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Saturday, April 16, 2011

So, you want to be a writer...

A lot of people come into this profession wide-eyed and unknowing, and learn as they go along what being a writer as a career entails. Heck, I entered the same way and found out quite a bit that I never would've anticipated. Some things were more obvious than others while a few details took me by surprise.

I'm writing this post so those of you who are new or considering breaking into the field are less surprised and more prepared for the reality of being a writer.

So, without further ado, here goes:

1) Writing involves self-promotion, and your publishers are not responsible for doing that for you. 
 This is the big shocker for many, self-included. Most enter thinking all you have to do is write, and people will magically find your works and purchase them. Not so. Being a writer means you have to be willing to put your neck out there so people can find you. That means putting up a website, registering a domain name in your name (or pen name), blogging, and engaging in social networks both online and offline.

What do you do if you're an introvert and are horrible at talking to total strangers about your writing, let alone trying to promote yourself? Join up with other authors and promote as a unit. It'll take some of the pressure off of you and will make you more visible for less effort.

2) You have to be willing to deal with constructive criticism, and constantly improve in your craft. This is the area where some people will balk at. After all, if their book was accepted, what's wrong with it? But if you look around at how people's unedited works do not make the grade and how embarrassing it would be to be in the public eye and have obvious grammatical mistakes, typos, sentence structure issues, you'll understand what a huge service your editor is providing you. Not to mention the chance to become an even better (and hence more successful) writer. 

So be nice to your editors, folks. They're your gold and your chance to shine.

3) You have to adhere to the standards of your publishing company(ies). Different places will have different themes, house rules, editing standards, you name it. You may not like all of it or agree, but it's there for a reason, often to establish enough commonality among their works to make an ease out of the editing and publishing process. Other times it's very exacting standards so they can be sure of high quality works going out their door. Remember, it's their reputation on the line.

4) You have to respond well (or not at all) when you take a hit on the chin, especially in regards to negative reviews. There is NEVER a single writer who does not get a negative review. Usually it boils down to different reading tastes and interests: you just won't be everyone's cup of tea, and you'll have to accept that. Heck, I have a negative review on Goodreads from someone who clearly doesn't like reading about vampires or lesbians, so why he chose to read a particular work of mine is beyond me--I can only conclude masochistic tendencies. :) The only way to respond to these things is not at all. If they're a reviewer who agreed to review your work for them, you thank them for their time and move on. Take the high road; you'll benefit more from it in the long run. If there's something in their review you can learn from for the future, take it. And keep on plugging away.

Whether writers like it or not, this is a profession which requires dealing with people and being in the public eye. After all, it's people who make up your readers, your fanbase, and potential investors in your future works. That's the reality of the business. It's a lot of hard work and effort, but it's also very rewarding. I'm happy to say that I've met many wonderful people as a result of being a writer, and have been in all sorts of amazing events and situations which I never would've been in had I not become published.

And above all else, I still love to write. It's my passion and will forever be such. And as long as you can maintain that passion, you can do what it takes to stay in it.

Love & Magic,

Monday, April 04, 2011

Author lament: too busy promoting to write?

An author has decided to leave the field after years of unsuccessfully trying to promote her works, and she brought up a point I've heard before in various rants and discussions time and time again: how can an author be successful and still have time to write?

Many of us have day jobs or families to support as our primary time suck, and very few of us are full time writers. In fact, I don't know of any full time writers off the top of my head and I don't think even most NYT bestselling authors are there. It's not just the economy; this isn't a profession you can get rich off of. This is a labor of love where you have to put the energy into it or perish. "Publish or perish" is an oft-heard cry, and it is true. It's been said that the best promotion an author can have are new releases, and this is also true.

In the days of social networks, online chats, blogging, and emailing lists (which many authors refer to as "loops", don't ask me why!), some of this load has been taken off of us. But the rest really comes down to time and fortune, fortune being in the right place at the right time and taking the time to do it.

I write because I love it. When I say that it's work and requires work, that's simply truth. It's something you have to constantly strive to improve in and stay on top of in order to continue producing good and better works. It's a labor of love and must remain such in order for it to be "work that isn't work". When it ceases to become that, it's either time to try and put the romance back into the craft or consider a hiatus or even a permanent departure from the field altogether. Sometimes you can put too much in too quickly and burnout. I think nearly every author has had burnout at some point in their career, and it can greatly impact your ability to put out quality works, or any at all.

Like every valuable thing in your life, you have to determine for yourself what you're willing and able to put into it, and evaluate often. Sometimes life has to come first whether we (or our readers) like it or not.

What are your thoughts? Writers, have you ever battled with this and if so, what did you do? Readers, what are some of your own ideas on this issue?

Love & Magic,

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