Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Looking Back

Lately I've been feeling a bit of the writers' blues. I quit my day job so I could devote more time and energy to writing and marketing, and while I'm so glad I did -- I did, after all, write a whole novel in two months -- I'm just not seeing the spike in sales I was hoping to see. All around me are writers in the same boat: we're all trying to find the magic blog/Twitter/FB/chat/review formula that will ignite a windfall of sales. For awhile I pretty much lost sight of what was important, and how, for so many years, all I wanted was to be published, and that every sale, regardless of how few, would be an unimaginable blessing.

Then as I sat down to think about what I should blog about this month, it occurred to me that it's almost two years to the day -- December 9th -- that I first found out I was going to be published. My husband awakened me at 6:00 in the morning and dragged me to the computer so I could read an email from my agent that read, "Get your ass out of bed! Santa left you a huge present under the tree!" The rest of the day was a complete fog. I called my parents and ran around the house screaming. Later that day a package from Amazon arrived. My husband told me to open it early: it was an HP Netbook, which he wasn't supposed to buy for me until I got published. The fact that he'd done it anyway, and it arrived on the day that I found out I was published, was too much. I got so dizzy I had to lie down for awhile, and daydreamed about what my cover might look like, how wonderful it would feel to hold the print book in my hands, how terribly far away the release month of October felt.

Now, two years later, I have posters up above my couch of all three book covers from the Shadow Fox series. All of them are out in ebook and in print. I've received some great reviews, and while sales haven't been steller, they've been stable enough to give me confidence. Earlier this year Champagne Books awarded Shadow Fox Novel of the Year for 2010, and I've gotten fantastic feedback, as well as true friendships, from some of my fellow Champagne writers. I also have two other novels that are out in ebook, with a third coming in another month or so. My agent is helping me edit my new book, and I'm now looking two things I said I would never do in the eye: one was writing a novel for teens, the other a vampire novel (still in the planning stages). Last month I had a drink with my favorite author of all time, Guy Gavriel Kay, at the World Fantasy Convention. I sold 28 books at a book signing in my hometown, and sold a handful at my first fantasy convention. A couple of local business people think I'm famous, and my eight-year-old daughter tells everyone her mom writes wonderful books (not that she would know).

So I ask you: what the hell am I complaining about? If my past self, say ten years ago or so, saw me now, she would throw a fit. All she wanted, more than anything, was to get a book published. And here I have all this and more, and yet I'm still complaining. So as a favor to my past self, not to mention my present self, on the eve of my two-year-publishing anniversary, I promise to spend December feeling grateful. I won't let the doubts and fears encroach and dampen my spirits. I'll remember how it felt when I got that email December 9th, and how it felt to see the covers for the first time, and to open the packages that contained the first print copies. I'll remember every nice review and comment I've ever received, and I'll think about all the strangers who took a chance and bought a book from an author they'd never heard of. I'll be grateful for my new writer friends all over the globe, and I'll look forward, with relish, to the new books I have yet to write. And hopefully, if I do this enough, it will flow easily into the new year and become a habit. After all, feeling grateful will only bring new gifts to be grateful for.
Ashley J. Barnard
Dark Fantasy with a Contemporary Twist


Julie Eberhart Painter said...

A good reminder to us all. One of the demotivations is the delay/timelapse in payment. We are so used to instant gratification that we forget it's a business and a process.

"Successful people are process oriented, not horizon focused."

Big Mike said...

Been there, done that. I talked about this topic in a DVD workshop just released ("So you want to write a novel") where I discussed setting realistic expectations as an author. Considering on average published authors sell 200 copies of a novel, you have to ask "Why am I writing?"

I myself come back to this conundrum each royalty statement and my muse reiterates the same whispers "To share the stories floating in your head silly."

Considering that only 1 in 2000 that write and submit manuscripts ever get published by an AAP or recognized source, we're still a very lucky subset, don't ya think?

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year, (2008 and 2009)

January Bain said...

"The doom of man is he forgets." That quote is where I go when I find myself in that place. But no matter how far you have come, that driving force, that need to overcome doubts and fears drives us to continue pushing at the wheel and it is hard to remember to be grateful as we never really arrive.

Ashley Barnard said...

Thanks, guys! And BM, thanks for the statistical reminder...we ARE a lucky bunch!

TKToppin said...

Thanks for the reminder about the things we should be grateful for, and the reason we neglect many things to just put our creations into words. Great post, Ashley.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

I know how you feel, Ashley - but you have achieved so much and I know so many writesr who are still trying to get that first book published. Keep telling yourself 'you are a successful writer'!

Rhobin said...

I have seasonal doldrums, so when these thoughts come, it is usually a double whammy, but like you and like Big Mike said, I have to remember I was offered contracts. I have published books. That success led to a wonderful job. And I will write more whether the books hit the best selling list or not.

Jude Johnson said...

Timely, Mr. Hornblower. Timely... ;-)

One of my fave lines in the Pink Floyd song "Time" is:
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines...

So many people never finish a manuscript let alone submit it. And here we are--we few, we fortunate few--published authors with Fan Pages and Tweety and sales rankings. Sure those rankings are six-digits long but they are rankings nonetheless...

And isn't The Journey really more of the thrill anyway?

Thanks for a thoughtful post, Ashley. I'm glad I finally managed to get to the comments page!