When Spit Goes to Help in a Handbrake

“Booktrope will be ceasing business effective May 31, 2016. …Much has been accomplished by Booktrope and our community over the past six years. But even with a collection of excellent books and with very strong contributions by creative teams who’ve provided editing, design and marketing services, Booktrope books have not generated sufficient revenues to make the business viable.”

This was the thump from the other shoe dropping for which I have been waiting. Turns out it wasn’t a one-legged man upstairs after all. Not that I ever really entertained the idea that it could be a one-legged man. Over the past few months, I have witnessed too many things at Booktrope that made no business sense to me, unless – unless an announcement like this was coming.

Of course, businesses fail every day, and when they do, everyone – from the top to the bottom – loses. Booktrope was built not only on the investments of its leadership, but on the contributions of authors, editors, designers, proofreaders, marketing managers, and many, many others, believing that if we only put in enough effort, this business model could succeed. In the end, it didn’t matter how much was put into it, the model was simply not viable. A lot went into it, and not enough came out.

The problem is – and where emotions are running high – we were often told (especially as authors and marketing managers) that we simply needed to put more into it to be successful. The problem is, we were often made to feel that we were the ones not working, when in fact, the system was what didn’t work. The problem is, we were told it takes time to build a readership, and we found out quite abruptly, that we will not be given the time we need.

There was a time when I sunk every waking moment, every ounce of energy into the Booktrope model. I believed in my authors and there books, and I believed what Booktrope told me about what it took to succeed within their model. In February, as I began to realize the depth of what was happening, I remembered a conversation I had with my dad that I shared with a few friends:

Last June, as I was pouring myself into work that I loved, my Dad asked me some questions about it. Like, how many hours I was spending on it, and what the return on it was, and what progress was I making on my own writing.

And you know how I knew something was wrong? I lied. I told him I was spending about 20 hours a week on it, when I was spending close to 60 – no, some days, every. waking. moment. I couldn’t have lied about the return even if I wanted to, for reasons I won‘t go into. I lied and said my second book was coming along well even though I hadn’t touched it in at least three months.

Why did I lie? I loved what I was doing, and I didn’t want him telling me what a terrible investment of my time and talents it was.

But you know something? He told me anyway. He told me there was absolutely nothing protecting me from anybody up and walking away after I’d given everything I had.

My dad knew I was working and the system wasn’t, even then, but I wasn’t prepared to confront that reality.

It wasn’t until two days before The Field‘s release, as I surveyed my launch campaign that I realized the striving and grasping and sinking everything I had into my platform wasn’t working and was not going to work for me.

So this morning at church my pastor was talking about God sending laborers into His harvest (Matthew 9), and how the word “send” actually means to force out.

This whole author thing? It requires a hefty amount of kingdom-building. I’m not talking about world-building, which is really the setting and climate of a story; in fact, I’m not talking about writing at all, but about the business we call marketing. In the publishing world, authors are the brand and their books are the product, and authors are expected to establish their brand. Hypothetically, trust of the brand (or a relationship with it) produces sales. Experts estimate that it takes authors about five books to solidify their enough that it will begin to sell itself. In the meantime, authors are out on social media and in coffee houses making new friends, and hoping that by being engaging and interesting, people will be prompted to check out themselves and their books.

As I gear up for my launch, I’ve been extra busy with the usual – writing, scheduling, and interacting – and I find that this is not what I am supposed to be doing anymore, at least, not at this level. I am actually starting to hate the marketing side of things.

I knew – I knew I needed to give up my online platform. But. I was bound to continue building my platform instead because of my contract with Booktrope. At the end of January, things changed enough within the system that I no longer felt obligated to build my platform anymore, but I still felt there were things I needed to do to make sure the people who contributed to The Field‘s Booktrope launch received their worth. I kept up with that through March, but then I felt a release from that, too, like God was saying, “Okay, you’ve done what I’ve asked you to do. I need you to step back and let me take care of your team now.” That’s when I decided to give up the Lydia Thomas, Author platform, and pursue other marketing options instead.

I think of what my pastor said that first Sunday in October about God sometimes forcing us out, and I know that’s exactly what has happened to me here.

Things have to be different going forward, because that’s what God is sending me towards.

So, no more platform. And after May 31, The Field is going away, too, so if you’ve wanted a copy, this month is literally your last opportunity. I need to focus on other projects – projects that will be available free of charge (which I believe will alleviate any pressure to get myself out there) – and yet another launch for The Field is simply not an option. (Much as I would like it to be so my team could continue to be paid.)

If you still want to hang out, I’ll be back blogging at Wilderness Adventure. Already am, actually. Wilderness Adventure is more of an anything goes venue, and it’s focus is not about what people want to read or expect to hear from me or even making things more digestible, but what I want to write.

Thanks for spending the past two years with me. It was a good run.

Much love.

Announcement

Lydia Thomas Author is going away.

I don’t mean that I’m going to stop writing, I’m just … de-branding myself.

I’ve been in the branding myself business for about two years now, filtering myself into my online writing through a select range of topics and hooks to cultivate a following. It’s been working: slowly, but surely, my platform has grown. As I’ve connected with people, some have bought my book, which is, I’m told, what this business is all about.

Except. It’s not working for me.

I’m a person, not a brand. And while many people can be both, I’ve found I’m too fluid. Too fluid to make a distinction between who I am and what I promote, and too fluid to pick and choose parts of myself – to say nothing of bits and pieces from others – to promote. It’s exhausting – feeling like you have to say something when an issue falls under the umbrella of your brand or feeling like you can’t when it doesn’t.

Then there’s the marketing side. Having to stay abreast of what people want to see in their newsfeeds (posts with images), when posts are most visible (1p-4p EST on Facebook), how long they want the posts they’re reading to be (1,000-1,500 words on a blog), and all of the things it takes to get your blog posts to show up on Google (linking to other posts), just to name a few. It’s a constant fight against algorithms and statistics, and it gets to the point where numbers and how to fight them are all you can see. And all the other authors in your circles can see.

And so I’ve decided – I’ve decided I’m more than funnelling and filtering myself to win a fight against numbers that fluctuate with ever-changing tastes. I’m doing away with branding. And marketing.

I’ll be deleting my public Facebook, Google+, and Twitter pages at the end of this month. The Lydia Thomas Author blog will stay up, but after the end of this month, I will return to blogging on my personal blog, Wilderness Adventure.

The Field is still available through Booktrope, and I will be investing in traditional advertising to help its circulation, in the hopes that my team (editor, proofreader, cover designer, and project manager) see a return on THEIR investments. Going forward, however, I will publish my books independently and they will be free of charge, like the Small, But Wise curriculum – relieving any pressure I feel to be “out there.”

I’m relieved and delighted to be getting away from the branding and marketing and back to … what life was before I had a book that needed to be “out there.”

Just Lydia. ❤

It’s Time for an Announcement

So I’ve been sitting on this thing for a few weeks.  Since my post on hope, really.  I’ve only shared the news within a circle of very dear friends, some of whom have been praying about this thing since its inception nearly four years ago.

I’ve actually been slightly scared to share it, because sharing it makes it more real, like, there’s no going back now.  After all, I’m sharing where God is calling me to be, and when He’s calling me to be there, so if there’s any disobedience, well, everyone reading this blog will know.  Also, it means turning away from something very real in the here and now in order to wholeheartedly pursue God’s call, and I am terrified of missing out.  (It’s completely ridiculous, I know).

More and more, I realize it’s time to get off the fence, share the news, and fearlessly go after the vision God has given me.

So…

Dear Friends (whether you’ve joined me recently or you’ve been in my life for a long time),

Lord willing,  I will be moving from my longtime home in Dallas to Seattle in September 2015.  While this may seem sudden to people who haven’t known me for a long time, I have actually been praying about this move for what will be four years next month.  God placed Seattle on my heart at a time when I was seeking His will for my life after college, and in spite of several detours on my end, He has continued to bring it up again and again.  As I’ve researched Seattle in preparation for such a move, I’ve been drawn to the beauty of the Pacific Northwest, the entrepreneurial spirit of the city, the weather, and the culture.  I know beyond any doubt that God has great plans for me in Seattle, and well, I’m pretty stinkin’ excited.

The toughest question I’ve had to field has not been why I want to go to Seattle, but why not leave now since I’m so certain Seattle is where God is calling me.  Detours, my friends.  Detours.  I made a faithless decision to accept a job here in the DFW area that was less than what I should have accepted in just about every way.  During my time in that position, I accumulated nearly $30,000 in financial obligations.  Moving without a good full-time job in Seattle in place has not been an option, and such an opportunity has not arisen.  However, God has really provided for my financial obligations by first moving me out of the less-than job into two part-time jobs.  Beginning next September,  I will be free from these obligations, and God really convicted me a few weeks ago that would be the time to make my move.

Here comes the fun part:  I will be moving, job or no job.  Of course, I will be looking for a job, and I am praying God provides one before I move, because it will just make life that much easier.   However, I know God is not about giving me what is easiest, but what is best, and I’m prepared to make a move whatever happens (or doesn’t happen, as the case may be).

Friends, will you pray with me and for me?  Right now, I need prayer that I will be faithful in reducing my debts and saving money for this move over the next ten months.  As I mentioned earlier, there is something I am struggling with giving up because I’m afraid of missing out on it – I don’t want to give tons of detail, but I need your prayers on that.  Pray for renewed enthusiasm for me: I am making the most concrete plans I’ve made for Seattle, but something about praying for this for four years has me all dried up inside.  There are practical things too: a trip to get my bearings before I move, moving expenses, a job, a place to live, a church, and anything else God lays on your heart to pray.

On one hand, I can’t believe it’s time to take definitive steps in Seattle’s direction, and on the other, I can’t help but think it’s about time.

Whew!

2015 is shaping up to be a crazy busy year what with A Year with the Baptists launching (still not certain on the date, but hopefully pre-Seattle), new writing projects, and now, a relocation.

Let’s do this! 🙂