Mistakes I’ve Made

The following is a post I did on the Absolute Write forums. After re-reading it, and because of feedback I got from other posters, I thought it might make a good blog post.

I’ve technically been published since 2002, when a phonics-based reading comprehension program I wrote was released by a small educational press based in Maine, but from then until 2009 the only other thing I had published was an essay in AW’s Stories of Strength anthology in 2005. Both the phonics program and the essay were under my real name.

2009 was when I first started really aiming for publication. But I am not a business-minded person, and I tend to be VERY literal when it comes to advice from others. So, for example, when people said, “Build a bigger backlist and you’ll have more sales”, I wrote everything I could think of, sent it to publishers that didn’t do great with promotion and marketing, had a few dozen titles released from 2011-2013… and while my overall earnings from writing have increased every year, if I average it out per book, I’m earning WAY less than in 2009 when I only had three releases and was an unknown author.
That doesn’t mean “Build a bigger backlist” is bad advice. It means I *followed* it badly.

Books 1

And because of crap from my past, I found it very hard to look at writing as a career. In my first marriage, writing was the hobby that pissed off my husband and made him rant at me for neglecting him and my kids. Even after I started getting published and earning money–with the complete support of my second husband, who thought it was awesome–I was still in the mindset of “This is a hobby and I have to put my kids and husband and everything else first.” Even when my husband told me to start thinking of my writing as a career and to make it a priority.

I got too scattered. I jumped on most, if not all, themed calls that showed up from my publishers. I submitted to too many publishers, and as I said above, some of them did not work out for me. In the past five and a half years, I’ve only had 4 stories rejected. Two of those were rejected solely because they didn’t quite fit the theme of the calls I’d written them for. And one of those and one of the other rejected stories went on to be published elsewhere.

Does that mean I’m an amazingly awesome author? Not really. It means I ignored the prevailing AW wisdom of “Aim for the top and work down”, and instead started at the bottom because I knew they would accept my books. I have no one to blame but myself for most of the things that have gone wrong in my career.

In a writing career, as in life, there are no do-overs. But there are “start again and do it right” chances. In the past year and a half, I’ve vastly reinvented myself as a human being and as a woman specifically, and I’ve now reached the point of being more confident and more in control than before. I can’t undo the writing/publishing mistakes I’ve made, but I can go forward aiming higher, pulling books that are underperforming or are with publishers I no longer trust, and writing what *I* want to write instead of jumping on special calls or taking requests.

I started reinventing my writing career about a year ago, but things happened in my personal life that negatively impacted that, and so I’m not where I was hoping to be by now. But as long as I keep trying, keep tweaking what isn’t working and putting more effort into what is, I’m succeeding by my standards. And by taking advice from those who know what they’re doing–and who know me well enough to give advice I can understand and/or to answer my requests for clarification–as well as examining and analyzing what I’m doing and making plans for what I should do, I will become even more successful.

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