIAL MEDIA, Facebook, Twitter and the rest are giant time sinks. The successful writers (not those making a living from writing, but those who balanced their time) carved out a certain amount of time each day for social media.

Two years ago a YA writer said she spent one hour three days a week responding to every Tweet that came in for her books. Because the audience was teens, she could get away with, "OMG! Thank you for reading my book. I'm so happy." Followed by a smiley face. She had a file on Word with about six responses. Copy. Paste. Done. And when her next book came out, her fan base was ready...

We all worry about what our obsession with writing and marketing might be doing to our families. The best balanced authors made the entire family part of the process. One's daughter wore t-shirts with her YA book cover on them. Another sat with his entire family at the beginning of the year. They blocked out family time on a huge calendar he hung in his office. He could use the rest of the days writing and marketing his books.

Almost to a person, we were afraid of rejection. Not the kind that come querying agents and/or publishers, but the kind that comes when you pick up the phone, cold call a librarian (for example) and pitch a writing workshop or book signing. We all were afraid they'd say no. Some did; others didn't. But those who didn't pick up the phone sat home waiting for it to ring. Or playing games on FB. Or tweeting and bleating about their lots in life.

Driving home, I vowed to be even braver this year than last. I will call more libraries. I will contact more book stores. I will contact service organization. I will contact active living retirement communities. I will be out there as often as I can.

I will not take too much time away from my loving husband, my life partner, and my partner in writing. He's the most important part of my life.


Please check out my novel, Mad Max Unintended Consequences, available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble in paper or e-book formats.


Margo Hoornstra said...

Food for thought and words to live by. Thanks for sharing. I'll TRY to do the same.

Unknown said...

Popping in to say hello, Betsy! Rock on. xo

Rachel Brimble said...

I'm VERY guilty of the FEAR, Betsy! Especially as you've highlighted, the fear of contacting libraries, bookstores etc. I feel so torn because my books are only available in store in the US - libraries and bookstores are just not willing to order them in here in the UK. Having said that, I haven't approached anyone to try again for a long time - it's about time I starting knocking on doors again, don't you?

Thanks for the push!

Rachel x

Unknown said...

Inspiring words, Betsy!

Jannine Gallant said...

My own library said if I GAVE them a book they couldn't guarantee it would end up on the shelf. It had to go through acquisitions at the county seat, etc, etc. Bureaucratic crap! And my local bookstore wanted to make a 40% profit--which would mean I'd take a loss by giving them books to sell. They weren't interested in ordering them. I'll admit to quitting on the local front after this. You're a rock star at pushing your books locally, Betsy!

glk said...

Almost every aspect of the writing life, excepting, perhaps, sleep, requires courage. But when your dreams are like mine, even going to bed at night can be an act of bravery. :)

Barbara Edwards said...

Interesting insight. Gave me something to think about

Alicia Dean said...

Thanks for the informative and inspiring post. Yes, we do need to be brave as writers, whether it's pre-published or published. I need to devote only a certain amount of time to social media and focus more on my writing. I am divorced with grown children and live alone, but I still need to carve out time for my family and friends. It's tough to balance it all!