5 Habits of Thoroughly Obsessed Writers

When I first started this blog, it had a different name. In July 2009, I called my introduction into the blogosphere "My Journey Towards Publication". At that time, I had written about 15 unpublished manuscripts that I considered complete and ready for publication. All I needed was an agent. Right? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Since that time, I've gained a buttload of working knowledge about the art of writing, the thrill of publishing, and the headache of marketing. I'm not sure, but I think every newly published writer goes through the five stages of publication. Rejection. Elation. Disillusion. Resignation. Revision. (That sounds like another blog post topic for another day.)

What I want to ponder today is five obsessive habits in which most, but maybe not all, newly published authors indulge.

1. Obsessively checking your Amazon sales rank -- Your publisher, agent, publicist, or that new author friend you met on Facebook will introduce you to Amazon Author Central and you will set up your Amazon Author Page. After that, your life will never be the same. You will become hopelessly addicted to checking your sales rank.

Amazon has not been kind to authors in that it allegedly updates sales rankings hourly, thus enabling your new addiction. Sometimes the 'Zon does update hourly and sometimes the whole stinking system gets stuck for a whole day. This stall is great if your book is doing well in the rankings. It's not so great if you happen to have a BookBub ad that day and your ranking gets stuck before your boost in sales pushes your book into a top 100 list. (My thoughts on BookBub will have to wait for another post.)

You will develop a love/hate relationship with anything related to Amazon somewhere around the time your first book loses the status of "newly released".

It isn't always easy to tell how many books have been sold by simply monitoring Amazon sales rankings, so you will resort to using a lesser known site called NovelRank, a lovely site that will tell you how many books you've sold this month, last month, this year. You'll love this new site until you realize it is highly inaccurate. The more books you sell the more inaccurate it becomes. (I have proof of this assertion.)

2. Obsessively searching the Internet for reviews of your book -- You will go to Amazon every single day, possibly more than one time a day (or hour) to see if you have any new fans that absolutely love your book and can't wait for you to publish another second one.

These are giddy times for you,  my friend. Someone will post a review that praises your book and you will soar to new heights in that beautiful elation stage of publication. Then someone will post a one star review and you will slide right down into the miry depths of that awful disillusion stage of publication. Getting your first one star review is like being stabbed in the heart with a rusty railroad spike. My friends, I've been there, done that. As Gloria Gaynor sang, "I will survive." I shared my first one star review experience in my blog post entitled "Surviving the One Star Review".

The ups and downs of Amazon Reviews will not be enough to feed your need for affirmation, so you will resort to adding your book to Goodreads, hoping to get even more feedback on the written outpouring of your inner soul. My advice to you about this site? Add your book to the database and leave. Never return until you have another book to add. Don't check your reviews. Don't communicate with those who have reviewed your work. I repeat, do not engage. Most of the people on Goodreads are nice people, and I have absolutely no problem with those individuals. They love to read and they love to talk about what they read. That is a good thing, but if you wander into that dangerous territory, be aware that Trolls exist on that site and they will eat a newbie alive.

There is a little app called Google Alerts. No, don't Google it. Stay away from it. Your new Facebook author friend will tell you to set up an alert so that you get an email every time you or your new baby book is mentioned on the interwebs. This can be a very dangerous thing. Sometimes, it is better NOT to know what people are saying about you and your baby. Really.

3. Obsessively thinking about how you should have written your book differently -- When those reviews start accumulating on your book's Amazon page, you will start devouring every word your reviewers say. When one of them says with apparent knowledgable authority that your "narrative is tedious", you will analyze every section of narrative wondering if you could have done anything different to have kept this one single reviewer from being so bored with your tedium that she resorted to just reading the dialog. You will decide that you are a horrible writer and wonder why you ever thought you could write a book. Now you are wallowing in your publishing disillusions.

Just remember, fellow author, THIS IS ONE PERSON'S OPINION and it might not even be a good opinion. This person may not have done well on the reading comprehension portion of standardized tests. People filter what they read through so many different perceptions and life experiences that there is no way your work is going to please everyone or even be understood by everyone.

Here is the golden rule of dealing with reviewers: Reviewers are entitled to their opinion. Respect them enough to allow them their opinion. You may NOT do unto them as they have done unto you. Don't respond to negative reviews. EVER. A writer that states his or her opinion about a reviewer's opinion will be crucified in public opinion by both writers and reviewers. Is this fair? Probably not. Is it the way it is? Definitely.

4. Obsessively scanning your Twitter feed for any mention of you or your book -- Your publisher, publicist, or new writer friend on Facebook might tell you that you cannot sell books unless you have a "presence" on every social media site known to mankind. You will be informed that it will be necessary to create an author brand by exploiting...um...I mean, utilizing your internet "presence". 

When you first sign up for any new social media platform, you will obsessively check it to see if there are any social interactions from fans of your book. After a few months of this, after you have built up your Twitter followers and followed countless people you do not know personally, you will discover there aren't many mentions of your book by people who have actually read it, if any at all.

The Twitter feed of most authors is flooded with promotional posts by authors trying to sell their product to other authors, and the truth is, most authors post their promotional tweets through a service like Hootsuite without ever visiting the Twitter site.

Thus, there is a lot of traffic on author Twitter feeds, but very little real interaction. If you use social media, the idea is to actually develop internet friendships and socially interact with others. Otherwise, your promotional efforts will be like spitting into the wind. All you'll get is a face full of spit.

I prefer Facebook, but utilizing Facebook for anything other than social interaction, such as promotion of your book, is not without its own set of issues.

5. Obsessively joining Facebook promo groups in order to post about your new book --  You will discover that there are groups on Facebook and some of them are for the sole purpose of promoting books. Some of them have names like:

Book Promotions and Specials
Book Pimp
Amazon Kindle Promotion
Cheap Bookies

You will get excited and think this is a wonderful thing until you realize that the only people who frequent these groups are writers who post a promotion for their book and then leave. Again, spitting into the wind.

I've found the best Facebook groups actually discourage promotional posts and encourage interaction amongst writers. One group I'm in encourages its members to help each other promote books on Facebook, but the best thing about being a member of this group is participating in the discussions on topics about writing and publishing. Friendships have been formed. Bonds have been created. And yes, a few books have been sold.

If you want to sell books, very few books will sell due to promotional posts on social media. If you spend all you promotional efforts on social media, you will become very frustrated, very quickly.

Okay, if you are a newbie, my last statement has just dismayed you and you are living in the land of disillusion now. Do not dismay, my friend. Here is the key to sales on Amazon: Get enough reviews to purchase an ad with a email book promoter like Bookbub, Book Gorilla, or Ereader News Today. Oh, but you must start by writing a good, quality book. If you are an indie writer, don't be THAT writer. If you want to know what I mean, check out my post "Dear Indie Author, Don't Be THAT Author".

Now that you have been thoroughly disillusioned, wander on over to the land of publishing revision and rethink your approach to both monitoring your sales and promoting your work. Reject these habits. They are time sucks and will keep you from doing what you ought to be doing: writing your next great book.

Writers, happy writing. Readers, happy reading.

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