But this is just one aspect of being a writer – of intrinsic importance, of course, and you can’t call yourself a writer unless you are prepared to go through all of the above – there are other aspects that might be perilous to ignore.
To be a successful writer these days, several other hats should be donned once the writing has been done. The same is true even to be a moderately successful writer. There was a time when writers did not have to don any other hats – there were people who did that for them. These hats include
upping your profile, trying to get (hopefully rave, but no guarantees!) reviews – online and in the press, making sure everyone, including the right people know about them, doing signings, visiting schools, blogging about your new book, blogging about yourself, being active on twitter and facebook, getting interviewed, networking, courting bloggers and librarians, speaking at conferences, and finding as many platforms for yourself and your book as possible. (Even Margaret Atwood maintains an active Twitter profile)
Creating a bit of a buzz for your book is important. The books that find their way onto all the shortlists and often win prizes haven’t got there all by themselves, unless their authors have been extremely lucky. The writers have been doing all the above and more to ensure their book’s success.
Not as many people read my first novel, The Long Weekend, as I would have liked. There are so many factors that contributed to that. I’m putting my hand up and saying that one of those factors was my naivety as a newly published author. No one knew about my book and as I wasn’t shouting it from the rooftops or even holding it up for people to see, things stayed that way. I didn’t know about all the other hats I needed to wear if I wanted my book to reach its readers, I just assumed that others were donning them for me. Consequently my book was only in a few book shops and found by very few readers.
That isn't me running for joy. She's younger, cuter, endowed with glossy hair. But when I saw her yesterday afternoon at Valley Forge National Park where I had gone after a day of peaceful writing, I stopped and memorialized her moment with this picture. I was feeling that way myself. I was leaning toward good, and toward the future.
My Facebook friends heard me tell this story on Friday, but it bears repeating here. You Are My Only
, a little book if ever there was one, a book that nonetheless believed in itself, went back to press last week to boost its presence in bookstores. I'm not going to pretend that the numbers are huge; they aren't. I'm not going to suggest that a second print run gives this writer celebrity status. Celebrity status is a state of mind. No matter what happens, my friends, I will not enter that realm. I like the world in which I'm living.
What mattered to me about the news is this: You Are My Only
would not have been given that boost without my book blogger friends
. These are people busy with their own lives—their jobs, their children, their partners, their dreams, their book projects, their countless other blogger friends—who stopped and started banging on a drum. Pay attention,
they said. A book is coming.
They stopped to read, earlier than they'd planned to. They created contests, at their own expense. They entered my own crazy You Are My Only Treasure Hunt
, a complicated ditty that took, yes, blogger time. They Twittered and Facebooked and emailed and said, We believe in you, Beth, and in this book
. This was a rally based largely on blind trust. There are no thanks great enough. There are names and people I will never forget: Amy Riley, Pam Van Hylckama Vlieg, Danielle Smith, Florinda Lantos Pendley Vasquez, Melissa Sarno, Colleen Mondor, Wendy Robards, Shanyn Day, Serena Agusto-Cox, Melissa Walker, Leila Roy, Mandy Stanley King, Ed Goldberg, Lorie Anne Grover, Little Willow, Caroline Leavitt, Aquafortis, Valerie Burleigh, Vivian Lee Mahoney, The Perpetual Page-Turner, Sarah Laurence, John Jacobs, Lilian Natel, The Story Siren, Susan Taylor Brown, Carol Weiss, Mundie Moms, Medieval Bookworm, Hippies Beauty and Books, Books Thoughts and a Few Adventures, The Reading Zone, Kay's Bookshelf, Bonnie Jacobs, Elizabeth Mosier, Ruth Koepel, Anna Lefler, and Books and Movies, who wrote Saturday evening and touched me so deeply (thank you so much, Carrie) with these beautiful words.
A huge thank you to Darcy Jacobs of Family Circle.
And for all of you who have been there in the past, for other books and other dreams of mine, don't think for a second that I have forgotten you. It has all made an enormous difference. And if I have neglected any name here (and gosh, I have feared that, especially since I do not google my own name), tell me, and after I pick myself up off the floor from shame, I will make amends.
I have been blogging for four years now. I have been privy, throughout this time, to the conversation about whether or not book bloggers can make an actual difference. I want to say here, again, for the indelible record, that of course they do. Book bloggers give writers hope that their work will be read and considered—no small thing. Book bloggers stand at the
Written by Michelle Lovric
$17.99, ages 9-12, 464 pages
When a magical book falls onto Teo's head, the 11-year-old orphan is thrust on a quest to save Venice from a vengeful ghost and his band of mutilated spirits, in this imaginative, brilliant debut.
Teo, who has lived in Naples as long as she can remember, has always yearned to go to Venice and now her adoptive parents have finally invited her to go as they research a troubling presence in the city of canals.
One day, while exploring the city, Teo wanders into an old bookstore and is knocked to the floor when a tome called, "The Key to the Secret City," tumbles off a shelf.
Just before Teo is taken to the hospital, the bookseller slips her the book. When she awakens in her hospital room, she discovers the book is still with her, and there's a menacing wooden statue near her bed.
The statue, put there by some mysterious force haunting the city, is bleeding from its mouth and seems to be coming to life. Suddenly, Teo loses consciousness and disappears.
She awakens in a graveyard with the tome still in her pinafore, and as she tries to find her way back to her parents' hotel room, she discovers she's become invisible, except it seems, to children.
As she walks, the book speaks to her, writing words of warning across the pages, including a strange poem about an undrowned child, and soon, the book leads her to a Gondola boy named Renzo.
Teo and Renzo are told by the book that they are Venice's protectors and are led to The House of Spirits, a refuge for aging nuns and heartbroken ghosts, then under the sea to a colony of mermaids.
The mermaids are nothing like those in children's books; they speak like pirates and act like revolutionaries, running an underground press to warn the city of an impending evil.
0 Comments on 7. The Undrowned Child as of 1/1/1900
Last weekend at KidLitCon13, Sarah Stevenson and I presented on Blogger Burnout: Suggestions for Getting Your Groove Back. In this post, I'll recap our session, with emphasis on the strategies that we came up with for overcoming burnout.
It has been our observation that anyone who has been blogging for a while experiences periodic bouts of burnout (or blogging blahs, or blog angst, or "the Blahgs", or whatever you would like to call it). I was struggling with this myself earlier this fall, after being sidelined by illness, when I ran across a post that Sarah wrote about her struggles to rekindle her love for blogging. A number of long-time bloggers responded in the comments of Sarah's post, with useful suggestions. Sarah shared some of these and her response to them in a follow-up post.
Reading these suggestions, and just knowing that I wasn't alone in my situation, helped me to get my own blogging groove back. I wrote about this in some detail in this post, with particular thanks to Melissa Wiley, Gail Gauthier, and Adrienne Furness for their motivational suggestions. I received lots of additional suggestions and general encouragement in the comments of that post, for which I am also grateful. But essentially, for me, getting my groove back boiled down to two things:
- Returning to my blogging roots, the central passion under which I started my blog in the first place (growing bookworms); and
- Taking steps to remove (mostly self-imposed) pressure wherever possible.
For Sarah, who is still working on this, thinking about the issues and why she's struggling, and reading everyone else's feedback, helped her to realize this:
"If I am writing about what I find important and enjoyable and special, then it will be different (from other blogs) simply because it reflects my perspective. It won't be a mouthpiece for marketing or a regurgitation of information I can find anywhere else."
Which is a pretty important start to recovering from the blogging blahs.
So when it came time to think about sessions for KidLitCon, Sarah and I thought that perhaps in sharing our experiences, we might be able to help other bloggers. We brainstormed together, and came up with a list of reasons why we think that book bloggers (specifically children's and YA book bloggers) experience burnout. For each of these, we scoured the comments in our posts, and other sources (like the results from a recent survey of book bloggers), to come up with concrete strategies for responding.
Sarah then turned this content into a pretty one-page handout, which we are hoping to eventually turn into an Infographic. But for now, I'll just share our thoughts here. I've also added a few extra suggestions that came up during the session, though we were too busy to take very many notes.
Reason 1: I feel burned out because blogging feels like an unpaid job, like something I "have to do." This can be especially true for authors, who are told to blog to maintain a public face.
- Take a break. In a recent survey of 310 book bloggers (not just children's and YA books), 24% said that they take a break from blogging when they feel burned out.
- Cut back: Give yourself permission not to do the parts that feel most like work. For me (Jen), this has always included blog tours and interviews. But interestingly, Jennifer from 5 Minutes for Books said that blog tours help her, by giving her a deadline. It's all about figuring out what works for you.
- Self-examination: Have your reasons for blogging changed?
- Change things up: Try cycling in guest posts or re-posting favorite older posts.
- Start something new: Try a new feature to rekindle your interest.
Reason 2: I feel burned out because I receive too many books and too many requests for reviews, and I have too little time.
- Give yourself permission not to do things, not to review everything. Here audience member Paula Wiley said that she's talking about books more on GoodReads, and only reviewing the ones about which she really has something to say. Maureen Kearney is doing something similar with LibraryThing.
- Set boundaries: use a review policy. For instance, after discussions with other bloggers, I (Jen) recently altered my review policy to say that I wouldn't necessarily respond at all to review requests. This was freeing (though controversial among audience members.)
- Stop accepting ARCs. Blog backlist or library titles instead. Audience members mentioned that digital ARCs are particularly stressful because they expire on a certain date (possibly when one is still in the middle of reading them). We say, try saying no to these for a while, and see how you feel.
- Take a break from reviewing for a while, or stop reviewing altogether.
- What's your favorite category of books to read? Stop reviewing those for a while, and just read for enjoyment.
- And an additional suggestion from someone in the audience, clear your shelves, and get rid of the books that you aren't ever going to read. This can be very freeing. November/December is a good time for this, because many organizations are conducting book drives.
Reason 3: I feel burned out because nobody's commenting, and/or I don't feel like I'm reaching enough people. (Many audience members agreed that comments and stats have been down in recent months, and that there's often a feeling like we are only reaching each other.)
- Give comments to get comments.
- Find new places to put the word out: Facebook, Pinterest, topic niches (i.e. parenting blogs).
- Reach out to blogs that seem similar to yours. Comment, share posts. Strive for real connection.
- Set your blog up so it's easy for readers to share posts. For instance, I (Jen) often send a post out on a Tweet instead of commenting. If you don't have a visible Twitter ID that I can include, you won't know this.
- Try posting book lists instead of (or as well as) individual reviews. Lists are often distributed more widely than other types of posts. The audience also agreed that individual reviews are among the posts that receive the least comments.
Reason 4: I feel burned out because I'm too busy. I don't have time or energy for blogging. Other things in my life may take precedence for a while (new job, new baby, etc.).
- Put the word out and let people know. Your loyal readers will understand and be there when you get back. Or, as I (Jen) put it during the session, the people who read your blog probably like you.
- Use the time to reassess. Do you miss it? Do you want to come back? Do you want to do something else?
Reason 5: I feel burned out because blogging just doesn't feel as rewarding anymore.
- Start a "FeelGood" folder for storing supportive comments or emails. Refer to this folder from time to time.
- Get back to your blogging roots. Blog your passion.
- Share your struggle. Knowing that you are not alone can help.
- Try something new. Someone in the audience mentioned here that it's ok to blog about other topics if you like, apart from your core blog mission, and that sometimes such posts generate excellent responses.
In summary, a more general plan for fighting burnout:
Pinpoint the specific reasons YOU are feeling burned out. It may sound obvious, but once you starting thinking about it, you may find a deeper reason than you anticipated. You may THINK you're depressed because your posts don't go viral, but stop to consider: was that your original aim, to be viral? If not, then maybe that's somebody else's priority, not yours-and the real issue is that you feel pressures that you didn't feel before, concerning somebody else's definition of blogging success. Go back to the beginning, and get in touch with why you blog-ask yourself the important questions about why you're doing it.
Questions to ask yourself:
- Why am I blogging in the first place? If you don't know, it's well worth spending some time to figure that out.
- Who do I want my audience to be? Parents, teachers, kids, other bloggers?
- What is it that gets me fired up about blogging? What am I excited to share?
Our thanks to everyone who helped us to think these things through before KidLitCon, and to everyone who participated during our session. Blogging can feel like a lonely thing. You sit in front of your computer typing up posts to which people may or may not respond at all. Attending KidLitCon was a reminder that we are NOT alone. Those of us who blog about children's and young adult books have formed a community of like-minded individuals. We are kindred spirits, who share a passion for connecting kids with books. And when times get tough, we are there for one another. That is what community is all about.
Thanks for listening! -- Jen and Sarah
© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page and Sarah Jamila Stevenson. All rights reserved.
Back in November, Sarah Stevenson and I presented at KidLitCon on Book Blogger Burnout. We came up with some suggestions for fighting burnout, and Sarah turned those into a nice little handout for the session. But we thought that this information would naturally lend itself to an Infographic. Sarah, who in addition to being an awesome YA author is a graphic designer, produced this Infographic from our ideas (click on the image for a larger view).
Feel free to share this, pin it, whatever. We hope that it will help some of our blogging friends to dig their way out of the periodic bouts of burnout that seem to hit us all. Happy 2014!
© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook.