When you want something; really, really want something, where do you begin in getting close to it? My own answer: “Build it, and they will come.”
I live in a beautiful, rented house in Scotland which was the very thing that drove me to write. Seven years ago our landlord decided she wanted to sell it, my husband and I wanted to buy it, yet it was (and still is) way out of our price range and we knew one of us would have to do something extraordinary in order to make it our own. Then our landlord agreed to let us stay until we could, however long that might take.
Behind our beloved house is an empty field, owned by our landlord, and every day I take the dogs up there to let them run about free, turning around to look back down over the roof of our home and tell myself again that one day we WILL own it. That is, the whole house, not just the roof. But there are other things I have been telling my landlord’s field.
‘I’m going to write a book,’ I said on a Monday. On a Friday, two years later, I finished it.
‘I’m going to get an agent for this book,’ I told the sky above the landlord’s field several fine, summer mornings in a row. Just six weeks later, on a fine summer morning that found me trudging around Kilmartin Glen, I got an email from an agent asking to meet with me. I signed with her less than a month later.
‘I’M GOING TO GET A PUBLISHER FOR THIS BOOK!’
I shouted this on a pretty windy afternoon in the field that will one day be mine, red-faced and bubbling after the last of a stream of publisher rejections came through. I even shook my fist for emphasis; well, you never know when the Universe needs a bit of sheer grit and anger to get your point across. Just over a year later, I signed to a small press.
‘I’m going to be a best-selling author, Field.’
Okay, I didn’t say ‘Field’, but I love that bit in Shirley Valentine where she talks to the wall, addressing it as ‘Wall’. Right from the off, ‘The New Mrs D’ became a best seller; but not one of those fancy ‘million’ or ‘New York Times’ ones. It’s an Amazon best seller, which all authors know isn’t necessarily going to help anyone buy their house.
‘I’m going to see my name and my writing in one of my favourite publications.’
‘I’m going to sell a million books!’
This is the one I’ve been telling Field for around a year now. It’s a toughie, because a year on I’m nearer to the mark of buying a million books than I am to selling them. I didn’t even make one ‘Best Chicklit Books of 2015’ list to give me a sales boost. No one hailed my book as a ‘Top Ten Beach Read of 2015’ even after I’ve spent a lot of time asking the bloggers and journalists that make these lists for reviews. Many have gladly helped; many, many more have never replied. And as British summertime comes to a close, after allegedly having started in the first place, (has anyone had a postcard from the sun?), the beach reads lists are becoming less relevant. It seems the Field of Dreams has hit a stumbling block in the race for me to write my landlord a fat cheque.
So I better get on with the business of finishing my next book, ‘I Hate That You Bloody Left Me’, which is in edits right now.
And everyday I’m still out standing in my field, (you knew I was going to go there with that corny line, right?), watching my dogs roll around in fox poo while I say out loud what I’m going to do with my life.
Who is this nobody shouting at fields and having the audacity to write about selling a million books? Does the fear grab you when you even dare to think about doing that? This is my point. Fears can stop you reaching, and reaching is necessary if you’re going to catch that bonus ball. Let me list some common writerly fears for you:
- What if I can’t write as well as I think I can?
- What if people laugh at my efforts and I make a fool of myself?
- What if no one wants to read my work?
- What if people do want to read it and then they hate it?
- What if nobody buys it?
- What if I get some terrible reviews?
And the main one:
- What if I fail?
Read all of those fears again and imagine they all happened. Now, where in the world are you? Has the absolute worst thing that can happen to a person happened to you?
What if you don’t fail?
I had all of these fears at the beginning but I’ve met them now, and they weren’t nearly as ugly as I thought they would be. I get to say I stood up, took my turn and I tried.
Perhaps you scoff at the idea of thinking and believing yourself to success. If you happen to be an author on Twitter, you might have your own ideas for sales success. Well, let me take this opportunity to tell you this: how many books did you buy after clicking a link in a tweet from a fellow author? This should tell you what works and what doesn’t when it comes to selling yourself.
Asking the entire world to buy won’t always make them buy. Daring to tell yourself out loud you are going to sell drives you, at the very least, to work harder for it. Much harder than spending your time spewing out the kind of tweets that will make your followers mute you. Think hard about where you want to be, say it out loud and watch the answers begin to arrive.
So, I’ll race you to the finish line, oh book link tweeting author. Two hundred and forty ‘buy my book’ tweets in your timeline against two hundred and forty days of asking my future field to make the masses buy a million of my books. Because I do believe there is some truth in this ‘ask and you will receive’ thing. If you dare to make yourself want something enough, you will continue to focus on it until finally, it becomes yours. Not by chance or mystical, universal intervention; by sheer hard work, persistence and a great big dollop of belief. What I’ve found is that shouting out loud about what you want also helps drive away fear; the very thing that holds many of us back when it comes to reaching for something we want. Shout at the fear. Don’t be afraid to tell yourself outside of your head that you are going to do this and be specific about it. Just make sure you’re listening when you do.
Be specific; that’s the ticket right there. On reflection, I’ve got a new request for my pal, Field:
‘I’m going to sell a million books. But listen, I’d like this to be before I die, if you don’t mind?’
Update for Toni Betzner – this is the house:-