RELAX: You Are Not Alone… So Create Magic

I’ve said it before- My journey as a writer hasn’t quite gone as planned. I still remember the day my first short story went up on Amazon. I was so sure that the price incentive of .99 cents would be the thing that launched me up on the sales rank. Imagine my surprise when it barely moved. I was devastated. I was hurt. I thought- Seriously, I worked this hard on a 6,500-word short story and I’m not even going to break even…? What the heck…?

Did I quit…? No, I pressed on and wrote the novella My Friend Louie. I was so certain this little YA Horror Story would be the hit. Again, nothing happened… I asked myself a million questions. I could not understand what I was doing wrong. I remember sitting on my patio and just shaking my head. I felt God was leading me to write, to be a storyteller, to create with Him. However, I was not experiencing success on the level I wanted to.

That is when it hit me- I defined my career according to my terms and not God’s terms.

So, for two years I did a few things.

  • Studied the craft.
  • Made friends and connected with others in the industry
  • Practiced, Practiced, Practiced…

Those two stories are still up there for sale (But I have come so much further).

The point is. I have banged my head against the wall a hundred times. I have tossed in the towel every day. I have quit- Only to come back and bang away at the keys instead.

Maybe it’s my nature. I mean- I’ve gone from being a high school drop out to being a VP in a Marketing Firm. Maybe I don’t know how to quit. Maybe because on some level I know one day I’ll make a decent break through.

Maybe, Maybe, Maybe- Maybe I’ve realized that creating stories is the only thing I’m any good at.

Yes, I give up. Yes, I stare at a blank page and cuss the blinking cursor. Yes, at times I feel it is pointless. Yes, I feel disrespected. Yes, I feel my genre is laughed upon and underrepresented. Yes, I feel most publishers do not know jack about marketing. Yes, I have wanted to give up… Guess what- So has every other creative type I know.

We write because we are called. We write because it is who we are.

Remember- We create a special magic when we become one with the page, and the words, they are the wands…

So keep writing. Never look back. Someone, somewhere, needs to hear your story.

START BY BEING YOU!!!

I by no means claim to be a Marketing Expert. However, I have worked in the field for over ten years. And if those ten year of experience have taught me anything it’s this:

Comparisons Marketing is an alienation of the Brand You Should be building…

Tweet: Comparisons Marketing is an alienation of the Brand You Should be building. @jjjohnsonwriter #AuthorMarketing #Engagement

What do I mean by Comparison Marketing…? Well it’s quite simple really. It’s marketing yourself in a way that compares you to a product within the audience you are targeting.

Now don’t get me wrong. Comparison Marketing works so long as you aren’t the one marketing it that way. An endorsement from someone comparing you or your product to a similar individual or product is something entirely different. In fact that’s what you hope to achieve in some aspects of Endorsement Marketing.

But when someone seeks out to create an ad, tweet, FB Post personally Comparing their work to someone else- I want to shake my fist and scream at them!!!!

 Recently I came across several different ads on Social Media by authors where the title was:

“As Good as Ted Dekker…?”

“As Good as the Wheel of Time…?”

“As Magical as Brandon Sanderson…?”

Every time I see these I have to resit the urge to message the person and say: “Stop!!! You’re doing it all wrong!!!”

In Marketing you want to find ways to be Remarkable, Unique, Different… Basically You want to be remembered. Not Compared.  

I work in a Direct Marketing Firm. Every year we send out over 170 Million Pieces of Mail marketing our various forms of Life Insurance. Some will say:

“Now wait J.J. Direct Mail is like Junk mail. It’s almost like spam. You’re against the ‘Buy my book Spam post.” 

You’re right. I don’t like the Buy my book tweets and Facebook post. I like engagement tweets and Facebook post. But what we do in our company is simple. Most Spam tweets, emails, post etc. along with junk mail have one purpose and one purpose only. Flood the masses.

But does flooding the masses work? Maybe at one time it did. But my philosophy is that it doesn’t anymore.

What we try to do in our company is go beyond the idea of hitting the mail box with an envelope. Our goal is to engage you enough, without deception or trickery, into opening the envelope.

My advice. In your marketing. Go beyond comparing yourself. Go beyond just creating a simple tweet. Be creative. Be you. Be engaging.

Then you’ll be remembered.

What about you? As a reader. What makes you want to stop and look at a tweet, Facebook Post, or Ad online…? What makes you want to engage with the writer? And possibly- Buy their book…? 

 

FIRST LINES!!!! – I Love Them

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Every book starts someplace, right?

I have a ADD. Not the type where I’m bouncing off walls all hours of the night, but I struggle with sitting down to concentrate. So when most people say that if you can’t engage your reader after twenty pages, then you’ve failed- I want to laugh. Why? Because with me, it’s much less.

Is that fair? No. But it’s reality. I have two kids under the age of two and a busy life outside of the home. My time is very valuable and I don’t have a lot of extra minutes to wait and see if a book will draw me in.

That’s why I always look at the first line.

I notice right away if a book is going to hold me long enough to get to the end. Basically, I want to be pulled into a story right away.

I love this Quote by Stephen King-

“A book won’t stand or fall on the very first line of prose — the story has got to be there, and that’s the real work. And yet a really good first line can do so much to establish that crucial sense of voice — it’s the first thing that acquaints you, that makes you eager, that starts to enlist you for the long haul. So there’s incredible power in it, when you say, come in here. You want to know about this. And someone begins to listen.” – Stephen King

Below are some of my favorites that I’ve collected. For some strange reason that first sentence in these stories pulled me into the pages and captivated me. They may not work the same for you. And that’s fine. But for me, they did what they should have done.

“It Was A Pleasure to Burn.” – Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

“You’ve Been here before.” – Stephen King, Needful Things

“On the second day of December, in a year when a Georgia Peanut Farmer was doing business in the White House, one of Colorado’s great resort hotels burned to the ground.” – Stephen King, Dr. Sleep

“There was once a time when only God knew the day you’d die.” – Nadine Brandes, A Time to Die

“Tonight we’re going to show you eight silent ways to kill a man.” – Joe Haldeman, The Forever War

“I did two things on my seventy- fifth birthday. I visited my wife’s grave. Then I joined the army.” – John Scalzi, Old Man’s War

“Szeth-son-son-Vallano, Truthless of Shinover, wore white on the day he was to kill a king.” – Brandon Sanderson, The Way of Kings

‘”I’ve watched through his eyes, I’ve listened through his ears, and I tell you he’s the one.'” – Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card.

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking 13.” 1984, George Orwell.

“It was raining the night he found me.” Tosca Lee, Demon

Now these aren’t a full list of all my favorites- But they are ones that pulled me in and kept me longing for an answer to the questions they posed in my mind…

What are some of your favorites…?

Realm Makers

Where on Earth Did I Go?

To Battle A Monster!!!!

This past week I had the opportunity to attend the Realm Makers Writers Conference. The premiere writers Conf for Christian Speculative Fiction. Now before I go on I must confess- I had a lot of reservation about attending. I mean when I’m around new people I’m somewhat of an introvert. It’s just the way I’m wired. I knew absolutely nobody. And those I did know (Like my roommates) I knew only through the magic that is Social Media. So attending was somewhat of a big step for me. But when it was all said and done- I left with a hundred new friends.

 

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I wore my pen out trying desperately to scribble down every word David Farland spoke. I listened intently trying to soak up his years of wisdom. I found myself fascinated listening to Suzanne and Shawn as they made Marketing less intimidating, enjoyable, and simple. I fumbled over my words and forgot everything about a book I spent months writing as I pitched a an endless nonsense of words. And I listened as Robert Liparulo spoke two simple words to us:

 STOP and GO!!!

There are so many times I have faced the monster that is doubt in my writing. So many pages of been ripped and tossed away as I have sat utterly defeated. So many times my wife has listened to me vent out of a lack of progress. So many times I’ve wanted to just Quit.

I think at times we are all that way. We seem to see ourselves as the worst there is. We lose sleep over a bad review, critique, or horrible pitch. But this weekend taught me two things.

1) Stop being self defeating

2) Go write and be creative

If I do those two things- Results will come.

As an Indie Author sometimes I get down on myself- Asking the question “Am I real Writer?” Not thinking I have any reason for validation. That’s my struggle. That’s my fault. That’s the monster I fight daily.

I think if Realm Makers taught me anything it’s this- I’m the one that feeds my Monster of Self Doubt!!!!

So what about you fellow Alumni? What did you conquer this weekend?

Why I Almost Quit Writing

4 Reason I Almost Quit

Being a writer is difficult. Heck- Being in any sort of creative work is tough. Most days we walk around with so many ideas fighting to get out of our heads we can’t hardly find the time or energy to sit down and get them on the page.

Not long ago I listened as someone in one of my Facebook groups said they were ready to give up. They had just gotten their sixth rejection on their fourth book. As of this date none of their works had been picked up by a small press or large publisher. Frustrated, tired, burned out, they were ready to throw in the towel. Heck, not even a relaxing cup of coffee could bring them to their senses and relax their mind…

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I felt for them- I really did. I’ve been there. I know what it feels like to fail- In fact- I still fail. The truth is I have even quit before. I’ve quit a lot of things. And afterwards, I feel more substandard then I did before.

Now don’t get me wrong- Quitting sometimes is healthy and good. I stopped drinking soda. Some stop smoking, and yes- Maybe quitting for a time will renew your passion. But that isn’t what we are talking about here. Where talking about quitting because you feel inferior.

The truth is- Quitting doesn’t bring closure or satisfaction, or even less stress. It doesn’t make you forget the pain of rejection- it only brings insult to your soul.

There was a time I just about quit writing. I sit on my patio and made list of four primary reasons I needed to give up. I’m sure there are a hundred other excuses as well, you may even have some yourself. But I have found that quite often the four below are pretty common…

Number One- Time:

Let’s face it. I have a busy life. I work full time, I’m active in my church, my wife and I have two children (Miles who is 2 ½ years old and Bennett who is 9 months) Finding time to write is very challenging. Luckily for me I have a very supportive wife who understands my need to get words on the page. There are nights where she tells me to just go, get out, and write. But let’s face it- I can’t do that every night. I mean I would be a massive jerk to leave her at home alone with those two. So what that means is cutting out the distractions (Netflix) and powering through from 9:30 to 11:00 until I get my words on the page.

If I can have a family, work full time, work out every day, eat healthy, spend time in God’s word, and still find time to write- So can you. So Don’t quit!!!

Number Two- Perfection:

The thing I wished someone would have told me when I first started is that it didn’t need to be perfect the first time. I have written some horrible first drafts before- Some that felt so bad I walked away from them. Don’t quit because of a bad first draft. Structure and grammar can all be fixed during re-writes. Let’s face it- Editing is a separate process for a reason.

Number Three- No Money to Invest:

I find a lot of people who think they have to go traditional because the publisher will pay an advance, take care of editing, and take care of cover design. It seems that most when faced with rejection from a publisher use money as the number one excuse for not going indie. As of right now I have a full length novel, two short stories completed, and a novella I’m currently working on. Now it’s true I can’t afford to send them to my editor all at once. But I don’t intend to start publishing these until next year (2016) anyway. My goal is to have four books in the queue ready to go up in Jan, April July, and October of 2016. Releasing those 90 days apart and putting out good content.

Why you ask- Because I can’t afford to edit them all right now, nor can I afford to pay for cover design for four books all at the same time. This is my approach to getting around the money issue, write, prepare over time, and publish throughout the course of next year. Technically I could even wait up to a month before to get the cover design ready. The point is find a strategy and go with what works best for you. Writing isn’t cheap, and sometimes if the finances aren’t there it may take some time to get them out. Don’t rush- And don’t quit.

Number Four- Lack of Forward Progress:

This is one I understand all too well. It’s also something I think people use as the number one excuse for giving up. Because this is a universal excuse. Why do most people give up on diets or healthy lifestyle changes? Simple- The scale never moves. Why do people stop blogging? No one visits their site. Michael Hyatt made a great quote on his podcast not too long ago. He said “Most people quite right before the inflection point.”

I’m glad I didn’t give up and quit, and so is my wife who would otherwise have to listen to all my crazy insane ideas. Now don’t get me wrong- I love seeing people quit for the right reasons. Stress, poor lifestyles, there are a number of reasons to let go of something and move on. But don’t let a list of reasons (like above) stop you when you feel like nothing is happening.

What about you? Have you ever felt like quitting at the beginning…? If so what did you do to overcome that feeling of inferiority?