Monday, July 27, 2009

Choosing Your Own Path

So here’s the thing. There are at least a hundred different paths to success. No, I’m not kidding.

Pick any author you can think of, and they will have had one path to success. Now pick another one. Yep, sure enough, the chances are remarkably high that they’re path to success was much different than that of the first author you picked.

Some authors will write one amazing book that will capture our collective attention for generations (Harper Lee, Margaret Mitchell) or take ten years to complete a single work, but one that knocks our socks off. (Audrey Niffennegger, Donna Tartt) Others will achieve success by producing a dazzling number of books, the mere idea of which leave the rest of us breathless. (Nora Roberts, Meg Cabot)

Some will be overnight success as their one book explodes on the market (Dan Brown) and others will have built an audience over time, producing one book every year or two (Sue Grafton, Stephen King). Others will get there by writing a number of highly successful one-offs (Dean Koontz, Michael Crighton) Success can also be fueled by writing in multiple genres. (Nora Roberts, Phyllis A.Whitney, Holly Black) Not to mention, non-fiction. (Elizabeth Gilbert, Anne Lammot) Heck, there’s even success through vitriol. (Michael Moore, Ann Coulter)

But my point is, whatever your creative process and working method is, chances are there is a very legitimate path to success that you can emulate.

If you don’t already have one, consider picking a role model (or two) for yourself. Study their career, their process. If their path appeals to you, my guess is that you will probably have similar strengths to theirs, or at the very least be committed to acquiring them.

And just as there are many successful paths for writing success, so too are there many different paths to achieve a successful marketing presence. It is not one size fits all. Whatever your comfort level with promotion might be, chances are that there is a role model out there for you.

Sometimes it is the story of getting published itself that becomes the marketing hook, whether being discovered by another well known author (Christopher Paolini) or through a blog (Greg Pincus) or because your books generated a mega-auction (Stephanie Meyers).

Then again, some authors are simply natural born promoters, managing to turn every interaction with a human into a chance to (successfully) sell their books. Others rely on their publisher to do most of the work, then give 110% once the opportunities are there. Some use the internet, blogs, Facebook, Twitter. Others rely on word of mouth, or networks of teachers and librarians. Some authors are amazing teachers, which builds a secondary audience of hard core fans. Or perhaps they are hugely entertaining speakers. Or inspire us with their eloquence and passion.

Again, there are tons of paths to success here. Chances are, some part of your skill set will match one of them. If you don't know what that is, spend some time thinking about it. Pondering it. Poke around until you find something you can work with.

However, the key word in that paragraph is work. You do have to be working on a skill or two. You do have to be building a blog presence or challenging yourself to learn how to speak in public or finding ways to take advantage of the skills you have. Maybe speaking in front of adults makes your knees knock together, but put you in front of a roomful of kids and watch out; you’re on.

It is so easy for me to see some of the Hyper Extroverted Marketers and think, wow, I will never, ever be able to do that. And you know what? I won’t.

But that doesn’t mean I won’t be able to find my own path to marketing success. One that suits my own strengths and weaknesses.

Strengths and weaknesses. Those are things we spend a lot of time thinking about for our characters. It's important to remember that we have them, too. And they are just as individual as our paths to writing success or our author voice or the stories we choose to tell.

Do you have an author whose career you admire? Whether the path they took to success or how they've built a "presence"? I'm betting you do, and in an effort to sprinkle some inspiration around, we're going to have a contest.

Leave the name of an author whose career or path to success you admire in the comments and you will be entered to win an AmaZinG, exciting book giveaway!
Hint: It's a fabulous new ARC that everybody wants to get their hands on, and the author will be interviewed right here on SVP next Monday! Don't miss it!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
And speaking of exciting news, the winner of the Not-Attending the Blue Moon Ball at Nationals contest is Sherrie Peterson! Congratulations, Sherrie! Although, since this is your first conference, Mary and I both think you should keep this offer in your back pocket. You might find out you're a Cinderella at heart!

Secondly, Mary and I were thinking it would be fun if some of the Violets attending the National Conference felt like meeting each other. In order to take some of the social pressure off (hey, we're introverts!) we thought what we'd do is grab a table or two at the Golden Kite Luncheon. We'll put a purple balloon on the table so you all will know it's us, and then we can sit together at lunch if that sounds good. RSVP to me so we'll know how many tables, if any, we should snag.


Sherrie Petersen said...

I LOVE this post (and not just because I won!)

I'm always amazed by the different paths that people take. There is no "right" way to make it in this industry and there are even different definitions of success. And while I get down sometimes about the process, I am enjoying the learning experience and meeting so many wonderful writers, too!

Sherrie Petersen said...

Oops! I forgot to mention an author whose career I admire and right now I'd have to say Cindy Pon. I just interviewed her on my blog and she inspired me. She queried more than 100 agents before finding someone who believed in her work. So that alone gives me hope and tells me to kick my butt in gear because if I just keep trying, I'm that much closer to success!

Beth C. said...

(Sherrie, I've been to Solvang!)

I'm going to point out an older (and deceased) author who had a huge impact on my childhood and my writing: Laura Ingalls Wilder. Yes, her daughter may have contributed a good deal and the events aren't in accurate autobiographical order, but those stories are magic. Laura was an old woman by the time she started handwriting the Little House series, but she had gathered clips for years by publishing in local magazines. She never lost her love of writing, and she was willing to offer her own story and immortalize that pioneer experience. I wish more men and women of her era had preserved their experiences like that!

Celise said...

I love SARK. I've been to a few of her workshops and I always feel uplifted after leaving. I love her color-full, non-preachy, interactive books...and all the other products that spin-off from that. Her words of wisdom are sprinkled throughout my home.

Anonymous said...

Hmm...this is tricky, because I tend NOT to follow author careers. Hadn't thought about it, really till this post! Maybe that's my path. BUT...I can describe it. It's those authors who manage life and writing. The ones who, while they spend time with their family, while they work part or full-time at something else, keep the writing going, turn out stories they care about, and (SOMEHOW?) get those stories out to agents/publishers/readers. It's not race speed, but the writing stays in their life and they grow it and make progress with it.

Great post. :)

Anonymous said...

Cynthea Liu. She had two books come out this year, and yet her path is full of reaching out to help others (websites, fundraisers, offering critiques, etc.!)

Mary Hershey said...

Congratulations, Sherrie! I'm so excited for you that you'll be attending your first conference. :-D It will be fun to see you again!

Seriously.Fab.Post, Robin. Such a important reminder that there is no right way, but an infinite number of paths to choose from. Thank the gods and goddesses!


Yat-Yee said...

I admire EB White. His essays and children's books and of course Strunk and White show me a writer can be versatile and authentic.

I realize this is not exactly following your guidelines of admiring an author's path. Just thought I'd throw in one of my heroes. You don't even have to enter me into the draw (even if it has the word 'fire' in its title.)

Robin L said...

Thanks for all your great suggestions for role models, guys! These are great!