When I first aspired to become an author, I imagined my time would be spent filling a blank page with words to woo the masses… not taking into account the editing or marketing required, which is enough to drive a sane person to the brink of insanity. Write, edit, market, repeat. Over and over and over. See what I mean about the insane part?
Depending on where you're at in your writing endeavors, this may be common knowledge. You may have listened to the multiple authors telling you the best practices to start. Unfortunately, I did not listen to them and learned the hard way.
Live panel at Anime Recharge 2019
A successful writing career comes down to 5% skill, 5% luck, and 90% who you know.
A crucial part of creating a profitable book is connecting with others. Marketing should come well before your book is even launched. It's easier to get your sale ranking up if you've gotten pre-orders at the ready and reviews already elevating the story.
Much easier than having the book be launched and having people give you a raised eyebrow, "Really? You actually wrote a book?" Even if your picture is on the back, it sometimes takes three forms of ID to convince a potential customer that you are, in fact, the author of the book in front of you. I sometimes wear a hat with the title WRITER on it to avoid confusion.
Why is skill so low? With enough money, you can pay someone to write your story. You could be a famous author and never type a word. I do want to point out that money should be spent on a good editor even if it is something like Grammarly pro.
Why is luck so low? Let's face it. Writing is hard. It takes getting your book in the hands of the right reader who will help promote your book. If those people grow exponentially, you have a fan base that will lift off the massive marketing load from you. But keep connecting with others.
I dabble in multiple genres.
The indie authors who can boast of their sales typically stick to one genre and write a series. I decided to experiment with my books and put together a collection of poetry to get my feet into the publishing pool. I tripped, fell face first, and discovered it was acid, not water. Okay, that may be an overstatement. A small press threw me a life preserver and helped me out of the deep end.
After publishing a non-fiction book, I released my first science fiction novel. At this point, it would have made sense to continue the series into space, which I plan to do. However, I then published my first book in a fantasy series. By now, any fans of my poetry are rightfully confused as I sprinkle in bits of verse in my novels. Don't worry. I'm working on a collection of short stories that will have some poems in it as well… it might be leaning more toward the horror genre, because, why not?
The marketing beast.
There's a healthy balance between too much and too little. It's easy for us to want to get all the swag for our story: bookmarks, pens, shirts, cups, tissue dispensers, etc. Unfortunately, it can lead to a surplus of supplies becoming more difficult to give away. If you have enough people you know, the merchandising can boost the profits for your book.
For me, I did radio interviews and became a feature in the newspaper for my home town. It might not be the smallest of towns, but rural Nebraska can be a hard sell for poetry books. If you're able to find an affordable marketing director, use that connection. If you are proficient in marketing, I like the outdoors, piña coladas, and getting caught in the rain.
Ignoring the fans is not a good idea.
Occasionally, I will have a reader comment on one of my characters or things they enjoyed about my book. It would likely happen more if I stuck with one genre and series. Listen to them. Find ways to work their ideas into subplots or suggestions. It's best to write for yourself in order to keep your passion for writing alive, but it's fun to entertain the idea that a character may be coming back in an upcoming story.
Trying to write on your own is one of the quickest ways to lose your mind. Remember the scene from the Shining? It is easy to lose your motivation to write if you don't have people around to encourage your work. Writing is important. Your words are needed.
Finding a small critique group and having honest beta readers has been an invaluable blessing in my writing career. It is hard to take a book from draft to published. Even if the critiques and reviews are painful in this phase, you will be thankful for it once the book is in the hands of strangers.
A final note on publishing.
Being the first author for a small press, we learned a lot about publishing together. Countless businesses would be happy to print your book for you. Most of these require you to buy in bulk, and we had way too much bulk in poetry. If you're starting out, doing print-on-demand through KDP or Ingramspark becomes more affordable and economical.
I won't go into depth on either publishing company as there plenty of great articles on the topic. And we're talking about what I did wrong, like hardcover books. I've only had one book that was hardcover, and that was my poetry collection, which we bought in bulk. Needless to say, it did not sell as well as the softcover.
Hopefully, you have the opportunity to learn from other authors as you pursue a writing career. Although I became serious about my writing six years ago, I am at the beginning. The one question you should ask yourself is what you would define as success. Once you have a goal in mind, go out and tell others about your pursuit. Their support will save your sanity.
Do you have a book you've just published or are aspiring to get released? Let me know in the comments. I'd love to be one of your connections.