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Posts tagged with: career decisions

Redefining Success

In 2013 – wow, four years ago! – my traditional publisher and I parted ways, and the career I thought I was going to have took an unexpected turn. My contract for an Underbelly Chronicles paranormal trilogy was cancelled after two books. My publisher loved my work, but with over a year elapsing between book releases, it was tough to build momentum, and sales didn’t meet expectations. 

Two strikes and I was out – of traditional publishing, at any rate, because I wanted to keep writing this series. With the third book in hand, I dove into indie author-dom, because who doesn’t publish a completed book? Sales and reviews were favorable. The book was nominated for a couple of big awards. 

Awesome, right?

Nope. Sure, publishing that book was a salve to my stinging ego, but in retrospect, it was a short-sighted decision. What I really wanted, long term, was to continue writing the series – and to make that worth my while, I needed to regain the publishing rights for those first two books.

The problem? My traditional contract’s rights reversion clause was sales-based. Once sales dropped below a certain threshold, and stayed under that threshold for two concurrent royalty cycles – one year – rights would revert. Releasing my indie book lengthened that process, because the new work drove sales to my traditionally published backlist. 

It was a paradox.

After much thought, I made a painful decision: to stop publishing, and stop promoting, until rights to the first two books reverted back to me.

Yes, you read that correctly. I benched myself to accelerate this process.

Strange? Yes. Powerful? YES – because once those rights reverted, I’d have complete control of the entire series forevermore. I could publish, price, bundle, and promote as I saw fit. 

To make a long story short…mission accomplished! Rights to the first two Underbelly Chronicles books reverted late last year, and I re-launched the entire series a couple of months ago. (Currently available exclusively at Amazon, and going wide in August.) My time in the introvert cave has been glorious – I’ve spent the last few years writing, doing some freelance editing, learning to format my own books, and teaching – but now it’s time for the author to emerge from hibernation again. In October, I’ll publish my first new book in four years.

This causes me no end of angst, because even on good day, so-called conventional publishing wisdom and I have a glancing acquaintance at best. Publish multiple books per year? Nope, not me. #1k1hr? Puh-leeze, I’ve never written 1000 words in a day, much less in an hour. I don’t write to word count, period. Recommendations about profanity, or getting political on social media? My Twitter feed is a case study in BRANDING: YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG.

I swear a lot. I don’t get “book boyfriends” or the concept of The Muse, and I find most motivational quotes to be entirely too soft and fluffy. I value and appreciate my readers, but as The Most Massive Introvert On the Planet™, I’m probably the last author you’d ever find wearing a tiara or hosting a tea party. 

I edit my own work. 

Yeah, I said it.

Seriously, how many sacred Romancelandia cows can one woman slaughter in two hundred words or less? 

In most areas of my life, I march to the beat of my own drummer, and clearly my writing life is no exception. I’m a misfit. Most days I’m okay with that, but book release time never fails to make me take a look around, assess what the current state of practice seems to be, and think: AUTHORING: YOU’RE DOING THAT WRONG, TOO. 

As I prepare to release my next book, I’ve evaluated conventional publishing wisdom anew, and have come to a strange and powerful conclusion: I don’t publish frequently enough for conventional publishing wisdom to apply.

I will probably never be traditionally, conventionally successful. I find great freedom in this realization, because it means I get to define success for myself.

No matter how solid your confidence, believe me, this is easier said than done – especially when you see your friends and contemporaries not only passing you by, but flat-out lapping you. That’s where your village comes in. Support from your besties, your critique partner(s), your chapter mates, your blogmates, and your (very) patient readers is key. This being 2017, so is advice from complete strangers on the internet. 😉 

To that end, wise online soul Evan Carmichael has created a YouTube series about success and entrepreneurship called “Top 10 Rules for Success,” featuring interviews and clips from people spanning all possible occupational spectra. In Sept. 2016, he posted one featuring my spirit animal, Foo Fighters front man Dave Grohl.

Though he’s a musician rather than an author, I think Dave speaks wisely about art, confidence, and finding joy in the doing.     

Dave Grohl’s Top 10 Rules for Success

  1.   You have to be great.
  2.   Figure it out.
  3.   Chase your dreams.
  4.   Don’t lose your personality.
  5.   Experiment.
  6.   Do your own thing.
  7.   Find balance.
  8.   Just do it.
  9.   Cherish your voice.
  10.   Love what you do.

Google up the rest of Evan’s series when you have a chance – it’s inspiring stuff.  (Dave’s “Top 10” content is 20:00 or so, and NSFW due to language. There’s some fun bonus footage at the end of the video.) 

After watching the video, I feel a renewed freedom to work at my own pace, to take an alternate route. To drive 30 m.p.h. on a scenic, winding road instead of taking the interstate. To disregard what everyone else is doing and build my career one day, one page, one book at a time – and feel joy in the doing.  

Hey, if “Do your own thing” is good enough for Dave, it’s good enough for me. 😉 

At this point in your writing career, how do you define success? Do any of Dave’s “Top 10 Rules” resonate? 

If you’re feeling brave: which piece(s) of conventional wisdom have YOU told to take a hike?

–Tammy, the Ruby Contrarian

Tamara Hogan is the award-winning author of The Underbelly Chronicles paranormal romance series. An English major by education and a software developer/process engineer by trade, she recently stopped telecommuting to Silicon Valley to teach, edit, and write full-time. Tamara loathes cold and snow, but nonetheless lives near Minneapolis with her husband and two naughty cats.

Talk Amongst Yourselves

chailatteI used to love that Saturday Night Sketch from the 80s called “Coffee Talk with Linda Richman”. Just thinking about it gets me verklempt. Essentially it was a spoof on Mike Myer’s Jewish mother-in-law, and her infamous catch phrase “like butter” or rather “like buttah” was something I used often. If you’ve never seen it, you can find the clip here. (It’s only 25 seconds :))

Oh, if only all our careers could be like buttah, right?

Well, I know first hand there is many a slip between the cup and the lip (as my mother likes to say) and what we think will be our path to greatness if often strewn with pitfalls, dead ends and out and out breakdowns. When the Rubies first assembled all those years ago, we tried to think of a name for our Golden Heart Finalist class that embodied who we are. How fortuitous that not only did we nail the concept of who we were as writers but also innately sensed that the path we’d take toward getting our books published would be A.) better with friends and B.) fraught with flying monkeys, poppy fields, false wizards and lots and lots of doubt.

The Rubies know all too well my ups and downs so we won’t rehash them here because we all could spend hours talking about our stops and starts. So what I would really like to discuss is starting over.

Starting over.

Hmmm…well, that’s not really what I’m doing. BUT, I think there comes a time in a writer’s life when he or she has to stop and change directions. It could be a change in the mode of publishing – going from traditional to indie or vice versa. It could be a change in genre. Or a change in POV. Or going back to the craft books and relearning a new way to do things. Or just starting the damn book over again. And Again. And again. There’s a wealth of possibilities as to what constitutes starting over, but I believe we all do it at some time or another.

And thank goodness we do. Because starting over means new opportunity…even if it takes more work and is scary as your reflection after a week of the flu. And this is where I find myself. Starting Over.

For the past six years, I’ve been writing for Harlequin fairly exclusively. I loved it. Truly. Superromance fit me like a good jacket – comfortable, easy to wear and lots of pockets that allowed me to tuck in all of my characters, arcs and secondary stories. But with so many changes in the industry, I found I needed to expand my opportunities to find readers (pretty much what everyone is trying to do, right?). So with my agent waving her pom pons, I sent out new proposals, and thankfully, I found another home with a new publisher. And I’m excited. This is a new opportunity to find more readers and write stories that are different from what I’ve been writing. Not necessarily starting over, but stepping off the path I have been trodding. And you know what? It’s sorta scary. Okay, so I know many will say “That’s not starting over” and maybe it’s not totally. But at this moment, I have no contracts. None. It’s been forever since I’ve not had another contracted book waiting on me. And I feel weird. Like I don’t know what to do. And that’s new for me.

So at this moment, I’m trying to figure out my next step. Do I try to jump into women’s fiction with a proposal I have? Can I create something high concept? Sub a new series to Harlequin? Take the plunge into self-publishing? I just don’t know.

And I bet there are many of you out there who feel the same way. Start over with something else? Or stay the course? So let’s do a little Coffee Talk with Liz Talley. Let’s “Discuss amongst ourselves” what’s the best way to start over….or the best way to stay the course. It’s “Let’s Talk about It Wednesday.” (Yeah, I just made that up!)

Ready?

Go.

The Latest Comments

  • Louisa Cornell: It’s a great first line, Louise! I am looking forward to reading the book!
  • Lenee Anderson: The murderer is David’s best friend. I’m concerned if I said something along the lines of...
  • Darynda Jones: This is great, Lenee, especially for a first attempt. Wow. I’m wondering if the stakes can be...
  • Darynda Jones: YES!!! I love it, Vivi, but Autumn’s is adds that twists that grabs me. Great job both of you!
  • Heather McCollum: Yes, this works! Thank you Autumn! You are awesome!!

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