Believe it now or later, there is something to this karma and reciprocity thing.
PREVIOUS POST: Know Who You Are and Then Be Who You Must
Reading other people's blogs, stories, and books helps us to become better writers. We're somehow more prolific, more compelling, and more engaging as communicators. If writing is the talking part, then reading is the listening. And who couldn't stand to be a better listener? Besides that, who wants to "listen" to someone who never lets you get a word in edgewise?
Believe it now or later, there is something to this karma and reciprocity thing.
PREVIOUS POST: Know Who You Are and Then Be Who You Must
Lest there be some confusion, I am a writer first, but it is not my first priority at my current station in life. I write because I love to write, but I have a day job, which is my highest priority. I am a writer who happens to also be a soldier. And my commitment to the U.S. Army trumps all else...for now. After I retire, which I hope to do in a couple of short years, I can move up writing, publishing and other pursuits on my list of things.
Making a good go of being a writer, published author, and finally, a publisher hinges on knowing who I am, what I want to do, and what I need to do. Right now, I am a soldier, who must be all that a soldier is, including leading, training, and taking care of other soldiers, as well as the mission at hand. Other things, like writing, publishing, and even selling Mary Kay (long story) on the side, are secondary.
I'm so ambitious, but sometimes, the things I must do don't allow a lot of extra time to do what I want to do. Leisure time is truly a commodity for most people.
Everyone's list is different, but mine goes like this:
4. Everything else
Reading that list may look a little strange. One may expect a so-called publisher to have publishing at the top of her "This is Me" list, but it's important that your "This is Me" list is honest, brutally so, if necessary. As time permits, then priorities may/will/should shift, but you have to know who you are first, before you can effectively be who you must.
This is something with which most of us have to make peace. Of course, if you are already independently wealthy and have the luxury of writing or pursuing other business pursuits or hobbies full time, then the priority lesson may be lost on you. But for the rest of us: You're not going to always have time to fit in everything. As much as a good creative rush may tell you otherwise, you cannot do everything all at once. As of now, I have to squeeze in my reading and writing time on the weekends and days off, as well as any other stuff that I've put on my plate. Even the best multi-taskers have their limits, and thank goodness, they (should) have day planners, calendars and to-do lists. If you don't have a day planner, calendar, or at the very least, a to-do list, get one or all of the above ASAP.
If you're going to write, know who you are, know on what you should focus and when, and then be the person you must be in order to get to the places that you want to go.
Make a "The is Me" list and keep it close. Lest there be any confusion.
PREVIOUS POST: How to Lose a Customer in 10 Seconds or Less
I'm so freakin' annoyed.
I just saw some of the cutest jewelry in a Facebook album posted by a young lady in one of my groups there, and when I asked for the link (in the comments) to where to find it a buy it, she told me to inbox her my order because she still doesn't have a website. That should have been enough for me to just forget it, but I know what it's like to be an upstart, so I gave her an extra couple of minutes onto that initial 10 seconds.
I wrote back to her that some of the pictures didn't have item numbers or prices listed, and so I had no idea how to describe my order, and she went on to tell me that she had no idea that the items would get such a great response, and that she would post prices by this weekend on the photos.
This weekend? Really? That's 2 days away. Why weren't you expecting a great response? Why weren't you prepared? Am I supposed to wait that long just because the stuff is cute? That is a completely rhetorical question.
All of which brings me to a no-brainer that all business people, especially independently-published writers, should know. Whatever you're selling, make it as easy as possible for someone to spend their money on you.
As if the buying public weren't already impulsive and impatient enough, the world of e-commerce has made it too easy for potential customers to quickly lose interest or become distracted with other options. And with the thousands upon thousands of books out there available at only a click away, why put yourself at an additional disadvantage?
If you're inviting someone to buy your book (or other product or service), they shouldn't have to work to find it. Get a website for crying out loud. They're free! And if you provide a link, make sure it works. If I can't get to your stuff within one or two clicks after clicking that link, then you've probably lost a sale. Do better.
Either you're ready to sell, or you're not. If you're ready, be ready. If you're not, don't make excuses about it, and then expect people to wait until you've got your shit together.
PREVIOUS POST: Socially Inept Writers, Artists and Other People
I guess I just don't understand the creepy weirdness of some people. Some creepy weirdness, I get. I am, after all, an artist.
I tell myself that perhaps a few generations ago, it might have been the "in" thing to be a complete social recluse of a writer. It made the authors mysterious, and by extension, some kind of cool. I suppose.
In the days of writers and artists like Poe, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Faulkner, Harper Lee, as well as others, composers, painters, musicians, etc., who were so hard to get to, but so easy to "get," I guess people probably expected it. Maybe it even added some validation to their talent. I guess.
But now, we are in the age where being socially inept is not a good look, for people in general, but especially for those who have to rely on themselves to publicize, promote and market their own work.
Setting aside my own loathing of texting, et. al (electronic/non-human exchanges as preferred mediums of communication), I still feel confused, even grieved a bit for the seemingly dying art of communication. There is something fundamentally sound in developing social skills that require actual talking, listening, and face-to-face human engagement. Social networking was introduced to enhance and complement effective communication, not to replace it.
The speed and the convenience are one thing, but if you can only comfortably interact with other people in text messages, emails, or instant messages, then you're socially impotent. Your so-called comfort zone is threatening to strangle the life out of your relationships. Of course, there's nothing wrong with being adept at the latest modern technology, but there's something missing if you prefer all of that over personal contact. Least of all, your communication skills are lacking. Not enough attention as a child, maybe. Too much attention as a child, maybe. Who knows? But something is missing.
That especially goes for the obsessive video gamer types. In fact, they kind of creep me out. When video gaming crosses the line from casual recreation to necessary activity, it's obsessive. And creepy. Here is where all the addicts would say, "I can stop anytime I want," feel insulted, and proceed to hurl insults in the comments section. I digress.
But as I think about it, people probably thought that some of those writers and artists above were a bit creepy, too. You know, the socially awkward, nerdy types. And I suppose that was okay with everyone back then, since those folks had a lot of good writing, composing, music and artistry to do their socializing for them.
I suppose if one is a writer who creates and delivers on that level, then reclusive, socially awkward behavior is acceptable. But self-flattery aside, what of those of us who are not on that level? What if you're not even a writer or artist, but just someone who's weird for no reason?
PREVIOUS POST: Suiting Up is Never Enough
It's one thing to be very good at what you do. It's a whole other thing for others to know how well you do it; and still another whole other thing for them to support you in your endeavor(s). Having a high opinion of your skills only serves to get you out of bed in the morning, but it's not enough to move anyone else. The time to show and prove is always right now. Don't just suit up. Show up and show out.
All writers have a high opinion of our skills, but that's not what gets us read. Writers who claim to only write for themselves are probably full of bunk, and has yet to work through their issues with criticism. If that "writing for myself only" stuff were truly the case, then they would be writing in private journals where no one had access to the words.
Most writers I know want to be read. Some want to make money at it, which means that they want a lot of traffic to their blogs, and they want a lot of readers of their works. If that is the case with you, then work at it constantly.
Work to improve, even though perfection is a complete impossibility. Study others. Interact with others, writers and readers. Listen as much as you talk. Read more than you write. Be more than just a person who knows your words should move the world. Be a person who nudges the world along with your words. Put in the work to improve, then the moving will work itself out.
PREVIOUS POST: Got the Goods? Prove It!
Stop being shy about what you're selling. Stop it!
Writing a book, creating a blog, and maintaining a website are all great beginnings, great building blocks for your platform. Hooray for product and service awareness, sharing, and support. But the old saying that you can show 'em better than you can tell 'em is especially true nowadays. And nowadays, with all of this great technology at our fingertips, we have no excuse not to show, show, show, and go, go, go!
If we really know that we've got a product or service that's worth someone's time or money, we've got take it to them! When we ask people to come to us, visit our pages, it's like a kind, yet timid invitation to them to stop by our stores, homes, or vendor stands, to sample our wares. But we have to be willing to do more than that. Get up, get out and greet them at the door. Sometimes, you've got to walk down the sidewalk and around the corner.
If you've got the goods, prove it. Show 'em off a little bit. Or a lot.
Stop waiting on somebody to walk through your neighborhood, happen by your house, and look in your direction, as you're hoping they'll stop in. All that, "Maybe they'll visit my website. Maybe they'll read about me. Maybe they'll buy my book. Maybe they'll send a friend," stuff is for the birds. The hell is that about?
AFTER you've laid all the ground work (writing a book, building a site, and creating a blog) is NO time to get lazy or suddenly shy. If all you do to promote your work is blast people with messages about where to find you, and you don't offer them any reason to look for you, then you're going to miss out...waiting.
Building is only the first part of getting folks to come. Let's get out of our comfort zones of blogs and writing groups, where it's safe, and get out there and take it to them!
As always, this is just what I'm learning as I go. Use what works for you, and brain dump the rest.
Take care, all. Happy writing!
PREVIOUS POST: Take Your Writing Seriously, So That Others Will, Too
Here is your main take-away from this post:
Serious writers should strive NOT to be junk peddlers.
If you're going to make a business of your writing, do your best to make it worth someone's time and money.
Here are a few things to increase the chances of your writing being well-received.
1. Read more books.
One of my college professors told me that reading expands the vocabulary, improves the attention span, cures laziness, and staves off over all ignorance. So, I guess that makes it a cure all. But if nothing else, the more you read, the better you write. No one wants to read any work that looks like it was written by someone who never read a book...ever. Spend some time in a library and/or a bookstore and just read.
2. Read articles and blogs.
Find useful information and apply it to developing your craft and preparing yourself for publishing, including learning what to look for and what to avoid.
Here is one most excellent blog by the Passive Income Author, Skellie with tons of great insight.
Here is another one from Maria Murnane about the importance of editing.
One more, from Mallary Jean Tenore, speaking with bestselling author, Jennifer Weiner about social networking tools.
And Writer Beware and Preditors and Editors are excellent reference sites for authors looking for publishing options, editors, and agents. Yes, I know "predators" is misspelled, but I'm sure they thought it was a really clever play on words at the time. It's still worth a look.
Speaking of being aware, the publisher, PublishAmerica, has a bad reputation. I do not recommend working with anyone who has so many bad reviews, complaints, and negative publicity; but by all means, do your research, and consider your sources before making any decisions. Remember: Be careful out there. Form your own opinions.
Look around. Read, read, read!
3. Observe other writers and learn from them.
For this, you should be willing to read through some other up-and-coming authors' work, and not just authors whom you already admire. Visit their websites and blogs. Attend author events, workshops, and conferences, if possible. If you can't attend a conference or workshop...you guessed it. Read! Learn what other authors do well, and decide what you want to emulate. Learn what they don't do as well, and decide what you'd like to improve for your own writing platform and future works.
4. Write openly, honestly, and without inhibition.
Yes, this takes work. Writing is personal, and it's hard enough to allow someone else to see your work without the added pressure of someone not "getting" it, and therefore not enjoying it. Take your time to get to this point. You'll be ready to share when you're ready to share. But at some point, you'll need to put fear and inhibition in your back pocket and move. And a lot of it will be painful and scary, but that's what good writing is, in my opinion.
5. Write for readers, not for other writers.
If you're developing a story, a character, or something else in draft form, or if you're writing just to vent or blow off steam about the challenges and lessons of the journey, then it's always a good idea to bounce your thoughts off of other writers. For that, find a good writer's forum, like She Writes. But once you're ready to push forward with a finished work, understand that your audience is different. Most of your reading audience doesn't care about the journey. They just want you to bring the story home. In order for your readers to care about you and your work, and to want to support it, they need to feel connected to you and what you're offering. Write about things that they care about, and they will care about you.
6. Treat your writing like a business.
If you want exposure, and possibly to publish and distribute your work, create and build a presence, online and in real life, and that's more than just spamming people with BCC emails and regularly blasting ads for your book on their Facebook walls. It's lazy, ill-mannered, annoying, and usually ineffective.
Remember: Engage and connect. While your Facebook page is a great place to socialize and network, you'll find that it's not the best place to sell books. Think about it. How many books have you bought from your Facebook friends? How much actual support have you given to a business listed on Facebook, other than "Like" the page? Exactly. All the more reason to get out and about on the Web and broaden your cyber horizons.
7. Create a website, or at least a blog, that's geared toward attracting readers. Take an interest in what interests your readers. Search for and find readers who are actually interested in what you write, i.e., your genre or subject matter.
Don't assume that one person's audience will be drawn to your writing just because you write in the same genre. Put in the work. Research. Pay attention.
If you have a personal website, Facebook page, or Twitter profile, consider creating and maintaining a second website or profile that is exclusively for your writing business. And for the love of beans and gravy, please treat your website with care. Check it and update it regularly, especially to catch and correct typos, and to make sure your links work. No one will take you seriously as a writer, editor, publisher, etc., if you don't take the care to maintain your web presence. There are tons of places that you can build free or inexpensive websites, such as Weebly. And believe me when I say that they make it super user-friendly, and still help you put together an attractive, professional site. If you want to invest in a professional to build your site, then okay; but just know that there are some free-of-charge options out there.
9. Keep it professional.
Whatever you do, don't treat your business website like an old MySpace page, with music and graphics bouncing all over the place. It's distracting, especially if it's a song that I know, and too many moving parts and too much noise will make it look (and sound) amateurish. It's all right to be an amateur, as long as you put a professional foot forward. For an occasional sanity check, ask family and friends to look over it and give you feedback. A fresh set of eyes will often catch things that we miss in our own work. I prefer a silent website, but depending on your target audience, music and a few subtle graphics may work for you. Just keep it professional.
Well, that's it for now. As always, this is just what I'm learning as I go. Use what works for you, and brain dump the rest.
Take care, all. Happy Writing!
PREVIOUS POST: Off the Top of My Head
Considering the things I've learned over the years from reading various blogs and articles, browsing websites, observing the work of other authors and publishers, and my own experiences, I try to take away as much as I can by reading, watching, listening, and remembering. The Internet is full of great advice, lots of free advice for the taking, including this blog. You'll find nothing here that you couldn't find on your own by just browsing, reading and researching.
The only difference is that I'm trying to collect and share the information in one place, sharing as much as possible and hoping to contribute something of value to your journeys. So, for my first post in the Writers Should Know This Blog, I'll share what I can remember off the top of my head.
First things first. Are you serious? By that, I mean, if you're going to be serious about writing, be serious about writing. Be about it. Figure out why you write, and then own it.
Do you write for love of the craft?
Do you write for the sense of validation that you feel when others enjoy and appreciate your words?
Do you write for the hustle and racket you want to make off of it?
Do you write as a hobby? For fun? For cheap therapy?
Whatever your reason, if you're going to expose yourself to the world, it's probably better to know now than later that if you want to be a writer who gets read, you must take the craft seriously, and take yourself, as the saying goes, with a grain of salt. Start developing that thick skin and sense of humor as soon as possible. You'll need them.
Treat your writing like the business it will become. If you don't take your writing seriously, then no one else will, nor should they.
One of my biggest fears as a writer is not being read; or being read and someone thinking my work is garbage, which is decidedly worse, because people remember writers who peddle garbage.
I don't want to be remembered by any reader as a writer or publisher who peddles garbage. The most important reason is because I write for love of the craft, and it would break my heart if I delivered some crap to a reader. Another really important reason is that memories are very long and word of mouth travels really fast when it comes to bad writing. It's a credibility thing.
As writers, we should all want to be credible, unless of course, you're in it for the hustle only. Here's a hint: If you're a get what you can, while you can, from whomever you can kind of writer, then you're not a writer, you're a pissant hustler, who, frankly, has ruined a perfectly good word that was once synonymous with hard work.
We've probably all bought books by writers whose work left something to be desired, some probably even bestselling authors. But the thing is this. Readers may help you get on the bestseller's list once, but your first hit will be your last if the work is not any good.
I know many junk peddlers who have gotten my $10, $20 or $25 supporting their first books, but they'll not get me again. To paraphrase that old saying: You can fool some of the people some of the time, and maybe all of them once, but after that, it's time to move to another hustle. Leave the real writers to do this.
Well, I hope this starter post is helpful, and until next time, maybe it gives you some things to think about.
All of this is just what I'm learning as I go. Use what works for you, and brain dump the rest.
Take care, all. And happy writing!
NEXT POST: Take Your Writing Seriously, So That Others Will, Too