If there’s a book you want to read, then write it.
– Toni Morrison
My foray into fiction began with an idea for a story. An amazing story that I believed I would query or publish, then repeat with another hit—once all the press had died down from the first one, of course. Thankfully, I attended my first writers’ conference before I sent out a single query letter or uploaded the story to an online retailer. The conference was an eye-opener that demonstrated how little I knew about the craft and business of writing. I left that conference feeling humbled, overwhelmed, and questioning whether I was cut out to be a twenty-first-century author.
Understand Your Why
If I’d understood the amount of work, humility, and effort—did I mention humility— involved in writing a novel, I’m not sure I would have undertaken the task. But the thing that’s kept me going over the past several years has been my why.
I began writing fiction because I wanted to tell stories about imperfect love in a way that I hadn’t seen done before.
I wanted to tell stories that reflected the diversity of the world around me.
And, I wanted to make a living doing something I loved. A great living.
So, on the days when my critique group suggests I scrap a scene and start over, I remember my why.
When people quote stats about how difficult it is to become a successful author, I remember my why.
And on the days when a successful career as a writer seems more like something out of a futuristic novel than my real life, I think about my why.
Your why has to be strong enough to propel you through those times when the learning curve seems insurmountable, and the last thing you want to do is write.
Write a Lot. Write Often.
Write a lot and write often. It’s the one piece of advice you’ll always hear from successful authors.
As new writers excited to gain traction with our first books, our response to hearing the above is usually something like, “Okay, okay, I know that, but what about finding an audience? What about Twitter, and Instagram, and what in the world is a Snapchat? And since we’re hurling honest questions at each other, what if my writing is no good? What if I’m no good?”
Take a moment to fully grasp this fundamental truth: it all comes down to the writing.
Writers have active imaginations. It’s a job requirement, a skill that’s necessary to create our characters and our worlds. But that active imagination can lead us down roads long before we’re ready to take them. So, before you start worrying about how you’ll juggle a press tour between your family life and other obligations, take a moment to fully grasp this fundamental truth: it all comes down to the writing.
If you maintain a long-term view of your writing career, you’ll likely need more than one book to even start gaining traction. Some say the number is three. Others say six. The consensus is, the more the better.
There are exceptions. Andy Weir’s The Martian for one. New Adult phenom, Colleen Hoover, began hitting bestseller lists a few months after publishing her first novel. But these are exceptions. Exceptions are awesome, and maybe some of us will hit that winning mix of magic, luck, and good writing that lands us on bestseller lists and snags movie deals, but I propose a more measured approach to thinking about your writing career.
If we can create an environment where we’re constantly writing, thinking about writing, or reading about writing, then we will begin the work of establishing a strong foundation. The marketing and publishing must come, but for now, fellow writers, write a lot and write often.
Photo credit: Pixabay
For some, author marketing has always been the monster under the bed. For many others, they hear marketing and think “selling”—aggressive, obnoxious, weight-loss-infomercial selling—and want no part of it. But what if I suggested we look at marketing with a new lens? A lens that is specific to us as writers. A lens that gives us permission to view marketing as another form of storytelling.
The Stories We Tell About Our Story
Although you’ve probably never looked at it this way, writers have an amazing advantage when it comes to marketing. We tell stories for a living. And our stories run deep. The events that lead up to, and are involved in, penning just one book carry with it infinite mini-stories ripe for the sharing.
We write fantasy because, as children, we read Tolkien and imagined inhabiting his worlds.
You write romance because of the goodbye letter he slipped under your door before you left for college.
We write crime because . . . well, let’s just say there are many wonderful reasons for writing crime that I’ll leave to your active imaginations.
The point is, we all have stories we can share about our stories. And from the minute we hit publish on that blog post, send that first query letter, or announce the idea for our novel to a dinner party of eager friends, we’re engaged in author marketing.
If you’ve gotten over your initial fears about marketing and would like to read about five great marketing tools for authors, check out my article over on Writer Unboxed: Five Marketing Tools for Authors Who Hate Marketing.
Photo credit: wocintechchat.com
David vs. Goliath
Neo vs. Mr. Smith
Batman vs. Superman
Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing
Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing
While there’s yet to be bloodshed (at least I haven’t heard about it in any of my writing circles), there are people lining up on both sides of the twenty-first-century publishing debate.
In one camp are the “traditionalists” who cite the dismal quality of many self-published books, the absence of gatekeepers, and all the marketing and self-promotion indie writers have to do just to keep their heads above water.
In the other camp are the “indies” who point to draconian publishing contracts, an industry that lacks diversity, and all the marketing traditionally published writers still have to do to keep their heads above water.
And both camps point to statistics that suggest unlikely chances for success no matter what publishing route you take.
The Best of Both Worlds
I believe the “battle” between the groups is a lie that only ends up hurting authors, no matter what path they choose. The beauty of the twenty-first-century writing career is that emerging authors can learn from both camps. I truly believe that by adopting an entrepreneurial mindset, authors can create sustainable writing careers.
I’m a member of several online self-publishing groups. The marketing tactics and techniques I learn from other members are head-and-shoulders above what I’ve learned anywhere else. By paying attention to indie authors, authors seeking to go the traditional route can employ methods such as reader magnets that can exponentially grow their email lists. Lists that will only serve to strengthen your appeal when approaching agents and editors.
Indie authors can hire professional editors, proofreaders, and cover designers who will make their books indistinguishable from traditionally published work.
The future of writing and book publishing is one where writers harness their collective power to shape the industry’s future— delivering books people want to read in the ways they want to read them.
Photo: Designed by Freepik
Met a friend for lunch today. Like me, she’s a writer. Also like me, she’s in the early stages of launching her dream career. I’m working on a blog post about my takeaways from our meeting, but one thing we talked about is how we (the collective) often enter creative ventures hoping or expecting or believing that someone will rescue us.
It’s not something we do consciously. It’s a secret desire that somehow someone bigger, smarter, and much further along in the journey will help us with a shortcut to major success. Of course, we put in some work, and effort, and a whole lot of thought, but somewhere at the forefront of our thoughts is the idea that this individual or this opportunity will somehow present itself and give us our big break. We’re subconsciously seeking a hero.
But as much as I love the DC and Marvel Universes, as much as I dedicate way, way too much time watching the Flash and Arrow on TV, I have to acknowledge that when it comes to the creative career I’ve set out to establish for myself, the literary version of Batman is not sitting on pins and needles waiting for my “writer in distress” signal.
He doesn’t have an eye trained to my tiny corner of Georgia looking for the next breakout multi-cultural, women’s fiction, romance mash-up writer. He probably has no idea what a multi-cultural, women’s fiction, romance mash-up writer is. Literary Batman is not going to launch my writing career into the stratosphere.
So here’s the reality we as writers and creatives must confront if we intend to stick around for the long haul: We must become our own heroes. It’s that simple. At the end of a long day fighting battles with words, we have to go home, peel out of our sweat-slicked costumes, dab some salve on our wounds, and get ready for the fight that tomorrow will most assuredly bring.
It’s that simple. But it’s definitely not that easy.
I’ll follow up next time with the next thing I learned at my meeting: Once you make your desire to launch a creative career public, you’ll be surprised where your help comes from, and where it doesn’t.
One of those writing days when I’m like, “Eh, I’ll take what I can get.”
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” — Theodore Roosevelt
IndieRecon, the online conference for indie-authors, is officially over. The conference was jam-packed with live interviews and presentations. Good news if you missed the conference: they’re posting everything on their website. I’m still working my way through the list but after watching HM Ward’s presentation, I was chomping at the bit to share a few things I learned.
If you’re not familiar with HM Ward and you’re interested in the indie publishing scene, you should definitely check out her blog, http://blog.demonkissed.com/. Ward is a New York Times bestselling indie author who writes “sexy awesome books.” In fact, since 2011 she’s sold over 10 million of them. That’s not a typo. That’s 10 million books in under 5 years, all without using a traditional publisher. It doesn’t hurt that Ward writes in the hottest indie-publishing genre. But if you’re thinking that her advice won’t be relevant because you write in another genre or because you write non-fiction, you’re wrong. Ward’s advice is practical and applicable no matter what you’re writing. In my opinion, these are the top takeaways from her talk:
Price is no longer the big determining factor it once was in the eBook game
Makes sense when you think about it. With the glut of free titles being made available on a seemingly daily basis, readers who like free and cheap books now look at other things to help them make a choice. The key is understanding what makes a reader choose one book (in their preferred genre) over another. Which brings us to Ward’s second point…
Time is the new obstacle
With so many free books available to readers, time (not money) becomes the real obstacle a new author has to surmount. And the question then becomes, how do I show the reader that my book is worth their time. Ward believes there are three things that get readers to buy a book. She calls it…
The Golden Trifecta
Ward used the image of a three-legged stool where the book was the seat, and the blurb, cover, and sample were the three legs. She argues that if you don’t get all three right, your sales will be hindered. Covers are a no-brainer. If you have a horrible cover, your book will barely get a look. A few highlights about blurbs and samples:
Blurb – Look at your query letter and use that as a guide. Provide a clear hook and give them just enough to want to read the book. The blurb isn’t a summary, either. Keep it short, tight, and interesting. I liken it to a movie trailer. Put in all the exciting stuff, leave out everything else.
Sample – Your cover was awesome, your blurb fantastic. The reader liked both enough to download the sample. Don’t give them backstory or a beginning that doesn’t deliver any excitement before the sample concludes. Give them conflict, action, and empathy.
Here’s a suggestion. Go back and revisit a book in your genre that you loved. Study the cover. Reread the blurb and the first few pages. And then figure out what it was about those things that drew you in, that turned you from a browser to a buyer to a reader, and maybe even a fan.
I encourage you to head straight over to the IndieRecon site and watch Ward’s entire presentation. You can find it here.
Image attribution: Steve Baty Flickr
If you’ve ever considered indie-publishing and you’re not following IndieRecon, you’re missing out. Really missing out. This is my second year “attending” the free online conference and after only a couple hours in, I’m already inspired. The conference runs from April 15 – 17, 2015, and includes blog posts, video, audio, live-streamed events, and twitter chats.
IndieRecon 2015 Topic: What Indie Authors Need to Know in 2015
I’ve watched the first topic, What Indie Authors Need to Know in 2015, and highly recommend this hour-long interview with Smashwords founder Mark Coker. It contains quite a few gems, hard truths, and motivation for any writer interested in indie-publishing.
A few highlights:
1.) Don’t limit yourself to one distributor. If you do, you’re missing the opportunity to present your work to readers, including those in the global marketplace.
2.) Collaborate with authors who write in the same genre. Box-sets are a great opportunity to cross-promote your writing.
3.) Spend more time writing and less time on social media. You need to have a book before you can market it. *Bonus – if you’re spending time worrying about people stealing your books, ideas, etc., you’re wasting time.
Click here to watch the entire recorded interview on the IndieRecon website. I’ll be back over the next couple of days with highlights from other sessions.
A very short, and very true story about the day I fell.
I see the crack in the sidewalk, but I’m going too fast to avoid it. Four weeks post-surgery and this cross between a tricycle and a scooter is my primary means of transportation. And it’s about to be my downfall. Literally.
You know how the movies slow stuff down for dramatic effect? There’s a reason they do that. It’s because when it happens in real life, it being you and your tri-scooter going topsy turvy in your office parking lot, it really does happen in slow motion.
I feel myself pitching forward, and I sense the very moment when momentum has taken me too far forward to reverse what’s about to happen next. I do have the presence of mind to avoid landing on the foot that’s gotten me into this mess in the first place. And I land squarely on my left knee and the palms of my hands.
As I’m going down, I hear a wailing. But it’s not me. It’s my mom, and she’s calling on the Lord Jesus Christ. I’m not sure if she’s calling on him to save me or her, but either way, he let us both down because as I’m gathering myself together on the filthy parking lot ground, my mom is bawling and shaking her fists at the sky, all the while yelling, “Not on my watch! This shouldn’t happen on my watch!” Now it’s hilarious, but at the time, the pain in her voice drowns out the throbbing of my knee and palms and pushes me to move double time over to her to comfort her.
You see, in the flight or fight dichotomy, my mom is neither. She’s the other “F” – Frozen. My mom is so distraught at the prospect of me falling that she has planned her response before it actually happened. A quickly placed hand might have set me straight, but alas, my mom was already planning our defeat.
We’re all good now. My knee was swollen for a couple of days, my palms bruised. And we can all laugh about the fall now. Particularly this bit. My mom, on the phone that night, tears and pain forgotten, said, “My biggest regret is that I didn’t get to her sooner.” But here’s the thing. My mom technically never got to me at all. She was frozen, in place, the entire time. I walked – or rolled rather – over to her.
Grace W. is a writer, blogger, part-time chef (nope), and full-time geek. She’s working on her first novel. The Writer’s Station is where she shares the trials and tribulations of being a wanna-be author.
One thousand words a day.
It’s the least I can do for myself. It’s the best thing I can do for myself.
One thousand words that may not be the best, but that will eventually lead to my best.
One thousand words that when compounded over time add up to dozens of blog posts, or an entire book, or several books. And ultimately, a career.
One thousand words without judgement, without thought of how I will possibly repeat it tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that.
In 2015 a thousand words a day, without judgement, is my gift to myself. It’s my way of thanking God, my way of persevering, my way of demonstrating faith.
Only 881 to go.
What are your writing goals for 2015? Share them in the comment section, then follow me on my own writing journey here on my blog, on Facebook, and on Twitter. Happy Writing!