The next time you catch yourself being average when you feel like quitting, realize that you have only two good choices: Quit or be exceptional. Average is for losers.
Am I being too harsh? Isn’t your time and your effort and your career and your reputation too valuable to squander on just being average? Average feels safe, but it’s not. It’s invisible. It’s the last choice—the path of least resistance. The temptation to be average is just another kind of quitting…the kind to be avoided. You deserve better than average.
Godin, Seth. The Dip (pp. 44-45). Penguin Publishing Group.
I started reading it last night and then this morning, I found myself highlighting one thing after another. There’s so much here to unpack (for me) and it’s made me realize this is what I’ve been struggling with the last year and a half as I thought I could write fast and publish a book a month—between two pen names at that—just like some big sellers were doing and thus be “visible” in the Amazon store.
The problem with this is that being visible means I’m being average. I’m not really able to produce my best work when I’m scrambling to write a story a month or do a rapid release without first planning ahead of time. Probably if I had factored in the planning and the writing way ahead of time, it would have been different. But I didn’t and as a result, the stories that emerged from my ambitious “let’s publish a book a month” were below average. Maybe except for Benny and Sarah’s story but even their story is really only half since the first part (how they got together ten years earlier) was only half done.
So… ordinary. Invisible. And after spending two years building my Liz Durano brand, definitely off-brand.
So it’s back to the grindstone for me. All projects are on hold. Nothing is going to come out of the pipeline except my best. My readers deserve the best stories I can write, from the characters who have always told me their stories but through all the changes I was putting myself through in the past year and a half, have been primarily silent—as if in protest. As if they knew I was simply phoning it in.
So I’m going back to the basics… with feeling this time.
So it’s 2019 and I see my peers declare their resolutions for the coming year on the forums I frequent. I’m tempted to do that but since I never got around to take a look back at the year that was, I figured I might as well do that first.
This gif pretty much sums up 2018 for me:
That’s because I failed to hit 80% of my resolutions from last year that I listed here.
But that’s okay. After all, it’s done. The year is over and there’s no point beating myself up over forgetting every single one of those resolutions, to begin with, including the one about being grateful for five things each day. Reading it again now, I thought, wow, I wrote that?
Instead, I’m going to focus on what I accomplished in 2018.
First, I published three books under Liz: Breaking the Rules, The Replacement Fiance, and Friends with Benefits.
And that’s pretty much it.
After finding myself having a great year in 2017, I spent most of 2018 mired in self-doubt. It didn’t help that 2018 would prove to be a tough year for my author business when sales dipped below 50% starting May and I’d spend the next few months thinking maybe if I put more money in ads, it would help. Unfortunately, what used to work for me before didn’t work for me anymore, and the only thing that helped me get my sales back up again was publishing new books in the last quarter.
Still, the whole thing left me in a depression for most of the year. I was never happy because I wasn’t hitting the same numbers my author friends were hitting, whether it was the number of Facebook or Instagram followers, mailing list followers or earnings.
Fortunately, one of the good things that happened in 2018 was discovering Seth Godin’s This is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn to See. While I’d been taught in the past year to put out minimum viable products (i.e. books that may not exactly be perfect out of the gate but are good enough) and iterate (fix them) as you go, Godin basically says do work you’re proud of. Care enough to give your readers the best product you can possibly make and earn their trust that way.
Instead of publishing minimum viable books once a month so readers don’t forget you or the Amazon algorithm starts working in your favor, produce your best work for that minimum viable audience, i.e. the minimum number of people who will buy what you make and tell their friends about it, the same people who’ll miss you if you don’t show up for some time. These are the people who found your work, loved it and want to see more of it. People who trust that you’ll give them only your best work.
Discovering This is Marketing quieted the monkey mind that kept telling me I should have been making the same five figures a month my peers were making or publishing the 12 books (one book a month) they were pushing out. Instead, it made me look at the three books I’d published under Liz and go, you know, these are three books I am very proud of… and I want to produce more work like that in 2019.
I also want to read more books in 2019. I’ve started with Poldark (Book 1 with Ross) by Winston Graham and the audiobook is amazing. No, I haven’t seen the TV series and have no plans to until after I finish listening to this book. The writing is just impeccable. Another book I just started reading is True Places by Sonja Yoerg and her writing is just luminous. Sometimes I find myself rereading passages because every line is so rich with meaning.
I’ve also started using bullet journals this month. That means writing down stuff and checking them off as I go. The digital versions just don’t do it for me. Writing something by hand just works on my brain differently and more effectively than typing it on my phone or tablet and checking it off.
I do have a full publishing calendar for 2019, including a plan to publish ten steamy shorts under certain holidays. Valentine’s is the first one up which means I have to come up with a story very soon.
This also means I need to limit my time on social media. Easier said than done but I have to do it if I want to write those 10 novellas this year AND three novels for my three series. Hopefully, that’s where keeping a bullet journal will come in handy. I’ve had to write up a Things to Do Daily just to keep track. Once each one is checked off, then it’s time to write.
Come to think of it, thanks to my bullet journal, I just paid two tickets today, one was a street sweeping ticket ($60 ouch!) when the Lil Dude was home sick and it completely slipped my mind to move my car into the driveway and the second is a Metro ticket ($25) for driving in the HOV lane without a permit. I blame that on Siri directing me to the HOV lane on our way to the California Science Museum and by the time I realized what was happening, it was too late.
Sheesh. I really miss old-fashioned Thomas Guides…
I just got back from having breakfast with my older brother and cousin at Porto’s Bakery and all I have to show for it is this yummy collage of desserts that they’re known for. I was good, though. All I had was a large cup of cafe mocha and a chorizo and egg omelet on Cuban toast. The conversation was fun and long overdue.
Today we ended up talking about everything from food to friends to social media from a customer’s point of view and that of mine as an author.
Since Facebook and Instagram consider me a business, my brother and cousin have slightly different timelines from mine. Their posts don’t have the “Promote” button like mine do, an option for me to consider if I want more people to see my posts or gain more followers so Instagram can give me an avenue to actually sell a product (I need 10k followers to have that “Swipe Up” for the link option). It made me yearn for the days when I didn’t know about the Promote button myself, when reach was more organic instead of paid for.
But that’s the landscape of social media right now. It’s pay to play everywhere if you want to be seen.
Then we got to talking about Porto’s Bakery. My cousin and I learned about Porto’s through my brother who discovered them when they were just a small bakery in Los Angeles. Now they have about four other locations. My brother said that sure, they make delicious quality food but they also have an amazing staff, very attentive and professional, in every location. They don’t rush you and they make sure they get your orders right every time. If they don’t, they do their best to correct any oversight. These are the qualities of the bakery that keep him coming back whenever he comes into town (that and In ‘n Out Burger).
It made me think of Seth Godin’s book This is Marketing (yes, I’m going to come back to this book a lot in the coming year, I think), and how he stresses that you need to focus on your smallest viable audience—the people who get you and will miss you if you don’t post anything for a time—to build a business. People like me who drive ten or fifteen miles, wait in long lines to order what we want and wait another twenty minutes to pick up our perfectly boxed pastries or food “get” Portos. We’ll even spread the word about them to anyone we think is one of us who’ll like something like Porto’s pastries and Cuban food, something that’s of good quality.
That’s when it hit me—my brother, cousin and I make up Porto’s “smallest viable audience,” and we will spread the news about Porto’s because just like Godin says, “people like us do things like this.”
Seriously, if you’re going to read one marketing book this year or next year, it’s gotta be Seth Godin’s This Is Marketing. It’s amazing is all I can say and as an author or businessperson who needs to market your service or product, it’s probably the only one you’ll ever need.
A very condensed version of what his book is about can be found in this video although it’s just the wrapping, really.
This is actually the first time I’ve ever read any of Godin’s stuff although I’ve seen his name a lot. Where? I don’t know. Maybe a Ted talk somewhere but last week, I finally decided that it was time I check out his books and I’m so glad I started with his latest release This Is Marketing.
According to Godin, we need to find our smallest viable audience, that small group of people who are happy to hear from us and will readily open our email when it arrives, buy our latest product, and tell their friends about us. But to find our smallest viable audience (or market), we need to be “caring enough to have the grit to say we’re gonna make good stuff, not lousy stuff.” (from the video above)
That line really resonated with me because for the past year, I’ve been wondering if I should start writing about alien abduction romance or reverse harem stories just to keep up with everyone else. But then, that’s the key thing: “everyone else.” Why am I so busy focusing on what everyone else is writing (ie. write to market) when I have my own style of writing, my own set of stories that’s uniquely my own… my own brand?
In the video, he mentions authors like me in that predicament, too.
“They’re not keeping track of what got them started; they’re using other people’s metrics to do their work. That’s as bad as having a boss. It’s worse.”
“What you need to do is to be clear about who’s it for and what’s it for. And make it better.”
Should be easy, right?
But seriously, if you want to learn about marketing your work (as an author), check out his book. He doesn’t teach ‘tactics.’ He teaches way more than that. It’s going back to the basics of why we do what we do. Why we really do what we do.
So I’ll just park it here because it’s a sweet accomplishment I didn’t expect.
And did you know I bought this cover back in 2015? Yup, it was one of my regular cover guy’s premade covers and the moment I saw it, I knew I had to have it even if it would take me three years to find the right hero for the story. I currently have about 12 premade covers waiting for their stories it’s crazy. And that doesn’t include the ones I’ve purchased from other designers as well as the ones I make myself like the Holiday Engagement series ones. Or the ones for my Naughty Pen and the PNR pen.
Juggling too many plates? Yup, that’s me.
But I did find time to do some reading between those two releases and having to plot and write the next book of my Holiday Engagement series. I just finished Gutter Medicine: Twenty-six Years as a Firefighter/Paramedic by Roger Huder and I really enjoyed it. It’s definitely eye-opening to read about his experiences on being a firefighter paramedic, in a way, helping it become what it is now. I loved reading about “the street” and how it gives and takes away, the calls he’s never forgotten, and how one call almost got him and his fellow firefighters, the one where they encountered “the beast.”
I also have been finding time to go back to walking with friends again even if they’re just for an hour each day and not the usual three-hour walks we used to take that kicked my butt every time.
In the afternoon, I returned close to the same spot with my Lil Dude to check out the Farmer’s Market. Now it’s back to trying to write again because somehow I’ve lost sight of my characters again.
Start with empathy to see a real need, not an invented one, not ‘how can I start a business.’
Focus on the smallest viable market. How few people could find this indispensable and still make it worth doing? (Smallest viable market is the group of people that are ready and open to hearing your message versus marketing to the world – basically start small.)
Match the worldview of the people being served. Show up in the world with a story they want to hear, told in a language they’re eager to understand. (You’re not exactly selling a product; you’re selling an emotion. How does your product make them feel when they use it?)
Make it easy to spread. If every member brings in one more member, within a few years you’ll have more members than you can count.
Earn and keep the attention and trust of those you serve.
Offer ways to go deeper. Instead of looking for members for your work, look for ways to do work for your members.
At every step along the way, create and relieve tension as people progress on their journeys toward their goals.
Show up often. Do it with humility and focus on the parts that work.
So there you go. Guess I could call that celebrating the release of two books even if I somehow forgot. But anything that takes my mind off my books is a good thing. I even found myself a pair of reading glasses because apparently, I need them now! I’ve never realized how bright my e-reader really is until I put on a pair and read.
Now I need to go back to writing book 2 of the Holiday Engagement and hope I can get the book released before the craziness of the holidays completely takes over!