5 Things Smart Moms Know that Writers Need to Learn

Filed in Finding & Following Your Voice by on May 8, 2017 4 Comments • views: 1065

Smart Moms WritersHow often have you, as a writer, called your book your “baby?”

A lot of us do it, because we put so much of ourselves into our work. We talk about “conceiving” ideas, “incubating” plotlines, and “birthing” our stories when the time is right.

Nothing compares to having a real child, but writing and publishing a book can seem like a similar experience. All the ups and downs, emotional and mental challenges, and pure exhaustion in the end create obvious parallels.

Seeing the journey this way can help us weather the difficulties as we go. Most of the time, though, we stop with “birthing” the book, as if somehow the journey ends there. But of course, it doesn’t.

Writers are increasingly required to do more to support their books once they’re “born.” Unfortunately, many of us find this part of the deal distasteful, discouraging, and even depressing.

So I wondered if it might help if we took this comparison a bit further. What could we learn from real moms about “raising” our books?

shadow strength1. First, See the Strengths in Your Creative Work

A mom knows that after the birth, her work is just beginning. As the child grows, she has to find ways to support his development, bring out his talents, and help him build self-confidence. She watches him carefully to see where his strengths lie, and finds ways to capitalize on them.

Moms of kids with musical talent, for example, will get them into private lessons. They’ll enroll kids with athletic abilities into sports teams, and buy building toys and puzzles for those with natural mechanical inclinations. In other words, what works for the development of one child won’t necessarily work for another.

The same could be said with our books. To market them well, we need to step back and examine the strengths of each one, and then work to make those strengths known. Sometimes we can get caught up in tunnel vision as far as marketing goes, thinking that the standard blog tour or book giveaway is the only real option to increase awareness. But when we examine where each book shines, we can come up with new methods of getting the word out.

If your book is full of action and intrigue, for example, a fast-paced book trailer placed in strategic online locations may be just what it needs. But if it deals with a timely subject that encourages debate, a live webinar or podcast on that subject with representatives on both sides may be a more effective tactic.

If your book helps people improve their lives, lots of guest posts on self-improvement sites may be the smarter way to go. If it’s set in a historic time period that plays a big part in the story, perhaps a series of free reports on what it was like to live in those times made available prior to launch would be a good way to attract an audience.

How do you determine the strengths in your book? Once the book is finished and in production, look back on it. What makes it unique? What parts of it shine? When early readers say what they like about it, what aspects do they point to? What are you most passionate about when it comes to this book? How is it different from others you’ve written? If it’s your first book, why were you compelled to write it?

Listen to your heart. It will tell you what really stands out about this book, and then you can use that information to think of new ways to market it—ways that will be more effective than simply following the same old road.

work hard2. Work Hard to Support Your Book

Ask any mom and she’ll tell you that raising a child isn’t easy. It takes a lot of work, and years of it. Ask a writer about marketing her book and she’ll say the same thing, but there is often one key difference: Mom knows that the long years of hard work are just part of the job, and accepts that it’s critical to her child’s eventual success. A writer, on the other hand, may often begrudge the hard work of marketing, secretly wish she didn’t have to do it, and stop long before she should.

All writers understand this feeling. We’d prefer to just write and have someone else deal with the marketing. But that’s not the reality of today’s world. Authors have to be much more active in marketing their books if they want them to succeed.

Here’s where a writer can learn a lot from a mom, and save herself some angst in the process. If you imagine your book as your baby, then you know that the work doesn’t stop after the launch (birth). In fact, it only just begins.

If you can accept this from the start, you’ll be in the right mindset to tackle the next part of your job, which is to work hard to support your book. You’ll also be in a better place if you imagine this as an ongoing item on your to-do list. A little bit of marketing each week can help you gradually build an audience.

The nice thing about today’s publishing world is that you can continue to market your book for as long as you like. And as long as you’re still writing and putting out new books, why stop marketing the old? You’re only shooting yourself in the foot.

I had a fellow ask me once at a workshop event when he should stop marketing his novel. The question took me by surprise. Stop marketing? It didn’t make sense to me. I told him in my view, it was totally up to him, but that he could market the book as long as it was available for sale.

If we’re the “moms” and our books are our “babies,” why would we give up on them after six months or a year? True, we may birth new babies and put new marketing efforts behind them, but just as good moms know it’s best to include all their children when talking to others about their families, good writers know they shouldn’t abandon their older books just because they’ve got new ones to talk about.

Besides, book bundles are all the rage these days.

child's painting3. Understand that No Work of Art is Perfect

Moms love to brag about their kids. Writers are no different. We’re proud of our books. And just like a mom often refuses to hear anything bad about her children, a writer is also loath to withstand any criticism of his masterpiece.

Yet it comes, for moms and writers alike. What to do with it? We have three choices:

  • Ignore it
  • React to it
  • Listen and learn from it

Obviously the third option is the best, usually in both cases. Ignoring negative feedback may be an important skill to have at times, but if the feedback is coming from a teacher, a wise mom knows it’s best to listen and then use the information to help her child grow.

Similarly, a wise writer should ignore negative feedback that has no basis, but if the same complaint shows up on several reviews, or comes from several editors, it’s smarter to pay attention, and determine how you can use it to become a better writer.

Reacting to the negative feedback is rarely if ever a good idea, when raising children or selling books. We all know that reacting to a negative review only makes the author look bad. It’s best to let it lie.

It’s a difficult dance to do, learning to pay attention to the criticism that matters while letting the rest of it slide. As any good mom will tell you, it just takes time and experience. Be patient with yourself, and give yourself the care you need to hang in there for the long-term. No work of art—just like no child—was ever perfect. We love them just the same and keep learning as we go.

piggy-bank-white 24. Be Willing to Invest in Your Book’s Success

A smart mom will start saving from day one, usually while the baby is still inside her. A smart writer should do the same, but somehow, often forgets this important step.

A mom knows her child is going to need a lot of things while she grows, and that those things are going to take money. She’s also likely to want to prepare a college fund, so she’s going to put money aside every month to take care of these needs.

An author often falls down on this part of the job. The problem is she forgets she’s in the business of selling books. And successful businesses require investments. Here are just a few of the things a writer should be ready to pay for in connection with supporting the success of her books:

  • Quality author photos
  • Book trailer
  • Book giveaways
  • Web site hosting
  • Quality website theme or design
  • Swag (bookmarks, posters, postcards, flyers, etc. for bookstore signings)
  • Blog tour with reviews (if you don’t have the time to set it up yourself)
  • Various types of advertising (through online and traditional media)
  • Travel to bookstores/conferences/events
  • Marketing education (through books or online courses)

There are a lot more things you can do, such as hire a publicist or get your book on NetGalley for early exposure, but all these things take cash. Be like that smart mom—start saving now so you have a good marketing fund built up when you need it.

Sunset Mom Child5. Keep Looking Toward the Future

Probably the hardest thing for a mom to do is to watch her kids grow up and leave home. It’s a sad mom who allows herself to stay stuck in the empty nest blues, though. This is the mom that often butts into her children’s lives a bit too often, or that finds it difficult to define her purpose after the children are gone.

A smart mom doesn’t allow herself to stagnate. Instead, she looks toward the future, and redefines herself in her later years depending on her interests and strengths. She may devote considerable time to her grandchildren, volunteering efforts, and teaching, or branch out into an entirely new endeavor that she hasn’t tried before. Whatever she does, she keeps learning and growing.

A smart writer can learn from this smart mom. Instead of resting on his laurels when one book finds success, he’s likely to be happier if he keeps pushing himself to explore the totality of his potential. Maybe it’s another book he needs to write, but maybe it’s time to expand in other ways. Many writers broaden their horizons to teach courses online, conduct writers’ workshops or retreats, donate their services to needy organizations, or volunteer in educational programs.

A writer can always find new avenues for his work. Some writers donate books to support a worthy cause, use their books to create new educational programs, or find ways to connect with and support others based on a shared experience either in the book or with the book’s creation. Only the writer’s imagination limits what he can do with and for his creations.

book fantasyOnce a Writer, Always a Writer

Thinking about your book as your “baby” can be helpful in a number of ways, both in the short- and long-term. It’s a change in mindset that can make it easier for you to not only support your work, but keep your eye on the horizon.

Once a mom, always a mom, the saying goes. Some of us believe the same about our writing, but not always. We flirt with the idea of quitting. When things get tough, we question what we’re doing and why. When one book fails to sell well, we second-guess the decision to be a writer at all.

Imagine yourself the way a mom would—once a writer, always a writer. You’re in this for the long haul. And even if you decide to quit somewhere down the road, writing changes you. You will never be the same person you were before you wrote that book, so accept this part of yourself and carry it with the pride of a mom.

You created that book. Yes, it will go out in the world and make its own way, but you will forever be its creator. And that’s a magical thing.

Do you continue to care for your book even after it’s launched?

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Comments (4)

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  1. Nan says:

    I love this! Not having children, I wouldn’t have thought of this analogy for being a book parent, but it’s absolutely apt. I’ll keep the advice in mind!

  2. Great advice, Colleen! And so timely. We truly do “birth” our books, and undergo so much of the pain of raising them and sending them into the world :)
    Looking to the Future is the one that helps me the most. There is always another book coming down the pike! More babies to love :)

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