Tag Archives: control

The Tipping Point and the Serenity Prayer

by Kassandra Lamb

This is the time of year when we set new goals, and/or recommit to old ones. Well-known blogger Jami Gold recently pointed out that some goals we have control over, and others we don’t. It’s important to realize the difference. Otherwise failing to achieve the we-can’t-control-this goals can be very discouraging.

This post is aimed mainly at my fellow authors, but I think it has relevance for everyone. For each of us in our work life, there are goals we can achieve via our hard work, and there are goals that we don’t have direct control over.

woman sitting on the side of a hill

Sometimes it just seems so hard to keep climbing (photo by Vaikoovery CC BY 3.0 Wikimedia Commons)

And in most people’s careers, there is some goal that marks the beginning of true success–the point where you may still be climbing the ladder but the climb gets easier, and you become more confident you will eventually reach your ultimate career goals.

We’ll be much more able to climb to that “tipping point” with our sanity intact if we can differentiate between the controllable and not so controllable goals and outcomes along the way.

The Part I Couldn’t Control
For authors, the goal that is most out of our control is whether or not people buy our books. We can do things to control the quality of our stories–take craft classes, hire good editors, etc.–but a good story doesn’t guarantee sales.

When I first got serious about my writing, I suffered from a common ailment amongst writers–Write It and They Will Buy syndrome.

Hmm, not that easy. It isn’t enough to be talented at what you do (although that is an essential first step). Often, others have to notice what we are doing in order for us to receive the rewards we are hoping for.

So how to put yourself out there to be noticed without coming across as obnoxious?

The Part I Could Control
For authors, we are told to engage with people on social media and “build a platform.” So I did that. Another piece of advice was to get lots of stories out there in front of the public. Not a problem. I was already writing a series, and publishing two or more books a year.

Yet another idea was to do giveaways to get readers hooked and get some reviews for your books. So I did that. Doing blog tours and guest posts on other people’s blogs was also a good idea, I was told. Did that too.

Once you have enough books out in a series, yet another strategy is to make the first book permanently free. So I did that.

There's a reason why it's called The Serenity Prayer--because that's the tough part, accepting what we can't control (photo by Jerry "Woody" CC-BY-SA 2.0)

There’s a reason why it’s called The Serenity Prayer–because that’s the tough part, accepting what we can’t control (image by Jerry “Woody” CC-BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

The Other Part I Couldn’t Control
Each time I did these things, I saw a bump in sales. But nothing to knock your socks off.

It was getting harder and harder to keep my spirits up. I told myself to think of it as a hobby (even though I’m quite serious about it). I would be writing anyway, because I love it. So if sales never took off, so be it. (Fortunately I have a pension; most writers don’t.)

That helped provide the serenity to cope better, but it didn’t solve the problem of sluggish sales.

Then I started hearing authors talking about their tipping point. That at some point something happened that tipped them over the edge, visibility-wise, and their sales were off and running. In each of these cases, there were components the author could control and some they couldn’t.

For some, it was getting reviewed by a book blogger with a large following (could submit to the blogger; no guarantee they would read the book and like it). For others, it was having their books associated with those of a big-name author in the “People Who Bought This Also Bought” box on Amazon (sometimes via a giveaway; often dumb luck). For one of our misterio press authors, it was investing in an expensive ad on BookBub, one of the best e-mail subscription websites for promoting books.

Several authors said that their sales turned a corner when they had published three books in their series. Others said it took five books before they experienced their tipping point.

Book 7 in my series was published last fall. Sales were okay but still less than stellar. I was starting to get discouraged again.

Then I bit the bullet and submitted that perma-free first book to BookBub–again something I could control, but not whether or not the book was accepted (they are picky and in high demand) nor whether the ad was successful. The book was accepted, which reassured me that the problem wasn’t my writing. I gulped a little when I paid the invoice for the ad, and then I started praying.

screen shot of perma-free first book

90 reviews and counting; still #5 in free psychological suspense category

The results were a bit slow to show up–a huge number of downloads of the free book, but only a medium-sized bump in sales of the others. That first book started getting a whole lot of reviews though, the vast majority of them good to great.

I was about to resign myself to this booby prize of more good reviews when things started happening. Sales of Book 2 in the series took off, and then Book 3, etc. I could track readers’ progress through the series. With the first book now high on the free lists at Amazon, thousands of downloads continued each week, and the other books are still selling well.

The climb gets easier after the tipping point  (photo by Derek Harper CC-BY-SA 2.0)

The climb gets easier after the tipping point (photo by Derek Harper CC-BY-SA 2.0)

Hallelujah, I have reached my tipping point!!

So to everyone, but especially to my fellow authors who may still be struggling along, I say don’t give up!

Keep trying different things that you can control, until something happens to propel you past that tipping point.

How about you? Are you clear about which of your goals you have control over and which you don’t? Have you reached the tipping point in your career?

 

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

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“BOSTON STRONG”–YES!!

I had intended to finish my stress management series today, but in light of the events in Boston last week, I’m going to do a variation on that intended post.

(image by LADreamzinc — CC-SA-3.0 license, Wikimedia Commons)

The post I had planned would have talked about how our cognitive and emotional interpretation of an event makes a huge difference in how stressful that event is for us. I will talk more about that topic soon.

One of the biggest factors in that cognitive/emotional interpretation is how much control we feel we have over a particular stressor and its impacts. We human beings hate to not be in control. I would venture to say that feeling out of control is the worst feeling we can experience. It scares the bejeezus out of us!

We will even sometimes blame ourselves for a negative event that wasn’t our fault, just so we can have some feeble sense that we could have controlled the outcome if we’d just realized what was coming. (If I’d gone a different route that day, the car accident wouldn’t have happened.) For even a horrible feeling such as guilt is preferable to facing the reality that the event was truly beyond our control.

Another pitfall when we are running from that reality is to blame others, especially those in authority. Right now the country is united in its grief and sorrow for the victims of the Boston Marathon explosions and their families. But I know the reports will start on the TV news soon… the investigations, the demands that “they” do something to keep this from happening again.

Do what? Stop having marathons? Or football games, or golf tournaments? Cordon off the entire area and not let anyone be nearby, so there is no one on the sidelines cheering the participants on? But what’s to stop some nutcase (and make no mistake about it, these men were nutcases who were using their religion for their own sick purpose) from planting a bomb the night before, or the week before?

Of course, “they” should do what they can–increase security, bring in the bomb-sniffing dogs, etc. But the reality is that some nutcase could, at any moment, disrupt your life or mine and bring tragedy into it because of their own twisted agenda.

So what should we do about that? Exactly what the citizens of Boston are doing! Going about their business, refusing to give in to fear.

We cannot always control what happens to us. We can control how we lead our lives. If we lead with fears about what might happen, then the terrorists and nutcases have already won! If we refuse to give in to that fear and live our lives to their fullest every moment, than we are having the best life we can have in an uncertain world where not everything is controllable.

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad thing that we humans want to be in control. That may be the single most driving force behind our progress as a species. And we have a lot more control over our environments and our destinies than we once did.

The winner of the 13th Boston Marathon in 1910, during a time when people routinely died of pneumonia because antibiotics had not yet been discovered.

But I do wonder sometimes… Has the control that science and technology’s given us over so many once uncontrollable things led us to a false belief that we should somehow be able to control everything?

I doubt that will happen, at least in our lifetimes, and probably never. We really need to come to grips with the reality that we cannot control everything, such as hurricanes and lunatics. But we can control how we respond to the natural disasters and the fanatics who intentionally create unnatural disasters. We can band together as the people of Boston have so heroically exemplified.

And we can yell, “Boston Strong!” from the rooftops. And never let fear win!

Celebration in Boston after the capture of the 2nd suspect (photo by Grk1011 — CC-SA-3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

 

On a lighter note, if you’ve been wondering why I haven’t been around much for the last week, it’s because I was in Maryland painting our summer place up there (with the help of my wonderful brother). I promised pictures so if you hop over to my website, you can see the transformation of my shabby shack into a cute cottage (it looks like mint chocolate chip ice cream with chocolate syrup on top 🙂 )

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.

We blog here at misterio press once a week about more serious topics, usually on Monday or Tuesday. Sometimes we blog again, on Friday or the weekend, with something just for fun.

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