I’ve been self-employed most of my adult life. I’ve worked at home with bulky word processors and fax machines, from 800 numbers to social media accounts. Writing, to me, has always been a business: not necessarily very lucrative, but a business nonetheless.
Recently I attended Writer’s Digest Conference in New York. WDC was my first writing conference in 2011 and I go back every year. Because of the constant changes in publishing, there is always a lot to learn. I take notes on my netbook during every session. If something is discussed that I need to apply to my own writing or business practices, I type it in boldface. Those are assembled into a new, intimidating to-do list after the conference.
When you write a book, at some point it’s done. You and your editor are satisfied, so you publish it to share with the world. But the business side is never done. You’re constantly marketing what you’ve already written, peaking interest in what you’re working on, publicizing events. Certain times of the year may be busier than others, but you’re never finished with marketing. And that’s what a lot of authors hate.
They want to write. Who doesn’t? They might feel that just publishing the book, making it available on Amazon or wherever, should be enough. They may have little or no budget for marketing, or they may not have a clue what to do to sell their book. But many of the ones who are resistant just don’t want to do it, whether they’re indie authors or traditionally published.
Imagine if you were in a different line of work: acting, let’s say. You’re a gifted, creative performer. You’ve mastered your craft. You’ve memorized monologues. But you don’t go on auditions. You don’t bother with head shots or resumes. You sit back and wait to be discovered like Lana Turner, as she sat drinking a soda at the Top Hat Café (no, it wasn’t Schwab’s). Not very smart, is it?
In order to be successful, that actor has to do one of two things: figure out how to market themselves, or hire someone else to do it. One costs time, the other money. Most authors know they have to make a choice, too: or more likely, do both. No actor can build a career hoping that someone notices them when they’re not acting. No restaurant or store can survive just on the patronage of the owner’s friends and family. No writer can survive that way, either.
The business side is what really discourages a lot of writers and I understand why. It can be incredibly overwhelming. That’s where conferences like Writer’s Digest, websites like Build Book Buzz and organizations like Alliance of Independent Authors come in handy. They teach writers how to build successful careers, by applying best practices to their writing businesses. They vet resources so newbie writers can avoid scams. They demystify what for many non-business types is an alternate universe.
So, if you want to achieve success (in whatever way you define that) in your writing, take a hard look at what you what to accomplish. Seek out trusted experts and make a plan, applying their expertise to your own situation.
And before you know it, you will find that other writers are seeking your advice. Because you’ve done what you thought you could not do: become a whiz at marketing your writing.