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CHANGE FOR SUCCESS

Change – the act or instance of making or becoming different

Transitioning to 2020

It’s cold – January in New England cold. A new year is underway and I have to write 2020 on my checks. Changing can be a struggle. I sip my cappuccino and glance out the kitchen window. The dead grass is bare from last week’s thaw – looks bleak. I’m supposed to be reading newspaper clippings but my thoughts wander back to the Mississippi Delta where the grass was never covered with white powder. I’m in first grade, having just returned from Christmas vacation. I need to write 1951 on my arithmetic paper, but I forget and write 1950. Whack! Mrs. Shifman’s ruler on my thin leg improves my memory. She erases the zero with her fat green soap eraser and I write the numeral one in chagrin. I do try hard to please her.

It’s a bobcat!

“Look!” my husband cries, dropping the Sunday paper and yanking me out of my reverie. “There’s a bobcat in the yard!” I grab my cellphone and move closer to the window. Over the years, we’ve seen deer, woodchucks, rabbits, foxes, coyotes, even tracks from black bear, but never a bobcat. I click but the screen ruins my photograph. The bobcat sneaks over the edge of the gully and disappears. My photo captured black mesh. I stare out at the frozen trees, gray and brittle, shivering against the bare winter sky. I’ve seen my first bobcat.

I’m supposed to be an author.

Slipping back into my chair, I pick up the clippings, but I’ve tired of the news. I open my Mac Book and log into the back-end of my website – you know, the part where you load your content and create pages. That’s where I’ve been living for the past four months, feeling like the village idiot. I do not want to know what those guys in tech support say when they open my pathetic emails. I was never meant to build websites: I write books!

But I had a problem. Could I change for success?

Ten years ago, when I’d first released my books to my publisher, I’d made some effort to promote them. The truth was, I hated selling. I hated self-promotion. I cringed at the thought of putting myself forward. Even in my prior business selling computers and accounting software, I’d hired a sales manager as soon as profits had allowed. Before that I’d spent eighteen years in the retail automobile business. I’d seen car salesmen do things that would get them locked up today. Harboring my negative attitude toward selling, I’d left my books to rot on Amazon for a decade. No one would notice one more starving writer. Well, you can skip the starving part.

It takes time to align the stars:

While my books collected digital dust on Amazon, my husband and I pulled up roots in Massachusetts (oh, the pain), sold our home, and moved to New Hampshire. By spring 2019, the earth and I were ready for a fresh start. What should I do? Writing books was no road to riches. I needed something to keep me challenged, maybe a new business.

My saner self said, “Are you crazy?”

My not-so-sane self said, “I’m only seventy-five years old; still a spring chicken.” But those closest to me continued nagging, “Finish your novel. I can’t wait to read it.”

Why not. I dove into the stale writing project only to have a major disagreement with my protagonist, Alexandra. BTW – don’t call her Alex unless she gives you permission. I didn’t know her well as she hadn’t been in the original outline. Since the day she’d appeared, she’d been difficult. After signing a truce with her, I sat down and finished the first draft. My euphoria at completing the hardest part of writing a book vanished as the miserable truth came back to haunt me, “Nobody knows your books exist.”

“The only thing constant, is change.” Paraphrase of Alvin Toffler

Had anything changed in the world of independently published authors? Years had passed since I’d spoken with anyone who wrote books. I hadn’t even noticed when my small publisher took her website down. Unbeknownst to me, the derogatory term “vanity published” had morphed into “Indie Author”. Create Space, once the sole-purview of publishers, was now owned by Amazon Kindle, and extended a warm welcome to authors. Website themes could be purchased, and authors (crazy enough to try) could upload their own content. Wow!

Metamorphosis:

Could I change? What if I overcame my personal repugnance for self-promotion? What if I altered my perspective? Perhaps I could don my entrepreneurial hat, and treat the promotion and marketing of my books like a business. Could I step back and gain objectivity? My books were my digital inventory. I owned them! Everyone who reads my books loves them and passes them on to their friends. Maybe if I didn’t treat my books like the best kept literary secrets on the planet, I could build a nice little business, selling something I loved, writing more, and sharing my life and insights with my readers. Better than that, I observed that over the intervening years, authoring had become a two-way conversation between reader and writer; like a community.

Change for success:

So, there was more than one way to skin a cat. I’d take my publishing rights back. Marketing would be a business process. I would shift my perspective from subjective to objective. And I would have fun.

I gather my computer and papers from the table and head for my office where windows also look out on the back yard. Snow is falling gently, whitening the scrubby woods in the gulley. Do you think the bobcat will return?

Cluck! Cluck!

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