There’s nothing like attending a writers conference to make it clear that there’s WAY too much bad advice given to newbie writers.
Newbie writers, like newbies of all kinds, need nurturing, support and lots of encouragement. But what they need more than anything is solid, reliable information. Saying, “Atta boy! You can do it!” and pointing them in the wrong direction is the quickest way to destroy a budding talent. They use the precious time they have for writing, marketing and promotion and spend it (and often thousands of dollars as well) on plans that too often don’t take them anywhere near their goal: to publish, get known as authors and SELL BOOKS. But since they’re being given this advice by (supposedly) experienced authors and publishers, off they rush to try to fulfill all these plans, in the process exhausting themselves, alienating all their friends and often as not ending up with a product they hate.
And how can you blame them? This is all new to them. They’re told: “You need an agent, you need a great website, you need a great book cover, you need testimonials from famous people for your book, you need a presence on social media. You need to blog every week, you need to be tweeting constantly… you need… you need… you need… ” An hour or so of that and the shaky writer is questioning whether any of this is worth it–just to put out a simple book!
This past weekend, I was invited to speak at Book ‘Em North Carolina, a relatively new event that’s become a staple in Lumberton, NC and attracts large and lively crowds of aspiring authors, who are hungry for information on the nuts and bolts of writing, both the craft and the business. They come specifically to listen to successful authors and learn from them.
And how helpful is it?
Well, at last year’s event, the keynote speaker, a phenomenally successful and very talented author was speaking on “Hitting the Bestseller Lists”. Trouble was, she hadn’t picked the topic, and though the place was packed to hear her, her advice wasn’t useful for new writers. When she admitted that she actually didn’t know the secret of hitting the bestseller lists because ‘my publisher took care of promotion for me’, it was all over. She had become famous in the ’90s, when publishing was far different than it is today, and authors were essentially just expected to embark on physical book tours set up by their publishers, and somehow good things would happen. They certainly did for her–and she deserves it–but none of that is part of the paradigm for new writers confronting the writing business now.
At this year’s event, I did a solo talk and a panel talk, both on promotion. The panel talk was very general in nature (I think most writers attending could have heard much more detailed information), but what appalled me was when one of my fellow panel members mentioned that as a matter of course, she always sent out advance reading copies of her books BY SNAIL MAIL. This meant printing, binding, mailing and PAYING FOR a large number of her own books in order to reach reviewers and other people in a position to spotlight the books.
I haven’t sent out a hard-copy ARC for ten years, and I don’t plan to ever again. When someone wants a reading copy, I either refer him to my URL at Smashwords (and give him a coupon code for a free copy of any eBook version) or send a .pdf from my own email account, which is always ready with my bio, book blurb, book cover .jpeg and buy links, in a draft email saved in my Drafts folder. I said that when it was my turn on that question, and hope the woman who had discussed the hard-copy ARC’s wasn’t offended. But if someone else on the panel hadn’t mentioned sending them out electronically, would all those people have assumed that hard-copy ARC’s were the way to go? And (heaven forbid) would they all have done it?
For that reason–and because I find myself around writers all the time, most of whom have tons of questions about writing–I have decided to make myself available on a regular basis to work one on one with writers, to offer feedback and suggestions on all aspects of writing, publishing and promotion. I want them to get information that will help them NOW, not send them running in circles. I’m also offering personal feedback on their writing: what works, what doesn’t and HOW TO FIX IT (I’ve spent many years as a story analyst and am especially experienced with issues involving structure, plot and characterization).
I’ve added a page called Coaching for Writers to my website; if you have a question about your project or a project you’re thinking of writing, I hope you’ll check it out. I want to suggest ways you can build your writing business better, quicker and more effectively. I’d like to take you from A to Z without your getting stuck at 3 and 7.
So if you’re stuck in a creative rut where you need to brainstorm or just want to figure out how best to promote your novel–I’d love to hear from you. Email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or use the form on my site.
After years of watching writers run around like rats in a maze, I’d like to see the writing business reduced to simple straight lines, and reduce the frustration of new writers to something a lot more manageable than what I’ve seen. Writing’s hard enough, and the writing business is humbling enough. It’s time for simple, effective answers.
Best of luck on YOUR writing journey!