10 Things I Wish I Knew About Being an Author I Didn’t Know Before
by Scott Morgan
I’m not big on Top Ten Lists, but in this case I see an opportunity to tell aspiring authors some realism about living the life. Writers, after all, are dreamers by nature. I don’t actually like to be the bucket of ice water, but I do like getting people past their dreams and into their goals (which, as the cliché says, are goals with deadlines).
1. You need help.
No one goes it alone. To be a successful, working writer, you need people ‒‒ preferably a wealthy spouse who lets you follow your writing dreams without being a jerk about it. Wealthy spouse or not, you also need people to help you figure out how to write, find your voice, market an promote, spread the word, and help you build your base. It takes a ridiculously long time and more patience than most people have, but the more help you get, the more you will succeed.
2. You’re not a writer, you’re a salesman.
Writers today are independent businesspeople. They are entrepreneurs. They must know how to sell, how to promote, how to sell, how to market, how to sell, how to set up events, and, if I haven’t mentioned it, how to sell. It’s exhausting. If you just want to write for your own edification and don’t care about sales, more power to you. But you’re not going to make it (certainly you’re never going to get your story optioned by Hollywood) without being a really good salesman. Whenever you look at a crappy book that becomes a soaring bestseller, know that it’s not the writing that got it there, it’s the salesmanship of the author and his team.
3. Nobody cares.
A better way of saying this is, nobody cares until you make them care. That’s where sales comes in. But believe me ‒‒ nobody’s waiting on you, no matter how good your book is. And if anyone IS waiting on you, you’ve already established yourself fairly well.
4. You spend WAY more time doing everything BUT writing.
Related to the sales thing is the website maintenance and interviews and “hey, could you read my book” requests and countless other things (like Facebook) that get in the way. You will have to make time for writing amid the chaos that is everything else in your life. So the moral here is, want it. Want it very, very badly or it’ll kill you.
5. You’ll want to quit.
Like I said, if you don’t love what you do, it will kill you. If you do love it, it will still try. The more you love it the harder it will try. And some days, when you see no sales, no retweets, no repostings on Facebook, and no general interest in your existence at all, you will wonder why you bother. If you’re normal, you will see a scalding review of your work and it will make you throw a hissy tantrum like a six-year-old. You will look around and think “I have to go to accounting school or something.” Don’t. Accountants aren’t happy either.
6. You’ll make friends.
When you’re building that base of helpers, you will come to realize that you will make actual friends. People will want to come see you. People will be happy to meet you. They will share their lives with you. Embrace them. These people are gold.
7. You’ll make enemies.
Someone will always hate you. The more successful you are the more people will know your name. Some will hate you because you represent something they dislike. Some will hate you because you’re successful. Some won’t hate you but will find it hilarious to say nasty things to you. And everyone else will tell you that you shouldn’t care. I don’t care if you care or not. But I do care that you believe me when I tell you you’ll make enemies.
8. Have a hobby.
Have I given the impression that writing is hard? I didn’t mean to. I meant to give the impression that it’s ludicrously hard and potentially destructive to everything you hold dear. Which is why you need a hobby to help keep your sanity. Paint, cook, play video games, knit, whatever. Just get away from writing every once in a while.
9. Social media is vital and stupid.
You need to be on Twitter and Facebook and a bunch of other sites. And I don’t regret having been on them because I’ve made genuine friends and advanced my career. But Facebook in particular is the worst thing ever. Nothing but crazies, activists, and motivational placards. Still, you need it, so buckle up and ignore the stuff you don’t like.
10. You need a publicist and they’re expensive.
All that marketing you’re doing on Twitter and Facebook? Yeah, you’re marking to the same handful of people who are marketing to you. In essence, everyone in class has baked their own cupcakes and we’re all handing them out to each other. The cure for this is a professional. Someone who knows how to promote and market you. Of course, if most writers could afford publicists, they wouldn’t need to write for money, so don’t forget that the writer’s life is filled with hilarious irony like that.
None of that was meant to scare you. It was just meant to motivate you. Believe me, the sooner you accept the truth about writing, the better positioned you’ll be to make a career of it.
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Genre – Literature / Fiction Poetry Anthologies
Rating – PG
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16th July – Book Feature at Alison DeLuca‘s blog
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