Do Something For Yourself
In November and December, I talked about how it’s great to do for others, to pay it forward, to be thankful for what you have, etc.
But now it’s January, a time of new beginnings, the time when some of us make New Year’s resolutions. So here are some resolutions all you folks in writer land should consider for 2018.
- Promote More.
This doesn’t mean flood social media with requests to buy your books or visit your Web site. But the truth is, most of us don’t do a good job of self-promotion. So hit the ‘net and find some new places to strategically let readers know about your writing.
- Create a Promotion Strategy.
Hand in hand with promote more is promote better. Don’t just post in the same old places. Come up with a game plan to maximize the effectiveness of the posts you put out there.
- Become Better at Social Media.
Forget the cats, forget the political bashings, and forget that picture of those cupcakes you baked for your kids’ school. Using social media effectively means figuring out what works and what doesn’t when it comes to driving people to your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. pages and from there to your blogs, Web sites, and books. Getting people to follow you on a regular basis means a balancing act between posts they want to see because they’re interesting or fun and posts you want them to see because it means getting your book titles in front of their eyes. If you’re not a whiz at social media, consider taking a class. They are everywhere on the ‘net and probably at your local library or school as well. Even some of our members, such as Kya Shore, offer instructional classes in promotion and social media.
- Dedicate More Time to Writing.
Like so many of us, I tend to get distracted from my writing more than ever these days. Social media is a time-suck. Promotion is a time-suck. Searching for new markets, trying to find an agent, doing book edits, doing research—all of these things take up a writer’s time. And then there’s family time, work, taking care of the house or a pet, and emergencies like a car breaking down or any of a million other things daily life throws at us. And what suffers? Writing. So try this: look at your day or week. Find one thing you can eliminate. Maybe it’s a half-hour TV show you don’t even really like but you’ve gotten into the habit of watching. Maybe it’s dropping out of one volunteer activity that doesn’t need you and you only do it because you feel you have to. Maybe it’s as simple as getting together with a couple of other parents to carpool the kids to sports practice rather than everyone going. Then take that hour or whatever it is and do nothing but write. Don’t edit, don’t research, don’t sleep. Just write.
- Take Your Goals Higher.
Shoot for the stars; make your time worth your while. Every writer wants to be professionally published. To quit that day job and write full time. To earn a living as a writer.
You’ll never do that if you’re not getting paid.
I don’t want to get into an argument about how people need to start at the bottom, blah blah blah. What I want to say is that you shouldn’t aim at the bottom.
Always aim at the top.
Your acceptances will tell you where you are. Start at the top, and track rejections and acceptances. If you are only getting accepted at no-pay or embarrassingly low-pay, then that tells you something. Your writing needs work. So work on it. Get help—join a critique group, take a class like Borderlands Bootcamp for Writers. Work on your skills. Wherever you are at in your writing career, set a goal that this year you’re going to move up a level, or two. In the HWA, that might mean going from Affiliate to Active. Or maybe it means getting published in magazines and anthologies that pay 4 cents or 5 cents a word instead of 2 cents.
Part of this means studying those types of markets. What kind of stories get accepted? How does their writing compare to yours? Are you struggling with characterization? Using time-worn plots? Stuck with monotonous dialog? Read more, and then let your brain and eyes transfer that knowledge to your own writing.
- Meet Other Writers.
Attend conferences, participate in mass signings, do whatever you can to meet other writers. Cons can be expensive; often a person can only attend one or two a year, or only those that are within driving distance. That’s okay. Just get out there and meet your peers. Talk to them. Learn from them. Then you can continue those friendships via social media or E-mail later on.
- Try Something New.
A couple of years ago, I’d never written a horror/sf military action story. Now I’ve had two accepted, and it turns out they were fun to write, although it was a little difficult getting into a new mindset.
But as writers, we need to do that. To stretch the mental muscles a little, expand our horizons. Sure, you write horror. But you don’t have to write just that. You can do something else. Or you can blend it with something else. Horror-suspense. Horror-erotica. Horror-SF. Horror-western. Mix and match genres, let your imagination run wild.
- Follow the Publishing Industry Changes.
Keep track of what goes on in publishing. Read about traditional vs. self vs. hybrid publishing models. Branch out. Try different avenues. Hey, you write short stories and you have one that hasn’t sold? After making sure it’s of high enough quality to be published, take a chance and self-publish on Amazon. Or maybe you have some old books that you’ve gotten the rights back to. Slap a new cover on them and republish them yourself. It can’t hurt, and even if they don’t jump up the best-seller list, you’ll have learned something new.
- Study Other Writers.
What kinds of marketing, social media, and business strategies do the successful writers use? What are they doing different than you? Now, you probably can’t duplicate Stephen King’s marketing machine; however, you can look at the writers you know who are sort of at your level but seem to be selling more books and doing more appearances than you. What can you learn from them? Is it your social media posts? Do you arrange book signings at local stores? Do you try to set up radio or TV interviews? There are a lot of strategies and tricks to this biz, and it’s definitely not one size fits all, but you can perhaps take something from here, something from there, and create a successful platform for yourself this year.
- Enhance Your Reputation.
Be the kind of writer other writers appreciate and admire. Help other writers rather than isolating yourself. Offer to mentor, to volunteer, to answer questions. You don’t have to give up your writing time to do this. And don’t bash other writers in social media or even privately. Pass along what you’ve learned and make sure to enjoy this chance you’ve been given—to be a writer! In other words, don’t be a jerk. Be the kind of writer others want to meet, to hang with, to talk shop with. Publishers notice these things, and while it won’t matter if you don’t also put out good writing, it can make a difference to a publisher or editor if submissions come down to you and someone they dislike, or who has a reputation for being difficult to work with.
Now let’s see what other resolutions you can come up with this year!
Are you signed up for StokerCon in March? If so, be sure to attend my Horror University class on resume writing for writers, editors, and publishers.
In other news, all of my formerly out-of-print novellas and novels are now available in hard copy and e-book, several of them with nifty new covers. There’s also an omnibus available, which contains seven novellas. You can find them all on my Amazon page (http://tinyurl.com/jgfaherty), along with all my other titles.