What Did You Do in 2009? Take Stock of Your Accomplishments

December 31, 2009 at 9:24 pm | Posted in The Journey | 4 Comments
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For the last week or so, I’ve anxiously anticipated the arrival of 2010. I wanted to leave 2009 far behind. It felt like a wasted year without anything noteworthy to show for those 365 days. Why? I didn’t feel like I accomplished anything I wanted to do. My book, The Break-Up Diet: A Memoir, didn’t become a bestseller and I didn’t get a publishing deal for my next book—the one I still haven’t written yet. So, why wouldn’t I be in a hurry to chalk it up as a loss and move on?

Then I read a tweet on Twitter, posted by one of my fellow writer tweeps who mentioned the importance of taking stock of the year’s accomplishments to help boost your sense of career (or creative) achievement. That got me thinking. Well, I did get a couple nods in two award contests I entered. My book premise did catch the eye of a television producer… Hmmm…lemme see what else I could add to my accomplishments list. So, I pulled up my handy-dandy Google calendar (love love love that thing). Starting in January, I checked each month to see what I did throughout 2009.

And HOLY A.D.D., Calendar Man! I did more than I thought!

My 2009 Accomplishment List:

Worked as Senior Editor for WOW! WomenOnWriting.com, sold partner share in company
Joined Toastmasters, completed Competent Communicator Manual in six months
Completed National Speaker’s Association ProSpeak program
Hired to speak at national writing conference, regional writing organization, and local writing groups
Taught in-person and online workshops
Wrote an ebook “The Hungry Writer’s Guide to Tracking & Capturing a Literary Agent”
Invited to blurb an author’s book
Did bookstore readings and book signings
Took my book on a month-long blog tour
Was profiled in regional writing organization newsletter
Guest blogged and interviewed authors on my blog
Offered a TV series option for my book
Published articles on WOW! and in NSA newsletter
Invited to do radio interview on Playboy radio (chickened out)
Hired to do freelance manuscript analyses
Attended Book Expo America in NYC, met my agent face-to-face
Named one of the “70 Nonfiction Authors to Follow on Twitter” by Mashable
Guest appearance on a publishing industry talk radio show
Exhibited at West Hollywood Book Fair
Attended Miami Book Fair
Made finalist in Foreword Magazine’s 2009 Book of the Year Awards
Received honorable mention in life stories category of Writer’s Digest’s Self-Published Book Awards
Joined a memoir critique group
Guest appearance on West Hollywood cable TV talk show
Took an online workshop about how to write for the Trues
Started two new writing projects: a TV pilot and new memoir
Completed Zumba Instructor Training workshop
Took a week-long vacation to Cancun and a week-long trip to Florida (to scout for a new home)

Whew. It think that’s it. What did I learn from this exercise? Note to self: Enjoy the journey. Embrace the process. Do a little each day and by the end of the year, you’ll have accomplished more than you ever thought you could.

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Ok, dear readers, I challenge you to make your own list. Tell me, did you meet your 2009 goals or exceed them? Or, like me, did you just go with the flow, follow your interests, stay open to opportunities, and see what happens?

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Book Award Contests Take the Money and Run

February 9, 2009 at 2:54 pm | Posted in Promotion | 13 Comments
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cute-duckling-scamI was emailing back and forth with a new writer friend who passed on a link to me for an upcoming awards contest for self-published books. She loved my book, The Break-Up Diet: A Memoir, and thought I should enter the contest.

Now, she’s fairly new to the publishing game, so I tried to put myself back into a pair of shiny newbie shoes and see the excitement of it from her perspective—instead of looking at it through the eyes of my crusty, well-worn cynicism.

Then I thought: “Hey, wait a minute!” This snarky ol’ broad (me) has learned a thing or two by taking quite a few tricycle trips around the publishing block. So, I decided I need to warn the newbies: keep them from falling into the open manhole (er…personhole?) of wasting money and hope on award contests that don’t deliver the gift-wrapped manna from the publishing gods that they often promise.

I went to the link she provided and decided to read the contest FAQs to see what this “opportunity” was all about. Ok, I’ll be honest, I went there to gather good fodder for a blog post. And I knew I’d find it. One claim I came across made me choke on my own spit. (Don’t try to pretend you’ve never done that before.) I thought this particular claim was either wonderfully egocentric and naive, or insidiously misleading for a clueless newbie who may not know any better:

“What makes _________ Book Awards so special?
The ________ Book Awards is the only awards program of its kind because cash prizes and/or awards and maximum exposure (even possible representation) with a leading New York literary agent are given to the top 70 books entered.”

I won’t even talk about how much of a hot mess that sentence is. But, seriously? Claiming it’s the ONLY awards program of its kind?! Um…no. Not gonna fly.

The top self-pub awards: ForeWord Magazine’s Book of the Year (11 years); The IPPYs (13 years); Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards (17 years), and The Nautilus Book Awards* (10 years). These awards programs are actually worth entering. Long-standing proof of excellence? Yep. Respected judging panels? Got it. Industry-wide recognition? Check.

Newbies, grab a Q-tip. Clean out your wet-behind-the-ears ears and listen closely: If the awards contest you plan to enter DOES NOT have these qualities—step away from the PayPal button and go make a cup of tea. My favorite is Zen Mango with honey. Pour me a cup while you’re at it.

Here’s the deal, there are soooo many book “awards” sites that are all primed to take your money. They may be legitimate awards contests: Yes—you pay the entry fee and have the chance to win some prize money and you get a medal/trophy/ribbon or gold-plated mouse pad. And maybe a literary agent will look at your book (or maybe not, you’ll never actually know). But, no one in the industry takes those awards seriously. And while you are crossing your fingers and toes, hoping to win, the person hosting the contest is laughing all the way to the bank with your money and the money from hundreds (maybe thousands) of hopeful author/publishers just like you.

Don’t be the author who helps fund his first-class ticket to Barbados.

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*Editor’s note: Thanks go out to a reader for catching my oversight in mentioning the Nautilus Awards in my original post. The Nautilus recognizes books that inspire spiritual growth, conscious living, and positive social change. And I can’t think of a better reason for a book award!

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