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.

Ties That Bind by Heather Huffman

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About Ties that Bind (from Amazon):

Author Heather Huffman delivers a romantic comedy of friendship, love and family ties in this vibrant city adventure as a fiercely independent yet vulnerable woman with a weakness for shoes – and sexy British accents – forges a new path that will leave her forever changed.

Kate Yager never had a father, and she never minded – until her mom died. Now, acting on the name called out on her mother’s deathbed, Kate has moved to San Francisco and gotten herself hired by the man she suspects to be her dad. As if a new job, new apartment, and new parent weren’t enough, Kate finds herself head-over-heels in lust with a complete stranger she met at an art show. A stranger who, she later finds out, happens to work in her office.

As her relationships with her friends and father grow stronger, Kate has to confront the decisions of her past to find out whether she can love the man who gave her up, love the man who loves her truly, and even whether she can love herself.

About Heather Huffman (from Amazon):

Heather Huffman lives in Missouri with her husband and their three sons. In addition to writing, she enjoys spending time with their growing alpaca herd, the family horse, and their pack of rescued dogs. A firm believer that life is more than the act of taking up air, Heather is always on the lookout for an adventure that will become fodder for the next novel.

You can connect with her on her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

My Review:

I give Ties that Bind by Heather Huffman 4 out of 5 stars.

I love me some chick lit.

I’ll be honest: I picked out this book as part of my Booktrope #PreFunk haul because of the cover.  Aren’t those purple heels to die for? And I don’t even wear heels… I mean, I read the synopsis before I downloaded it, of course, but my mind was already made up.

I settled into Kate Yager’s story with a bowl of ice cream late on Saturday night after watching Down with Love (with Renee Zellweger and Ewan McGregor), and finished it late last night. I would have read straight through if I could have, but … sleep. And church. And the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice. (Yes, I am most definitely in a mood.)

Anyway, I really enjoyed Kate’s struggle as she gets to know new friends, a love interest, and her estranged father.

There are certain character clichés in chick lit, but I found the characters were unexpected and refreshing. For example, Kate’s stepmother encourages her relationship with her newly-found father, although she is only slightly older than Kate, and she’s an artist, not some trophy wife.  Kate’s two new friends, Jessica and Liz, are beautiful and successful, but not at all catty or threatened by her. Even Kate’s father didn’t respond how I thought he would upon learning Kate is his daughter.

I loved the chemistry between Kate and Gavin, but then I’m a sucker for great chemistry. (See Down with Love and Pride and Prejudice.) I like when there’s tension over whether or not a couple will get together and stay together, and Huffman certainly delivers that. Although it was never expressly mentioned, and there were many “near misses”, Kate and Gavin practiced abstinence until marriage, or at least, that’s the vibe I got. Please don’t get me wrong: I’m the biggest proponent of waiting until marriage, but…I didn’t understand it for these characters. At first, they talked about taking things slow physically, and the next thing I understood (much, much later in the story) was that they were waiting for their wedding. I wanted to understand why they were waiting – what values prompted that decision? Granted, the “near misses” were entertaining and heightened the tension.

Huffman also knows just when to end a chapter. Saturday night, I found myself saying, “Just one more chapter,” way too many times, and she works in a suspenseful, serious element into the mix as well.

If you’re in the mood for a some good chick lit, I highly recommend Ties that Bind with a bowl of ice cream. Or chocolate. Or a glass of wine. Or whatever your poison is. It’s a fun story.

Full Disclosure: Heather Huffman is my managing director at Vox Dei Publishing. This review was not solicited or coerced, and contains my unadulterated opinion.