Tending Your Writer Garden: the Old & the New

Spring is a time of growth, and this spring has seemed especially so. It may be that I’ve been settled in this home, and in some new life roles (namely, motherhood), for just about six years now. Long enough for roots to deepen and thrive. Here’s one of my gardens now. Mostly strawberries and hostas; it keeps drawing my eye these days. It’s morphed a few times over five springs, and looks lovelier than ever this year.

Strawberries a-coming! They took four years to really produce.

My cheery, apple-bearing gnome. My daughter chose him for me.

I saw the Tend Your Garden analogy on Joe Konrath’s blog today. If you’re a writer, and have never perused Joe’s incredibly informative (and often controversial) blog, you must check it out. Do it now. I’ll still be here in a year when you bother to come back…he’ll suck you in over there, I promise, and it will be worth it. To sum it up, today’s post was about continually drawing new eyes to your backlist, by continually focusing on the market for it, and improving it. Very good advice.

First, I’m going to absolutely agree with Joe, that you must put effort continually into improving the books you have on the market.

I published my first book in August 2011. I now have four fantasy romance novellas, two fantasy novels, and one fantasy short story (free here) on the market. Over the last couple of years, I’ve cultivated my work that’s already on the market by:

  • Investing in new cover art
  • Experimenting with prices (on single books, and price structures with series)
  • Changing back matter (the excerpts, links, descriptions, etc. that you include at the back of your ebook or paperback)
  • Staying up on ebook formatting standards, and uploading new versions when needed 
  • Editing and updating descriptions 
  • Adding tag lines
  • Using Picmonkey to make buttons to use for promotions
  • Learning to make my own covers for short stories (a major work in progress – maybe something that will never be my strength)
  • Listing with KDP select for a time so I could give away thousands of books (with little sales results so far, but my editor likes to tell me they’re like ticking time bombs on people’s Kindles, ready to draw readers when they finally get around to opening my free book)

There’s more that I could do. Definitely. I’m always wanting to do more, and I’m always reading other writers’ blogs and experimenting with what I think might work for me. I’ve also been experimenting more with Facebook, but I really don’t understand how the writers who are popular there manage so much interaction. It’s amazing, that’s for sure. And I am just trying to have fun with it, and as Joe mentions, not measure my progress against anyone else’s. I’m in my mid-thirties, and I have a lot of years to invest, and a lot currently on my hands…I don’t need the pressure of acting like this is all a race.

While it’s important to improve work you’ve already released, and draw new eyes to it continually, as Joe points out, for a writer at the beginning of their career, a focus on how you want your writer portfolio to look in five or ten years is crucial. Promoting one or two books today is not going to pay off in the long run as much as getting your behind back in the writing chair and releasing another two books a year (at least) so that you have ten more books on the market in five years. Twenty more books in ten years. When a reader finds you at that point, they will have more of your work to buy — and readers LOVE to buy more of an author they like. Make it available by getting your behind back in the chair.

**Sidenote: isn’t that a great excuse to do what you love, which is why you’re a writer in the first place?**

Back to Joe’s overall analogy of tending the writer garden: I believe it also starts with cultivating your own loves and passions, and that includes your writing, but it also includes the positive mindset and joy that grows from pursuing other passions, be it time with friends/family, play of some sort, another art like painting or music, gardening, hiking, being in nature….do those things that make your heart sing. And when you return to your writer chair, you’ll have filled the well, tapped in with those deep roots, and you’ll be a happier, more productive writer.

About J.R. Pearse Nelson

J.R. Pearse Nelson is a native Oregonian, residing in the beautiful Portland area. She lives with her husband, two small daughters and the family dog. J.R. is always searching for the magic in our world. She weaves tales rooted in mythology, bringing legend to life in modern-day and fantasy settings. J.R. is the author of the Children of the Sidhe paranormal romance series, the Foulweather Twins fantasy series, and the Water Rites fantasy series. You can connect with J.R. online at her website. Visit jrpearsenelson.com.

3 comments on “Tending Your Writer Garden: the Old & the New

  1. I don’t have time for a long comment and should come and pay more attention anyway. But my not on topic comment is this:
    We haven’t had time to do anything with our garden this year. Too much softball.

  2. LOL, Andrew! Our kids are three and five now, which means they love hanging out in the yard while we work, and they’re even sorta helpful. This is the first year I’ve really been willing to work in the yard, my husband graciously took all that on when we had the kiddos. Together we’re able to knock stuff out really fast, so we’ve managed to get a lot done this year. 🙂

    I had a waking nightmare earlier about the schedule fiascos we’ll face when the kids are older and pursuing their own interests. As you said on your blog, it’s important to support them…and also super time consuming.

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