Posted On August 1, 2016 by Print This Post

Finding the Strength to Persevere by Natalie J. Damschroder

It’s easy to imagine that life for multi-published authors is one big party – if only that were the case. Writing isn’t just about climbing Mt. Everest. Sometimes it can be like climbing a whole range of Mt. Everests. Few careers are so demanding, and even the most successful authors can be plagued by self-doubt. Today Natalie J. Damschroder, aka N.J. Damschroder, shares her story of perseverance.

Last year, when I was invited to be a guest here at RU, I talked about the importance of education as a building block for your career. But there’s a downside to the kind of education I was talking about. The more you know, the more experience you have or the more you learn about other people’s experiences, the more discouraging this business can be.

This spring, I had a moment that brought me the closest to quitting that I’ve ever come. My daughter plays in her high school orchestra, and they had a gala with a silent auction as a fundraiser. I donated my two YA books, retail value $25, and set the minimum bid at $5.

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Now, this was as friendly an environment as you can get. Everyone knows and likes my daughter, and my YA pen name is our real last name. A couple of the other kids in the orchestra had read and liked the books. This was a fundraiser, and everyone attending the gala was there to help.

For the adult coloring books, the bidding quickly got up into the mid double digits. Children’s art supplies received an initial bid of $50. The fudge went for way more than that, eventually. But for at least an hour, my books received no bids. NONE. Eventually someone bid, and someone else increased it by $1. The final total was $10, and the winner was a girl I’d talked to at a local YA con a couple of weeks before that, an aspiring writer who didn’t buy any books at the con.

It was a nice result in that I was glad she got the books, but I wondered if it was my “sign.” You know, the one telling me to quit writing, or at the very least, to quit writing YA. I had a hard time not crying as I sat there in the cafeteria, listening to these kids doing what they’re passionate about, as I failed hard with my own passion.

Did I quit? I guess you can tell, since I wrote this post, that I didn’t. LOL Instead, I wrote over 40,000 words that month on five different projects, including the third book in the YA trilogy. That’s kind of been my MO over the past 20+ years. Double down and try harder.

A lot has changed in those two decades. At first, the big obstacle was getting attention from an agent and/or an editor. Then, as getting published got easier because of small publishers, the challenge was getting into bookstores so you had the possibility of sales. Now bookstores are on the verge of extinction, anyone can be published because of self-publishing, and the glutted market means even if you put out a great book, being noticed among the thousands is harder and harder.

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I know many people who are considering giving up, and a few who’ve already done it. I keep thinking that I should, too. The “yeah, but…” rationale that always gave me hope is getting crushed. (As in, yeah, but you never know when it’s going to be you, when you’ll hit all the right notes and achieve a new level of success.)

So what’s keeping me going? Despite all the changes in two decades, the same things are preventing me from whipping the towel into the middle of the ring and stomping off in a huff. 🙂

My Support Team
In early days, my commitment to my local and online RWA chapters/writing groups meant I wasn’t going to quit writing. I had an obligation to fulfill with all my volunteer or board duties, and I wasn’t going to invest in those if I wasn’t investing in myself and my books.

I’ve suffered volunteer fatigue for a few years now, so my obligations are far fewer. But the friendships I’ve built keep me writing. I know logically that these are true friends who won’t go away if I’m no longer a romance writer. But they’d change, and I don’t want that to happen. So I keep writing.

Tom Brady
Back in January, this football player said in a press conference that he’d read a quote recently that said “I didn’t come this far to only come this far.” I can’t find who originally said it, but it speaks to the weight of my investment. I’ve published 22 books and written more than that, and invested a lot of money and time into my brand. I didn’t do all that to stop now.

My Readers
I don’t get a lot of fan mail. But every so often, someone contacts me to tell me how much they loved one of my books. A career can’t be built on one or five readers. But each one is important to me, and I don’t want to let them down by never again writing something they might like.

My Favorite Authors
Obviously, they don’t care if I keep writing or not. But whenever I read a book I can’t put down, it galvanizes me to try to make someone else feel that way.

My Soul
It just won’t let me stop. Even if I go weeks without writing anything new or editing or even promoting (who am I kidding, the promotion never stops! LOL), it’s there. The stories and characters are in my head—in my soul—waiting for me to return to them. And no matter what else is trying to drag me down, this part of me won’t let me give up. Thank goodness!

***

Have you ever been ready to give up? Did you? What stopped you if you didn’t? And were you glad if you did?

On Wednesday, Ed Gaffney talks about “#AwkwardNotAwkward:  Why I Couldn’t Wait to Write a Gay Sex Scene with my Gay Son”

***

Bio:

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Natalie J. Damschroder is an award-winning author of contemporary and paranormal romance—Love with a Shot of Adrenaline. She sold her first book in 1999, and 2016 sees the publication of her 23rd novel. She grew up in Massachusetts and loves the New England Patriots more than anything. (Except her family. And writing and reading. And popcorn.) When she’s not writing, revising, proofreading, or promoting her work, she works as a freelance editor and proofreader. She and her husband have two daughters, one of whom is also a novelist. (The other one prefers math. Smart kid. Practical.) You can learn more about her and her books at www.nataliedamschroder.com. Or find her on Twitter, Facebook, or Goodreads!

The Color of Courage

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From high-rise ledges to charming residential neighborhoods in Washington, DC, a team of superheroes saves people and battles villains…while struggling with bill collectors, day jobs, and complicated love lives.

Empath Daley Charm feels like the weakest member of the city’s superhero team—especially when someone targets them for destruction. Her insecurities also complicate her relationship with team leader Adam Tarantino, especially since she can’t “see” emotions that are about her.
When missions start going dramatically wrong, Adam pulls away even more, knowing his feelings would reveal an exploitable weakness that could mean the end of the team. As they struggle to discover who’s sabotaging their missions, Daley must confront her own self-worth and faith in her abilities. Does she step away to protect her friends, or stand with them and risk someone getting hurt…or worse?

Buy now from Amazon.

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31 Responses to “Finding the Strength to Persevere by Natalie J. Damschroder”

  1. Ouch! That’s no fun! But think about the people of that fund raiser. Most of them probably weren’t your audience anyway. Reaching your actual market is the name of the game. The more I learn about this biz, the more I see how important that is. Yaro the blogging guru says that you only need 1000 devoted fans in order to become a mega bestseller. You collect them one at a time.

    Thanks for the post! I get tired of only hearing from debut authors. By and large, their stories are all the same. It’s the experienced authors who are down in the trenches who have the most valuable wisdom.

    Posted by Kessie | August 1, 2016, 8:04 am
    • Well, there were about 50 teenage girls there, so that’s definitely my target market. That’s why it was so depressing. It’s not just that my market was present, the books were available at SUCH a low price, and the whole purpose of being there was to bid on stuff and support the orchestra.

      I appreciate the comment, and the support! 🙂 And I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

      Posted by Natalie J. Damschroder | August 1, 2016, 8:35 am
      • I feel your pain. I was an active PTO mom for many years, and frequently set up the Silent Auction fundraisers for the school. When we went to local businesses and to parents asking for donations, we were always awed by their generosity. When it came to the actual auctions, though, you could never tell what items would become part of a bidding war and which great values would be virtually ignored. Eventually, we started showing the item’s true value on the description sheet – sometimes people just didn’t realize which items were real bargains. And other times we could stir up interest by placing a couple of introductory bids ourselves. Once people see there is competition, the bids often go wild, which is frustrating when you are one of the serious bidders. I used to write gardening books back in the day, and I found the best way to stir up interest in them at the silent auctions was to package them in a basket with flower seeds, garden gloves and other garden tools so it would make a nice gift. That way people who weren’t interested in gardening themselves would bid on it as a gift for someone else. (In case you donate to another silent auction in the future…)

        Posted by Becke Martin Davis | August 1, 2016, 10:03 am
  2. I’ve felt exactly how you’ve felt, Natalie. Sometimes I think about all the books I could be reading when I’m writing instead. But like you, reading those great books keep me going. And inspiring friends and writers like you.

    Posted by Susan Gourley | August 1, 2016, 8:22 am
    • That’s funny, Sue, because I tend to think “what the heck would I do with myself if I wasn’t writing?” LOL When of course I can easily fill that time, and do it far too often.

      Thanks so much for coming by and commenting! You’ve been part of my support team for a really long time. 🙂

      Posted by Natalie J. Damschroder | August 1, 2016, 8:37 am
  3. Wow, I just did that, too. I donated two signed books to a fund raiser and one of the organizers, a friend of mine, bought them for $5.00. But most of the people there weren’t romance readers. I’ve thought of quitting several times, but then what would I do? I’m about finished with The Color of Courage. Don’t quit. I love this book, the storyline and the characters.

    Posted by Stephanie Berget | August 1, 2016, 8:39 am
    • Aw, thank you, Stephanie! That’s a big part of what keeps me going, for sure. Any time someone actually likes what I do. 🙂

      It’s good to have that kind of logic, re: the crowd not really being romance readers. Rationality (and rationalization! LOL) can be great ammo against despair.

      Posted by Natalie J. Damschroder | August 1, 2016, 9:47 am
      • I love romance, I love mystery, I love paranormals – I just love to read. And it drives me NUTS when people disrespect romance. I live in a condo, and in the laundry room of our building there is a bookcase where people are invited to donate books and help themselves to others. I’m always happy to find romances on those shelves, because it proves a lot of people are reading the genre, even if some won’t admit it.

        I love your romances and I’m looking forward to reading your YAs. DON’T QUIT!

        Posted by Becke Martin Davis | August 1, 2016, 10:09 am
  4. Inspiring post, Natalie – thanks for sharing.

    While I haven’t been in the same situation as you with a silent auction, I have seen my books passed by on conference giveaway tables. It’s disheartening to think that someone wouldn’t want a book even for free, but then I remind myself of a few things.

    My books – on the sweet(er) side – may not be someone’s cup of tea. And there are so many books out there, no one can read them all. And sometimes when I’m very upbeat, I tell myself maybe some people who are seeing the book have already read it and so they’ve left it for someone else. 😉

    Yes, the above and much of what you said in the post can sometimes push me to into thinking about giving up. What stops me most is knowing I have stories to share that no one else can tell.

    Then there’s just plain stubbornness and never giving in. I’ll always be a writer, no matter what.

    Love the quote Tom Brady mentioned!

    Posted by Barbara White Daille | August 1, 2016, 9:13 am
    • Ugh, conference giveaway tables are the worst. I mean, the best, but also the worst. LOL You’ve also got people who don’t want extra weight for travel, and a lot of competition…but you’re right, not every book is right for every person, and it’s never personal.

      Knowing yourself at your core like that is vital. I really admire your belief about the stories only you can tell. Not all of us are able to put emphasis on that fact.

      Posted by Natalie J. Damschroder | August 1, 2016, 9:49 am
  5. We’ve all been there – and it’s only because of friends that I keep going myself sometimes. Thank you for your article. It’s enlightening to know we’re not alone.

    Posted by Vicky Burkholder | August 1, 2016, 9:13 am
    • Yes! You’ve got to keep yourself surrounded by the people who can objectively support you.

      Because it’s REALLY easy to tell someone else why they should never quit, when it’s not always easy to hold on to it for yourself. 🙂

      Thanks, Vicky!

      Posted by Natalie J. Damschroder | August 1, 2016, 9:51 am
  6. Hi Natalie,

    What an inspiring post. I’ve always thought of you as a success story.

    I’ve been considering giving up a lot lately. I pursued traditional publishing for 20 years, coming close in the form of more than a dozen revision letters on assorted manuscripts. One ms was runner up in American Title II…the winner got a publishing contract. I won a Golden Heart, and Harlequin sent two of those revision letters over two years, then said no. Even as recently as last month, a dream agent was very interested in a humorous women’s fiction, but passed.

    I self-published in January 2015, and now have 4 medievals out with a Kindlw Worlds novella coming in September. I’ve had great reviews from respected publications such as RT and Publishers Weekly. My first book just won Best First Book and Best Historical in the Booksellers Best Awards. I’ve done promo, taken out some ads and guest blogged, etc. to get the word out.

    I got a free BookBub for my first book in March. More than 27,000 copies were downloaded in 5 days, and my KU pages went up enough to cover the $390 cost. I’ve participated in 4 boxed sets with bestselling/Amazon all-star authors.

    Yet after all that, sales and KU pages aren’t growing. IMO, there are just so many free/discounted books including a plethora of boxed sets that paying even $2.99 seems like a lot.

    If I take the time, effort and money to put out more books, am I being persistent (as in the breakout book is yet to come…throw the dice one more time) or beating my head against a brick wall?

    Posted by Ruth Kaufman | August 1, 2016, 9:22 am
    • Ruth! *hugs you* I think of you the same way!

      And you just laid out all the reasons I said in my comment to Vicky that it’s really easy to tell someone else why they shouldn’t quit. If you and I were in a coffee shop right now, I’d be so passionate in my defense of your perseverance! 🙂

      I was going “YES!” through your whole comment. But it made me realize something else, too. More than ever before, the reasons this business is so hard are completely objective, non-personal reasons. It’s hard to have editors keep passing you over–that feels like being told you’re not good enough. But when sales are down because no one ever really has to pay for a book again, it’s hard to take that personally. 🙂

      Hang in there! And thanks so much for your comment.

      Posted by Natalie J. Damschroder | August 1, 2016, 9:56 am
  7. When self-publishing became a thing, I was very dubious – mainly because the first few I bought (I killed my Nook, so I still tend to buy paperbacks) were so poorly edited they drove me insane. But all that has changed. Now I regularly buy self-published books. I think most readers barely differentiate between self-published and publisher-published anymore. The quality has improved a lot, and I think the authors who self-publish now are very savvy about the marketing aspects. I think it’s wonderful that there are so many options today, although the sheer number of books out there makes it hard for readers to find the great ones.

    Like Natalie, I always think of you as a success, Ruth, and your “break-out” book might be the one you’re working on now. DON’T GIVE UP!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | August 1, 2016, 10:30 am
  8. We encourage each other to keep going when we pick ourselves up and write the next line. I also don’t believe I’d much like myself if I stopped writing. Writing is a large part of who I am, so even though there is a temptation to sometimes take the easy route, I keep writing.

    And I’m nosy, I want to know what happens in the book I’m writing, so I have to finish it. (:

    Posted by D.R. Grady | August 1, 2016, 2:59 pm
  9. Quit, no. But there are times I pull my hair out and think, “Just take a break. Five years, that’s all you need to get all the kids into school so that each project isn’t a juggling act!” 😛 But, it’s too hard to stop. I really love what I do. I love the stories and the process. So, even if it takes months longer than necessary, it’s all worth it. <3 🙂 Good job on the silent auction. Now you'll have a fan for life.

    Posted by Beth | August 1, 2016, 7:13 pm
    • I did take a break – I AM taking a break – so I could babysit for my grandkids while they are little. I’ll have a break this summer while they go visit their other grandparents, but it’s not all that easy to stop and start up again. 🙁

      Posted by Becke Martin Davis | August 1, 2016, 9:09 pm
      • Oh, Becke, I know what you mean! I wrote a whole article about inertia once. How if you stop for even a couple of days, that can drag for weeks or months because it’s so hard to start again. While if you write every day for a while, it’s easier to keep writing–until something stops you. 🙁

        Posted by Natalie J. Damschroder | August 2, 2016, 9:30 am
    • Loving it and finding it hard to stop are good things. 🙂 You can take all the time you need, and keep it balanced with the time and attention your family deserves.

      And I love your gentle poke about the auction. You’re right! If she likes the books, we have an extra connection because of the time we’d spent talking about writing. That part I’m definitely grateful for. 🙂

      Posted by Natalie J. Damschroder | August 2, 2016, 9:28 am
  10. I’m always ready to give up. Every day I sit at this desk and try to write I ask myself why I’m torching myself. The answer is always the same. What else would I do with this time? Eat bonbons?

    Posted by Glynis Jolly | August 1, 2016, 7:15 pm
  11. This has been so much fun, Natalie! I hope you’ll come visit again soon!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | August 1, 2016, 9:16 pm

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