Thursday, March 10, 2011

A Writer’s Path

To be a happy, successful author, you have to be passionate. To be a selling, successful author, you have to be organized.

There was a time long ago … okay, not so long ago … when writers could sit in their office or coffee shop and write. Then after months of writing, they would compose a query letter and send it to their top pick of agents, then another agent and another until someone agreed to take them on.

Today, hooking an agent is getting quite difficult. More writers are turning to independent presses or going it on their own - self-pubbing their own print books or e-pubbing. They’re also figuring out that taking this route is a blessing and a curse. A blessing because they can make as much if not more by going solo on the e-pub route. A curse because to be successful you have to do all the promoting on your own while you write the next book. Plus, you may have to pay people to edit your book, design the book cover, and help with formatting before it’s uploaded and each platform has different requirements.

No matter which route you take, you have to work on the next book. Agents and big publishers don’t want a one-hit wonder. And you, if you’re your own publisher and agent, don’t want a one-hit wonder. You want many hits. You also have to spend a huge chunk of each day promoting the book that’s out or coming out. You have to do blog tours, be your own bookkeeper, lawyer and publicist. You have to research the next book, outline and plot, gather cover blurbs, tweet, track reviews, arrange speaking engagements and workshops at conferences. It’s enough to drive a writer mad.

Or perhaps to adapt, to say, times have changed, therefore I must change. Can you change? Can you adapt? Will you go the traditional route, hand-in-hand with an agent and big or mid-list publisher? Will you e-publish your own book? Are you teetering on the edge of querying? Or the edge of going it alone? What path are you on?
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Helen Ginger is an author, blogger, freelance editor and writing coach. She teaches public speaking as well as writing and marketing workshops. In addition, her free ezine, Doing It Write, which goes out to subscribers around the globe, is now in its twelfth year of publication. You can follow Helen on Twitter or connect with her on Facebook and LinkedIn – or catch her April 30, 2011 at Books 'n Authors 'n All That Jazz in Weatherford, Texas, where she and Sylvia Dickey Smith will be talking about “Jazzing Up Your Characters.”

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18 comments :

  1. So true! The publishing world has reinvented itself, and the bulk of the work now falls on the writer. While this is an intimidating responsibility, it is also a huge opportunity — one that did not exist when the big houses ruled as kings.

    Bottom line: Do your homework, know your audience, be creative, and remember that hard work can transform a dream into a reality.

    Great post, Helen!

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  2. The bad news is, you can still fall on your face with traditional publishing if you don't knock yourself out promoting your work.

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  3. This is such an exciting time in publishing. I'm going solo - my first ebook is coming out sometime in May 2011 (I'm using professional e-book convertors and cover designers, so I must fit into their schedules). I'm a naturally organized person (my desk is clean) and I love marketing side.

    My current struggle is to get working on the next book. One also has to have time for family commitments and life's obligations, and I'm doing an on-line creative writing course. So at the moment there's not enough of me to go around.

    What's taking a back seat is the next novel. But this was a conscious decision, and to keep my creative juices flowing I'm writing chort stories, and will use that as a stop-gap: while I research & write novel two (which I've strated, but put aside)I'll be more experienced and organized in the independent publishing way and can then balance all my saucers more efficiently, which should give me a year to get the next book out, but still have two e-nooks published in that time frame (well, that's the plan anyway!)
    Judy (South Africa)

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  4. Good advice, Linda!

    Kate, authors have always had to do marketing, but you're right, never as much as now. Even if you have a traditional publisher, you still have to get out there and promote like crazy. It's time consuming and you have to be really organized.

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  5. Congratulations Judy on the May book! That's really exciting. Clearly, you are an organized person. Who would have thought that "organization" would be a requirement for writers? But it is. I'm glad you're having a pro do your cover. Covers are important to sales, even for e-books. I can't wait to hear about your book when it debuts!

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  6. Maybe it's because I dabbled in real estate and other sales, that I'm starting to realize that self-pubbing, if you have the right mindset can be an entrepreneurial adventure!

    Alex
    Breakfast Every Hour

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  7. I agree with Kate. Even the big publishers aren't helping much with promotion, at least not when it comes to paying travel expenses and lining up appearances. Most are virtually clueless about social media marketing. The most promotion I see is a listing on a major website lumped in with the rest of the stable and via a publicist who's giving away lots of review copies. You might get more support if you're a bestseller, but if you're an average (good and selling but not a household name) author, you better take promotion into your own hands. Knock yourself out! That's a good way of putting it.

    On the flip side of the coin, if you sell, you get to keep way more of the money! I really think savvy authors are going to give publishers a real run for their money... especially the small indies.

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  8. Alex, I can definitely see the connection between the two.

    Very true, Dani. Authors are realizing that they have to work hard as a self-pubbed author, but they can earn more, if they're successful. It's a scary thing to take your life into your own hands, though.

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  9. We certainly live in interesting times. I think both publishing options come with their own set of advantages and disadvantages and every author has to decide which will work best for them. Although writing is creative, publishing is a business like any other.

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  10. When did "organized" become a four letter word?

    Or, is it just me, gnashing my teeth as I try to decrease the pile of paper in my office ... and accomplish my daily goals?

    Marketing? I think that's another four letter word.

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  11. Elspeth and Kay, I think we're in the midst of a major shift in publishing. So many things are converging like a huge storm overhead. We'll make it through but it's not clear yet what our world will look like when it clears.

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  12. It's hard to know what to do. I still think I'll go traditional, but if I'm still without an agent after two more years...that self publishing deal might look more attractive.

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  13. Anna Quindlen once told me, "Your favorite book better be the one you're working on now." Much to my surprise, it is. So at present my biggest challenge is maintaining enthusiasm for shopping the last book to agents while writing the next.

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  14. I totally agree, Wendy. The mechanics of uploading and creating the e-book scare me.

    I sort of think if you're not in love with the book you're writing, perhaps you'd better move on. Thanks Kathryn.

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  15. Well, to be fair, I'm sure a lot of the books of, say, the 1920s bombed as well. I guess the difference is now that we *can* do so much more for our novels, we are expected to do it.

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  16. You really hit on some very interesting points. But I must admit, I need to get started on the Book tour... I have so much work to do.
    Thanks so much for the advice!

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  17. Going to be alot of work no matter which path we choose. If there is passion connected to getting our words out there, then we will be successful no matter what direction we take!
    Now I am off to dive off the deep end and plan my first book signing!
    Thank you!
    www.recipesfromalife.blogspot.com

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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