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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Professional Advice

You know, I’ve written about this multiple times in the “advice for aspiring authors” question in author interviews I’ve done. I don’t see the value of my advice any less now than I did each time I wrote about it before. I am going to keep this firmly in mind as I expound with the pearls of wisdom I am now trying to share.

You see, I’m an Independently Published Author and I have been since August of 2010 when I took the chance and put my first novel, titled “Birthright” onto Createspace with the no cost self-publishing platform that they have. As Indie Authors which is what we call ourselves, we have placed our work out there with no backing or support whatsoever from publishing giants or even publishing dwarves. We have risked it all and exposed ourselves openly to the criticism and censure of droves of people in the fragile hope that there are those few out there who will enjoy this glimpse into our souls. We have spent countless hours marketing our own work and networking and learning not just about writing, but also about advertising, self-promotion, active sales and professionalism. I did state the professionalism part deliberately and we’ll examine it more closely here soon.

I’ve also entered another work, titled “Sins of the Father” into the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest and so far, I’ve made it to the Quarter Finals. This is no mean feat. This means right now that I’ve written well enough to be chosen over at least 9,500 other hopefuls who took the same gamble that I did but it didn’t pay off. All of you have my understanding when it comes to the disappointment and feelings of rejection. I can assure you of that.

Every one of you must understand that I didn’t do this alone. I did the writing, that’s true enough but that’s not the whole story. I also paid out of pocket for a very talented (and very diplomatic) editor who edited my work with style and didn’t try to silence my voice as a writer. Felicia, I love you for that. I paid for the cover artist who did such stunning work despite his reservations. He gave me what it was I asked for and Athanasios, I’ve been given effusive compliments on your work. I asked for beta readers and have solicited reviews with the help of my husband whose support for me has been unwavering even when I was. Albert, I know you think of it as an investment in my future and yours but I love you for your honesty anyway. Last but not least, I asked some of my colleagues to give me straight and honest advice about my pitch. They rewrote it and sent it back to me and when I incorporated their opinions into the original pitch I’d written, it worked.

I don’t tell you about these people to give a shout out. I’m telling about them to prove a point. I know that it seems like a tired and clich├ęd line to say that I didn’t do it alone but it’s no less true for someone like me than it is for the football star who says it right after making the winning touchdown for the Superbowl. I know my name is on the work but I’m one of a team and that deserves respect for them, too.

Now onto another point. I’ve been reading over some of the discussions in the forums for the ABNA entrants on the ‘Zon and I must say, whether or not you made the cut, I’m disappointed in some of you. While some of you didn’t make the cut and you’re angry and I understand that, you still need to be professional. I told you I’d come back to it. Some of you are quibbling about feedback that you got from the experts and trying to voice your interest in the overhaul of the contest and you all need to be professional as well. Bear with me and I’ll explain myself.

Truthfully, some of the feedback I got was less than stellar so don’t just pass over this and give yourself an excuse saying, “She probably doesn’t know what criticism is like.” For those of you who will do this anyway, I’ll provide links and openly invite all of you to go take a look at the reviews of “Birthright” which I haven’t had the money to have edited. They’re not all pretty and most of them are very critical so I’m not just turning a pretty phrase when I say that I’ve dealt with some harsh words.

That doesn’t mean that I gave up. I read the reviews, let go of the most cruel aspects and listened to the constructive criticism, the kernel of truth among the offended outcry because someone didn’t like it and felt the need to warn everyone in a seven hundred mile radius off of my writing.

I also learned how to be professional. Ladies and gentlemen, when you get feedback it doesn’t mean that everyone is going to fall in love with your work. It means that someone is going to give their honest opinion about their feelings and those feelings might not always be easy to hear. Writing is a very subjective industry so it’s not fair to try to say that reviewers and audiences need to be entirely objective in giving feedback. This is completely impossible.

I’ll grant you that you’ve probably already read that I’ve been Independently Published since 2010 so I’ll agree that I have experience in the industry. If you’re going to use that little tidbit to try to blow me off, then I say that you’re not ready to hear what I’m telling you. If that’s the case, I wish you the best of luck in your endeavors and someday I hope this makes sense to you.

To those of you still reading, some of the most valuable experience that I gained was to understand what it is to be professional. When I say this, I’m not talking about how you dress, style your hair or whiten your smile; I’m talking about how you’re acting. When you get feedback that you deem critical or rough, don’t go announcing your affront to the world on a public forum. That’s a rookie and unprofessional mistake.

My advice from someone who has been there? Grab a beer or a bottle of wine, a box of tissues, some comfort food, a good movie and a friend to listen to you whine. A shouting match with my husband and some chocolate is usually tremendously cathartic for me and does the trick. Do whatever it is you do to blow off some steam and rant and rave in the privacy of your own home and then get over it and move on. Don’t tell everyone within hearing distance or on the internet just how displeased you are with the unfairness of the horribly inept judges who are just doing their job.

Then, pick yourself up by your bootstraps, paste a smile on your face, put on your big kid pants and take the bad with the good with dignity, grace and style. That’s what being professional’s about. Your hurt feelings are not anyone else’s problem, they’re yours. They are not there to coddle you and tell you that you’re going to be a star. That’s the job of your very supportive friends and family. Their job is to keep it real and tell you what you need to hear, not the pretty little lie you want. Their job is to give you the help you need to improve your craft, even if it is a bitter pill for you to swallow. Grow up and realize that even if you know that your work is worth it and has merit, not everyone is going to agree and you have to respect their opinion as much as you respect your own.

Grow a thick skin and remember that it is through failure that you learn the most, not through success. If you’re not willing to fail with flair and keep on trying, you’re not ready to handle success in any form whether on a relatively small scale or on an enormous one. Listen to the criticism and discover the little truth and let the meltdowns happen in front of those who know you best and know that you’ll come through it on the other side and be more educated for it.

I’ve gained from hard bitten experience and I know that it’s not easy. Nothing that was worth it was ever easy to begin with and you should’ve known this from the start. Keep that in mind while you degenerate in a very public fashion because it reflects on you as a person and a professional. You might not have thought of this, but could there be any possibility that someone of note might be watching and be highly entertained but might also be losing professional respect for you the more you complain? It’s just some food for thought.

Now as promised, follow this link here to find "Birthright" on Amazon. This is not a self-promotion ploy. Read the reviews and then judge for yourself if I know what I'm talking about.

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