Learning from Failure
We all fail. We all try new things and have them just not work out the way you expected. But that doesn’t mean that you throw away what you did and never look at it again. You need to stop, take a good hard look at what you did and why it didn’t work and see what you can salvage from it. I always like to glean some sort of lesson from each of my failures.
My latest failure was my You Decide Story.
After speaking with my friend, Pru Warren, I decided to give it a try (I even blogged about it here). She swore to me that it was like gold in both getting new subscribers to her newsletter and getting her existing subscribers engaged.
Well, that might have been true with her romantic comedy readers, but I can tell you with a certainty that it’s not of my Regency romance readers. I did everything I could to get my readers engaged. I posted about the story on social media. I even made a podcast of myself reading the chapters aloud.
What did I get?
I got 18 readers sign up for the special newsletter for the story (there were 19 to begin with, but one person dropped out halfway through). Every week, I posted a chapter of the story and four choices of what could happen next, with the last choice always being “something I haven’t thought of”. Every week about four people would click on their choice and one person would email me and say that it should be a combination of all of the above—every single week! Lol!
Half of the people who signed up for the newsletter opened it. That’s good! But most didn’t click an option. Why? If they read it, it was only one click, and they’d register their opinion. But, I guess, they didn’t care enough to do that. Or they just didn’t want to decide on the next chapter. Perhaps, for some reason, they just like being passive readers; having the author decide what will happen next. (That’s the one I believe is true, or so I tell myself.)
So, what have I learned, aside from the fact that my readers really aren’t interested in engaging with me any more than they already do?
Well, I learned that I am not a seat-of-you-pants writer! Having to write a chapter of what turned out to be a novella was pure torture and, I’m absolutely certain, the worst thing I’ve ever written. Not because I’m a bad writer, but because I couldn’t plot it out beforehand. I could decide before I wrote it how the characters would grow. I couldn’t plot out my story structure to ensure that there would be a point of no return around the midpoint, or a black moment at the three-quarter mark. I had none of that because I don’t know how to plot on the go and I had no idea how long the book would be, so how did I know when I’d reached the mid-point?
Pantsers just somehow know this. They somehow figure this out or have a feel for how long the book will be and vaguely (I suppose) what will happen. I have a coaching client who is a pantser who does a pretty good job of this. After he’s done writing his book, I go back and plot it out. He may need to add another scene or two to heighten the mid-point and the black moment, but on the whole, they’re there or the foundations of them are there. It’s incredible!
But that’s not me. It’s not how I write or how my brain works. I am not a pantser and this exercise forced me to be one.
I also learned that while I love reading mystery and even writing minor, small mysteries into my romances, I am not a mystery writer. It just takes too much work! And I’m really not good at creating red herrings or dropping clues so a reader won’t notice them. This novella I wrote with my readers was a mystery first and foremost and it’s not a very good one.
I’ve also learned that I’m a very lazy promoter of my work. I mean, I’ve always known this, but every week before and during the writing of this story, I would tell myself that I would promote this more; that I would create a Facebook ad to get more people to sign up for this newsletter. Did I? Nope.
I market in spurts. Every now and then I’ll create an ad and throw it up on Facebook or publish it to Bookbub. I’ll get a few sales out of it and then it will expire and that will be that. I really need to be more consistent with my marketing. I know this! Do I do it? Nah-ah. Maybe it should be a new year’s resolution—not that I hold to those either, but it would look good, wouldn’t it?
So, all-in-all, this You Decide Story was a complete failure. I am most definitely not going to do that again! But it wasn’t a total loss. I did learn some important lessons from it. And now, I’m going to go and see if I can’t get some marketing done…