The world tells us to be quiet from a very early age.
When the literature we read in school is written by men, and bookstores are dominated by books written by men, and laws are made mostly by men. You won’t say anything important, the world says, so you might as well not speak.
Be nice, be pretty, be quiet.
Most women who have dared to write a book has been told not to, a hundred times, a thousand ways. With words, with fists. We have been silenced a million times. And we fight back.
I’ve been blessed in this book world to be surrounded by women with voices, who use them, who encourage other women to use theirs.
You can’t write books, the world says.
These women say, I just did.
But the fight doesn’t stop there.
You can’t sell your books, the world says, speaking through the mouths of editors and agents and, most painful of all, other authors. There is always someone helpful enough to “tell it like it is,” to lower our expectations, and we’re supposed to thank them for it.
And then I see these same women, these brave, smart, talented women, say, “You’re right, I can’t.”
Why does this matter?
Why can’t we be content to write books but never earn a living from them?
Because “be content” is a not-so-subtle euphemism for “be quiet.” It’s just another way to say that our words will never be as important, as worthy, as valuable as a man’s.
A woman’s books are a hobby, but a man’s are a career.
It matters because the voices we most need to hear are the ones who are primary caregivers and work one job, two jobs, three jobs already. They need books to replace at least one of them or they cannot write them, and it DOES NOT HELP to tell them to be quiet.
I started this newsletter thinking if I could just help one woman earn a living through her books, it would be worth it. You can take your career to the next level—not with the luck of a viral book, but by learning marketing. Here’s how, here’s how, here’s how. Over forty emails about Facebook ads and release parties and newsletters.
It took me a while to realize I wasn’t fighting the lack of knowledge.
It gets me down, sometimes. It gets me down today. Because what I’m fighting is an entire lifetime of being told to be quiet, to be content. I can say here’s how until I’m blue in the face, but it won’t convince an author she can earn a livable wage if she’s already sure she can’t.
In the same way, you could write out every single thing you know about characterization and plot structure and language. But if you have that one family member or friend who always says, “I want to write a book,” but never does? That won’t help them. Because they are their own barrier. All of the knowledge about how to write books is already out there in the world, floating around the internet and libraries, so why doesn’t everyone who wants to write a book do it?
This is what I mean when I say that authors control our careers.
The good: that we can apply focused marketing to sell more books.
And the bad: that when we tell ourselves it’s impossible, it is.
Every single day there is a post that drops into my feed that sounds like this: I’m discouraged, sales are down, I might have to quit. I already know that [insert the best marketing techniques here] don’t work for me, and I just can’t [do a thing that is totally do-able], so what else is there?
There’s just no answer to that. Bless the authors who try. I used to be one of them, but I haven’t for a long time. I had to realize then, too, that it wasn’t a lack of knowledge.
It’s something else.
The same reason I told myself I was too busy to do this, or too stuck in my ways to do that, or too much of a control freak to do that. And if I’m a real artist, I don’t have to do any of that anyway. All of these ways I limited myself before I even got started.
I’m telling you this because if there’s something you want to do, an amount you want to earn, a number of books you want to sell, and you have not achieved that yet, you are your own barrier. I am my own barrier. Somewhere along the way, someone told us we can’t, it might have been to hurt us or to “help” us, but they said it and we believed them.
So let’s just call bullshit on that. Collectively. Right now.
When you believe that you can, really believe, like with the same certainty that you know you could get up and drink a glass of water right now, and when you want it, really want it, like you’re dying of thirst, that’s when you’ll do it. Not before.