If you’ve been following this blog, then you know I believe the Age of the Author is upon us. Are you taking advantage of all the positive changes? In this post I’ll delineate four things I believe all writers should do right now to advance their writing careers and benefit from the current publishing revolution…
This is the last post in my 3-part series on WHY WRITERS WIN. In this series, which is taken from a talk I gave at the Write Stuff Conference, I look at the current industry changes through both my author and my associate agent (at Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency) spectacles, and I like much of what I see.
In my first post, I talked about the publishing revolution and the scary changes it is stirring up for writers, plus the many positive opportunities these changes are bringing to us creative folk. My second post delved into the great opportunities that self-publishing is presenting to us authors, as well as the many terrific changes big publishers are now making to improve their relationships and partnerships with authors.
So here are four things you should do to make this YOUR Age of the Author.
1. Get writing!
Simply put: write the best book you can, and work your butt off to learn your craft and perfect your writing. Sounds simple, but it is the most complex of the four recommendations. Don’t lose sight of this goal. No matter what changes are afoot, this is still the most important thing for you to focus on in your career.
Plug into what’s really going on now. You’ll discover even more opportunities, ways to take advantage of trends and avoid career missteps as this revolution rolls along. To do this, you simply must attend writers conferences and workshops, and connect with fellow writers and editors and agents to learn from their experiences. I got my first book deal with Random House for my novel What I Meant… by making contact with editors and agents entirely through conferences. You can see how I used these conferences to make it all happen by checking out my article Why Conferences: Or How I Got My Agent and Editor.
Also, please DO consider subscribing to Publishersmarketplace.com. You can share the subscription with other writers, you can subscribe for only a month or two at a time, whatever works for you. It’s a phenomenal resource. There’s a free daily newsletter you can get without a subscription, but it’s nothing compared to the site. Thinking about writing a novel about serfs during the end of the dark ages? Before you dip your toe into years of research and toil, type in some key words into Publishersmarketplace and you’ll quickly know all the major books on your topic that have come out in the past 10 years, you’ll know what overlapping books have recently been purchased but not yet come out on the same subject, and you’ll be able to craft your novel to be unique. You’ll also know all the publishers, editors and agents who dealt with those books…perfect info for submissions. So why aren’t you subscribing to this again???
Another way to stay plugged in is to subscribe to the relevant free newsletters that publishersweekly.com emails out. I always get their general PWDaily newsletter along with their Children’s Bookshelf newsletter, but there are others related to religious books, cook books and comics. Subscribe to whatever you want here.
Also, you simply must join and participate in writing organizations relevant to what you write in order to make important connections and learn! Organizations like The Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators, Romance Writers of America, etc. not only focus on an area that interests you, but also offer phenomenal local conferences, workshops and meetings bringing editors and agents and writers together in an accessible environment. They also have wonderful online communities where you can ask questions, and share your concerns with others in the know. Search for the organizations that encompass your writing interests, and dig deeper to find your fit.
I know, I know. It all sounds like SO MUCH WORK AND TIME. But you will actually be saving time in the long run. You can use all the info you glean to focus your queries, to write books that are best placed for your market, and to move yourself ahead in your career while becoming part of a supportive community. I’d like you to take on the challenge to get plugged in to your business side, and I’d like you to look back five years from now…even one year from now…and see a huge difference in your knowledge and your connections!
Finally, if you are looking for an agent, find one who is right for YOU, and who will keep abreast on all the shifts in the business, in rights, and in the best options for your future career. You want an agent that will represent your CAREER, not just your book. In these shifting times, you need someone with vision, who will also have eyes wide open to all the opportunities the changing publishing landscape presents.
Yeah, this is about all that online “stuff.” At the minimum, you should buy a domain in your name (not in your book’s name…titles get changed…you’ll write more than one book…etc.), and set up a webpage that will represent you. I have a paid domain, but this website is free (wordpress.com) and I easily handle all the layout and content myself. No dominatrix webmistress required, and I have complete control, which means I can update whenever I like.
Make creating your website a priority. Think of it as your virtual business card. Yes, you need one even if you haven’t published yet. Here’s what it can include: 1. What sort of writing you do. 2. Your bio and author pic. 3. Brief excerpt of your work (very brief). 4. Later on you can add links to buy your works, and appropriate listings of appearances, etc. 5. Book trailers, videos/vlogs are all fun and cheap to do if right for you and your work. So, with your virtual business card (a.k.a. your website) in place, you can link back to it in posts elsewhere, in your email signature line, etc.
You also want to create a facebook page, and point it back to your website, plus a Twitter account that has a profile which points back to your website, and a LinkedIn page that…oh, you get the idea. And go to goodreads.com to create a profile as a reader. If you’ve pubbed a book, then get that author account, and use it!
Not sure any of this is worth your time? I’m crossing my arms and sending you my most severe scowl right now (which, considering I’m only 5’2″, isn’t all that intimidating, but still…) Google your name in quotes right now and see what comes up. Now Google “Marie Lamba” and check out what pops up. Much of what you’ll see stems from me taking the above steps to “get found.” And when I get submissions from authors and I’m interested in them, guess what I do? Yup. I Google em. Wouldn’t you love for what pops up to be something positive and professional?
I know, I KNOW! Oh the TIME involved in this. Time that should be SPENT WRITING. But it is a business too. Think of all this as free advertising. Think of just how many thousands of dollars you would have had to spend on ads just 20 years ago to reach even a fraction of the people who you could with all this new cool FREE stuff. And once you set it all up, you can just spend 15 minutes per day checking in and updating if needed, or commenting. But remember that whatever you put out there is getting found by a future reader, or editor, or agent, and act accordingly.
Take advantage of digital and self publishing options to boost your readership for existing and to-be-released novels, and boost your success as a writer! I touched on this a little bit in the second post in this series. I must remind you of two important caveats. Caveat 1: only put out your very best work that is as good as anything that a big NYC publisher would print. Caveat 2: be aware of pre-existing contracts and rights that you are involved in, and keep your editor and agent in the loop.
So…how can self-publishing (let’s call it by its hipper name “indie publishing”) be used as a career building/reader building tool?
Well, you can, of course, release a book yourself to begin to build your fan base. This can work well with genre writing, especially with a series. You can write short stories related to your book, and release these in ebook free or cheap, with a link to your full novel (which will, of course, be at a higher price). You can offer through your website extras like downloadable outtakes from your novel. If you have a niche market, you can indie publish your title and reach the right folk.
So, with the groundswell of change going on, indie publishing is now a cool way to reach readers, which is kinda the reason why we write in the first place. BUT don’t indie-publish a book expecting to get an agent to then take it on and sell it to a big publisher. You need huge sales to do this (we’re talking in the 10,000 range), and you still need to make the agent and then a publisher fall in love with that book. Your rights on that book will be muddied. HOWEVER, say you have an indie pubbed novel that is praised and doing fairly well. Then you approach an agent with a different novel. Well, it can show you have been well-received and have already begun building an audience. I see that as a definite plus.
Determined to go 100% traditional publishing? Cool. But why not have a few related short stories on hand in reserve to help with your traditional book’s promotion? Or some other extras you can offer online as bonus material. Very cool, right? Big publishers are already seeing the wisdom of this, doing stuff like offering 99 cent prequels, 99 cent short stories with a 45 page preview of a related book included…and they are doing these in advance of print releases. It’s advertising, baby.
So open your mind to the possibilities…possibilities to reach readers that we never had before. In the olden days, a print ARC (advance reader copy) cost big bucks to print and mail to advance readers in order to generate buzz. Today? Ebooks cost next to nothing. One FLUX author Linda Joy Singleton gave away close to 70,000 ebooks of a first novel in a series of 5. The rest of her series sold HUGE since so many readers were invested in finding out what happened next.
What can we writers learn from this? Would a free novella ebook be the right way to build your audience? Every author/book is different, but it is worth considering the options. Options that are now at our fingertips.
Yup, boundaries between traditional and indie, between writer and reader are blurring all around us. I see it as a good thing. I want my authors to succeed, to be read. Today there are more ways to publish, to promote…more opportunities to reach readers and communicate with fans, too. Now we can each create books that will come alive for readers, and never ever die.
In wrapping up this 3-part WHY WRITERS WIN series, I want you to fully understand what all of this means. This means you as a writer will never again have to have a brilliant manuscript sitting on your bookshelf never to be seen by readers. People who say that the reason a book isn’t accepted by big publishers is because it isn’t good enough are not 100% correct. Many books are passed over because of the marketplace, because of past sales figures, because they are too niche for a big press, etc. etc. etc. Some of these rejected books are actually fabulous.
Now you have many tools to shape your career. Now you can promote your writing for next to nothing. Now you can write what you LOVE and know that readers will get a chance to see it. So take these four steps. And CELEBRATE folks, for THE AGE OF THE AUTHOR is here.