Monday, February 27, 2012

TUESDAY TIPS AND TIDBITS – The Astronomy of Being an Author

Look up into the sky at night and observe the stars. Some shine brightly while others are mere pinpoints barely visible. Some seem to twinkle and perhaps disappear, while once in a while one will shoot across the sky in a momentary streak that is but a flash and then gone forever. (OK, so those momentary flashes are really meteors, not stars, but for the sake of analogy, let’s call them ‘shooting stars.’)

In some ways, authors are like stars. Some of them are barely visible. Occasionally one may go supernova and blaze like there’s no tomorrow. But then there are those that shine brightly and consistently, creating constellations that reappear every night against the black backdrop of space (which, in this analogy, means the backdrop of all things bookish – writing, publishing, and marketing).

It’s not difficult to extrapolate from this that I’m talking about the various approaches writers make in the publishing foray. Those that can barely manage a weak twinkle in the sky of publishing are the one-book authors who do little or nothing to bring their work to the attention of readers. Maybe they’ve only got one book in them. Maybe they don’t know how to effectively self-promote. Maybe they don’t like what’s involved in self-promotion. Maybe it’s a combination of all of this that keeps them in the background, barely twinkling, while others consistently outshine them.

And then there’s the shooting star that makes a big effort at first and goes all-out in the promotion department, but quickly burns out and disappears without a trace, writing one, maybe two books, with nothing left to give readers. And then, without appreciable results, the author just kind of gives up and fades away, going off to find something else to do. It doesn’t matter if life gets in the way and causes other things for the author to have to take care of; the result is the same – a momentary flash in the sky that is seen only by a few who happen to be looking. And then ... nothing more.

The author who goes supernova in an explosive moment of fantastic display seems to have come out of nowhere to light up the sky. But in truth, that author has been busy building up energy for the time when the explosive release is just right. That author has been writing standalone books and series, has been testing the market to find the right genre and storyline, and has been steadily building a following. That author has a goal in mind and has constructed a plan to achieve that goal. That author has studied what other successful authors have done and emulates what she can to follow a similar (although not exact) path to explosive glory. But to the rest of the onlookers, it seems that moment of explosive recognition is instantaneous, and few look backward in time through telescopes to see the energy of this star author building and building.

Of course, for the supernova author to remain visible in the sky long after the explosive effect, more consistent and dedicated work is required, like writing more books that readers like, and doing more effective promotion to stay in the forefront of reader interest. Eventually, if the author stays at it and produces consistent work, she can become part of a constellation of steady stars that shine bright each night and are easily recognized by stargazers (readers).

The point of this is, follow the path of the kind of star you want to be. If you want to have explosive success, find an author whose background and situation may have been similar to yours and examine what made that success happen. Visit her blog and see where she started, what she wrote about, and what she was doing to gain more visitors and more followers on her journey. Examine your own actions and see what you can do to focus and improve your efforts to achieve the goals you want to achieve. And remember, nobody becomes an instant success, and rarely does anyone become a success by accident or default. It takes hard work and planning and consistent effort to keep shining bright in the sky for your readers.

If you’ve been twinkling in the background too long, now’s the time to reassess what you’re doing and rethink your author career plan. And forget that beginner notion that getting published by a publisher is the answer to all your dreams of becoming a success. Whether you self-publish or go the traditional publishing route and get published by a publisher small or big, you still have to self-promote and make yourself accessible to your readers. Getting your book published is just one step in the process of reaching for your star. Sing this ditty over and over until you get it right:

Twinkle, twinkle, little star...

What you do is what you are...

Pat Morrison, Penumbra Publishing


Natasha Larry said...

This is a good post, Pat. I agree, but also feel that sometimes real life decides to mess with game plans. I also think, if you really want it, you'll always get back up. Some days I can only find two minutes to shape up this third book, but I always take it.

P.S. and totally unrelated. Twinkle little star is my little girls favorite song. =)

Penumbra Publishing said...

Well you are right about that - life does have a way of knocking you right out of the sky. And you have to get right back up and keep trying. Not every star will shine as bright as another, the important thing is to have a place in the sky all your own.

Twinkle Twinkle's one of my favorites too! The kid's got great taste!