Deep Thoughts

I sat on the couch threading ribbon with beads, or inserting rhinestones, punching out a heart on each bookmark and attaching the ribbon through the space.  They were a big hit at a recent multi-author book signing. I’m so used to eBook readers that I’d wondered about bookmarks and had only made 4 dozen. I think I came home with two.

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Anyway, the job sounds simple, right? Not so much, because my shoulders are still sore. I blame it on the nearly thirty-year-old paper punch, it has become dull. Like its owner, perhaps?  : )

The TV show, Shark Tank, came on. I’d never watched it before. The show was interesting, and I imagined my own small business (author trying to sell books) and how I would present it to this panel of entrepreneurs and savvy business people. That thought made me laugh out loud. They would know there’s no money to be made by investing in my product. I listened to several proposals and agreed 100% with the decisions.

I disliked the nasty, belittling comments, and admired the experts who were sensitive and empathetic, but who also said, “Sorry. I’ll pass.” Graciousness costs nothing. There is no need to humiliate another person. No need really to be a shark. Scuba Diver Swimming Beneath Shark

This all reminded me of sending out manuscripts and trying to get an editor or agent to see some promise. Instead, I got rejection after rejection. Many of those were nice, and some were helpful. Some were all “sharky” and ripped my work to shreds. However, I learned about my writing strengths, and my weaknesses.

The show ended, and I ruminated on what my next move could be in my still young career. I’m published with a digital-first press with four books, but they do go to print as print-on-demand. Should I try again for one of the big six publishing houses, or self-publish? Have I become lazy, not stretching and challenging myself?

So many questions, but how does one expand in the ever-changing publishing world? I think it goes beyond setting goals and making plans, or having a platform. Or being an avid reader, or diving into the independent publishing pool, or learning the ins and outs of social media and advertising in order to reach a larger audience. All of the above are valid aspects of the writer’s life, and necessary for success, but they aren’t THE answer. I do think it goes beyond writing the next book, or presenting your small business to the Shark Tank. ; )

We have to be willing to reinvent ourselves during our career. We have to remain flexible, engaged, and willing to change, otherwise we fail. We get left behind. Success with one book does not guarantee continued success. Each book must be as strong, or stronger, than the prior one.  I think the answer is writing better. I want to write better. Not more. I’m a pretty fast writer, and I have a wealth of story ideas, but I’m often hungry to reach a wider audience with work that has greater depth and quality. Do I stay on the romance track and submit to agents again? Do I go back to college, attend a retreat, or do an online study program? Do I give up writing romance and try to write something that might take years to complete? I’m a sensitive soul. With any or all of these new challenges, would the added rejections make me hightail it to the mountains, licking wounds and skulking around in my rocky cave, creativity frozen forever? Should I be thankful for what I have and maintain the status quo?

What do you think? Come on. Give me your deep thoughts, and if you haven’t got any deep ones then give me shallow. Ha ha.

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31 Responses to Deep Thoughts

  1. I have no career advice. Just have to say – keep writing. That will make me happy cause I can keep reading.

  2. robena grant says:

    Aww, thanks, Judy. I do have something “out there” just no contract yet, so fingers crossed. And I am writing something new, but every now and then I get broody. ; )

  3. Samanthe says:

    I don’t think you need to go back to school! I think what you write next and how you aim to get it published has a bit to do with your overarching goal. Do you want to write the book of your heart, which may or may not have a wide audience, or do you want to write a money-making best seller?

    If it’s book of your heart time, I say go for it, write exactly what you want, exactly how you want, and maybe be pleasantly surprised if the world embraces your labor of love.

    If you want to make some money, and establish a brand, target the genre and publisher selling best, (easy, right)? Yeah, still not a guarantee, but I figure it increases the odds!

    What I wish for you is you do both, all in one!

    • robena grant says:

      Wow! Now those are some deep thoughts. Thank you, Sam. I think deep down what I crave is an agent. Not necessarily to get books sold, I can do that through TWRP, or I can self-publish. What I’d like is professional guidance. I hate the thought of submitting again, yet I know they won’t come knocking on my door. : )

  4. Barb Han says:

    Keep pushing yourself, Robena. You’re a brilliant writer and only good things will continue to happen to your career. Plus, I love reading your work!

  5. robena grant says:

    Thanks for coming by, Barb. Yeah, push myself in order to grow. Thanks for your kind words.

  6. Tonya says:

    Hi Roben,

    If you really want an agent, I wouldn’t think it would be that hard to get one now that you’re traditionally published, would it? I know how hard it is though… the thought of submitting again just makes me queasy.

    If you wanted to go back to school you could always do an MFA. I think UC Riverside has a good low residency one that you can take as long as you like to complete. You’d be surrounded by other serious writers and the instructors I’d think would be great career mentors. Mentors are so important. I’ve never done an MFA but I’ve heard good things about them – some of them anyway.

    I’m excited about your new project. And I’m really looking forward to meeting you in May!

    -tonya

  7. robena grant says:

    Thanks for your thoughts, Tonya. We do have a good MFA program here in the desert and it’s run by Tod Goldberg who wrote The Burn Notice books. He used to teach creative writing at UCLA, and at one time was my neighbor. I’ve decided I don’t want to shell out that money. Ha ha. So that takes care of that question. (She’s too cheap to pay for an MFA.) I’m thinking that after I finish the rough draft of this book, I’ll research agents. Again. I’ll just suck it up and deal with the rejections.

    • Tonya says:

      Oh funny – I saw Tod Goldberg talk on a panel about grad schools at UCLA. That’s how I knew about that program! I totally understand – I don’t want to pay for an MFA either. Too many student loans already…

  8. Tonya says:

    Oh and I used to love Shark Tank! Haven’t watched it in a while because I’ve been so busy… but I don’t think Mark Cuban would laugh at you for wanting to make money from writing books! I have seen him berate someone who wanted to start a publishing house though because he didn’t seem to know much about ebooks or POD.

  9. robena grant says:

    I would have liked that episode, Tonya. Wonder if I can find it?

  10. Great soul-searching blog today, Robena. I have always gone with my gut. Whatever feels right to me at the time, is the thing I do. I do love Shark Tank, I love to see innovative ideas and see how persistence and a willingness to change an idea that’s not working, has paid off. Sometimes, I think the snarkiness of the show, is for ratings. If everyone was Nice, they might not have those sound bites they need for teasers. 🙂

  11. robena grant says:

    Hi, Charlene, thanks for dropping by. I usually follow my gut too. Yeah, the reality/contest type shows always have at least one snarky guy to keep the interest. If they were all nice we’d tune out. : )

  12. Well someone has been doing some deep stinkin’ thinkin’. I’m surprised you slept at all.

    In the end, you know what is best for you. I say keep writing. Quit putting off that book you think you’d like to write. But if you want to go back to school, because you don’t think you are where you want to be with your writing, well…that’s your call.

    Yup – no easy advice from me.

    I get a kick out of shark tank, but I’m not a fan of Mr. Wonderful (which he isn’t).

  13. robena grant says:

    Ha ha. No easy advice. That’s what I expected you to say. ; )

    This is good for me to discuss publicly and figure out what it is that’s bugging me. After reading comments, I’m leaning toward trying again to find an agent. I need someone to help me with the career path more than going back to school. The last time I submitted, it was at the request of an agent after the GH final in 2012, and that same agent never got back to me. Nothing. Zip. Nada. Kind of left me with a sour taste in my mouth.

    The process of sitting down and writing a new book always brings improvements in the craft. And I have published four books since then. So, maybe someone will take me seriously now? It could happen. : )

  14. I have always been most successful when I wrote for myself, when I wrote the book that *I* wanted to read and ignored the greater audience.

  15. robena grant says:

    Great advice, Kate. The passion has to come through when you’re deeply invested. So after these two get picked up, or not, I’m writing the one I want to write, and it may not be a romance. ; )

  16. Janie Emaus says:

    I say- Just keep writing. And BTW, Shark Tank is one of my favorite shows.

  17. Tanya Hanson says:

    Hi Robena, I love this post. I feel exactly like this right now. Well, maybe not exactly LOL. I don’t think I am in a self pub mode. Right now I am fully into anthology mode and shorter tales…I say use your days to write what YOU want and take plenty
    of time to be with those you love, and enjoy the sunshine! Love, T.

  18. robena grant says:

    Thanks, Tanya. Yep that seems to be the general consensus.

  19. Liz Flaherty says:

    Hi, Roben. A truly thoughtful post. I think if you’d feel good about having an agent, you should go for it. And I think if you’re interested in traditional publishing, you should never stop trying with the big five. You have a nice, healthy body of work to show along with what you’re pitching. If you want to write something “different,” have you thought about Holly Jacobs’ “Sunday books” concept. I love that–haven’t done it yet–but think it will be good for my soul when I do.

    • robena grant says:

      Hi, Liz. Yes, I heard someone, maybe over at Jenny Crusie’s blog, mention the Sunday book. It’s a fabulous idea to devote one day to something you totally love (a longer length, or a more difficult topic, or different genre) while still working at the books that provide the bread and butter. I hope some day to make some bread, ha ha, but for now am not worried about that but concentrating more on developing a readership.

  20. Delaina Lawson says:

    Hi Robena, I so very seldom read, let alone reply, to blogs but like you, I want to do more, better. One thing I’ve seen no one address is the creative expressionism which we satisfy with writing fiction. Your bookmarks, though a different form of art, satisfied that same need in you.

    Human nature causes us to doubt ourselves which creates the drive to improve ourselves. But what does your heart say? Following your heart leads to a more fulfilling and happier life more often than not.

    As someone who has not been there or done that, I seek the same business advise as you. I’ve heard that success and money do not create happiness but I would like to discover that for myself!

  21. robena grant says:

    Thank you for dropping by Delaina, and for your thoughtful comments. I think it’s difficult to balance the submissions/contentedits/copyedits that drain creativity but are required. Add in the beasts called marketing and promotion and the average author is ready to tear her hair out. Where we get our most satisfaction is in the creativity of writing that first draft. I don’t mind edits but perhaps I need to think of them in more exciting terms, because it is those edits that make my stories better. : )

  22. Cindy says:

    I always write the book of my heart. An MFA might get you a teaching job but not a writing career, although I’d love to take a class with the guy who wrote Burn Notice. Loved that show. And loved this post, Robena. Your agent idea has got me thinking…I had an agent once. It didn’t work out, but another agent could. The great thing about being in RWA and local chapter is meeting agents in an up-close-and-personal setting. I’d say if you really want to make a change, finding an agent seems like the best option. Loved all the commenters, too. Lots to chew over here.

  23. robena grant says:

    Thanks for your comments here and on FB, Cindy. After I put my thoughts out into public, and did my moaning and groaning ; ) I decide to forge ahead with what I call my fun book. It’s going really, really well. So far. The serious one will be for next year, because I’d love a location vacation prior to that one.
    I’m still thinking in terms of agents. I’ll definitely do some research prior to RWA Nationals, and I’ll pitch to an agent there. It’s a start.

  24. Julie says:

    This may or may not appear as a link.

    http://www.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_gilbert_success_failure_and_the_drive_to_keep_creating

    I just watched it (even though it was sitting here in an open window for days). And then I read your post. So, I neeeeeeded to share. (You know how I am.)

    My two cents. Which can be applied to ANY thing, as Liz says.

  25. robena grant says:

    Thank you for the link, Julie. I had seen it before, but it was great to rewatch. Also, I followed that TED talk with one by Amy Tan. : )