Thursday, November 8, 2018

IWSG: Reflecting on my Writing Life

How has your creativity in life evolved since you began writing?

Bear with me. I start with the negatives but end on a positive note. I've been writing for many years now, but only recently was my fiction published. I actually found a publisher (a small press). 

Initially, I was over the moon excited, as only my nonfiction had been published before, and this was the novel I'd spent 10 years rewriting. Out of the gate sales were okay I guess, but then dropped to practically nothing. (It's been 16 months). 

Now I'm wondering what (if anything) I did wrong. The publisher did do some marketing, but most it would seem depended upon my efforts. I hear other writers complain about their low sales and wonder. What are normal sales anyway? I've followed all of the online advice, setting up a Blog, Twitter, FB, Instagram and have spent an enormous amount of time learning the process. 

Allowed to fester, this kind of thinking gets me in a rut. I contemplate silly things like:

--My profile photo online. Should I smile more and look less serious? Maybe a caricature would be better. How about a younger photo?    
--Embarrassment. I committed to doing the NaNo this November, but now I'm so pitifully behind, it's a 'why bother'. 
--Feeling like I'm in a popularity contest. Why did "they" get so many reviews? Why did "they" get so many visits and comments at their blog?  Oh....the road to jealousy is a bad one, folks.
--Blog overhaul. Should I go with a different color? A new theme? Would it be more energizing? Would it generate sales? Do ads even work?

This kind of thinking feels like such a time waster. Feeling sorry for one's self never accomplishes much, other than to rewind and start all over again.Thankfully, I'm too busy to linger long. The best therapy is really to get back to work....whatever the task at hand is. 

Truth is, I enjoy writing. When I wrote a garden column for our local newspaper this summer at zero pay, I didn't mind. I had always wanted to write about gardening. I've gained confidence as a writer over the years. A younger me would have felt unqualified to write for a newspaper. As an academic editor (now retired), I learned the importance of "less is more." Academic writers tend to be overly verbose and I got pretty good at red-inking their manuscripts. If nothing else, I learned that 'rough' drafts are indeed that--they always need work. 

Freelancing with an educational publisher later helped me stay focused on the topic at hand. I tend to wander in my thoughts, easily distracted with the details. I still have a certain editor's voice in my head ("stay on target"/"keep your focus). I learned how to research history too, at the library and online when it was still the wild, wild internet west. We have so much data available today. It's almost scary. I've done quite a bit of pioneer women's history at my blog as a result. 

I'm more reflective these days and find myself wanting to write poetry. 

View of sunset from author's home.

I'm a slow writer but I'm okay with that. I tend to be a perfectionist and like the results. I've been reading a book about happiness. It talks about the importance of the three P's in life: Purpose, Pride and Pleasure. I took a little quiz and I came up short on having enough pleasure in my life. I recently returned to church, which should help, as socialization is key to finding healthy pleasure. I fully understand the other P's. Purpose and Pride in what I do are important to me. Right now, I'm helping my mother write her memoirs and it's taking precedence over my current novel. She's 93 and I love being able to honor her in this way. I'm learning so much about our family too.

Last but not least, I found a better way to connect with the IWSG group. Turns out Facebook is an easy way to connect with other members (as opposed to the blog-o-sphere). Members responded quickly to a question I had asked recently about autographing books. Linking my blog post to FB and IWSG site will help promote this post too. There is always a learning curve isn't there? I'm looking forward to connecting with more writers in this group. I live in a rural community, an hour's drive to any writers' groups. IWSG is starting to fill that void.

Sharon M. Himsl
Published: Evernight Teen 


  1. You did nothing wrong. You do need to do your own promotion, though - something I discovered too late when my publisher stopped doing any promo whatsoever as soon as the novel was out.

    You are definitely doing the right thing by getting your writing any way you can. Education publishing is good if you can get the gig.

    1. Hmm...same thing with you too. Guess we have to get busy and finish that 2nd novel of ours, right? That's where marketing will really play a role. I should add that the learning process has been fabulous. I would definitely consider a small press again given the opportunity. Evernight Teen did the cover, edited my book, and got it out there. They do publisher promotions too, which I try to participate in. Plus, the other authors are very supportive of each other. The publisher has been fair and honest, and responsive to all my questions. I would feel awful if this post said otherwise. THE REAL PROBLEM IS I AM NEW AND FEW KNOW ME. The competition is stiff but I'm not giving up, and you shouldn't either. Thanks Sue!

  2. I don't think you did anything wrong. You did everything you knew how to do,to the extent that you did it, and you saw results based on that. It's a learning experience. A bigger publisher would've made "all the difference," but that wasn't an option. When I say "all the difference," the assumption is that a larger publisher would've had connections (i.e. to BOOKSTORES!!!) and you might've seen sales in the thousands.

    Anyway, keep writing, and maybe book #2 will be blessed with being bought by a bigger publisher. That would be my hope, if I was in your position.

    1. I agree we should shoot for the bigger publisher. Having your book in a book store is HUGE. I managed to get mine in a local Barnes and Noble store as a local author, but have not visited other stores in the area. Honestly, there aren't that many. Self-promotion in person is not one of my selling points. My previous post with my grand-daughter is a case in point. She didn't hesitate at all asking if my book could be ordered for her school library. Not sure how that turned out, but at least she tried. There is also the issue of sharing profits with an agent (let alone, getting one!), which appears to be the requirement of big publishers, I'm still on the fence about all that. A nonfiction book I'm working on will go the self-publish route if I can figure out the how to do that. Thanks, Cathy.

  3. I agree about small press. They take chances large publishers won’t and they will go on supporting you when th big ones are already on to their next big thing. Ford Street Publishing is my favourite!

    1. That's great, Sue. Had not heard of Ford Street Publishing. Ditto on the support they offer. You become part of a growing family and I like that.

  4. Promotion is a fickle beast, so having it work for you is often the exception for most of us.

    1. A 'fickle beast' huh. Good description. It sure feels that way.

  5. So sorry to hear about the low sales, and all your other struggles as an author. I experience many of these insecurities, too. (That "popularity contest" feeling is far too relatable, heh.) There's so much amazing content out there that it feels impossible to compete sometimes, no matter how much promotion we do. It's a mix of persistence and luck to get anywhere, I think.

    And aw, I think it's awesome how you're helping your mom write her memoirs. What a sweet thing to do! Best of luck with this, and all the other writing you hope to do, too...

  6. Having a social media presence and promoting yourself at a local bookstore are important. Having said that, a major writer kept careful track of her stats while doing the sorts of social media things writers are advised to do. Her conclusion was all those activities did not move the needle on her sales. It's best to get back to writing, instead of wondering what the golden marketing idea might be.


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You could call me an eternal optimist, but I'm really just a dreamer. l believe in dream fulfillment, because 'sometimes' dreams come true. This is a blog about my journey as a writer and things that inspire and motivate me.