I have no idea what I'm doing, but that's never stopped me before.
I read a Thomas Edison quote recently that resonated. “I have not failed, I just found 10,000 ways that it won’t work.” Just a reminder, when you see someone on social media who seem as though they have met with great success, tons of followers, that it may not really be the case. If it is, it obviously didn’t start out that way, so hang in there. I say that to remind myself as much as to remind those of you who may be setting out on the journey to live, work, and earn a living on your own terms.
I have a to do list. I have a vision board. I have a list of short-term goals that will lead me to the long- term goals. I journal a few times a week. I purge negative thoughts from my head like a high school purges teenagers at 2:00 PM. Even though I work a traditional job, I schedule myself in regard to my business. In terms of marketing and sales, I try things out and when they don’t work, I cross it off the list and try something else. In other words, I’m winging it.
In the beginning it was all about learning how to create and perfect my product, my art, my books. As I’ve said, technology was a big hurdle that I had to jump. Although I continue to learn and purposely challenge myself in that regard, I am at least comfortable with contemporary design programs. I have self-published 7 books to date and the well of ideas doesn’t seem as thought it will be running dry any time soon. Ideas and inspiration are not my problem. It’s getting the product to the people who will love and appreciate it the most. It’s getting them into the hands of the little people that is the tallest wall to scale.
I am an incurable optimist, but at times to my own detriment. When I was a kid and something fun was being planned, like a day at an amusement park, a visit from a favorite relative, I always got overly excited and held this ideal image of what it was going to be like. I would build it up to almost impossible standards, partly due to my overactive imagination and partly due to unrelenting idealism. Idealism can be positive I suppose, but has led to many a difficult and hard let down. You would think that at this point I would've learned to reign it in a bit. Not so much. As I work toward this goal of mine, creating a series of children’s picture books and a brand of products around the books, I have it in my head that there is going to be one huge pivotal moment, connection, happenstance that will launch this thing into the far reaches of outer space. Like the young gifted, singer working as a maid and is discovered by a famous producer whilst she cleans toilets.
Building a local presence is not easy. Plans are made, spaces designed, events created and more often than not only a handful of people show up, sometimes none at all. I’ve joined author organizations and networking groups. I have my books in independent book stores but unless the books are made visible they don’t sell, and book stores will only give up valuable real estate to known authors that are guaranteed to sell. I’ve done library events farmers markets, art fairs, radio shows and on and on.
Over the course of a year of trial and error this is what I did learn:
1 My demographic turned out to be different than my initial research had revealed, and now I have a better idea of how to reach them. Although sales at most of these events weren’t stellar, a couple of them were, and I made note of who was buying my books and 99% were grandmothers, both online and in person.
2 I realized that my goal was much different than the other children’s authors I’ve met in my travels. Even though they also create kids’ books and try to sell books for kids, my goals are unique and my business model differs from theirs so an approach unique to me.
3 The most successful and promising events were the large ones like big city book expos. They financial investment is larger but yield more profit provide greater exposure and contacts. These events also helped me to realize that working toward driving traffic to my online store
All these little failures and mistakes are in fact detours leading me in the right direction. One thing leads to another. It’s a matter of recognizing the failure as a detour and a positive as opposed to a negative. If you pay attention, the wrong approaches provide downloads. Listen to them.
The chances of me being discovered while cleaning toilets isn’t likely. But the chances of me obtaining the level of success I want by showing up every day and going back to bat every time I get tagged out is more apt to yield success. Success is a gradual process. You get there little by little. It’s not a big colossal event. I keep picturing my mother before a long, hot road trip in the car. Our old Plymouth Satellite didn’t have air conditioning. Once she got in the car and started talking and taking in all the new scenery, she began to enjoy it. We began to enjoy it. Upon arrival she would inevitably state, “Already? Wow that was faster than I thought and really kind of a fun drive.” Until next time, keep writing, keep drawing, keep dreaming.