Throughout the process of writing; of pushing myself daily to get those words on paper and sometimes struggling with the belief I wasn’t good enough, I’ve now come to realize a few things that I wish had been shared with me.
I’m starting my “Friday’s Featured Author” this week and it will run throughout the year, until December 30th. I was overwhelmed with the response I received and those who were interested in participating. For many of those authors, whom you will soon get to meet, I kept getting the same thing. “I don’t know where to start!”, “How do I market?”, “What if no one buys my book?”. I wasn’t necessarily shocked at this, as I remember quite vividly asking myself those same questions. Sometimes I still do.
In working with just a select few of these writer’s today, I found myself giving advice, some unsolicited and some not, almost as if I were a professional amongst a parody of students who didn’t understand the difference between a verb and an adjective. That’s not true, of course. They were all intelligent and more than capable, and I’m certainly not at a level to call myself a professional writer just yet! My point is this…. I hadn’t realized just how far I’d come in only a few short years to now being on the other side. All of this coupled together with reviewing their manuscripts, researching book links and websites, I compiled another list that I thought might be helpful to those who feel lost.
1- It all starts with an idea. Doesn’t matter what it is, or how crazy it may sound. If you can think it, you can write it. The hardest part is starting.
2- Be comfortable with your idea. Very comfortable. Stick with it, especially when you start second-guessing yourself. Trust me, you will. Be so comfortable with that idea that you go to bed with it every night and wake up with it every morning, ready to start the day. Whatever your story, it will become part of you. So… get comfortable.
3- Be willing to make sacrifices because that’s what it takes. For instance, I’m married with two children. I quit the shenanigans years ago because let’s face it, you have to grow up sometime. I’m to the point where just getting a day alone to go to the grocery store is a mini-vacation. I relish it with my whole being. Writing is kinda like that, too. When you write, it will consume you. You will eat, sleep and breathe your characters. You will sit up at night thinking about them. You have to make room and sacrifice time in other areas to accomplish that. I’m not saying barricade yourself in a room and don’t come out until you’ve finished a novel, but you do have to be willing to make changes.
4- Prove to yourself you can do it to build your confidence. I remember writing my first novel. I was anxious and scared, but more importantly I was excited. A bit over zealous even. I had done it. I had written a 478 page novel my first time out of the gate! Then came the marketing. Just the idea had me dry heaving and breaking out into hives. Who would want to buy my book? What made my novel any different than the other 700,000+ romance novels available? It literally made me sick to think of failing, but as soon as I hit that ‘publish’ button, I felt like I’d conquered the world. That small boost had me believing I could do it again. So I did.
5- Proofread, proofread, proofread. You will probably zip through your manuscript and then hopefully go over it again with a fine-toothed comb. Perhaps you will have a friend or two skim over it, maybe even pass it along to an editor (which I highly recommend you do) because 2, 4, or even 20 extra pair of eyes will inevitably catch something the other 19 pair of eyes missed. It’s super important. I cannot stress that enough. You’ve put in the time. You’ve made those sacrifices. You’ve gotten comfortable and you’ve proven to yourself you can do it. Put that same time into editing. Many books get overlooked, returned to the shelf to collect dust because the grammar is poor and/or the punctuation is lacking. Your reader will pick up on it and be immediately turned off.
6- Accept the fact (and this one was hard for me) that no one will care as much about your work as you do. Don’t get discouraged! Family and friends will be happy for you, of course, but readers don’t know you yet. Don’t expect the hype to be so great that you sell a million copies the first week. It takes time and perseverance. It takes guts to write a book, regardless of what anyone says, and you will get there, you just have to be patient.
7- Marketing. A big deal. A HUGE deal. If no one knows who you are, you can’t expect them to buy your book. Try to keep your personal life and you public persona separate. I discussed this with several new authors today. As I was matching links to profiles, sure there were enough photos of their dogs and children, but never any mention of their book. I love children, don’t get me wrong. I’m quite fond of the two I have, but I don’t expect a potential reader will purchase my work because of how cute they are. Social media is an important tool, especially since more and more people would rather text than hold an actual conversation. I understand it can get pricey to market and not everyone has those resources, but get creative. Make a Twitter and Facebook account. It costs nothing. Join Goodreads and connect with readers who are interested in your genre. Promote giveaways. Do anything and everything you can to get your name out there.
I know most of these points seem trivial, but to some the unknown is scary. The whole premise of starting “Friday’s Featured Author” is to help those who are struggling. I’ve been there and I still have a long ways to go before I get where I want to be. Sometimes knowing you aren’t alone helps the road feel a little less bumpy. I hope these tips help those who are wondering where to start, or what to do next. Happy writing!