This week's blog prompt--yes, I missed last week--asks if we are our own worst enemies when it comes to a fear of failure. That prompt leads me to this old joke:
Q. What's the difference between a pessimist and an optimist?
A. A pessimist moans, "Things just can't get any worse." An optimist cheerfully responds, "Sure, they can!"
We all fail. Failure and I are old, intimate friends. Some of us fail more frequently than others. Some of us handle it better than others. I think that we handle failure better as we get older because we learn our limitations, we understand what we cannot control vastly outweighs what we can control, and we have more practice in failing. We've figured out how to pick our challenges and battles so that the odds favor us.
I could be wrong.
I see this new writers who cling desperately to their manuscripts, the manuscripts they've worked on and tinkered with for years, the manuscripts they can't ever seem to finish, the most dreadful manuscripts ever produced. Let's face it, folks, no one's very first manuscript is any good. Mine certainly weren't.
Anyway, such authors cannot bear the thought of failure, so they refuse to admit they've learned everything they can from those experiments and take what they've learned to a new story. They won't abandon those first manuscripts.
I've long since outgrown that. I have a directory with over two dozen started-and-abandoned stories. I have old floppy disks full of manuscripts that will never see the light of day. I have a credenza with drawers full of printed manuscripts that will never be published. Because they suck. Each and every one of them sucks.
When I look failure in the face, I admit its supremacy and then try something else. The general outcome (e.g., publication) might be the same, but the specific goal and route to get there differ. For a non-writing example, let's take Diva, my "problem child" of a horse.
She's my latest big failure. I brought home a horse that I erroneously thought I could handle. I was wrong. I hired three trainers in succession. The first wasn't up to the challenge. Failure. The second never showed up. Failure. The third didn't do what she promised. Failure. So, I'm trying different tactics to either bring Diva to the point at which I can use her or to transfer her to the care of someone who can handle her. A teenager approached me about leasing her. That didn't work out. Failure. I've got a call scheduled with someone who is willing to trade her for one of her horses. We'll see how that works out. I've already tried that one and it didn't work out, but with a different person there's a chance for success.
Here's another example: I consider the 2019 Summer Book Fair a failure, although some of the participating authors don't, bless them for their kindness. However, we'll try again and apply what we've learned.
Are we our own worst enemies? Probably. But each failure teaches us lessons if only we remain open to learning. It's that learning process that justifies optimism, that irrepressible hope for success when we turn our focus to that next endeavor.
“You’re a virgin,” he whispered into the darkness, just loudly enough for her to hear.
“Don’t remind me,” she retorted in a sour tone, belatedly remembering to close her mouth after speaking.
“There is no shame in that.”
“Says you,” she sighed with envy. How anything so utterly masculine and gorgeous could entertain an interest in her was bewildering. Of course, having five overprotective brothers and her father around hadn’t exactly encouraged romantic relationships. Hence, the cabin. Dad and her brothers trusted her ability to take care of herself more in relative isolation than if she were plopped in the midst of a busy city teeming with the dregs of humanity—or so they assumed.
“It means you respect yourself,” he whispered, pride and possessiveness thrumming through every syllable of his charming, foreign accent. “It means you did not not waste yourself on an unworthy male.”
“And you’re worthy, I suppose?” Sarcasm dripped from her words.
“More than you know,” he answered as though stating mundane fact. The utter lack of pride puzzled her. “But you will understand.”
She sighed and shut the bedroom door.
Arrogant man thinks he can have me at the crook of his little finger, just because he looks like God’s gift to women. Her own grouchiness surprised her. Corinne attributed it to PMS and a history of watching her own handsome brothers reel in woman after woman with seemingly no effort at all. The frequency with which women threw themselves at her brothers disgusted and exasperated her, as did the cocky pleasure they took in taking advantage of what those women offered.
“They’ll settle down when they find the right girls,” her mother had tried to reassure her. “Your father was the same way.”
“Ugh,” she muttered and climbed back into bed.
Uberon paid no mind to the closed door and his mate’s displeased reaction to his certainty that she would give herself to him, body, mind, heart, and soul. Fate exerted an influence nothing could escape. One might dodge fate for a limited time, but not forever.
That didn't go well.
It was embarrassing, really. Mother Stewart's Brewing Co., which is usually hopping on Saturday afternoons, had maybe half their usual crowd and only a small fraction of that ventured into the brewing room to check out the book fair. Most people with whom I spoke expressed surprise: "I had no idea this was going on!"
How utterly discouraging. Through the diligence of my publicist, Personalize Marketing Inc., we posted blogs to promote the individual authors as well as the event as a whole. Tweets and Facebook posts went out regularly--frequently. I cannot fault her efforts at all: as always, she went above and beyond the call of duty to try to make this endeavor a success. Participating authors were urged to spread the word throughout their social networks ... and some did. I had fliers printed up and handed them out. I gave more fliers to the brewery three weeks and then one week in advance to distribute to their customers. I gave fliers to other vendors to distribute to their customers.
All for naught, it seems like.
My publicist and her manager even came to the event, one from Illinois and the other from New Jersey. I feel as though they wasted their time, fuel, and money.
How utterly disappointing. Most of the authors left early. I couldn't blame them.
One author complained of insufficient marketing. Apparently, he expected signage throughout the city promoting the event. Since author fees were only $30 to participate--a rate affordable for indie authors who usually see less than $1,000 in royalties per year--that doesn't leave much for marketing. I certainly don't make a profit from this.
I even ushered people to check out the other authors: "I don't have horror/mystery/true crime/biography/etc., but we have authors here who do. I'm sure you'll find something that piques your interest!" Did anyone else refer potential customers to other authors?
So, what did we have going against us besides an apparent lack of market penetration and public interest? We had:
I'm not happy. I asked the other 20 participating authors for their feedback and asked for suggestions to help improve future events. Four responded. My suggestion to reduce the frequency of the events from two to one per year met with expressed preferences to remain at two per year. Three of those who responded suggested different months, with spring and autumn being preferred to winter and summer. (Granted, weather in February in southwest Ohio is predictably nasty.) I received no other suggestions: they liked the venue, complimented me on it being well-organized, and were generally supportive.
So ... what shall we do? I'm going to have to contact Mother Stewart's to see what they've got scheduled in April or May, making sure to avoid Easter, Mother's Day, graduations, proms, and Memorial Day. OK, we can't avoid all the graduation and proms. At least Springfield's Winter Market will end in early April, so perhaps we can snag a Saturday rather than a Sunday. (Saturdays do tend to be busier.) And I'll inquire about late September, October, and early November. We want to piggyback on the gift-giving seasons when brewery patronage is good, too. After all, Mother Stewart's does this in the hope that the book fair will draw extra customers for them, too.
Yes, I'm belly-aching on a bucket of sour grapes. I'll continue to whine, because I don't get over large disappointments like this so easily.
Eventually, yes, I will get over this--probably about the time I start planning the next event.
If you've been to a wonderful author/book expo, what went right? What went wrong? Share your experiences, because I need to learn from them. My own experiences organizing and attending these events isn't encouraging.
In the meantime, I've got paid work to do and stories to write. Catch ya later.