This past weekend I went to visit my mom in Calgary. As part of my weekend getaway I went to see this band my friend is in, Early on Sunday. I was impressed, not only by the music, but by the fact that he’s been in this band for ten years trying to take it to the next level; trying to live the dream while working and supporting his life and family. Playing run-down venues to crowds of eight, listening to empty promises, never having enough time to craft, dealing with the distractions of life unfolding, every year getting older…the typical struggle of an artist. Until one day he gets a phone call, “Can you guys play the half time show at the Stampeders game on Canada Day?” McMahon Stadium. The largest venue you can play in Calgary. Opportunity finally knocks.
The hardest thing about having a dream is not giving up. Rejection runs amok and it’s not always easy to find the perseverance to push through. In fact, it’s usually very hard because for every sliver of hope that peeks through there’s usually a hundred dark impenetrable walls that pop up. And sometimes you just don’t have the energy at the end of the day to figure out a new way to get around them; Plan Q is not always on the tip of your tongue. But here is what I believe: If you don’t give up you will eventually get everything you want. It may not come when you wish it would, it may not even look like you expected, but it will happen.
I love this letter I read this morning in my Kindle Direct Publishing e-newsletter. Another reminder of why you should never give up:
When I was a kid, I wanted to be an author, thinking it was one of those romantic professions where you’d sit on a sunny porch with your (back then) typewriter on your lap and would soak up the world around you. Boy was I wrong! My young mind had no idea of the rejections, the disappointments, and the challenges that would be thrown at me from all sides, and how all those influences could easily shatter a fragile mind. After months of being either thoroughly ignored or told vampires were indeed dead and the gods I had selected for my stories were not popular enough, I started doubting myself. Had I really written good books? Did I really have a great idea for stores? After all, my vampires didn’t sparkle and my gods were unknown… It was time to look at alternatives.
Despite the numerous rejections I didn’t give up. Even with the three jobs I held simultaneously (finance manager at a university hospital, CPA, and real estate broker) I wasn’t prepared to let agents and publishers destroy my dreams. I started looking at other possibilities to bring my books in front of readers. So I took my gods and my vampires and turned my back on traditional publishing. All the rejections only fueled the fire in my belly. I would go it alone!
I had heard about Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), and, knowing I had nothing to lose; I started publishing on Amazon in May 2010. In a way I had no choice but to try it, because I had quit my job at the university hospital a few months earlier as I was unhappy with it. Simultaneously, real estate took a dive in California, and so did my income. If I didn’t make any money with my books, come next tax season I had to go back working for a CPA firm; a thought I wasn’t too thrilled about. So what did I do? I worked harder than I had in my previous three jobs combined. In my first month on KDP I made $20. It was a struggle to get visibility, to attract readers, to entice them to buy my books. Most blogs wouldn’t review my books, because self-publishing was so new that it was still seen as vanity publishing. It took a long time for opinions to change, for readers to try out independent authors, for blogs to review my books, but I think some of my traits paid off: persistence, continuity, and determination. When something didn’t work out, I tried it a different way. I experimented. I changed covers, price, blurbs. You name it, I’ve done it. And I could have given up at any point during those first months on Amazon. But I kept going. My discipline helped. I continued to write book after book, and with each one I gained a little more visibility, a little more traction.
Self-publishing is a hard job. It’s not for everybody, but for those creative minds whose other half of their brain is wired for business, it’s a great fit. I love it. When I whine too much about how exhausted I am and how many things I have to juggle, my husband keeps reminding me: “Admit it; you would be bored if you gave your book to a publisher and let them handle it.” He’s right. I absolutely love the levers I hold in my hands. The ones that define my success.