Sunday, July 22, 2018

Writers, Beware How You Spend Your Time And Money

Writers are eager - sometimes even desperate - to find help with all aspects of writing and publishing. As a result, we often sign on for, and even purchase, "Questionable Help" that is usually presented in attractive packaging but in fact offers little reliable guidance.

Here are some "attractive" concepts that often require needless time and expenditure. They are enormously popular. They are also often overrated, sometimes seriously so.

Where appropriate, I make suggestions for alternatives.

Questionable Help: #1: Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc.) is increasingly assumed to be necessary to find readers and sell books. Yes, an active social media presence probably helps. But studies show it is an enormous time-suck. If you like social media, do it for the joy it gives. (It does bring you joy, right?) But you probably shouldn't do it because you think it will make your writing career. Full disclosure: I don't do social media. You may think that proves that I don't have a clue about its effectiveness. Can't argue with you there. But I've built a career without it. And I've met numerous authors who say that while social media does a great job of connecting them to readers they already have, it doesn't seem to be so successful finding new readers.

     Suggested Alternative: Take some, or all, of your social media time and energy and use most of it to write more good books and the rest of it to go out and give talks at libraries, service clubs, book clubs, and any other event where you actually meet readers face-to-face. My experience suggests that meeting readers in person is by far the most effective way to get them to try your books. The quality of the book they try determines if they read your other books.

Questionable Help: #2: Purchasing a publication package from an internet publisher. These people are in the business of taking money from writers with stars in their eyes. They are not in the business of selling books. You can check this by looking up their authors on Amazon and seeing their usually-dismal sales ranking.

     Suggested Alternative: Find an agent who will find a real publisher who pays you an advance instead of taking your money. Or publish your book with real self-publishing. According to several sources, 25% of all Amazon bestsellers are now self-published. I don't believe any of them were published by one of the internet publishing companies. According to some of those sources, over half of all authors making $100,000 per year are now self-published (using real self-publishing). (How is it that the self-published 25% of bestselling authors can comprise half of $100,000-plus earners? Because self-published authors keep far more of the sales income. Thus a smaller number of self-published authors end up making more than a larger number of New York-published authors.)

The following three posts give some explanation about self-publishing.

Questionable Help: #3: Purchasing books and/or consultations by so-called experts who describe themselves as book doctors or book coaches or "how to write" experts. How-to books and consultations have the potential to be helpful, but notice one very important thing. Many of these "experts" have little actual experience. Look to see if the author of the "how to write" book has had any significant success writing. Same for the authors of "how to get published" books, or "how to sell" books. I've seen books about writing mystery novels written by authors who appear to have written very few mystery novels. By their lack of sales, it appears they thought it might just be easier to write and sell "how-to" books. Yes, I know that some good coaches exist in arenas where they've had little experience. But in the absence of that experience, you should look for testimonials about their expertise, testimonials from best-selling authors.

     Suggested Alternative: Join writers groups and critique groups. Go to their meetings. Get to know other writers. Go to writers' conferences, especially the ones that offer critique.

Questionable Help: #4: Many authors write a book or two and then try to chase down marketing gurus and publicists to help them turn their book into a bestseller. This is putting the cart before the horse. (Remember, writers should never use cliches!) The most important component of building a writing career is more good books. After you have a bunch entrees on your menu - I mean, a bunch of books out - then is the time to start big-time publicizing of your restaurant.

     Suggested Alternative: See my two posts on finding Success at Writing.

As one of those posts explains, do like Hugh Howey and write ten or twenty books before you get all focused on marketing. If you wait, you will become a much better writer and have a much better likelihood of success.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for posting this Todd! I get emails every day about marketing packages and whatnot. While some of them actually seem reasonable, I'm just not sure how useful/helpful they would be.

    For example: how useful is it to compare your writing style to that of well-known authors'?

    I'm sure there are good ones out there, but I'll just wait until I have more on my 'menu'