Shoes and a Belt

A number of years ago I found a belt at my favorite store that I really wanted but couldn’t justify the price. Months later a friend invited me to on a shopping trip, explaining that my favorite store was having a blow out sale. All the way to the store I thought of the belt I wanted and how it would coordinate with so many of my clothes.
When we get to the store I’m delighted to find my belt has been marked down by 70%! And there’s just one and it’s my size! I’m delighted…for about fifteen minutes.
All my delighted is swallowed up by the fact that my friend buys nine pairs of shoes. I knew that I should have been happy. I knew that I did not need nine new pairs of shoes. I knew that I had plenty of shoes, but that I really needed a belt. And I got one. And I really liked it. I should have been happy.
I let shoe envy consume me.
I still struggle with something very similar, although it’s not apparel related. I have a friend I really admire who decided to self publish a few months before I made the same decision. I really struggled with this giant, scary decision (if you want to read about that decision process, I have reposted a couple of blog posts written at that time.) When I finally did decide to self publish, I concluded that with the millions of self published authors out there, probably no one but family and friends would ever read/find my books. And I was okay with that. In a sea of not-so-wholesome entertainment, I wanted to provide people like me (and I know that people like me aren’t like the sands in the sea) family friendly, grandmother approved novels.
And I did that. And I’ve been lucky. When I first published Stealing Mercy I sold more than two hundred books (I have a really big family.) I now have almost five books out and more than 60,000 people have downloaded my books. (I say download because most of those have been given away.) Stealing Mercy has been in the top 100 of Amazon’s free historical romance list for more than 11 weeks now. I don’t know 60,000 people. By all accounts, I exceeded my goal. By a long shot. I should be happy. I am happy and so excited about my soon to be released book, Losing Penny. (Here’s its cover)
But, envy…
Remember my self-publishing friend, Debra Holland? Her books have made the US Today bestseller list. She makes tens of thousands of dollars a month.
Oh, envy…
I owe Debra a huge debt of gratitude. Without her first taking the plunge I never would have self published. I learned from her and I’m still learning from her. Watching her very, very closely.
And sometimes it hurts.
But other times, I think of how great it is that people who aren’t blood relations read, enjoy and review my books. And I remember my belt. Just like I didn’t need nine new pairs of shoes, I know I don’tneed to be nationally recognized. I don’t need more money. (And since I’m being gut wrenchingly honest, I’ll admit that it hurts to say that.)
And since sometimes, like today, I need to be reminded of my original goal—I’m reposting about that long ago decision.
When the Hooray Goes Away (written May 11, 2011)
Last week I had the privilege and pleasure of attending the LDS Storymaker’s writing conference. I loved it and I learned a lot of things. I found every workshop I attended helpful and most made me stop and rethink my work. Storylines, concept, and theme – it’s all a little more clear and focused. But, I think the most important thing I learned was something I discovered pretty much on my own.
At lunch time, I randomly sat down next to a literary agent. We chatted. She told me she represented young adult fiction and I told her I had written such a thing. She told me to send it to her. This has happened to me before. I’ve met agents, they’ve requested my work, and my typical response is cool, calm adult behavior on the outside and childlike yippies and hoorays on the inside. This time, no yippee, no hooray, more of a thoughtful hmmmm…..
I took a class on marketing your book (an excellent class) and the presenter discussed the marketing strategies of different authors. One author spent eight hours a day, six days a week, for three months doing book signings in Costcos. Another author had a $10 thousand dollar marketing budget from her publisher and spent another $10 thousand of her own. She didn’t make anything on her first book, but is now making money on her second and third book. Even my friend Neal, a brilliant writer who collects awards like redheads grow freckles, is never home. He spends days, weeks and months away at school visits, which is noble work, but he’s not writing and he’s not home. Which might be fine for Neal, but it wouldn’t be fine for me. (I’m a hermit.)
I spent the conference weekend with my sister-in-law and brother-in-law. Every morning I got up early to run along the canyon to the Bountiful temple. The mountains were covered with snow. The air is clear there. From Cynthia’s window you can see the temple and the Great Salt Lake. It’s incredibly beautiful. On a wall in Cynthia’s entry she’s hung pictures of her ten children and 26 grandchildren.
I tried to explain to Cynthia some of my ambivalence towards the agent’s request and this was her advice. (I applied it to my writing, but I think it could be generally applied to any situation). Look at your next five years and what do you see? She asked. I saw graduations, missions, babies and weddings. I think it’s completely possible that five of my six children could marry in the next five years. Maybe some would even marry within months or weeks of each other. Babies could happen. Could anything be more fun than weddings and babies? Sitting at Costco for three months would not be fun. Traveling from school to school would not be fun. My life is full… much too full to do anything I don’t want to do.
And so, I’m passing on the agent’s request and considering self-publishing and not because I’m tempted by the siren song of greater royalties. It’s silly to believe that anything I personally published could sell as well as something backed by a professional team armed with experience and thousands of marketing dollars.
But, maybe, for me, that’s not the point. I’ve written for years without any monetary compensation and so I’ll continue. I’ve written mysteries, romances and young adult stories, because at that moment, that’s what I wanted to write. Currently, I’m working with a very cranky, somewhat hostile ghost. I wouldn’t have that luxury if I had a publisher to please. The ghost shouting my ear wouldn’t exist if I had to listen to editors, an agent and a publishing house.
It’s odd and yet freeing to abandon a life-long dream, to set it down and say this really doesn’t work for me.
Because, quite simply, I don’t want to turn something I love into work.

About Kristy Tate

USA Today bestselling author Kristy Tate has come a long way from small-town Washington. Her avid curiosity and love of reading have carried her to thirty plus countries. (She loves to travel to the places she reads and writes about.) She's the author of more than twenty books, including the bestselling and award-winning Beyond Series and the Kindle Scout winning Witch Ways series. She writes mysteries with romance, humorous romance, light-hearted young adult romance, and urban fantasy. When she's not reading, writing, or traveling, she can be found playing games with her family, hiking with her dogs, or watching movies while eating brownies. She is also a popular public speaker and presents writing workshops for schools, libraries, and fundraisers. All proceeds donated to charity. References available upon request.
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10 Responses to Shoes and a Belt

  1. Kristy,

    Thanks for mentioning me in your post. I’m glad I could be an inspiration because it’s important to me that authors know about self-publishing, whether or not they chose to go that route.

    Had to laugh at the tens of thousands a month comment. Not quite yet. But from your fingers to God’s eyes! It’s definitely an achievable goal.

    Like you I chose to live my life and let my books promote themselves. The fact that they sell so well is a gift from God, and I’m very grateful.

    Like you I both envy and cheer on my friends who are doing better. I want success like they have, only my own version of it. 🙂 I know it will come. Yours will come too.


  2. Tori Scott says:

    I think we all envy those who appear more successful than we are. When I first started, I would have been thrilled with the level of success I’ve had this last year. Seeing others, like Debra and Theresa Ragan (both GH2003 finalists/winners with me) zoom past and soar into the unreachable mist while my feet are still firmly planted on the ground is very hard. But someday I’ll figure out the Creatspace monster that still scares me with the formatting, and I’ll even get brave enough to get my books on audio. And while I’ll probably never reach their heights (no, Montlake never approached me), maybe I can move up another level to where I can quit worrying about whether or not I can pay the bills this month or be able to help my two daughters financially or get that leaking roof fixed.

    All we can do is our best and hope and pray God will deem us worthy (and ready) for real success in the Indie world.


  3. Carol says:

    Kristy, I admire your honesty and plugging onward! Debra Holland is quite an inspiration to me also, though I’ve never mentioned it. I think most, if not all, Indie published authors are simply happy their words are up for public reading. At some point we all want to make money on our works : ) Good luck to you and may we all be as successful as our dreams desire!


  4. Very heartwarming post. We all have our own dreams, and with work and luck, they do come true.


  5. E. Ayers says:

    Oh, Kristy, did you hit a nail on the head. I think we all look on those who are more fortunate than we are with that whole envy thing. And it’s not that we are glowing green, but there are times that we do, and when we do, we forget to count the good things that we do have. Several of us are lucky to count Debra as a true friend. I’m paddling as hard as I can to keep up with her. (Okay, I’m dragging way behind her!) And I’m hanging onto Joan’s coattails, too!

    The difference between our writing friends and those darn shoes is that shoes are a quick gratification. Books are a long haul. People fill their lives with things. I’ve learned by watching someone very close to me, that things will never make up for what is lacking in a life. Those people can buy a gazillion pairs of shoes and they still won’t be happy.

    We can’t buy readers. Back when there was no other way to publish other than paper through a big brick and mortar publishing house, there were tricks to gain readers, and they were employed! I’m sure some still are. But we deal with luck, word of mouth, and a few online ways to get our name and books out there.

    This is a journey. And we’re truly alone with our words as we go. We slip, fall, pick ourselves back up, and keep trudging along. We smell the roses and the coffee along the way. We appreciate each little high as it comes. No one ever celebrates a new pair of shoes or celebrates them six months later! But our books have no expiration dates, and each little peak that is traversed, and every milestone that is crossed is cause for excitement.

    It’s not what “they” do, it’s what “our” books do. We can learn from the successes of our friends. We can use their footprints in the snow and follow them across the sands. Where will I be in five years? Where will you be? Chances are I’ll still be trailing behind Debra and Joan, but I’ll be better than where I am now. And maybe I’ll buy a pair of shoes along the way.


  6. leighmorgan1 says:

    Kristy, I purposely didn’t read the posts before me, so I have no idea whether I’m reiterating the same ideas as those who came before me, but I feel the need to comment anyway…how’s that for audacity? Shoe envy…oh yeah! IAlthough I have to say, for me it’s trip to Scotland envy, and jewelry envy, that trip my trigger. So, what can we do about it? We can only do the best we can do in the moment, and next time, we can do better. That’s it. That’s all. So, lovely lady, I raise a glass to you and say : “Here’s to creating the best product we can create.” Forget the rest. It doesn’t affect what we do, or how we live…or, more to the point, the wonderful stories we create.


  7. susanrhughes says:

    I have felt exactly the same way. Keep at it, you’re doing great.


  8. monarisk says:

    Kristy, I admire your honesty. Every time I am not pleased with my results, I stop and count my blessings. I also tell myself that maybe those who are fortunate enough to publish more may have problems I don’t know about. Besides, I’ve decided once and for all that I won’t keep a penny of what I make. It all goes to various charities. My children are on their own and I am at a point in my life where I don’t need it. My joy is to know that readers enjoy my stories enough to leave good reviews. So low ranks and good reviews are what I aim for.


  9. Jill James says:

    Kristy, we all go down that path sometimes. I was feeling sorry for myself at the beginning of the year looking at a friend who sells more paperbacks in a month than I sell all-total. But, my husband let me know what I made last year and I was flabbergasted. I couldn’t have made that much. I couldn’t have sold that many books. That we can make money doing this thing called writing is a miracle all in of itself. Enjoy the blessings.


  10. stephaniequeen says:

    Kristy, it’s not silly to think you could not be as successful as a “professional team armed with experience and thousands in marketing dollars”. There’s more than one way to skin a cat! You keep doing it your way and with your honesty and passion for writing you will succeed!


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