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Sunday, November 6, 2016

How Many Years to Become an Overnight Success?

You've heard the sayings by many different celebrities that it takes ten to fifteen years to become an overnight success. There is even a site dedicated to capturing the quips. Certain themes run throughout all of them. Overnight success is a myth, luck plays a part, and years of dogged work guarantees you nothing.

I didn't chose the life of an author to see my name on the New York Times best seller list, the measure most authors would agree on as the epitome of success. Of course, I'd love to see that, but I'm an author because I have fun with the process. I love creating and sculpting a story. I enjoy discovering readers and learning how they discover my work. I'm intrigued by the process of reaching readers through social media and marketing. I love the business and the creativity demanded in the publishing life.

I'm still working on becoming an overnight success, but I'm aware of accomplishments along my way. This November marks a few milestones for me. Four years ago, my first book, The Charity, was published and I started attending author events. Those initial events affirmed my love of the process of marketing as well as writing. Good thing, as a few of my signings were more challenging than others.

Fans from Canada! They didn't mind the cold as much as I did.
Some of my first signings were at the Equine Affaire. This conference is an annual pilgrimage for professionals and civilians in the equestrian world and draws over one hundred thousand people to the four day event. My books revolve around the horse world, so I knew I needed to be there to reach one sweet spot of my target audience. Was I featured at a book store? Nope. My first signings were as a guest with my brother's company, Eastern Hay. I propped my books up on a few hay bales and chatted with horse-loving and book-reading patrons. I sold a lot of books, made a few fans and learned a whole lot more than I bargained for about alfalfa hay and nutrition content of different horse feeds. I stood outside in the snow one year, cold drizzle another. All the while, I was seeing what people bought, figuring out why they bought what they did, and wondering how to get my foot in the door. I chatted with store owners, met different event organizers, and networked. In my rare down times, I attended equitation clinics and toured the breed barns to satisfy my horse cravings. I had a blast!

Fast forward four years. This month, I've been invited to moderate two author panels at Equine Affaire. Taborton Equine Books, where I was a featured author last year, will host book signings for all of the panelists afterwards. I'm thrilled at the honors, plus I'll be inside and warm! I have a short story (featuring a survivor of human trafficking at a therapeutic riding center) being released in Best New England Crime Stories by Level Best Books, and am a panelist at the EQUUS Film Festival in New York City. All of that is in addition to the bread-and-butter events of book clubs and local author fairs. 

These events are fun for me, but they have a purpose as well. If enticing a reader to buy your book is like getting a kid to like broccoli, then it takes more than one exposure to an author name to develop a fan base. With each of these events, my circle of influence is larger than what I could have reached on my own. My name is listed on schedules, in programs, and on websites. When people see my name there, they know I'm serious about writing and the publishing business. I'm leveraging every little bit I can to reach the next rung up the success ladder.

So why bother? Well, if you go by the timeline above, I only have another six to eleven years before I hit it big.

Good thing I'm having fun.

Maggie Dana, Natalie Keller Reinert, Jean McWilliams, Connie Johnson Hambley when I first discovered Taborton Equine Books. The coat and scarf say it all!