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Hold Fast to Your Dreams – Guest Post by Terri Giuliano Long
“Hold fast to dreams for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly.” – Langston Hughes
Hold Fast to Your Dreams – Guest Post by Terri Giuliano Long
Since fall 2010, as I prepared to publish my debut novel, In Leah’s Wake, through the long, tedious marketing process, I learned a lot about myself. I’ve learned what it takes—and how exhilarating it feels—to hold onto your dreams. Early on, a former agent—then selling editing services—told me my book had no merit. “You’ll never sell 500 books,” she assured me, never mind the 5000 I dreamed of selling. That day, and many times along the way, frustrated, exhausted, I considered quitting. But I’d already taken the leap. And I didn’t know if I could do it again.
Despite the odds, the internal demons telling me I was no good, I kept moving forward.
Following a prescribed course is the most probable path to success—and it’s important. Staying on track, being in tune with the culture feels comfortable and safe. But to realize your dreams, sometimes your only option is a leap of faith. That’s hard. It’s scary to move out of your comfort zone, creep into unfamiliar territory. Until you’ve had a chance to reach out and build a community, you’re alone. You’re forced to learn new things—and there’s always a learning curve. You may not be good at everything you try. You may fail. That thought can paralyze you. Yet if you never take a risk, you may never reach your full potential. You’ll never know what you might have accomplished.
For years, I’d hoped to publish a novel, but for a long time I was that broken-winged bird Hughes refers to.
Dave and I had married early, at 18 and 19, and we had four daughters. After graduating college, at 38, I enrolled in a master’s program in creative writing. I wrote the first draft of In Leah’s Wake for my master’s thesis and spent two years revising. My former agent, a lovely person, shopped the book; we had several close calls and received encouragement from some of the most prominent editors in the industry; unfortunately, we received no offers.
I continued to believe in the book and, in 2005, sold it to a small publisher. At last, my dreams would come true! I spent another year revising and countless hours researching markets and media outlets and preparing a marketing plan. Weeks before the launch, unresolvable problems arose and the contract fell through. My attorney suggested self-publishing, but I had no interest. I’d come of age in the traditional world—all my friends were traditionally published—and, like everyone else I know, I stigmatized self-publishers. Self-publishing was for people who couldn’t make it in the traditional world, I thought. If I couldn’t publish traditionally, I wouldn’t publish at all.
For three years, I tried to revise, thinking, if only I can get this right, make it perfect, the novel will find a publisher. But there is no such thing as perfect. Truth: I was writing in circles, floundering. My concerned family, watching me sink increasingly closer to depression, begged me to put the book away, try something new. Reluctantly, I did.
By 2010, the publishing landscape had changed. The stigma was alive, well, and thriving in the mainstream, but traditional publishers had begun to take notice of self-published books. By then, I’d made headway on a new novel, and I saw self-publishing In Leah’s Wake as a step in the process—an audition, if you will. If I could sell 5000 books, a daunting, but impressive feat for a debut novelist, I might, I thought, attract a publisher for my new novel.
Embarrassed of self-publishing, I told no one what I was up to. Not even my parents knew I’d published. Between October and February, I sold about 200 hundred books. In late-February, with sales on the decline, I realized I could either market my book or watch it die—and watch my dreams die along with it! In early March, I started a blog and activated my Twitter account. Within a few weeks, I met Emlyn Chand, founder of Novel Publicity. For two months, we worked on building my platform and we prepared the book for market (revising the description, adding a book club discussion guide, creating a video trailer). In May 2011, I embarked upon my first blog tour.
The bloggers were wonderful – kind, generous, supportive. Social media marketing is not about shameless self-promotion; it’s about forming relationships, connecting with people. I loved this aspect of marketing. Excited about this new prospect, meeting and connecting with bloggers and readers, I put my heart and energy into marketing. In June, I sold 45 books, in July 2000, in August 20,000. Since May 2011, I’ve appeared on hundreds of blogs—and sold over 120,000 books. In Leah’s Wake has won numerous awards, most recently the prestigious Indie Discovery Award, for best literary fiction, and a Global eBook award for best popular fiction. Today, I’m a contributing writer for IndieReader and Her Circle eZine. I’ve appeared on the Jordan Rich national radio show and been interviewed on over a terrific dozen blog talk radio shows. I’ve also been featured in stories in the Newton Tab and Boston Globe and I’ve recently been invited to appear as a guest on an inspirational radio show on Voice of America.
I’m proud of my accomplishments. I’ve worked hard and taken control of my career. I won’t lie: it hasn’t always been easy. Before I could find the confidence to do any of this, I had to stop listening to the inner demons, telling me self-publishing is for losers. I was lucky – Emlyn and I worked well together, and we supported one another. Being part of a supportive community can sustain you. This is something I’ve focused on throughout my tenure as a self-published author. On my blog, we host regular community-oriented events: Indie Week, for instance, celebrated self-publishers and the industry that supports us. Authors, bloggers and industry leaders contributed posts that highlighted their experience and philosophies. Last week, we hosted a charity event to celebrate bloggers and their tireless efforts to support the indie community. I’ve written dozens of articles and news stories about the industry, geared toward informing and educating authors about self-publishing. Building a community pulled me out of myself. I stopped listening to naysayers, focused instead on the tremendously positive energy in the indie community and the exciting changes—many led by self-publishers!—in the evolving publishing industry.
Reaching out, I became an industry leader. People now look to me for help and support. Taking this leadership role reshaped my perception of myself. I used to feel like a loser. Suddenly, I was accomplishing things I never dreamed I’d accomplish – and helping other people. This confidence feeds my soul as well as my work and gives me energy.
Any worthwhile endeavor is hard. Success takes time, energy, and patience. Hold onto your dreams! No matter how frustrated you may be, don’t ever give up: the success you’ve dreamed of may be just around the next corner.
Believe in yourself. Work hard. Hold your head high. You really can make your dreams come true!
Author BIO Terri Giuliano Long is a frequent blog guest, with appearances on hundreds of blogs. She’s written news and feature articles for numerous publications, including the Boston Globe and the Huffington Post. She lives with her family on the East Coast and teaches at Boston College. Her debut novel, In Leah’s Wake, was a Kindle bestseller for more than 6 months. For information, please visit her website: www.tglong.com. Connect with Terri via her Blog, Facebook, or Pinterest. OR tweet her at @tglong
In Leah’s Wake
WINNER, Global eBook Award, Popular Literature, 2012
WINNER, Indie Discovery Award, Literary Fiction, 2012
Recipient of the CTRR Award for excellence
2011 Book Bundlz Book Pick
Book Bundlz 2011 Favorites, First Place
At the heart of the seemingly perfect Tyler family stands sixteen-year-old Leah. Her proud parents are happily married, successful professionals. Her adoring younger sister is wise and responsible beyond her years. And Leah herself is a talented athlete with a bright collegiate future. But living out her father’s lost dreams, and living up to her sister’s worshipful expectations, is no easy task for a teenager. And when temptation enters her life in the form of drugs, desire, and a dangerously exciting boy, Leah’s world turns on a dime from idyllic to chaotic to nearly tragic.
As Leah’s conflicted emotions take their toll on those she loves—turning them against each other and pushing them to destructive extremes—In Leah’s Wake powerfully explores one of fiction’s most enduring themes: the struggle of teenagers coming of age, and coming to terms with the overwhelming feelings that rule them and the demanding world that challenges them. Terri Giuliano Long’s skillfully styled and insightfully informed debut novel captures the intensely personal tragedies, victories, and revelations each new generation faces during those tumultuous transitional years.
Recipient of multiple awards and honors, In Leah’s Wake is a compelling and satisfying reading experience with important truths to share—by a new author with the voice of a natural storyteller and an unfailingly keen understanding of the human condition…at every age.
Praise for In Leah’s Wake
“An astounding story of a family in transition.” — Tracy Riva, Midwest Reviews
“A powerful and intimate portrait of a family in disarray.” — Margot Livesey, award-winning author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy
“Terri Long’s accomplished first novel takes the reader on a passionate roller-coaster ride through contemporary parenthood and marriage. Sometimes scary, sometimes sad, always tender.” — Susan Straight, National Book Award finalist, author of Take One Candle, Light A Room
“An incredibly strong debut, this book is fantastic on many fronts.” — Naomi Blackburn, top Goodreads reviewer worldwide, Founder Sisterhood of the Traveling Book
“A very moving and, at times, heartbreaking story which will be loved by many, whether they are parents or not.”– A. Rose, Amazon UK, TOP 100 REVIEWER
“Pulled me right along as I continued to make comparisons to my own life.”– Jennifer Donovan, 5 Minutes for Books, Top 50 Book Blog
“A masterpiece of psychological tension and unbearable suspense, a portrait of America in the present day.” — Frederick Lee Brooke, author of Doing Max Vinyl
“Multiple ripples of meaning contribute to the overall intensity of this deeply moving psychological drama.”– Cynthia Harrison, author of The Paris Notebook