Michaelbrent Collings

Post image for Why You Should Avoid Succeeding as a Writer by Michaelbrent Collings

I am often asked questions about the business of writing – how to self-pub, how to market, how to amass a group of loyal fans – but the question I am most often asked (in some form or other) is this: “How do I become a successful writer?”

For a long time I tried to answer the question, babbling about sales and marketing and hard work and blahblahblahblah. But then I realized what I should have been saying, and what I now say to you: if you’re asking yourself – or anyone else – how to become a successful writer, you’re asking the wrong question.

Success is an ever-retreating illusion. Like the end of the rainbow, it looks beautiful, laudable, something that people just over there clearly can lay their hands on. So why not you?

Well, because even if you manage to get to the end of the rainbow, even if you somehow contrive to grasp the edge of that many-colored illusion, you will find in the next moment that it moves away from you once more. And your version of “success” moves right along with it.

How many times have you said this in your life?

“If only I could get that promotion – then I’ll be a success.”
“If only I could buy that car – then I’ll know I’m a success.”
“If only I could afford the big house – then I’d know I was a success.”

And what happens? You get the promotion, you buy the car, you put the down payment on the big house… and like the rainbow, your measure of success immediately moves. You’re not successful unless you are constantly moving onward, upward, forward. “Success” is a beast with a relentless appetite.

So what do you do? Is the only answer to eschew success as a writer? Do you put all your manuscripts in a box and bury them somewhere, then go off and live as a hermit in a cave?

Not at all. But you must stop thinking in terms of being “successful,” and instead ask yourself this: as a writer, what will make me happy?

In other words, what is my goal, my aim, which will give me satisfaction once reached?

Is it to simply write a book?
Is it to win an award?
Is it to pay the rent on a regular basis?

Each of these is an attainable goal, but each is different, and each carries with it different responsibilities. Recently, the finalists for the Whitney Awards were announced. Several of my friends were among them, which was great.

My name, on the other hand, was nowhere to be seen on the list. I’ve sold oodles of books, my novels are consistent bestsellers on Amazon’s major lists, my most recent novel Darkbound is doing great and getting rave reviews.

But none of my books were there.

Did I break down crying over this? No. Because long ago I decided that my goal, my reason for writing, my “happy place,” if you will, was to write full-time, and take care of my family doing by doing so. So while it would have been nice to get on the list (if only to see the look on the judges’ faces, given the kind of books I tend to write), it mostly would have been nice inasmuch as it might have driven a few more sales my way. Because that’s my goal: to sell books.

Other people crumple into a fetal position when their names are missed for some honor or other. Not me. And it’s because I’m too busy achieving my goal – the thing that I decided will make me happy – to worry about incidentals.

How do you “succeed” as a writer? How do you “make it”? Beats me. But that doesn’t matter.  Because more important is your determination of what will make you happy. The question is subtly different, but the difference allows you to focus on concrete steps that will aid you in achieving that goal. It also allows you to avoid the poisonous practice of comparing yourself with others, because no matter how “successful” other writers may be, their success is irrelevant to the question of your happiness.

What is your goal as a writer? What is your happy place? Answer those questions. Then push away everything else, and work to achieve those ends. And once you have achieved them, recognize that you have done so, and find joy in the attainment.

But oddly enough, you will most likely find that in the doing you achieve as much joy as in the accomplishing of them.

Michaelbrent Collings has written numerous bestselling novels, including his latest novel Darkbound.  His wife and mommy think he is a can that is chock-full of awesome sauce.  Check him out at www.facebook.com/MichaelbrentCollings or  michaelbrentcollings.com.
 

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Post image for Dealing Positively With Negative Reviews by Michaelbrent Collings

Okay, so, you’re published. Your book is “out there.” It’s “in the world” and “up for grabs.” People can “read it” and “peruse it” at their “leisure” (I like quotation marks).

And at first, things seem all right. Fairly predictable. The book doesn’t become an instant bestseller, but it is selling. Your mom bought it, and your dad bought two copies, and so did that slightly weird person who sits in your closet and mumbles a lot. Or maybe that’s just what happens to me.

Regardless, your work is now on its own. Living, breathing, and (hopefully) being passed from hand to hand by readers who are—slowly but surely—going to become Your People. Your Followers. Your Army.

And then it happens. Among the four- and five-star reviews that have made you feel higher than a kite on meth, suddenly this rears its ugly head on Amazon:

A TERRIBLE read

I picked this boock up because of all the good revuews. But I guess the revuews were all dun by, like, the writers’ parents and stuff. Because the book stunk. It stunk a lot. It stunk like a dead skunk that has severe dysintary and then drowns in its own poop. Also, the author is a ca-ca doodie head and probably has lice and kix baby seals and stuff. Dont read this book, it will give you cooties.

– 1 star

You read it. And the questions start. Is my work really that bad? How could this reviewer have so completely missed the point of my book? Where did he learn to spell? What if I do have lice?

And, most urgently… how do I respond?

To that last, I have three little words: Ig. Nore. It.

Okay, maybe that’s four words, I don’t know.  I’m a writer, not an accountant.

Seriously, though, when you get a review like the above, you must simply rejoice within yourself. Why? Because it means your book is being read. It’s getting out into the world, meeting new people, getting beyond the closed circles of your family, friends, and writers groups. It will inevitably meet up with people that hate it—because it’s not their style, because you did an objectively terrible job writing the piece (it does happen), or even for no good reason at all.

And like any good parent, you will have the urge to rush to your “child’s” defense.

RESIST.

There are really only two likely outcomes if you choose to wage war on the review or (even worse) on the reviewer himself.

1)   You try to show the review is “wrong.” The reviewer takes offense and goes to war with you. You now have a dedicated enemy who will attack you at every possible turn, giving you low ratings wherever possible and urging his/her friends and family to avoid your work like a sack of rotten meat. You have just accomplished nothing more nor less than magnifying the effect and range of the viewer’s bile and hatred. Result: you lose.

2)  You try to show the review is wrong. The reviewer takes offense and goes to war with you. You mobilize your friends and followers and fight back. A comment war ensues! You beat back the scummy, evil, poor-spelling reviewer.  He/she is silenced forever. Huzzah! But wait… those comments are there forever. And you look like nothing more nor less than a prima donna bully. This will keep people from buying your books in perpetuity. Result: you lose.

Of the two, the second is gratifying to the author, but far more damaging. I am friends with a great many authors, some of them legitimately Famous People. And occasionally one of them will get their undies in a wad over some disparaging comment made regarding their work and will mobilize their fans to attack. The fans attack. Or some of them. Some don’t. Some become “un” fans, turned off by the author’s childishness. And though maybe Famous People can afford to lose fans, the average author just can’t.

An example: my most recent novel, Darkbound, just came out. It’s a deeply disturbing horror novel about six strangers who get on a subway train that turns out to go everywhere BUT where they want it to. When it was released, a very eminent horror review site called Hellnotes wrote up a stellar review. So did several other review sites. A friend who had received an advance copy sent me a note saying he was… well… less than enamored of it. It was too dark, too violent. Worried, no doubt, about typical author ego, he asked what my response would be if he posted such a review.

My response: “Do it!” People have a right to know others’ thoughts. The fact that this reviewer didn’t like Darkbound as much as he had liked other books I’d written was a bummer. But it didn’t mean the end of the world, and insisting that he love everything about my work, all the time, would be not merely ridiculous, but counterproductive.

The reviews of our work will at times be insightful, helpful, warming. And sometimes it will be shallow tripe that looks like it was probably written in crayon by a five-year-old struggling against some weird form of Tourrette Syndrome. Both are part of being a writer. Don’t respond to either (even the good ones—that can be a bit “stalky” and can also mess with your fan base). If you want to interact with fans, get a Facebook page, a Twitter account, or stand on a box in Hyde Park.

But leave the reviews—and reviewers—alone. Ig. Nore. Them.

It is three words. I counted with my fingers.

 

Michaelbrent Collings has written numerous bestselling novels, including his latest novel Darkbound. His wife and mommy think he is a can that is chock-full of awesome sauce. Check him out at www.facebook.com/MichaelbrentCollings or  michaelbrentcollings.com.

 

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A Snowball’s Chance in Marketing by Michaelbrent Collings

November 8, 2012
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I recently received an email from someone on my “official Michaelbrent Collings Facebook Fan Page” (which is still kinda weird to have, truth be known), asking in essence what he could do to sell his books to more than just his close personal friends and family… and promising me a kiss on the lips if […]

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Writing Fear by Michaelbrent Collings

October 15, 2012
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As a horror writer, I am often asked where I get my ideas. (I’m also asked about the voices in my head—sometimes by the other voices in my head, which is weird—but that’s a whole other therapy session.) And the sad answer is that there’s no one answer. The ideas I get can come from […]

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