Friday, January 21, 2011

To UnPlug or Not to UnPlug - That Might Be the Question.

From the moment Johannes Gutenberg stepped back to admire his invention to this very nano-second there has been noise about how crazy the publishing industry is, and how difficult it is understand. Don't look now, but we're in the throes of change (e-books, e-readers, kindle, iPad, e-Zine, indie presses, Google scanning every scrap of paper it claps eyes on, Amazon poised to take over the world).

IS self-publishing the wave of the future? How DO you make a name for yourself in this biz? Who really decides what gets published and what doesn't? Do I need an agent? What do can a publicist actually do for a novelist? Do I sign with a small publisher, or hold out for a larger one? How can I know how long a publisher's sales reach is? Should I micro-blog every thought/emotion/idea/hope/failure/personal conversation I have? Should I read and respond to all the other writer's who are micro-blogging their every thought/emotion/idea/hope/failure/personal conversations? It's enough to make an author's eyes bug out.

As Latayne pointed out this week, it's easy to become overwhelmed and flirt with unplugging. Hers is a question I've struggled with on and off for years now. I don't have definitive answers (and different approaches work for different people), but I thought I'd share my perspective with you, and perhaps you'll find something of value for your own journey.
The ticking bomb for me wasn't so much the social networking piece (I've whittled it down to this blog and Facebook - tweeting on rare occasions), as it was the information overload about publishing, writing, publicity, marketing, self-promotion, and number watching. It's a time suck, but more than that, it's confusing to read all these blogs and website that say different things.
If you feel like I do, then read on. I've come up with a blessedly short list of tips to help us writers stay sane while we press on toward our goal. Maybe.

1) Understand the industry in general. A working understanding how publishing functions is different from analyzing every scrap of data about publishing that gets published on a blog or web site. Instead of fretting over the details (every writer's journey is different) strive to understand the major players, how they work, and how they work together.

2) Only worry about what you need to know right now. The publishing world is filled with important details - the good news is, you don't need to know all of them. If you're a beginning writer working on your first novel, you don't need to understand the often difficult dance of choosing a book cover. You need to focus on the process of becoming a better writer. If you are looking for an agent, then immerse yourself in the details of agents - (which, for fiction at least, means you have a completed, polished novel ready to go). Research hard, practice proposal writing, triple check you're querying a specific agent correctly. After you sign with an agent, then move to the next step on your journey.

3) Pay closer attention to your personal journey. Stop reading everything on earth about the publishing industry. I can go from calm to freaked out in the time it takes to read one article from the NY Times. It's better to pay close attention to what is happening to you and your work, then if you run around all over the blog-sphere reading general advice. (Uh, except for THIS blog, of course.)

4) Relax. Yes, the numbers are stacked against us. Yes, it's difficult to break into publishing. Yes, it's difficult to remain in publishing. Let's make peace with the truth. Then we can all take a deep breath and continue on our journeys. The fastest way to relax? Believe in yourself. Keep the vision in front of you and keep walking toward it - by writing, and writing, and writing some more.

I bid you good writing.


Wendy Paine Miller said...

Working on keeping the vision in front of me.

I agree, there is such a deluge of information. It's easy to get distracted or overwhelmed. I face the temptation to unplug entirely on a regular basis.

Have a great weekend ladies!
~ Wendy

Patti Hill said...

Thanks, Bonnie, I needed that. Good advice loaded with wisdom. I'm prewriting my new novel. I'll "stay" right there, for now.

Meg Moseley said...

Thanks, I needed it too. Like so many things, it's a matter of balance. We don't have to unplug completely (well, maybe for a season) but we don't have to let the info-overload hog our time, either.

We're writers. Writers write. When I get out of touch with the joy and the pain and the passion of writing, I know something's way out of balance.

Latayne C Scott said...

Very insightful, Bonnie dearest.

I have to say that some of my problem is, well, my problem. I should have unsubscribed to a lot of things long ago.

Wow. I got up to only 8 emails this morning. And most of them are important and I feel happy to respond. I might break into song.

Bonnie Grove said...

Wendy: I think we all think about unplugging - and it's probably a good idea to do just that from time to time. But I'm convinced the cyber world would fall to pieces without me. ;)

Patti: I'm so excited about your new (!!!) novel.

Meg: Writers write. That's the one diagnostic question for everyone I meet who says they are a writer: What are you writing? If they say, well I'm thinking about . . . . then I know they aren't serious yet. Writers write. Yikes. I'd better write something!

Latayne: Mwah!

Steve G said...

Simple, solid and succinct. 3 of the reasons I love your writing.

Pat Jeanne Davis said...

Very useful advice, Bonnie. Thanks so much for the wise counsel. All the info on the publishing industry can become overwhelming and many times discouraging. Pat

Bonnie Grove said...

Steve: You're my favorite person.

Pat: You're so right about how discouraging much of the publishing industry news can feel. While I agree we shouldn't have rose colored glasses on, we don't need to beat ourselves over the head with discouragement, either.

Jan Cline said...

Wow Bonnie, you hit it in the heart for me. I have been stressing a bit over everything I thought I had to do and know to get published. I have let all the networking and platform building take up my writing time and now Im wondering if it's all worth it. I think what has to happen for many of us is to give ourselves permission to stick to general information and not use our writing time swimming up the stream of the information network. I wont be unplugging completely, but maybe just turning down the juice a little! Thanks so much for this...very timely for me.
Blessings, Jan

Susie Finkbeiner said...

Sometimes I wonder if you ladies are reading my mind!

Last night I was reading through all the information (ALL of it) in the 2011 Christian Writers' Guide. I began to freak out because it is all so very overwhelming. This morning I was ready to throw up my hands, throw out my novel and stop writing forever. All because I did too much research. Ugh.

Thank you for giving me permission to fix my eyes only on the current task at hand.

I love this blog.

Karen @ a house full of sunshine said...

Hey everyone, I think something is going on between Bonnie and that Steve guy!


Bonnie Grove said...

Jan: Glad this was timely for you. It's so true, we need to know how things work, but there's no need to stress over it. I'm trying to learn how to enjoy every aspect of the journey. Some days it's easy to forget.

Susie: Heh heh - the old mind reading trick. We're thrilled you love this blog. We love having you with us.

Karen: Oh my, you might be right. He seems terribly cute to me. And he has blue eyes.

Henrietta Frankensee said...

Can you imagine Jesus with a cell phone? Parables on Twitter? How many friends would He have on Facebook? How wise He was to come in the iron age, speaking to 12 core contacts, a few more acquaintances and a broadcast or two on a mountain. I don't think His methods have changed very much, He is still very personal and individual and intimate.
But I want to share my story with as many as will read it. I am passionate about its message and the best form of sharing is to have it published.
He who has this talent must use it, he who has that talent must use it too, all to up build the Body. Perhaps the Agent job description can be tweaked so they are publicists to the general public more than to big publishing houses.

Lynn Dean said...

Excellent advice, as always. That's why this blog survived my New Year's weeding and stayed on my iGoogle reader list!

iGoogle reader, btw, is a great way to manage some of the technological flood. You can preview articles and easily open the ones that seem important. I mark the rest as read and they go away into archives. Keeps the inbox uncluttered.

Bonnie Grove said...

Henrietta: Yes, that personal approach. That's what matters in life. Yes, we want people to read our books far and wide, but nothing substitutes a good chat with friends. That's why book clubs rock.

Lynn: We're THRILLED we made the cut. It's an honor to be among those you read and befriend online. And thanks for the heads up on iGoogle!