How to stand your ground – Susan Lanigan

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By Susan Lanigan

Sometimes power really doesn’t like you. God knows why: maybe you didn’t go to college, maybe you attracted the attention of someone’s boyfriend, or maybe it’s some other row that has nothing to do with you… Anyway, when my debut novel, White Feathers, came out, I had to learn fast how to deal with it. Here is what I learned:♥

1. If You’re Under Attack, Don’t Ignore it

Remember your mother’s advice when the bullies ganged up on you – “ignore them”? Remember exactly how useful that was? “Rising above it” means allowing damage to your brand and career. You need to fight back.

2. But Before You Do Anything, Wait

It’s never a good idea to go off half cock. You want to evaluate the extent of the damage that may have been caused and the most appropriate response. Waiting means asking yourself–

3. Did I Write a Good Book?

This is something you need to be sure of. Because if power doesn’t like you, and neither do readers, you’re stuffed. If readers can’t get enough of you, prospects are more cheering. The one thing I clung to and repeated during the hard times was that I wrote a good book, with the help of a wonderful editor.

4. Don’t Defend – Counter-Attack

OK, so if you did write a good book, and someone is attacking it on specious grounds, you can be sure that they will do their utmost to wilfully misinterpret your work. Don’t defend your book against any of their comments. Remember that even if the criticisms made sense, you would not answer them publicly. So why demean your book by responding to nonsense? Also, naming people you are annoyed with will cause an unedifying food fight. Avoid that. Focus on the prize.

What you may do is vigorously counter-attack in order to discredit their actions. My essay on a certain critical style went down very well with social media and fellow writers and helped boost my profile. Win-win!

5. If Power Ignores You, Court Power

I don’t mean make nice with your enemies. They’re against you; that won’t change. I mean finding another way in. Buy tickets for author events and meet some other authors in the game. Get friendly with the booksellers who want to promote your book. Twitter is also useful. But building connections must be organic, not calculated. You need to interact naturally with people, be interested in them, rather than issuing hourly tweets of BUY MY BOOK BCOS IT’S GREAT.

6. Your Publisher is Your Friend

Be sure to include your publisher in the process. If, for example, you arrange a gig on a radio show, let the publishers know so that they can arrange sending on a copy. Remember, you both want the same thing – for the good book you wrote to thrive. Work together.

7. Book Bloggers Are Powerful Allies

Book bloggers thirst for a decent read. They hoover books as if they were dust before a Dyson. So before you launch, you need to make it your business to know who the go-to book bloggers are for your genre. When contacting them, respect their rules and guidelines. You’re on their turf, after all.

8. Don’t Try To Overthrow the System: Make Your Own

If power ignores you, you can (a) wait until it notices you (b) throw a tantrum or (c) do it yourself. I favour the third option. In my case, I was unable to get a reading slot at festivals. Eventually – nine months after publication – I decided stuff ‘em, I would make my own podcasts. So I set up a new microphone and read from my novel White Feathers and stuck it on the web. That was fun!

9. Draw Strength From Your People

It’s likely that you belong to a community. This could be based on ethnic origin, culture, or personal interest (choir, football, etc.) Marshal their support, because it’s likely your community will have existing networks that will help solidify your power base.

10. Pick Your Battles

If someone gives you a one-star on Goodreads, it’s not the screaming end of the world. Seriously.

11. Have Something Else Going On In Your Life

Taking on power can be exhausting. In my case, there came a point where I had to let go a little. Have you hugged your loved ones, swum in the sea, got on your bike, enjoyed a picnic with friends, attended a concert, or even started the next book? You have to pull yourself clear of the whirlpools of bitterness. Otherwise people will get fed up of you, but worse, you’ll get fed up of yourself. And it won’t change anything.

In conclusion, when you come across opposition while bringing out your book, stay strong. When things got tough, I feared I was helpless – but when I fought back I realised my own strength, resilience and ingenuity. Bonne chance!

Susan Lanigan’s debut novel White Feathers (Brandon, 2014), a World War I novel about a girl whose family are pushing her into giving the man she loves a white feather of cowardice, was shortlisted for the Romantic Novel of the Year Award 2015 in the Historical Fiction category.

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