Dear Writer-Friends,

I've been self-publishing since 2011, and I've shared the knowledge I've gained in two books: the Indie Author Survival Guide, Second Edition, and For Love or Money. I'm not an indie rockstar or a breakout success: I'm one of thousands of solidly midlist indie authors making a living with their works. These books are my way of helping my fellow authors discover the freedom of indie publishing. Write on, writer-friends!

S.K. Quinn, Independent Author of Science Fiction

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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Burn Bright and Be Patient

I am not a Buddhist. But I have great affection for the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan people, and Buddhists everywhere who practice this gentle and wise religion. They manage to combine a dogged pursuit of lofty, even transcendent goals, with near otherworldly patience. And they do so with a scientific mindset of attending to what works and what does not, while still being patient for the outcome.


I have a high reverence for people who have it, because I'm possibly the least patient person on the planet.

I was reminded of my lack of this virtue once again during the launch of Third Daughter, my steampunk fantasy romance, just before Christmas.

The Good Stuff

  • The launch party was wonderful. 
  • I had great fun handing out Third Daughter themed prizes.
  • I reveled in the love for Steven Novak's gorgeous cover
  • The early reviews are fantastic
  • I loved hearing people snap up a copy before running off to their (much more important) family holiday celebrations. 
  • I got a late Christmas present when my local librarian nominated Third Daughter for the "Soon to be Famous Author Project" wherein Illinois librarians "hope to discover an unknown, self-published author whose work will jump off the page for readers." 

All good, yes?

The Bad Stuff
That voice inside my brain that insists Third Daughter should be selling as well as the trilogy-who-shall-not-be-named-that-I-also-wrote (i.e. Mindjack). As if Third Daughter should immediately jump to the NY Times bestseller list the second it's released.

I'm not the only one who hears that voice. I have friends who release the first book in a new series and are disappointed. Or sales overall have dropped, even though they're putting out new books. The voice insists that they are failing. Or that they're doing something wrong.

The voice tells me that selling books should be easy... and if it's not, then I'm at fault.

Why the Voice is Crazy Pants

  • I intentionally released Third Daughter right before Christmas as a "soft launch."
  • I haven't even begun to market this book. I'm just now putting together a plan.
  • Everyone who has actually read the book is loving hard on it.
  • The-book-who-shall-not-be-named took seven months of work, and a second book in the trilogy, before it took off.

All that rationality has to fight against the voice that whispers in my ear, wanting stellar sales for this particular book now, now, now.

This voice is evil for two reasons: 1) it distracts me from writing, and 2) it whispers give up instead of saying keep working hard.

Reality Check
This business is hard.

You have to work like crazy, be smart, somehow invest every particle of emotion into the book itself, but then fling it out in the world and be ruthlessly pragmatic about how to sell it.

It's tough.

But we're tougher.

Burn Bright
You see, we're writers. We're the kind of people who create worlds and characters that move hearts and minds. We wield our imaginations like scythes through the fabric of possibility, creating stories that entertain and enthrall. We are fulfilling one of the higher purposes of humanity: to bring something new into the world.

So do that. Write like you are on fire. Burn bright with the love of your work. As it consumes you, renews you, and makes you shine even more, remember this - this act of creation - is why you were put here. Why you do what you do. Why you return again and again to the blank page.

Be Patient
I'm the least patient person on the planet, remember? If I had an audience with his Holiness, the Dalai Lama, he would just shake his head (kindly) and tell me I have much yet to learn.

But I did manage to learn a few things in 2013:
  • It takes time for readers to find your work. Time for people to review. That's okay. I have time. My books will be around forever. (Third Daughter is teaching me this.)
  • Write it first. Figure out when (and how) to publish later. (A lesson from Debt Collector.)
  • What seems crazy now is exactly what you should be doing. (Another lesson from Debt Collector.)
  • Protect your creative time like a jealous lover. (A hard won lesson from tracking my work.)
  • It's okay to be ruthless and let go of things that take time, but have minimal benefit. (This one is so hard for me.)
  • It's okay to spend time on something that has minimal benefit, just because you love it. (Faery Swap taught me this.)
  • Be patient. (I'm trying.)
I've been writing for five years. Publishing for three. Indie publishing for two. I'm no Buddhist, but I know that's just no time at all. I'm still a baby in this game. 

I'll leave you with a lovely quote from comedian Louis CK:
"Young musicians believe they should be able to throw a band together and be famous, and anything that's in their way is unfair and evil. What are you, in your 20s, you picked up a guitar? Give it a minute."
Burn bright and be patient, my friends. 
You will end up exactly where you need to be.

Happy 2014!


  1. Man, I ♥ this post so hard. You remind me of myself so much, it's uncanny. It ALWAYS helps to know others are feeling the exact same way you are, right?
    Happy new year, Susan.

    1. Exactly why I write these posts. :) Happy New Year!

  2. My print copy showed up yesterday and it is GORGEOUS!!! Happy new year, Sue.

  3. One day at a time! Here's to a fantastic 2014 filled with many new words, books, laughter and tears as we push through with our careers. Happy New Year!

  4. Fantastic post! Patience is something all writers have to learn, and I think it's something we all struggle with, too, when publishing's such an unpredictable business. I've made a 2014 resolution to try to be more patient and to stop stressing over things I can't control. Happy New Year!

    1. That's the recipe for success, Emma! Rock on. :)

  5. Good words spoken at a good time. (and I have such a high respect for the Dalai Lama, I'd have read this post just on the strength of his photo.)

    I keep reminding myself how long it takes for a seed to sprout and grow...

    Diana at About Myself By Myself

    1. So true! (And I've been reading the Dalai's Art of Happiness book - if you haven't read it, I highly recommend it. It's like having a personal chat with him!)

  6. Great post, Susan. With a second novel on the way, this post really spoke to me. Thank you for not only writing great books, but for all you give to the writing community.

    1. You go on that second novel, Matt! Your post on that inspired me - it all circles around, my friend. :)

  7. Hi, Susan,
    Happy New Year. As a writer, I know about that lack of patience syndrome. Your post reminded me that it does take time to get traction and also about that rule of thought that says we see items maybe 7 times before we eventually buy. Third daughter is one I intend to read and I'm sure there are others out there who have it on their lists as well.

    This year, I intend to take more time to write. The reality of what I'm NOT doing right came home to me when a reader asked a couple of days ago what was happening with a third novel in the series I've written. As a wise writer told me, you'd be surprized at what you can accomplish in 10 minutes.

    Yes, patience is something I'm also going to cultivate this New Year. Good post, as always.

  8. Yeah! Everything you just said! :D

  9. Those crazy voices in our heads, huh? I have a few, myself. Personally, I think you have a fantastic work ethic. And maybe your lack of patience is sort of a virtue for you. You are seriously productive. Happy New Year, Susan!

  10. I'm just getting into the publishing game (or more accurately, the-trying-to-get-published game) and I think there's a ton of relevance in this post to where I'm at. Thanks. I needed that today.

    1. You are most welcome! Best of luck on jumping into the fray!

  11. <3 this so much. You're a brilliant writer, Susan. Congrats on getting picked in the Soon to be Famous Author Project--what an honor! :)

  12. so, so true! Thanks for baring your soul. A forest doesn't grow overnight.