I’ve written before about how good things can come from bad things, and this is along those same lines!
It’s been a nice week for my book Master Lists for Writers, which came out late last October. I hit 100 reviews this week, and the average rating is 4.7 out of 5 stars, last I checked. Even better, I got a couple of great emails this week from people telling me how much the book had helped them.
This book would have never been written if I hadn’t gone through a huge disappointment in my writing.
Last year I completed a paranormal romance novel, the first of a trilogy, that I was so excited about. It was my favorite book that I had written so far, and I hoped to get a bigger contract than I had gotten for my two previous novels.
When I queried agents, they all said the same thing: they weren’t taking any more paranormal romance right then. (Obviously there must have been exceptions, but I wasn’t the exception.) Subgenres in romance do kind of go in cycles, but I was pretty crushed.
I went to the Romance Writers of America conference in New York, where in more than one panel, editors and agents mentioned not being interested in the genre.
At the conference, when I was talking with some other writers I knew from an online group (I’m in several), I mentioned that I was happy that people were reading my blog and finding it useful. One woman told me, with good intentions, “Yes, but your blog won’t do you any good as an author. The people who read it are writers, not readers.”
Now of course, most writers are readers (and all writers should be). I knew what she meant, though: I was sharing a lot of writing resources on my blog that wouldn’t necessarily attract fans of my type of fiction.
While I was in New York, two of my most popular big lists for writers on my blog got used elsewhere without giving me any credit, making my blog seem like even less of a good idea. Still, I reminded myself to stay positive.
On the airplane on the way home, I got the idea to do the Master Lists for Writers book. I figured maybe no one would buy it, but at least it would be a way to get a lot of my material copyrighted in one go, and after the disappointment with agents, it would give me a sense of having done something.
Now there’s another lesson here, which is: use what you’ve got. One of my favorite jokes in the world is by the late comedian Mitch Hedberg, and it goes something like this:
I think Pringles’ initial intention was to make tennis balls, but on the day that the rubber was supposed to show up, a big truckload of potatoes arrived. And Pringles is a laid-back company — they said, ‘F**k it. Cut ’em up.’
What I wanted was a paranormal romance contract and a “normal” author blog. What I had wound up with was a blog that had some popular lists for writers, so I went with that.
I worked really hard on creating Master Lists for Writers, and in the process, I discovered that I loved the creative autonomy of self-publishing. (I especially love having complete control over my own cover design.)
Although it had virtually no marketing, the book became a nice success for me. Without the disappointment of learning that people weren’t acquiring my genre much, and without the discouraging comment about my blog, I never would have even thought of it.
(I’m still working on the paranormal romance trilogy, because I love it too much to let it go.)
Why am I telling you about all this? Because when we focus on just one goal, defining success in just one way, we might miss some other opportunities. I think it’s especially easy to overlook what we’ve got going for us.
The next time I’m feeling disappointed, I’m going to ask myself: “What are my other assets? What are some other things I could do? What good thing could come from this?”