I Didn’t Sign Up For This

Rachelle Gardner

Blogger: Rachelle Gardner

I don’t know a single writer whose publishing dreams included being a full-time marketer for their books.

The writing and publishing dream usually includes visions of spending several hours a day at the laptop, sending manuscripts off to a publisher, receiving checks, getting starred reviews in Publishers Weekly, hearing from fans who loved your book… and being on the bestseller lists.

And even for those whose dreams are more modest, the vision usually includes writing books and getting them sold to publishers, going through the editing process, and being available for whatever book promotion the publisher wants to do.

Blogging? Sending out newsletters? Building a big following on Facebook-Pinterest-Twitter-Instagram? It was never part of the plan.

Many authors decided to give writing a try not only because they felt they had something to say, but to escape a job they don’t love. They love to write, so they figured, why not try to make a living at it?

Only to discover that this job, too, has elements that don’t bear any resemblance to anything they ever wanted to do. They wanted to write — not hawk their books on Internet streetcorners.

You know by now that it’s impossible to be a commercial success as a writer without participating in the marketing process. You already know you need a “platform” regardless of whether you self- or traditionally-publish. You’ve been told you need to think of your writing as a business. Maybe you’re not happy about these facts. So how do you come to terms with them? Here are a few ideas.

Remember that everyone’s dream job comes with aspects they don’t like or didn’t anticipate.

Writers aren’t alone in needing to accept the downsides of their chosen career. No job is perfect.

Read books and blogs about book marketing, and choose a small handful of marketing activities on which to focus.

Break them down into manageable daily tasks. Don’t try to do everything. Just do something.

Keep your writing your #1 priority.

Your books themselves will always be your best marketing tool.

Attend conferences and other writer events, and commiserate with other writers.

But avoid the Negative Nellies. Surround yourself with people who understand what you’re facing, and who can offer encouragement and ideas along with the inevitable venting.

Be clear about your goals for your writing.

The greater you consider the importance of commercial success, the more you should be concerned about building a platform and participating in marketing. Beware of developing an “entitled” mindset in which you hope for (or expect) commercial success based only on your writing and feel you don’t need to worry about the marketing aspect.

What further ideas do you have for accepting the aspects of being a writer for which you didn’t sign up?


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  1. I don’t know what I have to offer here, and am tempted not to try. But still, in what may only be a bow to ego, here goes.
    * Yeah, I didn’t sign up for this. I didn’t sign up for an illness that would destroy everything I worked for, leaving me a bloody passenger in life, unable to give my wife more than prayers. I didn’t sign up for depending on the kindness of strangers to carry me back to the house when I pass out in the yard. I didn’t sign up for incontinence, or for nights of terror that seem to last forever but pass too quickly, bringing a dawn of exhaustion. I didn’t sign up for the blood or the bile or things far worse than these.
    * But I’m here, and I have to believe that my faith in God means something, that when I say “I’m OK” that I am REALLY OK. I have to believe that if the only thing I have left to offer is love, that it’s a love worth giving, and receiving.
    * So I will keep going, in faith and hope and love, for I have learned a thing. My dreams of success in writing and other things meant nothing; they are as dust on the winds of emotion. The only thing that ever mattered was saving lives, and love, and gentleness in the Scylla and Charybdis of madness and wrath. Love was the only thing I ever had in me that was worthwhile, through violent action and hugs and encouragement and, yes, through writing.
    * So, yeah. I DID sign up for this. And I’d do it again, no hesitation. Here am I; send me.

    • Andrew, once again your frighting spirit is an inspiration. My heart aches for you, but your warrior spirit and wisdom are a treasure. No, you didn’t sign up for this, but your are carrying your burden in a way that makes the world take notice and pause. You are being a light in this world.

    • Andrew, your perspective is needful. Such an important reminder not to become so caught up in the things that may be wonderful but are still lesser compared to loving well. That is what we carry with us into eternity.
      *Thank you for your words.

    • Powerful and poignant words, Andrew. I can’t imagine what you’re going through, and my heart goes out to you. Please know I’m praying for you and your wife.

  2. Patricia Iacuzzi says:

    “Remember that everyone’s dream job comes with aspects they don’t like or didn’t anticipate.”
    Thought provoking, Rachelle.
    As a teacher, I never anticipated acquiring a “teaching style”, much like writers, to capture my students’ interests. The challenge for me: staying consistent with that style, whether teaching, writing, or marketing.
    p.s. I’ve been lurking/reading recently on your new site Rachelle–it’s gorgeous!

    • Rachelle Gardner says:

      Nice analogy to the teaching life, Patricia. I think we all understand this concept when we think about our other jobs and roles in life.

  3. Patricia Iacuzzi says:

    Also, want to add my prayers for you, Andrew….writing this so late in a.m. (early?) my brain is foggy. Blessings, sir–you made some strong points!

  4. Rachelle, you’re right. There are aspects about this journey/adventure I didn’t anticipate. I have had to confront the question of: “Is it worth it? Do I still want to continue this journey if I have to do _______?” and so far, the answer is yes.
    *I’m figuring out how to navigate the marketing/platform building aspect with the writing aspect. And the people I’ve met through blogging and engaging on social media have been wonderful. So, that’s kind of like an added benefit.
    *Thanks for your words today.

  5. I haven’t been writing for long, but as I become more involved with the art (and craft) of writing I am beginning to recognize that it is a calling fraught with many unexpected challenges, much like career, marriage, and motherhood.
    For me, acceptance of the unsought aspects of these full-time callings has come with the understanding that they are simply a part of the whole ebb and flow of the occupation and deserve their rightful portion in the grand scheme of things. As I continue in this venture, I hope to apply the wisdom I have learned in the above vocations, and to be mindful of the fact that any part of a whole that is neglected has the distinct possibility of becoming a weak-link at some point.
    As always, Rachelle, thank you for sharing your wisdom and knowledge.

    • Rachelle Gardner says:

      Love this perspective, Jeanine. I agree that it compares to the other vocations—career, marriage, motherhood—and for each, we have to decide what we are willing to do. Great thoughts here.

  6. Thanks for this clear advice.

  7. Thank you, Rachelle. I’ve recently realized that I can take cute videos of my dog and add them to book promotion ideas. That is much more fun than non-dog promotion. But yeah, not my favorite part of writing.

  8. Voni Harris says:

    I’ve heard advice to pick a couple platforms you enjoy, focus on doing them well, rather than trying to do them all. As you said, “Don’t try to do everything. Just do something.”

  9. Carol Ashby says:

    Seek pleasure in the parts you didn’t originally plan to do.
    *I didn’t know anything about building a platform when I started writing my first novel, and that was so discouraging. Who would want to follow me when I’m a literary nobody? I couldn’t imagine ever having 5000 people care about my web presence when I’d done nothing they should care about.
    * But I’m writing Roman-era novels, and someone (I think at this blog) said historical novelists can have history features on their websites. So…I started a Roman history website that stays no worse than PG-13 so it can be used by teenage students. (Some Roman topics will NEVER appear there because it is impossible to make them historically accurate and PG-13!). Researching and writing the articles has turned into something just as fun as writing my novels, plus the site draws visitors from all over the world. More than 10,000 have visited since January 2017,and some even decide to buy one of my Christian historical novels that appear in the sidebar!
    *So what looks like lemons being thrown at you might just be the start of making great lemonade.

  10. Cynthia Ruchti says:

    As a MOM, I remember saying to myself, “I didn’t sign up for this!” Middle of the night pacing with a colicky but oh so precious newborn. Living for months on practically no sleep. Giving up vacations and remodels to pay orthodontic bills. Thinking when they graduated from high school, I could stop praying so hard. 🙂

    But I showed up for all the challenges because I was committed to being a parent and deeply in love with my kids.

    I love your counsel about surrounding ourselves with positive people who don’t ignore the challenges, but cheerlead each other through them, those who tell us, “You may not have REALIZED you were signing up for this, but you were. Here, this might help. I have an extra copy of The Strong-Willed Child.” (Insert a great writing resource book to apply to the writer analogy.)

    • Carol Ashby says:

      Cynthia, we adopted, and the day our daughter came home at 6 days of age, I KNEW we had one that was going to be an 11 on a 10-point scale (speaking as one whose been accused of being a 10). We got ready for a bucking bronc ride compared to our son, who’s maybe a 3. That book gave us so much practical advice! Is there one book for writers you’d recommend as strongly?

    • Rachelle Gardner says:

      Funny, Cynthia—who among us would sign up for parenthood if we REALLY knew what it entailed??? And so too with the publishing life.

    • Nicholas says:

      You are right. There are so many aspects of parenthood that I could say “I never signed up to this”, and some I am experiencing now are so way off my expectations it’s left me to wonder why. But our children are so precious, such wonderful gifts from God that, in reality, we would even walk through the gates of hell for them. It is our love for them that gives us the strength for the difficult things.

  11. I’m raising my hand. I want to sign up. 🙂 I know it’s hard and challenging, but I want to sign up. The good outweighs the difficult, and the alternative–not signing up–is less appealing. 🙂

  12. I always wanted to be a writer, but I had no idea most of my published work would be in periodicals instead of books. And I had no idea the wonderful community of writers in critique groups, conferences, and even online (like here) existed and I’d become a part of it. We writers all share something “normal” people can’t understand.

  13. you have hit the nail on the head. what do we do.

  14. Nicholas says:

    Yes! Yes! And Yes again! You understand me! That’s just it. I don’t want to have to do all that, I just want to write and have people enjoy my books.
    Now you tell me I have no choice. 🙁
    When the time comes I will just have to hoik up my breeches and get on with it.
    I do have an idea to make it easier. Enlist the help of a friend, someone who understands social media and the interWeb. I can do the written stuff, they can manage how it goes online. Many famous people have someone managing their accounts. I’ll just be like one of those. Problem solved?

  15. I’ll admit that initially, I resented having to create an online presence as an author. Putting myself out there that way is far outside my comfort zone and like every writer, I just wanted to focus on my manuscript and let someone else handle the rest. Only there isn’t anyone else to handle the rest and I knew I wanted this thing called a writing career, so I pulled up my britches and waded in. A few years later I am shocked to admit I now actually enjoy what I’m doing to build my platform. Sure, it is still sometimes a chore to sit my butt in the chair and type up yet another blog post, when I’d rather be doing anything else. However, the relationships I’ve begun to develop through my blog and social media accounts have proved more meaningful than I ever imagined. Additionally, I’ve focused much of my blog around promoting fellow authors through reviews and book tours and the like. It is amazing how richly rewarding that has become. I now enjoy what I’m doing so much that I know I would continue doing it even if someone told me tomorrow that I could have my career without it. So basically, like many things in my life, what I expected to bring me misery, God used to bring me joy.