Most authors, I’m told, would rather write than promote their books. With a few exceptions (Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, maybe Stephen Leacock) most writers choose the tyranny of the keyboard to the terror of the stage.
I’m no different; I’m typical of those who prefer producing the product to selling it. And anyone who has ever had to get out there and sell something, but would much prefer not, develops a whole new appreciation of the challenges salespeople face every day.
Once again Theodore Roosevelt’s famous speech, ‘Man In the Arena’, comes to mind: “the credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood”. Whenever dejection and defeat come knocking at the door, I try to recall TR’s voice and seek to rejuvenate my ‘manly resolve’.
You may recall my earlier blog posts offering my notions for achieving [momentary] happiness: Know your best strengths/values and give yourself opportunities to enter the state of ‘flow’ utilizing your best strengths (Martin Seligman, Authentic Happiness); this is best enabled through projects (Brian Little, Me Myself, and Us).
Projects can take on many guises – they don’t always have to be in your signature strengths and flow inducing, but they do need to provide a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. Even finally dealing with that cluttered garage gives some psychological fulfillment– that damned project is finally done. We may prefer to have projects using our best talents, even be distracted by them in order to avoid life’s pedantic tasks, but that unattended to pile of bills gradually weighs heavier and heavier on your mind until you really must be deal with it, so deal with it sooner than later. There is also something to be said for doing something physical rather than cerebral [put away that computer, put down that book] – it creates genuine fatigue, releases positive endorphins and generates a feeling of accomplishment, contentment, if not actual joy: tidy your room, make your bed, do the dishes, turn over the spent garden, clean that garage.
I have realised in my latter years that I have a creative bent (imagination, curiosity, expression through words and writing). I slide effortlessly into flow when I sit at my computer, shut off interruptions and distractions, and begin to type. When I am depressed or feeling ennui, or anxious, writing gets me out of it. So I write.
Last year, in the midst of Covid, I had finished Travel With Myself and put it up on lulu.com. But I was in no mood to promote it. However, rather than lapse into depression and helplessness I launched myself into a new project, The Treasure of Stella Bay. That gave me another eight months plus of distraction, something to keep my mind off my other problems – aging, money, and long-distance romance; but once it was finally posted on lulu.com July 26, I faced a new decision: what shall be my next project?
It would have been easy for me to start in on another writing project – I had two draft manuscripts on my hard drive waiting to be resurrected, and two other books percolating in my brain – but at base I knew that starting another writing project was merely an avoidance tactic – putting off the unwelcome task of promoting my books. I had already set up the appropriate infrastructure to bring these books to market – I had a website, I had lulu.com and the General Distribution network (to Amazon, Ingram, Barnes & Noble) working for me, I had this blog and a legion of followers, surely that was enough to create a critical mass of interest, ‘go viral’, and get my book in the hands of readers.
And let’s not make too light of this, I want my book(s), to be read. I had sufficient hubris to believe these books were worth reading. But I also knew that passively waiting for the universe to come to me was not going to be sufficient to get my book in the hands of readers.
I determined that I must turn my attention and energies to marketing and promoting and selling The Treasure of Stella Bay, in spite of myself. So, facing my fears, I decided to make the Marketing and Selling of The Treasure of Stella Bay my Project for the next five months. I would try to bring my talents to bear, even if they are not my best talents, and strive for some modicum of fulfillment, if not actual joy. I had some know-how, and as I said, some infrastructure already in place, I just needed to write a plan and bring all these bits together.
(Did you notice that little avoidance trap again? I would ‘write’ a plan. Nothing about executing the plan! Cue Teddy Roosevelt.)
I developed a knot in my stomach.
Yessir, I wrote a plan. But a plan is just a plan. It’s words on paper. It accomplishes close to nothing if it is not acted upon. I needed to act.
I needed to reach out to people: People I knew, people I knew but only slightly, and many more people I didn’t know. I needed to generate interest. I needed an agent!
The knot in my stomach got bigger. I wasn’t liking this project one bit. The Girl From Santa Rita seemed a much more attractive project even though a lot more research was needed. But I like research. The only problem is, I have to go to Philippines to do it, and Covid makes this impossible (or more accurately Philippines travel restrictions make this impossible).
So, facing my fears, my need for recognition outweighing my apprehension, I decided I would give this Marketing and Sales Project attention, at least till the end of December.
Since this project requires attributes not in my signature strengths, daily I’ve had to push myself to work on it. I resolved to devote my days to the Project, well, covid days, 10 – 2, sometimes Saturdays!. I allowed many distractions: checking email, another cup of coffee, twitter, go the mailbox, lunch. I rarely find myself in flow. But achieving ‘flow’ is difficult, it requires a lot of concentration and self-discipline just to give yourself the chance to get into that state. Let’s be honest, I may have adopted Marketing and Selling my book as my current ‘project’ but I sure wasn’t feeling much flow. The fear of rejection and ridicule loomed large in my mind, avoidance was easier than effort. Cue TR, again.
I’m halfway into the schedule I gave myself for this project. I’ve had some success; I’ve had a lot more disappointments and doubts. Maybe by Christmas I’ll have had the satisfaction of knowing that a lot of people will have read my book. But I have a lot of work yet to do for that to happen. Happiness comes from the work itself, apparently, not just the results. I remind myself, channeling Stephen Leacock on Luck, ‘I find the harder I work the more of it [satisfaction] I have’. I’ll be damned glad when this project is over.
(Next Blog Post I want to delve a bit deeper into this M&S Project. I want to give you, my readers, a sense of how much work is involved in executing a marketing and sales project, irrespective of results.)
Doug Jordan, reporting to you from Kanata Ontario
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