In March 2012, I was struggling financially with a part-time library job, a one-year-old bookstore that hadn't got off the ground yet, and growing bills. I was also struggling with a historical novel about my family. My big dream was to finish and publish it, but I'd put it aside for medical reasons. I'd recovered enough to write again, but had trouble getting back into the story.
Somehow I ran across Ana Hoffman's blog, Traffic Generation Cafe. The concept that a real person could make a living from blogging felt like a light turned on in my head. I wanted to write again, and I needed money. I began to hear the siren song of the pro-blogosphere.
In April, Robert Lee Brewer offered a month-long Platform Challenge for writers. I "knew" Robert through his involvement with Writer's Digest, and I'd heard all year that a writer needs a platform — a public face that shows one's expertise — even before the book is finished. It sounded like the perfect opportunity to learn about the world of online marketing while promoting my future book.
10% Off, No Min at Writers Digest Shop. Use coupon code writersdigest10w during checkout. Expires 06/30/2013. --- Look, this is what probloggers do. It's called an affiliate ad.
The whirlwind continued offline in May at the annual Quakers Uniting In Publications conference. Not only did I attend as a representative for a church-affiliated publisher, I co-led the panel on bookselling. My experience as a bookseller? A whopping one year, during one of the most difficult years ever for the printed book. With the help of the other panelists, we all left with a few refreshing drops of optimism.
Meanwhile, the April Platform Challenge participants had formed a community through our guided social media experience. Still thrumming with energy, we started a website (among other endeavours) and called ourselves Wordsmith Studio.
Summer rushed by with a freelance copyediting job, attained through a connection I'd made at the conference. After that I resumed brainstorming, thinking about blogging, reading other people's blogs, and trying to get back into writing through exercises and prompts.
November arrived in a hurry, and with it, National Novel Writing Month. Our local NaNoWriMo group has formed a year-round community through facebook, and I wanted to participate just to see them all in person again. However, my novel had already been through two NaNoWriMos; it needed thoughtful revision, not fast word count. I tried to be a NaNo rebel and wrote anything: blog posts, articles, free writes. I enjoyed the scribbling frenzy at the write-ins, but didn't meet the word count goal. On the bright side, my writing "muscles" warmed up and a few blog posts appeared.
In January 2013, Ana introduced me to Danny Iny. He gave out awesome ideas in his webinar about earning full-time income with an online audience business. The siren song got louder. Soft background music pleaded with me to finish the novel first. As I considered problogging, I made a small goal: just 300 words a day as I completely rewrote the draft novel.
Then, the song turned into a roar. Danny and his helpers launched the Great Online Marketing Scavenger Hunt in March. How could I resist? A list of tasks to improve my online presence, new skills to learn, new people to meet — would it be like the April Platform Challenge?
The Scavenger Hunt was fun; the challenge list could be used as a checklist. Some of the participants were really nice and connected through facebook. We all hated Tumblr. I even learned how to make a video! But no, it wasn't the same. The list was long and the competition high. Plus... I got a great, short-term freelance offer and found myself with FOUR jobs that month.
When Wordsmith Studio called for submissions to celebrate our one-year anniversary, I thought: My blog has about the same followers or traffic as last April. I just had to throw in the towel on the Scavenger Hunt. I simply don't have time to build a new website or all these things that probloggers are supposed to do. What could I possibly write about when I haven't succeeded? The song melted into a screech.
Silly me. I was measuring success by numbers.
Remember that little goal I had, to write every day? Last week, I finished draft number three. I finished the major rewrite of my novel!
Having short, attainable goals, and an incentive, was key.
Now I need new goals for editing: not word count, maybe a certain number of scenes per week, with room for researching historical details and reading writing-craft books. I also need an occasional free day, for when I'm working three jobs or spending the weekend with family.
I think my new mantra for the next couple of months will be:
WRITE. EDIT. READ. CREATE.
I'll have to measure what I can do in a week, but the current goal is to do one of those, every day.
Does this mean leaving the blogosphere behind? Not necessarily, just putting priorities in order. Look what I've learned this year!
- Ana taught me that people can and do make money online. If that's the goal, they have to adapt to changing audiences and technology.
- Robert taught us how to walk with babysteps first, like adding "share" buttons to a blog and planning with an editorial calendar.
- Being a speaker at a conference taught me that if you know a little, you'll know a lot more after you teach it.
- NaNoWriMo taught me that sometimes the community you build is worth more than what you did.
- Danny taught me to focus in on my audience. For example, if my readers are romantic history buffs, why would I blog for other writers? (Still working on that one.)
- The Great Online Marketing Scavenger Hunt, combined with FOUR part-time jobs last month, taught me... I can't do it all.
- and I learned from reading Joanna Penn's blog (and talking to a friend) that I'm not in this for the love of money. I've been trying all these things because I've been hungry to create something. The learning itself can be a high.
Best of all, I learned — from bloggers, tweeps, facebook writer buddies, journaling, thinking and reading Bible verses — to keep first things first.
WRITE. THE. BOOK.
The authorpreneurs that I know and follow, like Joanna Penn and CJ Lyons, already have a slew of published books in addition to their online businesses. Some bestselling, big-name authors (James Patterson, Umberto Eco) don't blog. They're too busy cranking out books. My favorite author, Elizabeth Peters, doesn't even have e-mail.
(sound of crickets chirping)
Thanks for reading this post that ran much longer than I anticipated. It's part of Wordsmith Studio's one-year celebration! Janice Sheridan summed up our April Platform Challenge experience with splashy poetic prose in "Platform Diving." To join the party, follow the confetti and clinking glasses to Wordsmith Studio. Next up: Sopphey Vance invites us home. You can take off your coat and put on your bunny slippers for Living On My Own.