Whether you’re self-published or one of the old-school traditionalists, chances are pretty high that you’ve been guilty of at least one of these at some point in your career. They’re easy slip-ups that can pretty easily leave a bad taste in the mouths of your readers and the kick-ass bloggers who make our little world go ’round.
**gasp** I know, I know. Why would an author need humility? I mean, you wrote the best novel ever, right? Everyone should recognize that and bask in the glory that is your God-like mastery of the written word. Well, chances are good that you didn’t actually write the best novel ever. As a matter of fact, statistically speaking, you probably didn’t even hit the radar for the Top 100. That’s not to say your book isn’t good, or even great, but let’s be honest here: We can’t all be F. Scott Fitzgerald. Hell, we’ll never even be J.K. Rowling.
That being said, even Nora Roberts knows the importance of humility. Staying humble and remembering that you’re just another human being trapped on a spinning ball of rock, hurling through space and narrowly dodging catastrophic collisions with other heavenly bodies, can go a long way.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: People aren’t going to buy a book just because you tell them to. People aren’t going to buy a book because the cover’s pretty (although the chances are much higher if the cover is actually pretty). People are going to buy a book because they want to support the author. Take a step back and ask yourself if you’re being the kind of person people want to like. Is your social media just link after link after link to your chosen POS? Do you give your readers a chance to get to know you?
Friends and Family are the easy sales, folks. Why would you not want your fan base to be made up of friends? Please, for the love of all things holy (to be read as “cheese”), stop chasing your own fans off!
In stark contrast to humility, we’ve got marketing. Much like the hydra, every time you think you’ve ticked a box off the marketing to-do list, fifteen thousand nine hundred and twenty-seven more checkboxes show up to stare at you with their beady little glowing eyes of doom. I can’t tell you how many times I see authors publish and assume the book will well itself.
For most of us, this is probably the worst part of publication. Writers are, by nature, I think, an introverted species. We love to be around people, but only so we can watch them and dissect how they behave and interact with one another so that we might, one day, write that revolutionary piece of literature that strikes to the heart of human relations and rockets us onto the aforementioned Top 100 list. Alas, the moment our subjects turn their friendly gaze upon us, it’s like we’ve been pinned to the wall with razor-sharp daggers. The panic sets in and we start looking for escape routes and silently cursing ourselves for not taking note of the exits like James Bond taught us. There’s only one option left as the guy you’d been watching smiles and takes that first step toward you: Kill everyone in the room and burn the evidence.
Fortunately (or not), most authors are only trained killers in theory, not so much in practice.
As the invader approaches, your brain shuts down, overwhelmed at the idea of actually holding a conversation with another human being. You’re acting on instinct and your fight or flight kicks in. We’ve already established that fighting isn’t really an option, so you run like hell, clenching your ass-cheeks together and faking a case of explosive diarrhea. So much better than having to deal with real people.
This tactic is great for our personal comfort levels, but not-so-great for selling books. You have to be personable. Even with the backing of a major publishing house, authors need to be able to interact with their fan bases. You’ve gotta talk to people, folks. I know it’s hard. I know it’s terrifying. I also know it’s necessary.
My method is simple: I interact like mad on Facebook (the easy part) and I’ve gone to carrying business cards around in my wallet. All it takes is a simple “Hello, I just published my first (or tenth) book. What are you doing with your life?” (You can probably drop off that last part for the sake of humility, but you get the picture.)
The moment someone finds out you’re an author, there will be one of two responses:
1) “I don’t read. When does the movie come out?”If this is the response you get, all you have to do is remember the time you had to Google self-defense for that one scene and aim for the throat.
2) “You write books? Where can I get them?” BINGO. Hand them a business card, smile, and pull up your Amazon reviews on your smart phone. Chances are good they’ll pull out their own phone then and there and one-click that shiz! (I did this four times yesterday and sold four books.)
This one is my personal downfall. I forget to blog (I think it’s been almost a year since my last post) and it’s really hard to get into the habit.
My reasoning behind this little piece of advice is simple: It gives readers a free taste of your writing style and it’s a free marketing tool to get your name out there. You can’t really ask for a more effective tool.
This one seems like a no-brainer, but stop and ask yourself how long it’s been since you’ve taken time away from writing to actually read. Personally, I go through a book or two a week. Primarily because it’s easier to read at my day job than it is to write.
You need to read. Especially in your genre. It’s a roadmap to better writing. It keeps your eyes sharp (“Why would you put a comma there?” or “OMG! Typo!”) and it trains your brain to think in a more natural cadence. You’ll find that the more you read, the less you’ll find yourself editing when that first draft is finished. It’s also a fantastic tool for overcoming writer’s block. My favorite thing in the world is when I finish a good book and suddenly can’t wait to sit down at the computer and bang out all the words. Nora Roberts in particular has a penchant for making me want to write.
This one is a touchy subject for many authors and, honestly, I can’t say I blame them. Leaving honest reviews is hard for everyone. Leaving an honest “bad” review is even more difficult. A lot of the authors I know simply refuse to leave reviews because they’re afraid that author will send their cronies out to destroy their reputation.
Here’s my advice: Be respectful, be honest, and be constructive. This community can be brutal. There’s no denying that. However, we know that reviews can make or break an author. We spend a good portion of our time trying to convince people to leave them for us. Why would we not be willing to do the same for a fellow author?
If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of leaving a less-than-stellar review, be sure to tell the author why it didn’t resonate with you. Especially if you’re like me and pay money for your books, even if you receive an ARC. I am entitled to my opinion and, if you’re a professional, you can take a little criticism and find a way to make yourself better.
We, meaning authors, have to learn to take criticism. As nice as it would be, we can’t all win a trophy. That’s not how the world works. There are no “safe zones” and yes, words can hurt like a bitch. But they also have the power to create change. As authors, that should always be our goal. We’re in the very unique position of knowing what a bad review feels like and also knowing that we could all use a little advice every now and then. Take the bad reviews with a grain of salt and find the nugget of good advice that can generally be found in every single review you receive. Sticking your head in the sand or throwing a temper tantrum isn’t going to make it go away. It’s either going to make you continue writing poorly or it’s going to make people afraid to leave reviews altogether. Neither option is good for your career or mine.
As always, I hope these tips have been helpful! If you have an aspect of ‘The Biz’ you’d like me to talk about, let me know down in the comments! I’ve been through the process of publishing seven times now and I’m always happy to share what I’ve learned!
Oh, and BUY MY BOOKS!
Happy writing! ~D