Wednesday, March 19, 2014

What Is Enough For Me

Okay, so I've been doing a lot of thinking and working, and working and thinking about publishing. I always seem to, and I always seem to find some new light or think of something in a new way. I guess I shouldn't be surprised by this anymore, but I still am!

So I have traditionally published a series with Simon & Schuster. I enjoyed the experience, and I like working with an agent to sell my books to bigger publishers. I am hoping for future sales in this market. In fact, I just turned in a novel last week that I hope is "the one!"

Additionally, I have begun a journey into self-publishing. I have enjoyed it too. There are things I can do with my self-published titles that I can't with my S&S titles. Marketing, playing with price, and buying ads are the biggest things I've noticed so far.

I've also been networking and hob-nobbing with some Indie authors. They are fun people, and very determined and hard-working. I've also noticed--and it's all coming from ME, not THEM--this need to constantly be selling my books.

I've felt this pressure since self-publishing. Not from other authors, but in general. I've realized that I don't like it.

Selling books is not why I write books. I have no grand illusions of making a million dollars. I don't write to make money. I don't want that to be the focus of my writing.

But I've struggled with this, because the amount of money you make nearly determines your success or worth in almost any field, publishing included.

This thought of writing because I love it, and publishing because, for me, it's a needed process that comes with writing has been re-iterated this past weekend. I want to share my work with readers--hopefully readers that will love the stories I write as much as I do.

To me, that is the purpose and goal of my writing. It's also why I publish. I've been having a hard time identifying what would be "enough" for me. More money? I already knew I wasn't writing for money. But what is it? What drives me to write and publish? What is enough?

I think I've identified at least one piece of this perplexing puzzle. The reader connection. See, I got a review from The Deseret News, which is one of the big newspapers in Salt Lake City. The reviewer loved ELEVATED. She connected to it. She got out of it what I got out of it. She read and loved what I wrote and loved.

She said, in part: "It is easy to flow from the first word to the last without ever putting down the book. Johnson shows outstanding talent in this form, and her words are beautiful, important and deeply felt." (You can read the whole review here.)

It was a magical moment. It's like the reader and the author experiencing, breathing, and existing in the same space for the time it takes to read the book.

And that, I realized, is enough for me.

What do you think would be enough for you?


Nisa Swineford said...

This is why I write and I haven't even published, but I knew the minute I sent out my book after dozens of revisions and no one really liked it. The one thing I had been hoping for was a reader that connected with the story and characters like I did. I am SO glad you had this moment!

Yamile said...

Thanks for sharing your journey with us, your readers, Elana. This is a very timely reminder for me. I'm about to enter the query trenches, again, with my new MG book. I'm so nervous about the whole process. I already went through it once, and the whole thing left me emotionally drained. But at the same time, I want kids to read my books. I think I offer a perspective and a story that could help a lot of people. The possibility that my story won't ever be read is the scariest thought at the moment.
i admire you greatly for all you've accomplished. You're a great model and inspiration! I love your books too, and I've heard great things about Elevated. I have it on my TBR, calling my name.
Thanks again for sharing your experience and keep on going!

Janet said...

I have struggled with this - not as a published author, but a writer who's tried the agent/query route only to be left 'emotionally drained', as Yamile stated. Those who've read my writing (including manuscripts, short stories, poetry) have loved it. And I've loved entertaining them.

At the start of 2014, I decided to do what I've always wanted to do - write stories that others may enjoy. I started a serialized story on a blog (you can access it through my daily blog where I chat about anything and everything - again, all for the entertainment factor).

And THAT is enough for me - more than enough, because the response and the e-mails/comments I've received have been fabulous. Best decision I've ever made (well, maybe second best...or third...OK, one of the best decisions I've ever made). As a cherry on top, I've rediscovered my love of writing.

Great post, Elana - every writer should ask herself what is enough. Thanks for sharing your journey :)

mshatch said...

That one thing means a lot.

Also, I haven't read Elevated yet but I did read the sample pages on Amazon and boy, was I hooked, much to my surprise. I'd never read a story in verse before.

Natalie Aguirre said...

That's a great thing to feel is enough. Because even if we sell the "one" book, we need to be realistic on sales. I just saw an article in PW Children's Bookshelf and so few MG and YA books, even the ones we see around getting so much buzz, sell 100,000 books or more. Money should not be what defines what is enough or we're going to be disappointed.

Angela Brown said...

Finding your "enough" point is what really matters, and nothing more.

Kelly Polark said...

Beautiful review!!

I think most writers know that writing won't be the primary income unless you are in a certain top percentage. Money is nice, but connecting with readers is hopefully the main reason books are published!

Jessie Humphries said...

Hmmm, much food for thought. I hadn't ever specified that reader connection reward, maybe bc I'm not there yet. Good to know.

Chemist Ken said...

Do you really find that you have to do more work selling your book when you self-publish than you do when you traditional-publish? Seems to be that you do the same amount of selling and marketing regardless of which path you take, especially now, when the publisher expects you to do all the marketing.

clarbojahn said...

One thing though, one has to go through the sales to reach that one person who might 'connect" with your book in the way you describe. The more sales you have the more chance you'll find that special reader who "gets" your book.

Unless you are lucky enough to have every person "get" your book. Which is your goal in writing but obviously you didn't make it because it took that one reader to say she "connected" with it in the way you wanted her to. In the way you hoped she would.

Do you see what I mean? :)

whimsicalwerecat said...

Congrats on such a wonderful review, Elana! What a feeling - to have a reader connect and respond in such a deep way to your story.
It's every writer's dream. :)

Kathryn Purdie said...

I love this article, and this reader connection magic is a large part of why I write. The best feeling is sharing one of my stories--unpublished though they may be--and having a reader fall in love with it. On the flip side, it's a terrible feeling when they don't, but I'm learning to let that go and know my stories aren't for every single reader. No story ever is.

Stephsco said...

I've also noticed this focus on sales within indie publishing. I've been to several regional and national level writing conferences over the past two years, and there is a lot of emphasis on promo and marketing and Amazon etc, which I think is completely necessary. Though several of my writer friends walked away thinking, there is no way I can produce 4 or 5 quality books a year to keep my name at the top of those Amazon lists. I am also concerned for quality when it comes to that rapid of production.

I agree that each writer needs to find out why they write and what they want out of it. We all want to sell books, but how many and at what pace is really up to us.

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