Which writer is a pro, and which one never will be?

guts over fear
Photo courtesy of NordWood Themes

As you discover how the book business works, you’ll notice that many, if not most, other writers sit around fantasizing about success without doing much to achieve it. You’ll see how assiduously they avoid certain aspects of the business of writing, because they don’t want to confront their weaknesses. At some point it will become obvious to you which writer is a professional and which one never will be. You might eventually forget what it was like to be unaware of the difference.

No one will ever demand that you do what you need to do to be a successful author. People simply will give up on you and invest in someone who’s more prepared. You’re expected to recognize the opportunities and carry out the work because you understand the nature of the competition. There’s no shortage of useful information for writers who are motivated to learn about the book business, and the learning never stops.

If you’re waiting for someone to tell you what to do, then you’re a person who makes excuses. You’re not fooling anyone.

Procrastination comes off as a lack of enthusiasm or, worse, learned helplessness. If you’re in a rut, get out of it! Waiting for guidance instead of researching and developing your own professional strategies is self-defeating. You are empowered to make of your writing career what you want it to be.

Agents and acquiring editors, for example, can’t assume there will be improvement in your online presence and your ability to help with book promotion. All they see when making their decisions is what’s discoverable at the precise moment they consider your manuscript.

If your goal is to be a book author whose books actually sell, then begin by identifying other creators who are good at self-promotion and whose results are worthy of your admiration. Learn from everyone. Some musicians and journalists are great at leveraging social media. You’ll find role models in many industries other than book publishing.

Your best results will come from innovating, because you’re more noticeable when you’re out in front of the crowd.

Get out there.

Respect creators’ rights when you repost


For writers who are just starting to blog, part of the learning curve involves understanding copyrights, trademarks, privacy rights, and plagiarism. For example, copying images or text from the web to use on your blog is easy, but it can make you look like a fool if you don’t know how to do it legally.

I’ve been shocked to find that university professors, accustomed to copying and sharing in their course handouts published material written by other scholars, often don’t know that they can’t always do the same when they blog (i.e., self-publish) or write for a publisher. It’s no wonder some of their students don’t observe the laws either. Ignorance is no defense, though.

On many blogging platforms you must create your own links to your sources and/or include a caption or attribution line to advise readers where you legally obtained material that you’ve shared on your blog. Blogging demands the effort when you’re conscientious.

Obtain permission to reprint any text, images, and illustrations that you don’t own or that aren’t in the public domain, when fair use isn’t applicable. Know the definitions of public domain, fair use, Creative Commons, plagiarism, etc. Permission from the originator isn’t the only thing you’ll need. You’ll also need to provide proper attribution once permission has been secured in writing.

Some social media platforms, such as Facebook, Pinterest, and Tumblr, automate the link back to the site that serves as a poster’s source. However, if you’re using one of these social media sites, then as a matter of principle, before you post a link, you’ll want to determine whether the owner of the webpage to which you’re linking is the original creator of or the copyright holder for whatever you’re linking in order to share. More often than not, your particular source for an item will not be the original. Sometimes it’s easy to locate the original and link to it instead of to the page where you first found something interesting. You can always give a tip of the hat (h/t) to the poster who brought the linked item to your attention.

Try to put yourself in the shoes of the content creator, and don’t fail to give credit where credit’s due. If you can’t identify the originator or the current copyright holder, then it’s best not to share the material.

There is a lot to learn about the laws applicable to bloggers, which is why I don’t recommend the sink-or-swim method that many bloggers rely on.

If you want to know the laws, then study the material linked at legal tips for bloggers. You’ll be a more trusted source as a blogger if you respect the law and other creators.

More on these topics

What is Plagiarism?

Advertising: What is a Copyright, Patent, and Trademark?
Joel Miller

Frequently Asked Questions about Copyright
U.S. Copyright Office

Comprehensive Information for U.S. and International Copyright Law

Publishing Personal and Private Information
Digital Media Law Project