Life and Writing Advice is a blog series intended to help writers, editors, and freelancers learn from each other. Sometimes the most helpful information is knowing that we’re not alone in our experiences, that others can empathize with us, and that we can learn from others.
Once a month, we give a writer a prompt question. Then we post the writer’s response. Get ready to read about personal experiences that impacted or changed writers’ and freelancers’ lives. We hope this series connects people and provides inspiration. Let us know your thoughts about our series in the comments!
Congratulations—you’ve found it!
You might have recognized that one moment when you know what you want to do with your life. You then decided to pursue it and soar. Maybe you’re an author who just finished your first book or an artist who designs characters for games. In any case, you’ve likely gone over the 10,000 hours it takes to perfect your craft to be ready to pursue your dream career.
Then it happened. You pitched your first query letter and expected that miracle contract—only to receive a rejection. The rejections kept coming, and doubts began to stomp out the flame. You began to second-guess yourself and your choices. If you’re an indie author, maybe you aren’t seeing sales as fast as you want.
Fear not—there is hope in these dark times. You aren’t alone; we have all gone through it. Let me share a story of my own struggle and publishing journey.
Building FyreSyde: Dreaming Big Dreams
When I began my journey as an independent publisher, I knew I wanted it to be more than just a hobby. I wanted to turn the dream in my mind into a real business. FyreSyde Publishing, my own publishing company, was born from this dream. It served as a brand name I could put into my books as my own entity.
I turned the dream into a passion, but I still went through so many struggles to turn the dream into reality.
In the beginning, I had to ask myself these questions:
- What licenses do I need?
- How do I obtain a Tax ID?
- Where do I go to get an EIN number?
- How do I market without sounding “salesy”?
- What venues should I use?
Then there was the million-dollar question: how much will this cost? In the beginning, I didn’t have much to budget. I was a stay-at-home mom with two kids and only one parent providing income. The guilt of borrowing from my extended family for things such as a website domain almost froze me in my tracks.
Thus, the cost was the first obstacle I had to overcome. History is full of entrepreneurs who didn’t have the money to start but still took a leap of faith anyway and soared. I knew I needed to do the same, so I stepped out in blind faith.
A common fear and a question I’ve seen many times is how to make yourself known as an author without any sort of following—be it social media, an email list, or any kind of online presence. Don’t worry—this happens to everyone first starting out. I had no online presence when starting this adventure. It has since exploded to over Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter, but I worried about my online presence at the beginning of the process.
Doubt Crept in From All Over: I Wanted to Quit
The first wave of doubt hit me when I had the company but still felt something was missing. I’d gone through the initial steps of creating the company and thought I’d done everything correctly. But after giving out so many advanced reader copies (ARCs) and receiving few reviews in return, I began to wonder if I was cut out to be an indie author.
I began emailing my readers, and it felt like I was begging for reviews. I’d invested large sums of money to market my book, Blessing of Luna, but I also had very little to show for it. The loyal readers I met at individual live events helped me with exposure and building social media, but I didn’t understand why the conversion rate was so low.
The New Business Model: Why I Didn’t Quit
One of the reasons I didn’t quit is because I believed in FyreSyde’s business model. Every year, I attend the Global Leadership Summit. At this event, some of the most powerful and influential leaders all spoke on how they grew their businesses.
Amid all my feelings of discouragement about my lack of sales, a single, unifying concept began to emerge while I attended the summit: the concept of a market of “we.” I learned that I needed to add value to my readers and influencers—not just ask them to help me in my endeavors. This single revelation began a whole new business model for FyreSyde. I realized I had to think like an entrepreneur. Together, my husband and I shifted FyreSyde’s gaze outward and saw a whole new way to grow.
We started by venturing out to live events. Even if we didn’t sell a single book, we connected with people, coached other authors, added value to our readers, and grew FyreSyde’s influence.
I also learned to value failure over success. I know that sounds strange, but it’s something else I learned from the GLS. Every single one of those leaders, those business powerhouses, experienced failure but still pushed through it. As a new business owner, I learned that I had to embrace failure as an ally—not an enemy. It was hard to shift my thinking, and failure can still hurt at times because I spent so much time on my product and company. But focusing on being a brand helped expand my success and revolutionize my platform.
For example, we recognize Stephen King by his author name, not by one of his book titles. This is his brand—something he used his books to build. We recognize J.K. Rowling by her name and Apple by its name—not just her books or its products. I’m sure you get the idea. To make FyreSyde more influential, I and my husband needed to focus on its name—its brand.
The most powerful motivator for me was falling in love with the machine of marketing. I took the time to learn the market, follow its shifts, and adapt my tactics. Let’s face it authors: you are your greatest marketing tool. No one is going to do it for us. We have to do it. If you’re truly serious about your passion, it won’t feel like work. It’ll be an adventure!
Keep Going: Why You Shouldn’t Quit Your Dreams Either
Stephen King once said, “The hardest thing you can do is start,” and it’s true. Starting Fyresyde was hard. It was tiring, but it’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done—and we aren’t finished. We recently opened our first subdivision known as NytOwls Horror, a blog dedicated to promoting authors through guest posts, interviews, giveaway promotions, and blog tours. In 2019, FyreSyde will accept submissions to our online magazine, and we’ll release new workshops that will help authors grow their brands and platforms.
The greatest advice I can give to all of you new, starters and veterans alike, is to be willing to take growth slowly. Play the long game. Realize you aren’t alone and that your fellow authors aren’t your competition. The writing community is the largest support group you have.
The most important thing is to never give up and to remember why you started this journey in the first place. It’ll get you through the inevitable failures and allow you to enjoy your successes.
How have you kept working on a goal or a passion even though you wanted to quit? We’d love to hear your stories in the comments or via social media!