Friday, February 24, 2012

the author's to-do list

                                                                  this is a serene lake. do not throw your laptop into it. 

These past two weeks, I've been immersing myself in the collected blog works of Jen Dziura (for work purposes! My job is the best sometimes). I highly recommend doing this if you are feeling that late February lag that so many of us go through when our well-intentioned New Year's resolutions begin to feel like distant memories.
In her post a couple of weeks ago, Jen wrote about overcoming perfectionism and it got me thinking about all of my own not-quite-completed to-do lists.
I have a long list of goals for 2012 and I set a monthly reminder to myself to check back in on it. Have I done all of it? Good God, no. Have I done some of it? Well, yes, I have. So do I get a gold star or am I big fat failure?
I only got about half of the things on 30 before 30 list done before other things in my life took over my time, but that half included spending a month in Argentina, learning Spanish, reconciling with a friend I hadn’t talked to in years, getting in great shape and losing fifteen pounds, landing a column on my favorite website and publishing my book. Pretty great, right? It's hard to look at it as anything but a wild success when I put it that way.
If you cross off all of the items on your to-do list with ease, the list probably wasn't nearly ambitious enough.
So how does this apply to writers?
Never have there been so many options available to writers to build a platform and promote their work, but to say it's overwhelming would be an understatement. I've seen some of the packets my friends get from their publishers about social media and online marketing, and while these packets contain no dearth of helpful information, the sheer scope of what they're being asked to do is unreal.
I'd imagine most writers' ideal to-do list would look something like this:
1. Write book
2. Go and talk to some fans and sign some copies and bask in the glow of nice reviews whilst showing admirable fortitude in the face of any criticism.
3. Repeat as needed.
In reality it goes something more like this (amended to include all you intrepid self-published types):
1. Write book
2. Revise book
3. Revise it again. Maybe once more.
4. Research agents and query/ hire fantastic editor and copy editor to polish book to a high sheen.
5. Find publisher / publish your damn self!
So far so good right? You're now in therapy to cope with all the rejection and should maybe stop drinking all of the vodka and stop eating your feelings but, look at you! You’re an author! Time to bask in the glory right? Wrong! More steps:
6. Start a blog. Blog all the time. Be funny, be interesting.
7. Find other people's blogs and try to get them to let you be funny and interesting on their blog.
8. Tweet. Follow. Hashtag! Learn what IMO, DH, LMFAO mean! Be clever, be informative. Be snarky but funny snarky, not mean snarky. Not one likes mean people on Twitter. Be self-promotional but not, you know, too self-promotional. No one likes that.
9. Facebook! Have a page, get some fans! Tell people to 'like' you and try not to feel weird about that.
10. Don't forget about Google Plus, and Reddit and Digg it, Pintrist? Isn't that a thing now?
11. Something about Google analytics!
I could go on. Oh, could I go on but I'm guessing your brain when into Sad Macsomewhere between 8 and 9. And so this is what follows:
12. Decide you are a big fat failure who cannot adequately promote their work.
13. Throw mobile devices into the lake.
14. Maybe you join a monastery. Those monks look really calm.
So what's an author to do?
It's not just important for authors (even traditionally published ones) to maintain a presence online; it's crucial.  So by all means set the bar high, but don't freak out when you don't quite reach it.
Repeat after me: I will never do everything I could have done to promote my work. Never. It is impossible. Choose a couple of things you can do to help support your work and focus on those; take time to keep refocusing as you go along. Didn't blog for two weeks? Don't waste time beating yourself up, just go write a killer post! Been neglecting your Twitter? Spend an hour on there re-tweeting people at the end of the day on Friday when you’re too tired to do anything else.
Take it from me: A dieter who resolves to eat nothing but kale and work out seven days a week will still see success if he works out three days a week and incorporates greens regularly; sometimes “close enough” is plenty.