Naïveté with a Dose of Arrogance?

Do insights into the way you see yourself ever come to you after you’ve had a beer or a glass of wine? As if maybe some flimsy curtain suddenly flutters to the floor and a lightbulb pops bright. It’s most common for me when I’m reading or musing on the couch in the evenings, but not so common that I’m not curious when the poke comes. As it did the other evening while I was looking at myself in the mirror, brushing my teeth before bed. I like to talk to myself as I peer into my face peering back at me, and so I began.

Why was it I thought announcing myself as a first-time author, one who had read few books and had never seriously written anything, not even a diary or journal, would win the hearts of readers, media folks and publicists everywhere? Was that something to be celebrated? Was I patting myself on the back, impressed that my authorship came without my ever having dabbled in the arena of writing? Did I fashion myself some unrecognized genius whilst embracing my self-claimed naïveté?

The answer to all of the above is yes. I touted the first-time author story with the kind of arrogance that pops up when I’m afraid of failing. It’s a fuzzy undertone I detect at times when I’m feeling vulnerable and want to have reasons to fall back on if things don’t work out to the highest-of-the-high standards I set for myself. Curiously, both narratives, the arrogant and the naive, float around inside my consciousness and cellular fluid simultaneously, side-by-side – they even hug and commiserate. Yet, I can’t grasp and learn from the duality until the curtain falls.

Neither arrogance or naïveté is an end-of-the-world take on anything, and the difference in the two can be as subtle as an accent or a state of mind, never sensed by anyone but me. Is it even important to me, then? Does it matter if I notice and am curious about why (as if I could I ever definitively know?) I have such tendencies toward that edge of arrogance?

Yes, I think it matters. I love seeing deeper into myself and, in this case, I thought I was free of all concern about how the book would be received when published. I told myself it didn’t matter what people thought, though I reveled in positive face-to-face reviews and friends gushing about my accomplishment. Now, eight months out, I wish it would get more national press, I’m disappointed the local media hasn’t lavished more praise upon me, and I feel those pangs of jealousy when I see other similar books get what I consider more attention. All of which, I see now, would be pretty much expected human emotional responses to something as big as publishing a memoir.

It matters because I can see now that I did all it out of a sort of fear of seeing myself for who/what I really am: a perfectly smart, creative, successful, courageous human who worked diligently to write a book I wanted to write. I got professional and personal input along the way, had it professionally edited (for content, style and grammatical correctness), and proofread. I self-published it with the help of my editor with whom I designed the covers, lay-out, fonts and picture placement. I had a book launch and reached out to the local media for publicity. I created a webpage and began this blog. And still, I’m subject to all the whims of the publishing/marketing world, and to all I didn’t know before I naively dove head first into published authorship. I didn’t do enough homework, yet I’m not sure I had the wherewithal to know what I didn’t know back then, and am only slowly coming to know now.

It matters because just maybe my dose of arrogance, no matter how tiny or big, is a little bit of the why I didn’t know what I didn’t know. That self-protective edge that either says it doesn’t matter, just do and everything will fall into place; or says (secretly, of course) you’ve got the perfect situation here, they’re going love this book, you’ve done a fantastic job. In either case, it assures that nothing else needs to be done and allows me to step out of the hope/fear inner turmoil.

I’ve had endless AHAs about the whole writing/publishing/marketing world since that fateful day last fall when I held a copy of Joy Ride: My One-Legged Journey to Self-Acceptance in my hands. I’ve read more books in these eight months than I had in the previous ten years. I’ve marveled at how stories are crafted, and contemplated the creative thinking it takes to come up with a plot, characters, a thread, etc., even in books that follow a formula, like a detective series. All that plus the sting of rejections, even after much effort spent marketing, and still writers keep at it. WOW!

It’s more than humbling, and I salute all authors. I’m amused by how naive I was and still am. Maybe naïveté with that little hit of arrogance was the only way I would’ve made it into this wide-open world of authorship with all of it’s ups and downs. Had I known what I know now, I wonder if I would’ve so eagerly completed my project. Yet, knowing what I know now will not keep me from continuing my marketing journey and, who knows what else? Maybe another book, marketed at least partly before launch!

The journey beyond the journey continues…

 

The Thrills and Spills of Book Marketing

Here’s the scoop. I self-published a book before I ever considered marketing. The fact that I’d even written a book that could be published was beyond my comprehension. Who thinks of marketing before the book is even a real thing? Well, as it turns out (as many of you likely know from personal experience) any self-published author who wants their book to be read has to think about the whole ball of sticky, gooey marketing wax. It’s the same in any artistic endeavor – the artist must ask, “how am I going to get this art out to people who may be interested in it, who may benefit from it, who may love it?”

I’m a social media light-weight dummy (slowly losing my fear), but – I created a website including this blog, made a Facebook page (Joy Ride – Rolling Around in Life), had a book launch, and some spotty opportunities to share the book at a few minimally-attended events. I approached the local papers and venue newsletters and scored a couple of small mentions. Next – I decided to pay the bucks for a Kirkus review, secretly hoping, (honestly, more like believing) it would solve all my marketing woes. If it was good, I imagined Kirkus would roll out their plan (free, of course) and that would be all I needed. The book would be snatched up by everyone in every country in a matter of days.

Ha! What am I? Dumb, naive, a wishful thinker? Obviously, all three and just a tad out of touch!

Here’s what’s happened. I got a nice Kirkus review and an immediate offer of a phone meeting with one of their marketing folks. Great! I thought. The woman I spoke with was a dear – she hadn’t read my book, but said she’d known of others like it that had benefitted from Kirkus’s marketing “packages”, and proceeded to outline individual and bundled options ranging from $500 to $5000. She sent me the descriptions earlier in the morning the day of the call. They looked good – lots of ads, maybe a book giveaway, arranged by Kirkus – likely 300,000 print views of my book in three weeks. I was almost sold – how else would I get that much press? I have no access to any of the stuff she was talking about, and isn’t Kirkus supposed to be the best?

Thankfully, I’ve grown up enough to know it’s best not to sign on in the moment of excitement, when praise and adulation is being heaped on me by someone who knows nothing about me, or my book (since she hadn’t read it). Granted someone had, but…so what?

I emailed my editor, the woman who helped me finish and publish the said book, the one person I can confide in about all things book-related knowing she has my back. I told her I was considering the $5000 Great Book Package. Really – I was, even though that small voice deep in my wise-woman gut was shaking her head, mumbling, “yes, you have the money, but what’s the guarantee?” Here’s what my editor wrote back:

“I’m nervous about you spending $5,000 on ads that don’t include widening your social media presence. It’s a lot of money being spent in only one direction. I don’t doubt Kirkus will do all they say they’ll do, but it’s book marketing—a highly ephemeral ratio between effort/cost: results…I know you’re flying high from that great Kirkus review and Kirkus is your new BFF and you’re excited about what they’re offering, but I feel that you’ll be disappointed with the results from Kirkus’s narrow campaign track…”

A wise woman! How many books would I have to sell to net $5000? At ~$9.00 profit per book, more than 500. That’s a ton of books. What if I sold just 20? Would I feel the investment was worth it? Would I say it doesn’t matter – I tried, wanting to justify my desire to see results without having to do much work? I’m sure I’d secretly regret it – another episode of impulsive, wishful thinking/acting that I’d get to add to my list of similar experiences. When. Will. I. Learn?

I have another phone meeting with the same Kirkus rep in early July. I’m still tempted to go for the Great Book Package. Like most authors, I want my book to be considered great, though I don’t want you to know that I want that. I want you to think it’s not important to me. Truth is, I know from experience that feigning indifference rids my soul of all it’s passion and joy – so best put the truth out there and hold onto the live-giving soul juice.

Meanwhile, I’ve contacted Smith Publicity. Maybe they have something to offer that’s more suited to my book and my marketing needs. I’ll still need Eva, my life-saving editor, to catch me as I’m falling under the spell of their pie-in-the-sky offers. And, I’ll watch out for the BFF phenomenon, and do my best to remember that nothing comes without some measure of work.

A Few Details about Joy Ride

I’ve been wrestling with whether I’m doing enough to promote my recently published book, and so I thought I’d post a short synopsis and excerpt here. Sometimes just doing something helps settle whatever restless beast is stirring things up inside.

Joy Ride: My One-legged Journey to Self-Acceptance tells my story of losing my right leg to cancer at age 11 in the 1960s. This was an era when “cripple” was an accepted word to refer to someone like me, and the choice for the disabled to live either as a “cripple’ or as “normal” was a difficult one either way. 

I chose “normal” and how my life unfolded after that is my story.  I would look for love in all the wrong places, and it would surprise me in the right places, too. I would meet generous people of all abilities along the way, ski, sail, and swim with self-referred “gimps,” and create opportunities for career and travel. 

And yet I kept important parts of myself hidden from those around me, and especially from myself.

When I discovered improvisational dance and began work with Karen Nelson and later with Alito Alessi, I found my inspiration and the life I was meant to live, one without secrets.  I found the courage to shine the light on those hidden and terrifying places.

I wrote Joy Ride to come to terms with the secrets I kept. I wrote to remember and embrace all the things I tried so hard to forget. I wrote to celebrate finding a relationship with my body, soul, and spirit through movement and share its extraordinary gifts of joy and freedom.

And I wrote because I hope others would find something in my life that would remind them of their own bravery and their own joy ride.

Thanks for reading. I leave you with this. I’m following Mary – heading out to dance! XOIMG_0264

 

 

Finding Focus

I’ve been feeling scattered, unmotivated, and noticing pangs of rejection since only one of the four emails I sent out asking for media coverage of my book elicited a response. Based on what I’ve read about marketing books, I understand that even one response is super. However, the feelings that nobody likes my book, and I’m foolish to have thought that anyone would, are still there. Past experience tells me I have to acknowledge all the feelings or I’ll drift into indifference and let the whole marketing mess fall away into the background. But it won’t really fall back there – it will gnaw at me and pollute any joy I might feel from other experiences.

That said, what do I do? I truly am in a transitional place and, unlike the last two years when my focus was clear and had a tangible outcome (getting my hands on a real, live paperback book with my name as author on the cover), I can’t see a tangible focus for this marketing effort. All I see is how little control I have over what happens. No matter what I do. Even if I can clarify what my message is, which feels like a daunting task right now since my head is swirling with equal parts negative and positive self-talk, I don’t see any solid outcome to focus on. Everything feels out of my control: how many books I sell, how many of the folks who buy books will write reviews, who in the big world of book reviewing will review and promote my book, etc.

Marketing is hard work and it takes consistent effort and willingness to feel the pain of rejection. I recently started reading Kathleen Gage’s free eBook, Hit#1 on Amazon. All she talks about is what one has to do, mentally and in tasks everyday, to make a new endeavor meant for mass consumption successful. A few weeks back I wrote a blog about my solid commitment to this year of marketing, but now as I  face myself I want to quit. I want to say “it’s not up to me, I’ve released it and whatever is meant to be will be.” I want to give myself permission to be lazy, to let it all go, to avoid the rejection I may feel if nothing comes of my efforts. To allow myself to say “it doesn’t matter.” And, in many ways, it doesn’t matter. I never intended writing the book to be the start of an ongoing business endeavor, or one that would bring fame and fortune. So, whatever comes of it is fine. But I wonder if I can muster up the courage to like myself enough to invest the energy it might take to distill a message, to let myself acknowledge that my life has had meaning, and the lessons I’ve learned might be helpful to others. Can the part of me that does like myself and that can hear that others like me, too – can she hear the positive without being discouraged and downtrodden by the sometimes constant criticism that another part of me likes to continually spew in my ear? Am I willing to embrace most loudly the encouragement and love I clearly feel from family, friends and the whole cosmos? Am I willing to use that positive energy to keep at it despite my confused and scattered mind, and unclear focus?

It occurs to me that this might be a big part of what my message is: we have to somehow know that, despite our feeling out of control of outcomes, we best serve ourselves by showing up for our lives – as consciously as is possible at any given time – and listening for clues as to what to do next. What fork in the road to take, what box to check, what experience to pursue. Noticing how opportunities present themselves, and how we need only say yes and be willing to engage with as much of ourselves as we can. We have to like ourselves enough to participate and find a way to play in our daily lives. Sometimes showing up and engaging is difficult, we don’t feel like it, or we have to face things we’d rather not see, or remember, or discover about ourselves or the world around us. Right now I’m thinking I don’t want to see what I have to do to market my book. None of it feels like play. Instead, I feel overwhelmed by Ms. Gage’s intensity and drive. Social media intimidates me – I want to dismiss it as an awful symptom of our time. Self-promotion scares me and raises many questions about why anyone would be interested in reading what I have to say. But this opportunity (brought to the forefront by the book marketing dilemma) to clarify what in life is important to me is compelling, and feels like an important road to go down. Although it’s tedious and unpleasant presently, it may provide important clues to what I want to pursue as this year of transition unfolds, and leads me to yet another chapter in my joy ride.

Today, I promise myself I will look for the opportunities to play as I roll around in my current state of confusion and orneriness. Maybe I’ll find that confusion and orneriness, in and of themselves, have playful qualities.

Therein lies a clue to my dilemma, and maybe to my message: love the place you’re in, aka “love the one you’re with” by Stephen Stills.

Joy Ride 2018: The Marketing Journey

As so many things do, the title of this post came to me one day as I awoke. It was right there in the forefront of my brain, or on my eyes, or someplace where those things we know or need to know show up. That morning I felt fully ready for the next phase of this book writing, publishing and disseminating journey. I wrote Eva, my editor, an email that morning declaring “I guess I’m ready to believe I have it in me.” I was referring to the kind of self-selling it takes to see if a self-published book is of any interest to a world outside the writer’s small circle. Eva says it involves being a kind of motivational speaker, reaching out to the various audiences that may be interested in the details and the over-all message of my journey.

The idea pushes a few of my buttons – one being the notion that I believe I have something to say. Isn’t that sort of conceit? This is a lesser theme in the book – this notion that one can and must embrace one’s strengths (and weaknesses) and share them openly, accepting praise and gratitude from those who respond without diminishing those responses. I realize that in writing a book and, more so in telling others I wrote it, I’m opening myself to all sorts of responses from others. And so, I will for certain have to prepare myself to be the gracious recipient of whatever comes my way while this next year unfolds – whether it be praise, gratitude, questioning, dislike, or even silence.

And silence – the silence of others who I know have bought the book but have not mentioned anything about it to me – is difficult. I’m mostly confident that I’m open to any and all comments, reactions, questions – flattering and unflattering – and want to hear all of those. The catch comes when I’m with known book owners who are saying nothing while I want to hear something, anything. What do I do? Do I ask if they’ve read the book? If they have read it, they know so much more about me than I know about them – and what are they thinking? If they haven’t – will they? Did they just buy it to be nice to me? There’s this space surrounding me and those who have bought the book that’s palpable to me. It’s an energy that connects us and is totally mysterious – a delight in one way and frustrating in another. I’m doing my best to live in the place of delight today.

Back to the 2018 journey – I’m both ready, as in committed, and not so ready, as in squeamish about self-promotion and the prospect that nothing will come of the effort. Because I know that nothing comes without commitment and effort, I will do all I can to make Joy Ride: My One-legged Journey to Self-Acceptance available to any and all people who might be interested. I will write a query letter for the media and independent reviewers; I will join local book reading events; I will create a FaceBook page; I will continue writing blogs and updating my website; I will enter any writing contests Eva suggests; I will submit excerpted sections to publications that may be interested; and, after the holidays, I will send an email out to all those who have supported and encouraged me by buying the book asking them to write an Amazon review. And most importantly– I will do my best to let go of all attachment to a particular outcome and open myself to the wondrous possibilities.

Goethe says it best in this quote – and I so know this is true from a place deep within. Wishing you dreams, love and peace in 2018.

“At the moment of commitment the entire universe conspires to assist you.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Yikes – I’m launching a book

Just three days until November 30, 2017, my official Book Launch Party. It’s been planned since October 30, the day the book became available on Amazon, and until today it seemed soooo far away. Not so now…

Thankfully, my inner worker-bees have been waking me up two or three times a week with all sorts of ideas about what I should say, what to read and how to “be me” at the event. It’s funny to think about having to plan how to be me – seems there’s very little else I can do. Still – a mind like mine likes to make sure all angles are examined before I forget every last one of those angles and enter into what is most always an improvisation in the moment as it happens.

That said – I’ve prepared an outline (which changes as the dreamscapes do each night) and I’ve chosen several passages to read. I’ve rehearsed in the mirror what I might say as I offer a toast. (For years I’ve indulged in talking out loud to my image in my bathroom mirror, or in the rearview mirror of the car, when I need to work out a problem or plan a strategy. It’s amazingly comforting, and although I rarely remember what I say, it seems to help me get my thoughts together. In addition…I enjoy making faces at myself!)

These impromptu mirror engagements have helped to get the wheels turning about exactly (although, I know there is no exactly since all things change as each nanosecond passes by) what my journey has been and continues to be about. For today, and I think this will still be what’s up on Thursday, I’m thinking to focus on how the journey over time, and the journey of writing and publishing the book, has been largely about re-membering my body and in so doing, embracing it’s amazing wisdom. It’s not that I forgot my body, because I was very much involved with the physical functioning aspects of my body from early on. The physical challenges of making my way on one leg were a source of fun, and a kind of creative outlet. I enjoyed finding ways to do things that would appear difficult or even impossible for someone missing a leg. And, although I tried hard to deny and dismiss my emotional body, I never was able to fully forget it. I just relegated it to a deep, dark place inside and decided, repeatedly, to ignore it. Thankfully, the powers that be – God, the universe, other co-pilots, like dogs or paint brushes – continually poked me along the way, reminding me that there was something I’d yet to consider in my quest for wholeness. The pokes came disguised as panic attacks, friendly advice, offers of adventures that bore unexpected insights, dreams and other things too numerous to mention and too compelling to ignore for long. They encouraged me to continue plodding, skipping or just walking until I discovered dancing – which is what I realized I was doing all along, just like we all are.

After all – life is a dance and that dance is the art, and the wisdom, and the message of each and every one of our bodies. To live is to dance! Ha – now isn’t that fun?

It’s a new day…

…and I’m a published author! My first book is Joy Ride a memoir of my decades long journey to self-acceptance. That journey seems pale now as I ask myself what’s next? Why did I write the book and where will the next chapter lead me?

The months from completing the manuscript to publishing have been a whirl wind of re-reads, tweaks, nit corrections (my beloved editor, Eva’s, word for those text bugs that show up in the oddest places), arranging the launch party and thinking about marketing – something that scares me some and just plain rattles my insides more. I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I’d write and publish a book. I never kept a journal or diary and, honestly, never even read that much. I have enjoyed books (Autobiography of a Face and With or Without You are a couple of memorable ones) along the way – mostly in spurts of reading with long spurts of not reading in between.

Getting back to what feels like the marketing monster, I’d like to go with my usual pattern of thinking: what ever happens with the roll-out of the book is what is meant to happen. But then, I realize that if I don’t purposefully tell people about the book, no one will know it exists – especially these days with so many books being published every day. Which means the newest leg of the journey is getting comfortable enough with my accomplishment to let the universe know, and taking responsibility for doing my very human, grass-roots part to make that happen. It’s about launch parties, readings and announcements for sure. And it’s also about hearing and believing what my readers tell me and owning my deep desire to share my inner and outer adventures with others in hopes that we all might continue to create our own lives as Thomas Merton says in the quote below.

I’ll close this post with two quotes that have recently popped out at me. Till the next time…

“It is true that we are called to create a better world. But we are first of all called to a more immediate and exalted task: that of creating our own lives.” Thomas Merton

“My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.” Desmond Tutu