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.

Simple daily checklist for aspiring authors

If you intend to make creative writing your profession, then clock in to the job at least five days a week. You won’t need to be reminded to do the writing part. Don’t clock out until you’ve also accomplished all five of these marketing and business-related tasks each workday:

  1. Put in place one component from the Platform Hub graphic created by Anthony Puttee. Recognize that your online presence will require maintenance, because some of its components involve ongoing efforts. Eventually, put in place will become maintain and update, but first you must put the component in place.
  2. Multiple choice—pick one:
    • Submit or pitch a short piece of writing for publication somewhere.
    • Apply for a fellowship, residency, or grant funding.
    • Send out a book review request (when the time comes).
    • Invite someone to guest blog on your site.
  3. Learn something new related to the craft or business of writing. If doing is the way you learn, then get hands-on.
  4. Do something nice for someone in the book publishing ecosystem. Be inventive. Write a fan letter, comment on someone’s blog, review a book, attend and be supportive at an author event, write a blogpost, send out a podcast, give advice. Be generous, and you’ll be remembered.
  5. Add a new person to your list of professional contacts. Categorize or tag, file, and back up the data, so you can locate contact information when you need to ask for a return favor, such as a book review, advice, a blurb, or a referral.

Structure these five tasks as a daily checklist. After a few weeks, you’ll be surprised by how efficient you’ve become at getting them done each day. It will become second nature. If the work seems onerous, then you probably don’t want to make creative writing into a profession. You’ll be much happier as an amateur, concerned with no one’s expectations but your own.

Photo courtesy of Cathryn Lavery