Being a Published Author Won’t Make Me Happy (And How I know That)

As I finished grad school, I began writing about my experience. I wrote about what I wished I had known earlier in life. I wrote about psychological tools that heal people. In summary, I wrote about pain and what healed that pain. One day, while sitting in a coffee shop, I decided I was going to write a book about all this. So let’s see, it only took eight years to figure out how to find an agent, query an idea, write a proposal, change my idea, change my agent, and finally write the book once it sold. And only eight years of full time engagement in social media, blogging, and marketing. Only eight years of researching and learning through writing and speaker events. That in addition to my real job as a Licensed Professional Counselor and part time professor at a local university.

Getting a book published is difficult.

20130314-_MG_7882So the idea of seeing boxes of books on my front doorstep feels both surreal and monumental. It’s a huge accomplishment that I will celebrate with a party, in a red barn, with twinkly lights. There will be music, friends, food, and revelry. But I know that a published book won’t bring me happiness.

A few days ago I was talking to a friend who has authored over 40 books. I told her I knew that having a published book would not make me happy. She seemed surprised and wanted to know how I knew that ahead of time. I told her I thought it was because I had done so much research on the topic of happiness. I understand what poor judges people are at knowing what will bring them happiness and what won’t.

Striving authors need to know that a published book won’t make them happy. Here’s why:

  • People have a happiness set point. Fifty percent of happiness is genetic, ten percent is based on life circumstances, and forty percent is within our power to effect. For instance, Americans will put themselves in debt for decades thinking a dream home, boat, or car will make them happy. But the new wears off within a few days because of an effect called hedonic adaptation. Most people don’t understand that the lotto winer and the paralyzed person will bounce back to their prior happiness level within a few months of their changed life condition.
  • The joy is in the journey. I’ll never forget what my friend Zeke Pipher said when his book released. In essence, “Whether this book sells or not, it won’t define my worth, happiness, or success.” He went on to describe his faith and his relationship with his wife and children, saying those were the reasons for his joy. Zeke should know. His mom wrote an international best-seller. She soon found that the harried pace of traveling and speaking made her miserable. There’s an interesting research study that found when people were randomly beeped, and told to write down what they were doing and how happy they were, folks were happiest while in the creative state of “flow.” Flow is when you are fully absorbed in an activity, so much so that you lose sense of time. Numerous studies have shown that it is the striving, not the achieving, that makes us happy, especially when our goals are realistic, flexible, valued by the culture, authentic, non-materialistic, and not negatively impacting other parts of our lives.
  • The more we attain, the more we want, and this negates our increased happiness. Professor Sonja Lyubomirsky in her newly released book, The Myths of Happiness, explains that aspirations are misleading. We attain more, so we want more, and the wanting makes us feel bad. Crazy huh? She concludes that we shouldn’t expect less but that we should simply not allow our desires to continue escalating to the point where we end up feeling entitled and convinced that we would only be happy if we got more and more of this or that.
  • Relying on external rather than internal validation makes us unhappy. Some people think they will be happy based on other people’s opinions of their success. But, when we ask ourselves the question, “How good (successful, smart, prosperous, ethical) am I?” the people who rely on an internal rather than external objective standard are happier. There will always be someone wealthier, more attractive, thinner, more popular, and more talented. Therefore, relying on other people’s opinions rather than our own is a recipe for misery. In short, goals which cause growth, make us feel competent, and connect us to others are the ones that make us happy. Goals that make us strive to be rich, famous, popular, or powerful make us unhappy. (I wrote more about this over here at Michael Hyatt’s blog.)

*I orignially wrote this post just before my book released in March 2013. It’s true, having a published book has not made me any happier than I already was. I feel a sense of achievement and gratitude, but I’m glad I knew it wouldn’t make me any happier than I already was.

Think about the last big milestone you achieved.

How long did the happiness last?

A Top Tip for Getting Readers to Your Blog

Most authors realize they have a huge responsibility to market themselves. One way to do this is to create and write a blog. In this post, I’d like to share my best idea for getting your blog posts noticed.

iStock_000020504124XSmallGoogle Analytics helped me see what my most popular blog posts were in 2012. I predicted it might be the post I wrote for Michael Hyatt because he has several hundred thousand readers each month. I did get a lot of views, but not anywhere near the amount my top three posts received.

Here are my top three posts in regard to number of views:

Life Code by Dr. Phil – A book review

The Surprising Happiness Lessons Downton Abbey Teaches Us

Gotye’s Somebody That I Used to Know and Emotionally Focused Therapy

The mission statement of my blog is to offer help for hurting people. I also like to include  ideas related to physical, emotional, and spiritual selfcare since that is the focus of my soon-to-be-released book.

So what is it my three most popular posts have in common? In addition to offering help, they all deal with topics that are popular in mainstream media. Romans 12:2 tells us not to conform to the pattern of the world. However, we can use the culture to draw readers to our books and our blogs.

Life Code, written by Dr. Phil, is being published by his son’s publishing seo services company: Bird Street Books. (It is only available through their online bookstore at TheBookNook.com) The book tells you how to deal with users, abusers, and overall “bad guys” we all have in our lives. It also includes 16 tactics for winning in the real world. For the past month Dr. Phil has been featuring various aspects of this book on his daily talk show. So when people search for “Life Code,” my book review shows up.

Downton Abbey is a British period drama that first aired in the fall of 2010. The show depicts the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants around the time of World War I. The series has received critical acclaim from television critics and won numerous accolades, including a Golden Globe Award for Best Miniseries and a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Miniseries. Now in its third season, Downton Abbey has become one of the most widely watched television shows in the world. I was able to tie my happiness ideas into aspects of the show.

In case you missed it, Gotye’s song, Somebody That I Used to Know, topped the US, UK, and Australian, as well as 23 other national charts, and reached the top 10 in more than 30 countries around the world. The song has sold more than 10 million copies worldwide, becoming one the best-selling digital singles of all time. The song is so popular there are several hundred re-mixes on Youtube. The video perfectly characterizes a couple who can’t connect, so I use that to talk about marriage counseling.

The secret to getting a lot of views on your blog is to find something that is a really hot topic and then try to conform your blog message around that topic. I’ve been getting about 200 readers a day, from all over the globe, for my review of Dr. Phil’s book.

Here are some tools for helping you figure out what is popular:

Online article: Ten Tools to Tell You What’s Hot

http://www.searchenginejournal.com/10-tools-to-tell-whats-hot-today-right-now-even/47886/

Goodreads List of Popular Books

http://www.goodreads.com/book/popular_by_date/2012

Top 100 Songs:

http://www.billboard.com/charts/hot-100#/charts/hot-100

Goodreads Popular Book Lists

http://www.goodreads.com/list/popular_lists

 Most popular shows, celebrities, Movies, Videos

http://www.tvguide.com/top-tv-shows

Thomas Umstattd Jr just posted a really helpful video yesterday: 

12 Secrets of Excellent Blogs

What are some popular topics you’ve noticed lately?