Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Writer Wednesday: Handling What is Out of Our Control

I think most of us like to be in control. I mean, that's a big reason why so many people are self-publishing. They want control over their stories, their release dates, their blog tours, etc. But...there are some things we just can't control, whether we are traditionally published or self-published.

First, you can't control sales. You can't. We can write the best book (in our minds) and we still can't make people buy it. Even if you offer it for free, you can't force people to download it so you can have a great rank on Amazon.

Second, you can't control reviews/readers' opinions. We love our books. Of course we do, or we wouldn't have written them. But not every reader is going to "get" our books or even like them.

Third, you can't control your release date. Publishers have to adjust release dates for a lot of reasons, and honestly this doesn't bother me much at all because they are doing what's in the best interest of the book and author. One of my 2014 titles was pushed back a few months, and I'm fine with it. The book will be better for it. But if you are traditionally published or if you self-publish, Amazon likes to do what it wants. They are known to release books early. We can't do anything about that.

Fourth, we can't always control our characters, nor do I think we should. I take it as a great sign when my characters throw my planning out the window and run with the story. It's their story, so I'm happy to let them tell it.

I could go on, but I'd rather hear from you. What are somethings we just can't control in this industry? And how do you handle them?

75 comments:

  1. At the risk of sounding flighty, all I can say is this-

    Not all frustrations we face and feel as authors are about control!

    No, we can't control sales, but we MUST sell ourselves.

    No, we can't control readers, but WE HAVE TO MAKE EFFORTS TO FIND THEM!

    No, we can't (Especially via the traditional model) control release dates. But we do need to be told of changes to the date so we can rework our marketing efforts accordingly. That's something tradtional publishers need to do, especially if we're organizing local promo on our proverbial dime, in-person marketing requires a fair level of due dilligence and lead time.

    If the new pub, date clashes with another similar author event, or you can't reschedule a new event at a venue (Whether that's a bookstore signing, launch party, library or school visit) that effects what YOU as the author can do for your book, and that's something I feel publishers need to be understanding of. Authors can't be effective if we're left clueless about these things. However market savvy they are.

    Sometimes lack of respect for the author is just as problematic While we can't make people respect us, that doesn't we should let ourselves be treated like human doormats. I respect a lot of authors whose books aren't my thing. I think that lack of respect and empathy is what comes across too often as "Arrogance" when it's really just emotional burnout from lack of respect for you as a writer. I've been there and so I'm very careful how I talk about other authors for this reason.

    Sorry if I'm sounding mean, Kelly, but I'm trying to have a positive outlook and while this is a fair point made, it doesn't mean we as authors can just twiddle our thumbs and say "Leave it all to fate."

    To be Continued...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Taurean, I think you've misinterpreted this. I'm not saying we should do nothing. I'm saying that even despite our best efforts, there are things we can't change. We have to promote ourselves, but we can't force people to buy our books.

      Delete
  2. I do want to touch further on your point about readers.

    I really think the problem for most authors, including myself, and especially in hard sell genres like mine, is not that they have some grandiose notion that they can reach EVERY type of reader there is.

    But the fact is that it can take a LONG time to find people you can share it with who will be honest, but despite some authors citing the opposite, readers outside your genre aren't always the kind of feedback you need at various parts of a manuscript's development. The more niche your genre (Especially if you don't write romance) the harder the search in finding helpful beta-readers.

    I know for a fact that most of what I write will not appease readers who demand a certain level of simplicity to read (Hence why early readers scare me as a writer, though I do read them) and while I have empathy and respect for reluctant readers, or those struggling to read technically, I can't write specifically to those readers, and I'm okay with that, now if only I could meet more beta-readers (ESPECIALLY the parents/teachers/writers, not counting Kelly, she "Gets" my genre) who understand that.

    It is important to have "genre outsider" feedback if you want your story to have as broad a potential readership as possible, but even then, people who read and respect your genre are on average going to serve both your morale and what you're writing more because they'll "Get" what outsiders can't always see.

    For me, it's NEVER been a question of "How do I please everyone?" but rather, "How do I find MY potential readers" and while we can find overlap for the purposes of demographics and general market study, readers will always be more complex than what various market studies can ascertain.

    I hope you know I mean this in a balanced and nuanced way, regarding the things WE CAN CONTROL. Or to sound less close-minded, INFLUENCE.

    I think that alongside the points made in the post above, we need to also remember that sometimes the nature of publishing (Whether indie or traditional) doesn't make it easy to NOT be paranoid/Type A about the process. Period.

    I'm not a control freak in many areas in my life and am emotionally better off for it, but since career-minded authors can't be passive about the business, maybe a post on how authors can be proactive without going into "Paranoid, Type A, overachiever mode) would be a nice counterpoint to the blog post above. Just putting that out there...

    I'd write it myself, but I think you'd be more even-keeled on the topic than I could. Hope I made some sense.

    Take Care,
    Taurean

    P.S: Again, sorry if I sound mad, I just had to speak to this while the points I wanted to make were still fresh in my head.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Like I said above, there's definitely a lot we can do. I'm not sure I'm the best person to speak on that subject though. I'm still figuring things out myself. This is just sort of a "you have to learn to be flexible" kind of post to keep people from stressing over everything as far as their books are concerned.

      Delete
    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    3. Typos...

      I know what you mean here. I might've overreacted, but as I said, sometimes in learning what authors need to do, what you're saying gets lost in the shuffle, and just because we can't control the outcome, doesn't mean we can be nonchalant about it either.

      I'm feeling more torn between these things and at least from my perspective, you have a tighter handling on that, even if you're figuring it out for yourself. I think it's one of those things you can see in others easier than yourself.

      That said, you do have to watch that you're being flexible versus lazy, something that's hard to see in others but if you're honest with yourself, you can known regarding what you do. That's what I was speaking to. But I guess I overreacted.

      Still, it's FAR from the first time, just like you and crying, I have OCD issues in terms of what's applicable to my situation and general information.

      I also may have taken what you said too close to heart. I need to be better at checking that. I think too often I take the "Reader Immersion" thing to a emotionally deadly extreme.

      All that said, it's hard for me to be flexible, but still have a vision for whatever you do. Control issues aside, you still NEED a vision, whether or not you achieve it 100%. That's mostly what I meant to convey.

      Delete
    4. And I definitely agree with that. You have to have a plan and you have to market yourself and your books to the best of your ability.

      Delete
  3. Great post! Sometimes it feels like we SHOULD be able to control everything...but it's especially important that we give our characters (and fate) the chance to step in.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It would be so nice to be able to control everything, wouldn't it?

      Delete
  4. Love your frankness. I guess, for me, control is all about focusing what's within my human reach and not focusing on the rest. (Yeah, sounds like I mastered that, huh? Nope.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly. Our goals have to be realistic. Shoot for the stars, but have realistic benchmarks to achieve.

      Delete
  5. So it sounds like some aspects of publishing are- If you love it, let it go... ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There are definitely things you have to let go of. I honestly don't care if my release dates change. That's nothing. Having a contract voided would cause me to panic, though. You really do have to be flexible in this industry.

      Delete
  6. You said it best, Kelly. We can't control these things and honestly, we can either choose to further frustrate ourselves trying to, or simply enjoy the ride for the sake of our talent and sanity.

    But the one thing I've learned in the children's book industry is that you can't control the outcome of author appearances; even when you have several great authors combining signings together. People are busy and when you self-publish, locally owned and independent bookstores become your new besties, Not everyone can have huge book signings at Barnes and Nobles so I've learned to take the good with the bad when it comes to doing signings at smaller venues. What matters most to me at this point is the wonderful connections I get to make with other authors and book owners. And knowing someday, all of the hard work and self-promoting will come to a full circle.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Very well said, Gina. Local bookstores are great. There's nothing wrong with signing there instead of Barnes and Noble. In fact, you'll probably make more connections in the smaller setting. It's all good promotion.

      Delete
  7. Very mature approach, Kelly. In all parts of life, we can't control as much as we want. People should just grow up and chill out instead of being drama queens.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, complaining about it doesn't solve anything. We have to learn to adapt.

      Delete
  8. Even though sales are out of our control, we do our best to promote and hope for the best! I've read that only 10% of what we do to promote has any effect, but we never know which 10% that is! The thing is to keep trying. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes! So true! We have to try our best to promote, but understand that we don't know what will work. What works for one book, might not for another.

      Delete
  9. I can't control how long an editor takes to read my material that I wanted yesterday. (I hate waiting for things, can you tell?).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We all hate waiting, Catherine. I think that's why I tend to do things the second someone asks me to. I can't stand to keep others waiting either.

      Delete
  10. I definitely agree. We can't control sales, book reviews, or the number of people who come to our signings. We don't even have control over the cover art as I am learning now. I can tell the cover artist what I want for my eBook and be as thorough as possible, but I don't have control over the outcome. Whatever the cover artist does will be the cover. No ands, ifs, or buts about it.

    All writers, especially first time writers, have to learn their expectations for their book(s) may not be met. Even after writing the best book they possibly can and promoting it as hard as they can, they may not get the success they envision. The publishing industry is a mysterious thing, we can't control it at all.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It IS a mysterious thing. You are so right about that. We can do all we can, but it doesn't mean we'll be best sellers.

      Delete
  11. I'm with you, Kelly. I am a total control freak, LOL :-)

    It's hard sometimes just going with the flow, but you are absolutely right in all of the points that you mentioned - sales, reviews, characters.

    I guess the key is understanding that a book really and truly doesn't belong to the author. Once it goes out into the world, it becomes communal property - whether we like how it's treated or not. It really is so hard letting go.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great point, Faith. Readers will do what they want with the book once it's out of our hands.

      Delete
  12. The Serenity Prayer came immediately to mind...
    Outside the publishing business most have no idea how little is, in fact, out of the writer's control. A good literary metaphor for LIG... (=life in general ;})

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, you're right. It does apply to life in general.

      Delete
    2. Am I the only person who wanted to scream, cry, and PUNCH A WINDOW when thinking of the "Serenity Prayer." I don't think that's ALWAYS about pure control. But feeling like you're doing something proactive. Is what I feel not normal, Kelly?

      Delete
    3. Everyone has the right to their feelings, Taurean. No need to question that.

      Delete
  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Kelly, you have touched on professionalism in this post. It's that malleable approach that's so important for any writer. We also decide the hill we want to die on but mostly, rolling with the punches brings us to what we are: professional writers. Living with a little graciousness can't be bad, right? (had to repost due to error...hehe)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And sometimes rolling with the punches leads to other good things we didn't think of at first.

      Delete
  15. Ooh very true! I wouldn't even want to control my characters. I think readers will sense it when one forces the character to do something different. Out of character. As for reviews and sales, and Amazon all rolled into one, once the book is out there, we can't control everyone's views. some readers will like our book, others wont. So it's easier to move on and write more awesome stories. :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great point. You have to keep writing. It's what we do, after all. ;)

      Delete
  16. Sometimes I think it would be nice if we could control these things then I think back and realize, that's part of the fun and the growth as a writer. I'd never want to control my characters, my stories are better when they take charge. Great post, Kelly!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't want to control my characters either, Patrice. I love when they take over and I just try to keep up with them. ;)

      Delete
    2. But it is HARD when what they (The characters) want to do is a hard sell by the reader. Something I'm fighting with my WIP right now.

      Delete
    3. That's when you have to decide if you are writing for yourself or for future readers. It's a tough call sometimes.

      Delete
    4. Is it wrong to want both then? How do you make peace with it?

      Delete
    5. I think we all want both, Taurean, but it's not necessarily realistic.

      Delete
    6. But both matter so how can you sidestep either? Sometimes what the characters want gives problems for readers, and I don't see how you can pick one over the other and get the story to work for either.

      Am I just sounding wishy-washy on this?

      Delete
    7. Taurean, I'm not sure there's an answer here. If there was, we'd all be NY Times best sellers. ;)

      Delete
  17. I feel so out of control. :) Still, I do the best I can.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think that's all we can do, Beverly.

      Delete
  18. Isn't it curious when our characters go off and do their own thing without the consultation of their authors?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's a thing of magic for me because I feel like the story is writing itself and I'm just along for the ride.

      Delete
  19. Like most here, I'd prefer to be the wheels of control. I confess this entire get discovered, land an agent, get published, all involves sitting in the back seat of my own life and wait, while someone who may or may have time say, maybe I'll take a chance on this unknown author. Maddening to say the least. It's not enough to land a deal or an agent, it's more madness. I truly wanted to go the traditional route, but a couple of months ago I said the hell with it. The old way isn't the 'right way' anymore. Times are a changing. As for how I manage my frustrations.. I made the decision to self-pub. Now... I am stressing about the lack of time I have to do this! :-) Great post, Kelly.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Self-publishing does take a lot of time, Brenda, but the good news is that you can do it at your own pace. You don't have to answer to anyone but yourself. ;)

      Delete
  20. Great post, Kelly. We do want to control everything and it's just not possible. Someone else stated what I thought of reading this: what you're describing is being professional. In our other jobs (if we have those), we cannot control everything so why should we expect it with our writing careers. I do understand that writing is such a personal thing that it literally feels like we should control everything... Thanks for reminding us to keep things in perspective.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, we do have to remember that even though writing is what we love, it's still a profession. We are one of the lucky few who love what we do, but it's still a job like any other, which means some things are out of our hands. We have to do our best and be hopeful about what's out of our control.

      Delete
  21. One thing I would like to control is reviewers views! I want all readers to love the book as I do!

    Nas

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We all do, Nas, but unfortunately that won't ever happen. Reading is just too subjective.

      Delete
  22. You can't control trends either. A story that might catch the attention today my not catch the same attention 3 years from now. I can't imagine some of the classics of the past would make it through some editors today. The writing trends now are just too different from how they wrote back in the day.

    ReplyDelete
  23. We can't control how quickly publishers get back to us on our submissions. It drives me nuts! I am actually realizing that about all we can control in this industry is the quality of writing we produce and how we handle all the waiting we have to do. And neither are easy!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, neither is easy but both of those are definitely in our control.

      Delete
  24. Great article. So much we can't control but so much we can too, mainly our own attitudes. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Kelly.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Excellent post! You are right that there are many factors out of our control. Sales are definitely not in our control. I also think we can't control how long it takes to hear back from people (agents, editors, etc.). Sometimes the wait is short and sometimes it seems like a really long time. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, wait time is definitely out of our control, and it's also probably the one that bugs us the most. ;)

      Delete
  26. Sales, followship, waiting to hear back from reviewers, you said it, Kelly. Only this July did I decide to turn a blind eye on those figures. I used to be afraid of posting blog updates (on FB and mailing list) because of un-followship, and I worried that it was something I said. But ... the heck with it all. I know why I'm writing this particular post. Those who like us will like us. Those who won't will find someone else they like and everyone's happy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Very good point. You can't please everyone. You have to do what you feel is best for you and your books.

      Delete
  27. Hakuna Matata! It's so hard to let go sometimes of that desire to control everything. We just have to do the best that we can do!

    ReplyDelete
  28. So true. Even in non-writing things there's a lot out of our control, but I believe in other fields there's more control. Publishing is too out there because we expose our work to many, not a few.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes. It amazes me how many people who hate zombies, read Touch of Death. I wonder why they gave my book a shot. And even if they don't like it because, like I said, they hate zombies, I'm honored they took the time to read it.

      Delete
    2. That is an interesting thing, Kelly.

      For me, when people who read Gabriel in process (Who don't normally like animal fantasy) say they liked or loved reading mine, it gave me hope that I'm getting somewhere. It does feel nice when you "convert" someone to your kind of story, or at the very least the way you tell it.

      This is one of those things I think is harder to navigate for the author than the reader. Is that fair to say?

      Think of how many readers who love a certain author that they'll follow him or her even if a book's a genre they normally don't like and like that one, that's what I mean.

      Romance has so much leeway here because it sells so well despite what some critics groan about. This issue is more intense when you're in a tighter niche, and that's the context I was speaking in from my comments above, Kelly.

      Delete
    3. It is nice to covert someone with your book. That's why I'm honored when someone tries my book even though the topic isn't their thing. But in the same token, I'm not surprised if they don't get into the book since it's admittedly not their thing.

      Delete
    4. True. It just feels nice to convert a few. If only by how you do it. I've had authors convert me to nonfiction I otherwise wouldn't read.

      Delete
  29. Yes, every time a decision falls into somebody else's court, it's something we can't control, no matter how good our work or how much we promoted. You can lead a horse to water...

    ReplyDelete

I love comments, but not spam. All spam will be deleted.