Recently, I was interviewed for the Rocking Self-Publishing podcast by the charming Simon Whistler. (The podcast should air on 3/30. I say should because I’d like to give Simon an easy out in case he realizes what a spaz I am.) This was a fantastic experience for me. Not only was it lots of fun chatting with Simon, but he asked some excellent questions. During the interview, I had the chance to discuss my personal philosophies on being an indie-author and ran through my Top 5 Elements of Middling Success or How to Fail Upwards. (I’m still working on the title.)
One of the elements on my list (#5) is “Don’t give up.” I think it goes hand-in-hand with the concept that you can’t judge your success by the what you see around you. Success is an internal measure. I think that’s where a lot of folks fall down. It’s easy to find reasons to give up when your self-pubbed book is not an overnight sensation like The Martian or Wool. Let’s get real. Before these two books became best sellers, they started out as ideas. They’re the result of a lot of hard work. They were not magically generated overnight. That’s crazy-think, right there. It’s pretty bricky to think right out of the gate you’re going to have a best seller on your hands without having to get those hands dirty.
You have set realistic goals. Ambition is great. It gets your motor running. But know where you’re motoring. If you continue to establish unrealistic goals, you’re heading for a cliff. So, there’s a method for figuring out your goals called the SMART technique. (What can I say? I’m a sucker for clever acronyms.)
- Specific – Be specific about your goal. If you’re never written and/or published a book, instead of saying “I’m going to become an author”, a more specific goal would be “I’m going to independently publish a science fiction novel by the end of the year.”
- Measurable – Decide on a way you can measure your success. For instance, “I’m going to write for 30 minutes a day.”
- Attainable – Here’s where you ask yourself what’s actually physically possible. Don’t tell yourself you’re going to write 5,000 words a day when you know you struggle for the time to even write 500. Aim for what you know is possible for your steps along the way. Don’t say “I’m going to sell 100 books this week.” when you have no control over what other people will or won’t buy.
- Realistic – Be honest with yourself here. It’s easy to say something fantastical like, “I’ll write a book a month.” (OK, I know there are people that really do that, but I’m pretty sure they’re cyborgs or genetically enhanced.) Try saying, “I’m going to self-publish on Amazon at the end of October.”
- Timely – Making a deadline keeps it real. You’re making an appointment with yourself, be it 30 days or 300 days. Make yourself keep that appointment.
So, Murphy, you say, what’re your goals if you’re such an expert on this?
First of all, I’m many things, but not an expert. I only know what’s worked for me.
My goal is easy. Aim low. Well… not low, but I’m realistic. My motto: “Mid-list, at best.”
It was easy to get caught up in the excitement when my first book, Allies and Enemies: Fallen, caught some good traction. I never thought I’d be the next Weber or Scalzi. But my books have (temporarily) shown up on lists with their books which is/was pretty awesome. It’s also quite humbling. It made me realize how much harder you have to work to stay there.
And I’ll likely never receive a Nebula or a Hugo. But I am now a member of SFWA which was a goal I’ve had for quite some time.
Be real with yourself. Know what you can do to get to what you want to do. It’s not going to happen overnight. But, hang in there, kitten. It’ll happen.