Friday, March 27, 2015

Words Matter, Says the Writer

One of the things I’m doing right now is research for my fourth book. I love this stage, brainstorming, researching, learning about a world I know nothing about letting the story take me where it will. One of the places it’s taken me is Autism.

Autism is a scary place, you guys. I don’t know the right vocabulary. I don’t know the right questions to ask or the right words to say and ASD moms are amazing (and judging by the comments sections of articles on the internet, they are also passionate and fearless) and I’m SCARED to ask people. But silence breeds ignorance and that's not right either. It's complicated. 
My kids are not on the spectrum. I can’t possibly understand. Can I?

I mean, to some extent, we’re all parents. Doing the best we can.

I want to write books with a lot of different kinds of people in them. I don’t even need these people to be the main character (not always or not yet, I should say), I just want them to be in the story. #Diversebooks and all. I think it’s kind of important to write about people who are not me: middle-class, heterosexual, white, neuro-typical. The more books and shows and movies that include minorities, women, people of color, people with disabilities, people on that giant spectrum, it can only be a good thing, right? So, the only way to do that is to ask questions. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s scary, though. What if I say the wrong thing? Use the wrong words? What matters more -- the words or the intent? 


Sincerely Becca is a mom who blogs on ASD and other mom things (and sometimes eHarmony) and she says there are no bad questions, which is why I really, really like her. A lot. 

Go visit her because she's amazing. Click on the picture. I mean right now, go there. 

But the thing is, if I'm writing words that people will read, then both words and intent matter very, very much. 

Research is important, as a writer, sure. But to me, this isn't about "craft". It's less cerebral than that. It's about stepping out of my little box and being able to capture someone else's life, a life that is completely different than my own, with its own challenges and hardships. I can't do that without recognizing my own privilege: the idea that don't have to think about any of this unless I choose to. I do choose to because to continually write about people who have had life experiences only similar to my own is both 1. ignorant and 2. boring. 

I’ve spent hours on the phone with special needs moms (and more hours than I care to count reading blogs**). They’re amazing. They’ve answered all my silly questions and helped me hash out stereotypes and learn about the messy realities of autism spectrum disorder. They’ve told me their stories so that I can tell their stories to people who aren’t like them in a way that isn’t preachy or soap-boxish. 

They don’t know they’ve made me cry. 

I can’t even pinpoint the reasons, except that I’m new at this. They’re not. They’re hardened and matter-of-fact and cavalier and I can’t lie: It’s hard to listen to. I’ve been so sheltered.

I don’t cry because I feel fortunate. I cry for them, literally years after they’re done crying for themselves. They’re used to this, it’s old hat (except when people are mean to them in public, which is like, constantly. So, please settle down with that, mmkay?). Their kids are their kids and they’re doing their thing*. To be honest, my vulnerability is embarrassing, but then again, I’ve cried at Hallmark commercials, so I don't know if it's just me.

It's not just me. Being a mom is hard. Being a special needs mom is harder.

And that’s the crux of it, I think. I don’t live with autism. It’s a new, shiny thing to me but I can’t let it become a novelty. I worry about that. To these parents, it’s real life and it’s not trendy or cool, or neat or charming or buzzwordy, and the kids it affects are not token kids. I have to be careful. Can I make a character that fully embodies a little boy on the spectrum, and accurately portray the challenges and triumphs this family faces while not exploiting it? Will it mean more or less coming from me, a person with zero personal experience with ASD?

It’s a big responsibility. My words matter.





*This sentence was a crazy grammar exercise and I have no idea if I got it right.
** H/t to autism blogs that are amazing: Sincerely Becca, Go Team Kate, Autism in Our House, Mixing the Autism Cocktail. Some of them have no idea that I've read their blogs which is either going to be awesome or creepy for them if they find out. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Life is Too Short for Matching Mittens



This morning was like most mornings.

Hectic. Yelling. Scarfing down frozen pancakes and trying to throw blueberries on their plates so I can non-hypocritically ask them to make "healthy choices" today.

L says, "Mommy, can you make sure I take a blanket and books to school this week because last time you forgot and I was the only kid in school without a blanket and books?" (Can your heart break while you roll your eyes?)

A says, "Can I take a lollipop to school for snack time?"

L says, "Mommy, why do I always have to borrow pencils from other kids and I don't have my own?"

I say (FINALLY): Hey, YOU. Do YOU think lollipops are a wise snack choice? AND YOU, I don't know when you run out of pencils, so I might have forgotten to send in a blanket THAT ONE TIME but some things have got to be your responsibility. TELL ME when you run out of pencils. How else would I know? BESIDES, where exactly do all your pencils go?

And then the bus pulls up and L is halfway down the driveway before I realize her toothbrush sits on the counter, untouched. And A is climbing into the car when she says, "Mommy, why don't I have gloves?"

YOU DO HAVE GLOVES. YOU DO! I'm failing at this mom thing. I mean, it's thirty degrees out and NO ONE HAS GLOVES ON and L is gone and it's too late to worry about her hands (or her teeth) (or her choices) (or her pencils).

I run back inside and dig through the glove bin only to find this:

None of these things is just like the other

I almost cried because what kind of mother sends her kid to school with two different gloves on?

But, I don't cry. Instead, I take this picture. This ridiculous, funny, hopefully relatable picture. I wonder where all the one-socks, one-gloves and one-flip-flops go to party? All together?

Also, how lucky are we that we once owned NINE PAIRS OF GLOVES. That's four and a half pairs of gloves per kid. I mean, arguably, this is horrendously wasteful and gratuitous. There are people in this world who don't own gloves and if they do, they hold onto their one pair as though their life depends on it. Sometimes it does.

I have two choices: scour the house for matching gloves, cranky and hot OR go with the...ahem, hand I've been dealt. I take the whole pile to A and say, PICK TWO!

Tomorrow, I might make a different choice. It might matter to me, tomorrow, that my kids look socially acceptable, wearing clothes that match. I know that I can't rate my motherhood based on what I'm not doing anymore. I will not be defined by my failings.

I look in the rear view mirror and A has her arms waving out in front of her and she is LAUGHING. She laughs all the way to school.

Gratitude hides in small moments and sometimes, very small hands.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Most Annoying Day in the History of All Annoying Days


Unlike Alexander, I can’t say that I’ve had a bad day. Everyone is alive, healthy, I drove to my job, in my car and came home to a beautiful house that I own (or I will in, like, thirty years). But have you ever had a day where everything you touched just fell to shit? Almost through no fault of your own? Well, friends, today was that day. So I blogged it. Why do I think you’ll care about this? I’m not sure, except sometimes I use this blog as a journal. Which is convenient because no one really reads it. 

Apropros of everything, A. (3yo) threw up on Saturday for completely unknown reasons. Because kids throw up for no reason (she later theorized that it was because she ate “something weird off the ground”.) But this means that for the last three nights, she “can’t sleep.” Keep this in mind. 

Without further ado, here is my day:
1:35 AM, A: (whispers one inch from my face) MOMMY. THERE IS A SPIDER IN MY ROOM.
Me (with eyes closed): You don’t know that because it’s dark.
A: Can you come kill it?
(Spoiler alert, there was no spider. But I did read that late stage alcoholism results in spider hallucinations so we should consider moving the liquor.)

2: 47 AM, L (who is 6): MOMMYMOMMYMOMMYMOMMY!IHADANIGHTMAREABOUTSCARYMENWITHGUNS!
Me: Wait, guns? What?
Spent 40 minutes laying in bed talking about why people kill people and evil things and what the meaning of life is. This part was more sad than annoying. But, honestly, it’s still 3 AM.

4:15 AM, A: (whispers one inch from my face) Mommy, I dropped my Elmo.
Me: Did you step over it to get here?
A: Yes.

6:30AM, wake up, barely shower (skip hair and wash the important parts), run out the door because I’m late. Forget my coffee. FORGET MY FREAKING COFFEE.  The gas light is on. And so is the oil light. And the tire light. But honestly, I think those last two have been on for a while now, so I’m sure it’s fine.
Stop and get gas. My debit card won’t work. Because a week ago, (A) decided to “be me” and “pay for everything” (in her playroom) with her credit card (not her credit card) and that apparently involved attacking it with knives and now the magnetic strip looks like it has been, well,…attacked with knives. Make a mental note to call the bank. (Crap, just realized I never called the bank.)

TRAFFIC. Par for the course.

8:30 AM: arrive at work, late for an 8:30 meeting. Immediately reschedule and cite a “conflict."

8:40 AM: Guy from 8:30 meeting walks past my desk, I make some lame excuse that makes no sense. I might say words “period” or “diarrhea”. I’m mired in lies.
I bring in cupcakes that no one eats. Okay, like one person eats them and it was maybe me.

8:45 AM: another meeting. Everyone else spends most of it talking about cats.

9-11 AM: read email (code for play on Facebook. NO, I’M KIDDING. Read and respond to email.)

11 AM: Try to print something. Printer jam. Have NO IDEA WHO TO CONTACT. I’m like an ant who has lost the ant in front of me. Print to the printer on the other side of the building, by the time I get there, someone has taken it by accident. Run back to my desk, print to printer in another zip code, and again, someone else has picked it up. Consider calling my coworker on his cell phone and asking him to print while I stand here and guard. Decide to give up instead.

12 PM: Need to start the lab thing. Go in, forget everything, come back out. Need to print something for the lab. Repeat 11 AM printer fiasco.

12:30 PM: Conference call, passive, THANK GOD. Play on Twitter and get SO EXCITED for friends who have had awesome news. Someone on the call hangs up early, everyone says bye and because I’m not entirely paying attention, I hang up too. Takes me 5 minutes to realize that the call wasn’t over. I have to call back and claim to have been disconnected. They all see through me, I think someone sneezes bullshit.

2 PM. I FORGOT TO EAT LUNCH. Spend five minutes celebrating this then realize the cafeteria is closed so now I have to eat from the vending machine. Scourge out the darkest corners of my purse and desk. Dime, dime, dime, nickel, Sacajawea coin, dime, dime, quarters, three-thousand two hundred seventeen pennies. Come up with EXACTLY $2.50. Run to the breakroom. They’ve upped the price of a Diet Coke to $1.60. HIGHWAY ROBBERY. I’M OUTRAGED. IT’S NOT EVEN AN EVEN NUMBER IN QUARTERS. They’ve also upped the price of the vending machine snacks from eight-five cents to a dollar. My $2.50 lunch is now $2.60. But wait, they take debit card because they hate health and want to kill you. Oh, crap, my debit card has been attacked by knives. Ask random man who comes into the breakroom if he has a dime. SCORE, HE DOES.

Everything is terrible

3 PM. Take my sad Diet Coke to a meeting. Starve. Try to focus.

3:30 PM: have to print labels for IMPORTANT SAMPLES before I leave. System is locked out. Email admin #1, out of office, refers me to admin #2 who is out of office and refers me to admin #1.

4 PM: Run out to my car, drive home. TRAFFIC. Red, blinking, very helpful and informative light on dash says there is a PROBLEM with a terrifying triangle and an abnormally large exclamation point. I get home somehow without spontaneous combustion, park the car in the garage and promptly forget all about “Problem.”

5:30 PM: Help (L) with homework. NEW MATH. I’m an idiot. I cannot add or subtract because it is all different and weird. I tell my kids that I am a scientist and they seem wholly unimpressed.

6 PM: Decide to take kids to Applebee’s for Kids Night. THEY HAVE CHARACTERS. The creepiest as fuck characters you ever saw. Once, we saw a Hello Kitty with giant diamonds for eyes, I shit you not. We get to Applebee’s and THEY NO LONGER DO CHARACTERS.

The heartbreak is real.


6:15 PM: Let’s go to McD’s! YAY! I’m a hero!
Side note: The dash lights are gone. One for the win column.

6:25 PM: I’m at McDisasters. Why am I here? Sweet, it’s kids night! Everyone on earth is here.  $1.99 Happy Meals. I order Happy Meals. Total $16.45. Wait, what? Oh, it’s not $1.99 for 6 nuggets only 4? Fine, here take my debit card. Crap, knives, I forgot. Take my credit card. It’s expired. Do you take a check? (FYI: McDonalds WILL TAKE A CHECK) Kids are running all around the food area and inexplicably disrobing. People hate me. I get to the table only to discover they have given me 4 nuggets (ea) (not for $1.99) and 3 orders of fries in each Happy Meal. Wait. Did I pay for this?! And who in the name of Abraham Lincoln would give their kids three orders of fries? 
6:27 PM: Lament about the state of health in America. Remember that I tried to eat Smart Pop for lunch. 
6:28 PM: Go to counter, fight with new girl. She literally HANDS ME FOUR NUGGETS. Okay, fine. Weird. But fine. Also, she forgot the apples. Go back to counter. We eat for approximately zero-point-two seconds and stop to go to the bathroom. Complete meltdown over hand dryer (“it is too whooshy”). Carry (A) sack-of-potatoes-style back to the table.

7:10 PM: Kids play. Everything is calm. By calm I mean ear-shattering loud. There is a lady standing well within my personal space zone, YELLING up to the top of the play gym: SIMON SIMON SIMON. GO INTO THE BUBBLE. SIMON SIMON SIMON. GO INTO THE BUBBLE. SIMON SIMON SIMON. GO INTO THE BUBBLE. SIMON SIMON SIMON. This goes on for a while. I’m not entirely sure what it means.

7:30 PM: It’s the Time to Leave Fight. Enough said, right? No one wants to wear shoes and I’ve given up. It’s October and I completely let them walk to the car in their socks (to be fair, I rarely judge anyone else’s parenting).

8:00 PM: Watch TV, snuggle, tuck them into bed. It’s easier than usual. Kiss on the forehead and then: you’re the best mom ever.


And just like that, the bad day is over. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Twelve Things I Learned From My Dad

I'm a mom. I know the drill. Moms get the shaft a lot. But here's the thing: what I've learned from my mom could never fit in a top ten (er, twelve) list. Because, everything. I've learned how to be a person, a friend, a mom, a daughter. My mom celebrates my successes with appropriate enthusiasm, and my failures with lip-service justifications (as she should).

That being said, there are some things in life that could only come from a dad. Whether it's baiting a hook or how to build a fire, how to hunt for night crawlers or shoot a basket. Or maybe its the little life lessons that as a teen made me stomp out of the house, slamming the door behind me. As an adult, I find them invaluable.

1. If someone asks you to do something, don't just do it. Do it with a smile.
2. Leave everything a little better than you found it.
3. The best parts of life are outside. And they're free.
4. Do a good job. Always.
5. Absolutely everything around you is science.
6. You can golf for free if you don't get caught*.
7. Be adaptable.
8. If you catch a fish, throw it back.
9. If you don't catch a fish, but you spent the day in the water, then it doesn't matter.
10. There are three golf balls on the moon.
11. Play fair. But don't expect everyone else to.
12. One of the most important things in life is properly set table.

I watch my husband with my girls, instilling in them his own brand of wisdom. How to swing a bat, catch a ball, plant a flower. Lessons that his own father, my kind and generous father-in-law, has taught him. There will be bigger, more meaningful, messages that come later. Measure twice, cut once. Spend less than you can afford. I can't wait to see what they take with them to adulthood.

On this Father's Day weekend, I remain ever grateful to the dads in my life.

*Passed down wisdom from the late, great, much-quoted Charlie "Pop-pop" Vlossak, who only stole rounds of golf on Christmas Day.


The best advice I ever got? Stay little. I didn't follow it.


Friday, May 30, 2014

Yes, More #YesAllWomen

So everyone knows the horrible thing that happened lastweekend. It makes me sick, the whole thing makes me sick and sad and weepy and mama-bear-want-to-hug-my-kids. It’s awful.

Something kind of amazing is happening because of it, though. I’ve been obsessed with the #YesAllWomen hashtag. I watch the feed grow, ten posts a second with stories, some personal, some funny, some raw, touching, far-reaching, political, and poignant. The crazy part is, until recently I think I’ve been fairly ignorant of exactly how deep the sexist fault that runs under our culture really is. To be honest, I work in a pharmaceutical industry. I’ve never felt demeaned or belittled at work. I’m often respected. Many of my colleagues are women. Does that mean I’m denying it exists? No, not at all. I do think everyday sexism is a thing, it just never hit home like it has recently. I tend to ignore people who offend me, or alternatively, not get offended by it.

Then I started seeing replies to #YesAllWomen, and not just from men.  Angry, counterproductive hashtags. I saw one that said something like “I never heard a catcall in my life, yet a million women on twitter claim to hear it all the time. Y’all must think you’re really beautiful.” (As if that’s even the POINT). And then there was about twenty responses to that, women included, basically saying: Hear, Hear!

So I’m finally offended.  Here’s why: I’m part of the problem.  I think to many people feminism means you don’t shave your armpits and get mad when someone uses the word “chick”. I’ve always been more laid back, people it’s a joke. But you know what? I need to be fucking offended once in a while. Honest to God, what  kind of people-pleasing asshole shrugs and smiles when people say truly terrible things about my friends, my gender, ME? Words like c*nt, and hoe because they get rejected. Who turns a blind eye, shrugs, and moves on with their day? Oh yeah. Me. I do that.

So here’s a crazy story. I traveled in college. I backpacked some of Europe and had a blast and spent more money than I should and got bit by bed bugs and it was AMAZING. DO THIS. Anyway, we were out drinking one night. Afterward, I was in line to get ice-cream at some stand and these four Swedish guys got in line and started talking to me, bumping into me, what have you. I was tired. I wanted ice-cream. Whatever, it doesn’t matter, the answer was a polite “Go away”. I was done talking to people. Before I knew it, they surrounded me and grabbed at my chest and my butt and called me things like “Snotty American bitch.” I left. I did not get ice-cream.  Here’s the craziest part: I freaking forgot that whole thing happened. Until this week. Until #YesAllWomen.

Here’s another story: I was in Miami pumping gas (in a tank top. I was clearly asking for this, right?) and two men working on the roof of the convenience store started catcalling me. At first I ignored them. Then they started making “Suck it” gestures. I made a face. Then they started getting nasty, called me a c*nt and whatnot. I gave them the finger. Then they proceeded to throw stones at me. FROM A ROOF. I was literally stoned for not being flattered by “Suck it bitch.” WTF? Also a fact, I forgot about this, too.

Was I pushing all this out of my mind because it was so painful? No. I really don’t think so. The fact is, this kind of behavior is so expected, so freaking normal that it hardly registers. I know I thought about it for a few days afterward, but that might be it. Do I think all men are like this? GOOD GOD, NO. Let me be clear: No. No. No.

 But let’s all stop accepting this shit as normal. It’s not. Men, women, whatever. Stand up, say this actually is harassment and it’s not allowed. It’s not “boys will be boys” and “whatcha gonna do.” That’s as insulting to men as it is to women, by the way, to assume that all men think like this, act like this.

But what things like #YesAllWomen does is open up a dialogue. It exposes this prevalent attitude to people like me, who have never been raped or truly abused (because there is a difference, my friends, between what I experienced and what others go through).  It’s helpful because it can make men, who have never stoned a woman for giving him the finger say, whoa. That’s messed up. Then, maybe those men, will have sons and open this dialogue with them. Teach them a way to not only not objectify women, but how to stand up to those doing so.

I don’t think feminism is a new concept. Every trend that comes along, like #everydaysexism and #yesallwomen and #consentculture, brings us all one step closer to understanding our own dangerous attitudes. Maybe the guys who appreciate a beautiful woman aren’t necessarily objectifying them, but the next guy who takes it a step too far and makes inappropriate comment is. And another step is thinking you can somehow “own” a pretty girl. Or be awarded a woman. And then you’re mad because you don’t get what society has taught you that “you deserve”.  Where exactly is that line? How far is too far?

To be honest, I’m not always sure, because we blur it a lot. But a worldwide conversation about it couldn’t hurt. In fact, let’s have a bunch of them, #together.







Friday, April 18, 2014

I Teach My Daughter Things I Don't Believe - My Messy, Beautiful




Hey Mamas! Today I am a Messy, Beautiful Warrior. Do you guys know Glennon Melton? Because you should. You really, really should. Glennon runs the blog Momastary, and wrote this post about how you're not a jerk if you don't love every minute of being a parent, no matter how many old ladies tell you that you should. She stole my heart. She also wrote a kick-ass parenting, marriage, life book called Carry On, Warrior. She's my Oprah y'all.

Glennon is running a project called Messy, Beautiful, where you blog about the things in your life that are beautiful in spite of their imperfections. No, scratch that: because of their imperfections.

Here's mine.

A week ago, we were going to my parent’s house for dinner. My family is all women – my sister and I, my mom and my aunt, my two female cousins, my two daughters. It’s like a genetic sorority. I mean, the men are there but really, it’s all about the girls. Dinner at Mom’s is a glorified fashion show. Did you lose weight? I love your hair! Are those new highlights? Where’d you get THAT shirt? Can I borrow it? We are, without a doubt, gender normative. Until I wrote it down, this instant, I never realized how it sounds. Eventually the topic moves on, we’re not actually shallow people, but initially, there’s a good once-over when you come in the door.

As I get ready, my subconscious is prepared for this somehow. I must feel pressure I don't know about, or at least have never acknowledged. Also, I’ve gained weight: about fifteen pounds in the last six months. I’m working on it (see, even now I feel like I need to make excuses, to justify this to you, my blog reader, and that is insane). So I dressed in jeans and a cardigan and decided I looked dowdy, and I changed again (jeans, because they’re the only ones that fit) into a nicer, more fitted shirt, a pretty pink that I always thought looked good with my skin. But when I looked in the mirror it emphasized the tire around my middle. So I changed again into a larger, flowing sweater and honestly by this point I was kind of hot and red-faced and avoided pink so the sweater was kind of drab and gray.

Then the horn beeped and I yelled, “Why do I get FIVE MINUTES to get ready when everyone else gets an hour?” because I hadn’t even taken a shower and my hair looked like a wild pricker bush (I don’t know what those bushes are actually called. Sticky bush? Thorn bush?). So I put it up in a ponytail and hated it and took it down and tried to wet it and hated it, so I put it back up in a crazy (Messy, Beautiful, but honestly, just plain messy) bun. And I was so frustrated that I cried a little.

About what I would wear to my mom’s.

Which is stupid, because she loves me no matter what. My sister loves me no matter what. I love them if they wore a bag (but they never, ever would). If I showed up in sweats with my hair in a ponytail, no one would flinch. The pressure is self-inflicted, which is the most ridiculous part. The worst part is, this little exercise is not confined to going to my parents house. I'm not trying to impress them because that would be crazy. Whenever we go out to dinner, to a party, to a friend's house, I change my clothes, fix my hair, try on different earrings. Why? These are all people I love and who love me, just the way I am because I am Messy, Beautiful.

So I got in the car and I looked like I had cried a little. And my outfit was different, and my hair was sort of a mess. My daughter, who is five said, “Mommy why did you change? Are you crying?” Because GOD FORBID this child miss one single thing. I love that about her, I swear I do.

I said, “Oh, I just changed because I wanted to. I didn’t like that other shirt, that’s all.”

She said, “Mommy it doesn’t matter what you wear. You’re so beautiful.”

I have to admit that there, in the passenger’s seat trying to apply mascara (because I get to put on my make-up in the car, aren’t I lucky?), I cried again, only for real this time, with a snotty nose and ugly lip. Because it’s amazing and messy and beautiful that my daughter, who is five, gets the message that I try to send her every day, flying in the face of television and the internet and her little friends at school. Counteracting the Princess culture and Barbies and everything that tells her she must be skinny and blond and perfect with peach-cream skin and a little waist. I’ve been successful, however temporarily. She gets my message.

Now. When will I?









Monday, March 24, 2014

In Which I Theorize on Marketing

Marketing is an odd bird. In the course of two years marketing the same dang book, I’ve learned a few things. One, (the most obvious), you need another dang book. I’m working on it. Two, I’ve stopped counting my “sales”. I barely check my rank anymore.

When I get to talking to another author, who is inevitably trying to hock their book (like me), the topic always comes back to marketing. What works, what doesn’t, our own theories and ideas on what will be the “breakthrough”. I’m by no means an expert on the subject. My one book (soon to be two) hovers between 100K and 300K on a good day. In its heyday, it hung out at 20K for months, and even hit the top 1000 for a few weeks. Ah, the glory days. Other authors understand this speak: I’m talking Amazon rank, of course. The ever elusive little orange “Bestseller” tag (hurry! Get a screenshot!), what books it’s sandwiched between, what authors you can rub virtual elbows with, those elite NYT Bestsellers that are firmly seated among those ranks daily and probably never even look.

Whenever we chat about marketing, and I say, Oh, I’m on Goodreads or Twitter or Facebook or a member of WFWA or Sisters in Crime or whatever, the other author will eventually, inevitably, ask the question that makes me cringe now (it didn’t always): Does it help your sales? “It” being whatever network is currently on the table. We want that direct link, that easy answer. “Oh, yes! That’s it! I’m not on Goodreads, that’s why I haven’t sold my first million. OF COURSE!” Big sigh of relief, let’s all have a beer.

That’s not how it works, guys. I’m sorry. I wish it was. We’ve all heard it before, I think we just refuse to believe it. Behind every overnight sensation is YEARS of baby steps marketing efforts. Hours of watching page views (blog or Facebook), sending Friend Requests, building a Twitter following, attending book signings, donating paperbacks to libraries, used bookstores, gift shops, and if you’re like me, small press published, then tracking all this information on consignment.

I think book marketing is a marathon. There is no “breakthrough” moment. I try every day to make one new connection. One new person that I didn’t know in my writing world before. Whether it be a new friend who doesn’t really know I’m a writer until I invite them to “Like” my author page, or reaching out and genuinely commenting on someone’s blog that I found interesting/touching. What I don’t do, anymore, is worry about if the action I’m taking today will result in a sale tomorrow. The answer is probably, no, not directly.

In my experience, sales are organic. Maybe you comment on Suzy’s blog and you guys have a nice little chat back and forth, but Suzy doesn’t rush right out and buy a copy of your book. Why would she? She probably has her own book to sell. What she might do is check you out, see what you’re about. Maybe she’ll like your cover or your blurb and add you to her Goodreads shelf. Maybe Suzy’s cousin Sally will see this, and maybe she’ll be the one that actually buys your book. Maybe even a month later.  My point is, there is virtually no way to know where every individual sale comes from. Stop trying. If you can attribute each connection you make to a sale then, in my opinion, you’re not doing enough.

Instead, I strive for connection first. After that, I concern myself with exposure. How many different ways can I flash the book cover around (and not be annoying about it)? Blogs (my own and others) are good. Twitter is good, ask for retweets but give back and pay it forward. Facebook events, bookmarks that I leave around public places like doctor’s offices and my accountant’s office (anywhere with a waiting room), and even the local newspaper.
 
Share the love. Share sales and giveaways of other authors, especially in your genre. Give back to your readers, tell them about a $0.99 Kindle deal in a genre they would probably like (aka similar to yours), and while you’re at it, tag that author. Maybe they’ll pay it back one day, maybe not. Don’t worry about that. Reign in your expectations and stop tracking those who “hit it big” after two months, six months, a year. Put away the measuring stick. Marketing your book is like a healthy diet: It’s a lifestyle change. There are no easy answers.

I have no proof that this works. It’s just a theory, like all the other ramblings on this blog. But it can’t possibly hurt. Learning to market my book has been this incredible growth experience over the past year. I’ve connected with people from all over the globe and people can’t resist authenticity.


For new authors that have asked me for marketing advice here it is: Connection first, then exposure. Be your real, authentic self. Be vulnerable. Ask for help. Show gratitude. Pay it forward and back. Say thank you. If you’re lucky enough to get real fans that aren’t your mom, take care of them. Forget the destination, it doesn’t exist. Enjoy the journey, it’s half the fun. The other half is… well, writing. Oh yeah, back to that.

This thing, right here? Repeat after me: It's all gravy.