TIME ON A TIGHTROPE
Imagine you are high above the crowd, walking a tightrope.
Fans are on the edges of their seats as you put one foot before the other, holding their collective breaths and waiting to see what happens next as you slowly cross the span without a net. You know what you have to do to keep them entranced is a breathtaking combination of focus and balance. One misstep, lean a little too far one way or the other—and SPLAAAT. And the big finish has to be more thrilling than the last; you want them to leave the big top panting and coming back for more.
Now imagine you’ve just written and self-published your first novel. Congratulations, you’ve taken the first step after years and years of hard work to get your story just right.
Page after pulse-pounding page, you have evoked emotion and kept readers on the edges of their seats. Chapter after thrilling chapter, your twists and turns have readers spellbound, holding their collective breaths and waiting to see what happens next as you build the tension to a wholly satisfying conclusion.
END OF STORY
Or is it? Actually, the real work has just begun.
Hopefully, your first book is good enough to connect with readers who want more, who can’t wait to get their hands on the sequel or whatever you plan to write next.
And this is the part that is really, really like a tightrope walking.
All you had to do for the first one was write, write, write.
You, dear author, must now strive to find a perfect balance between promoting the first book and finding the time, focus and energy to work on that next project.
It ain’t easy. Trust me, I have learned that much in the 18 months since I self-published my debut novel,Vendetta Stone, a fictional true-crime thriller set in Nashville.
It really is like walking a tightrope. Or maybe it’s more a juggling act.
Practically every weekend I do a show, a festival, a book club event, a library appearance, a meet-and-greet, a critique group meeting, a … something. All while I am trying to write the sequel, a second series of Western short stories, edit a cookbook, write a blog, maintain a website, do volunteer work for the church, cover sports events as a freelance journalist, talk to bookstore owners or other retailers about carrying my book, balance the checkbook, run down to the printer, order more books, do a stage reading, be an extra on ‘Nashville’ … and something else. Always something else.
And to have a life besides all this.
If this sounds like I’m complaining, I’m really not. I love what I am doing—every aspect of it.
The endless PR work has achieved the desired effect. My book has sold better than I imagined, I’ve made radio and TV appearances, generated some pretty decent press coverage (you always wish there was more) considering self-published books get very little media coverage.
But the drawback is that while you are out doing all these events, traveling to and from, you’re not writing.
I was warned it would be like this.
Several writing friends have given me plenty of advice, much as I’m doing now—just be ready for what follows after your book is published.
One author described self-publishing as 30 percent writing and seventy percent everything else.
Another author said it this way: Writing is art, everything else is business.
And yet another author warned not to throw the baby (writing) out with the bathwater (generating PR).
It’s a fine line, one I have personally found difficult. I honestly thought the Vendetta Stone sequel would be on shelves by now. It hasn’t happened, and may not happen this year.
The trick is to keep the mojo going for the first book (my baby) while not neglecting the next one in the pipeline. After all, retailers are as anxious as readers when it comes to wanting to see that next book on the shelves.
You know you have done a good job of keeping them entranced. And the big finish for the next project has to be more thrilling than the last; they left the first book panting and craving more.
So you must carve out that time to write. Be diligent and stay focused on the future as much as you can, even if it means cutting back on promoting the past project.
Oh, you may be brainstorming while you drive, working out plot twists, creating new problems for your characters—but you’re not writing.
For that, you have to plop your fanny in front of the keyboard and type.
So, I have to stop now as much as I am enjoying this conversation with you.
I remind myself, pushing to finish a sequel while trying to maintain the momentum from the first book is a breathtaking combination of focus and balance.
One misstep, lean a little too far one way or the other—and SPLAAAT.