Thursday, September 8, 2011

Do Everything Syndrome

Posted by L.J. Sellers, author of the Detective Jackson mysteries

When I heard about Amazon’s new feature—@author—I got excited and posted a comment on Amazon’s blog, hoping to be included when they expanded out of beta testing. Essentially, the feature allows readers to post questions to authors as they read their books on Kindle. It seems like a really great author-reader connection. Then I started thinking about it. I love answering readers’ questions about my novels, but being a relatively unknown author, I only get a few a day, and it’s still time consuming. What if I suddenly got dozens a day? How much time would it take?

Then I realized my reaction to the news was a classic symptom of what I call Do Everything Syndrome. As a struggling indie author with no marketing support and no distribution network, I’ve had to do everything humanly possible to reach as many readers as possible. I’ve been in that mode for four years. Every time I saw a new website that reviewed indie authors, I made note of it or put it on my to-do list. Every new marketing idea I saw other writers implement went on my list. Every well-trafficked blog got added to my list of places to guest blog. And so on. It was overwhelming.

For a while, I even thought I had to join every new social networking site at least to have a presence. Then I finally realized I can’t actively work them all, and just having a page up with no activity doesn’t really benefit me. In fact, I’ve only recently come to accept that I not only can’t do it all, but that some of it, even if I had more time, would not be cost-effective. I’ve started checking in with authors and asking: Did that iPad giveaway work for you? Did that exclusive reader book club get good participation? Often, the answer is: not really.

Don't get me wrong. I think this idea from Amazon is intriguing and if they ask me to participate, I probably will. But all those activities take time away from writing. And I hear from readers all the time who simply have one question: When is your next book coming out? I’ve come to realize that most of my current readers have only that one expectation—that I write new books as fast as I can. Also, in the last month, I’ve read several blog posts indicating that full-time authors should be producing three or four books a year. In my case, that means writing and also publishing, but it’s still doable.

So I’ve shifted my priorities. I’m learning to ignore things that look like great ideas but probably aren’t. I’ve reconfigured my browser so all those reader forums don’t open automatically. I’m keeping my to-do list at a minimum and my writing time at a maximum. It’s not an easy adjustment. My natural mental state is to think I can and should do it all, and most authors I know share that overachiever, driven mentality.

Of course, I want to keep reaching new readers. But my new mantra is: Just write another great story and they will come. I think I’m going to be a lot happier…and so will my loyal readers.


  1. I'm taking notes, L.J. My natural inclination is to take advantage of everything that comes my way, but I've learned to sit back and take a wait-and-see approach to some things. And I'm not even published yet!

    Good luck on the best seller list goal! And, um . . . let us know if this works for you.

  2. This has been a struggle for me too, to the detriment of new work. Dang, this writing gig is hard!

  3. I have that Do Everything mentality except mine seems to be geared more to things that don't involve writing. Like in the Since You're Home All Day You Don't Really Work variety. But I'm learning to at least say, "Later." Still working on the "No."

  4. I'm so guilty of adopting that mentality, too, L.J.! Thank you for the reminder that sometimes less really is more...

  5. I have the same problem as you, Joyce. It's really tough if you're anywhere close to being a perfectionist.

  6. Hi L.J.! I wanted so much to be a full-time author, but I think that´s not for anyone.. I tryed to join every readers club I met, to anounce my books at the blogs, but like u said, mostly it doesn´t bring any results.. I still wanna know how u make to sell so many books without having an editor, maybe in the US it´s easier than in Brasil.
    Anyway, I´ll try to write more too.. inspite of keep wishing people will get to know me, when it never gives me any sells...LOL
    best wishes 4 u!!
    ps- sorry about my english folks!

  7. There's so much misinformation going around about book promotion, and from what I've seen and experienced, much of it does little to increase sales. So I think you're correct, L.J., in being suspect when a new product or service comes around claiming to be The Next Big Thing. I also think you've hit on the most important element in all this: Write damn good books, and write a lot of them. I think if you do that and give your readers the respect they deserve the rest will follow.

  8. I've thought about this a lot and came to the same conclusion with a twist. The only question I get from readers is when's the next book. But, that's because they liked the last book. I fear that if I turn out too many too often, they will quit asking when's the next book. Also, my mind will turn to mush.
    So, I've shifted my priorities, too. My goal is to write books that keep readers coming back as often as possible, and still stay sane. I doubt I'll get rich that way, but it's how I want to live my life.

  9. LJ, I can so relate to that syndrome. I'm still trying to stop myself trying to do everything, and although I realise it's to the detriment of my writing time, I have trouble saying 'no'. My sixth book is released in October and all the pre-promotion involved has meant little time to write. I remember how little I had to do promotion-wise when my first book was published and am amazed how much publishers' expectations re promotion have changed since then.

  10. "Just write another great story and they will come." - Great mantra, LJ! That's the key, so try to remember that when people and sites try to draw you away from your writing, which is the single most important activity for your career - and your eagerly anticipating fans!


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