A slap in the face: Cold hard truths for new writers and some go-get-‘em advice

This is a guest post by Laurance Kitts

First of all, many of you may be new—or only think you’re not new—to writing. There are some cold hard truths you must face if you want to make it as a writer. I plan to smack you in the face with many of those truths right now. When you have finished reading them, read them again and again until you can look in the mirror and state without a doubt that this is what you want to do with your life. Otherwise get out while the going is good.

 

The untold truth about becoming an author

1. Writing a book does not make you an author. Writing a good book does. Your first novel will probably suck. You will put yourself into all the details and think it’s great, but the reader will pick up on all your influences and aspects of your life that you put into it. Nobody likes a rehashed plot, so if all you’re doing is writing the same stories with that little extra twist, please examine your career choice, save everyone their money, and stop yourself from being some jerk critic’s field day. Writing a book is easy, but writing one that is more than an entertaining weekend read and more of the kind of writing that touches people’s lives takes time. Crank out the rehashed crap all you want, but write down those twists and original concepts on the way.

2. Prepare to market yourself. By this I mean that you need to do something every single day to spread your name through the world. Chances are that, unless you are some rock star writing a memoir, you don’t have a fan base. You may think you do, but you don’t. What you have hopefully are colleagues, friends, and acquaintances that support you. You may also have the naïve idea that a publisher will do the work for you. Wrong! A writer must market themselves. A secret you may not know is that a publisher will look to see if you even have a market of your own to begin with before taking the initial steps of putting their necks on the line for you.

If you’re going the DIY route, this is even more important. You need Twitter followers, Facebook fans, a network, and even a blog. People have never heard of you and they need to like you before they will ever buy your book outside of an on-a-whim ebook shopping spree where somebody included you.

Now read that all again. Okay, so are you prepared for this journey? Can you handle these implications set forth to all modern day writers? If not, I’m sorry to destroy your dream. But if this doesn’t sound scary to you, feel free to jump onboard with me for the ride of your life. I can’t teach you how to become the novelist of the century, but what I can do is teach you how to market yourself from ground zero.

Fire up your computers, writers! It’s going to be one long day. Today you’re going to inject yourself into every social media outlet available. I hope that you have done this in some way already, if not your day just got a whole lot longer.

Start with a Facebook page. Make it your name, not just something you have done such as a novel or series. Market yourself first, any books second. Make it look snazzy, fill it with content, and then wait a day so as not to flood everyone’s newsfeed with posts before inviting your entire friends list to like the page.

Next create a Twitter account. Find a good background and write a bio. Read articles on how hashtags work and the ones you need to know in this field. COMMUNICATE WITH OTHER PEOPLE. It doesn’t matter whether you’re making fun of a celebrity to their face or complimenting another author—this is key if you want to get anywhere.

Dive further into new crowds of people by joining places such as LitReactor and Scribophile. You won’t find “fans” there, but you will find the chance to build a network with fellow writers that will become an incredible asset to your future literary empire.

Many will tell you to get a blog. It’s not a bad idea; in fact, for a long time you could find me at www.laurancekitts.com. I posted poetry all the time, a short story a month, and every once in awhile an article of some kind. It brought me some exposure, yes. However there is only so much traffic that tags and proper SEO can bring to your website. In the end I began a site of a different breed. In my eyes, this is the key that both upcoming writers AND published authors overlook.

Word of mouth generates more traffic than anything some webmaster guru could tell you. In fact the most rebellious non-generic advice I could tell you on marketing yourself is to STOP TALKING ABOUT YOURSELF. Does that sound crazy? Well trust me, it works. Nothing throws me off a new writer like a Facebook page filled with nothing but self-important posts. If you go to laurancekitts.com now, you will be redirected to www.slityourwristsmagazine.com. What I built was a site to interview other authors and musicians. Talking to other people builds your network and makes their fans wonder who the heck you are. I took it a step further by making it into its very own indie literary journal. Now writers are being read alongside interviews with both popular and upcoming bands and authors. Oh, and the word of mouth potential? It is practically limitless; every band or author I interview directs their fans to me, and with every writers’ submission I approve come the colleagues, friends, and acquaintances with whom they share their writing.

I’m not telling you to copy my idea, but I am saying that you need to branch out. Focus on your work being included in anthologies and journals across the web rather than your own site. Write guest articles for any website that you can and infiltrate the business in all possible fields. Stop spamming people with your book links and make them like you as a person before becoming an internet sales person.

Help other people and they will help you. I did this all from a couch I call my bed with nothing but a Netbook and seventeen dollars to my name (or domain name you could say), and all it took was the research and the will to begin building something new. If I can do it under these conditions, I’m sure you can do it even better.

 

About this post’s author:

Laurance Kitts is an editor, interviewer, and the founder of Slit Your Wrists! magazine. He writes poetry, fiction, and random articles throughout the internet. He likes pizza, beer, and sketchy people. Keep his upcoming debut novel Autophonomania in mind when you run low on toilet paper. You can reach Laurance on Facebook and Twitter, and by email.


25 Comments

  1. Hi Laurance, nice post. I’m on board with everything except marketing. I know it’s necessary, but I’m afraid I do it very sporadically. I’ll market like crazy for a few weeks, then get burned out, and then start up again.

    I think it’d be best for me to hire a publicist, however I have to earn enough royalties to hire one, at the same time I have to get the word out first to sell the books to earn the royalties to hire a publicist. LOL. What a vicious circle. Ah well.

    Anyway, your points are well taken. I will keep trying.
    Pamela Kay Noble Brown recently posted..Kindle Romance Novels: Handcuffs and a Pyramid of Satin by Pamela Kay Nob…My Profile

  2. Laurance, I’m all over the social media scene. Trouble is, all I meet are writers on the make, like me. Those who are not writers want to sell me vitamins or books on how to win at poker. Any advice on how to make REAL friends (who will eventually want to buy my book)?

  3. That last part is brilliant, Laurance. Why didn’t you write this a couple of months ago, and save me starting a blog? 8^)
    R. E. Hunter recently posted..Another Disruptive Change for PublishingMy Profile

  4. hi Laurance I agree with your post…well done. I tried submittals for years until I discovered that you had push out yourself forward. I finally used Lulu.com and after some hard work doing my own editing, I now have 5 ebooks selling on Nook and Apple. There are also other similar sites that you can use to self start.

  5. Hi, Laurance!
    Great post and some great points there.

    All the best!
    Renato B. recently posted..Zadnja željaMy Profile

  6. Thanks for the kind words, Pamela.

    I really wouldn’t worry about a publicist until you’re selling millions or at least triple digit thousands. Like I said in the article it’s not about marketing your book, it’s about marketing yourself. If I had to be honest I’d say all of the authors I look up to are mostly dead. The only new authors I read are people who got my attention in other manners. This is what I mean by marketing yourself. It could be anything from seeing a funny joke tweeted, writing articles like this, or running a blog that focuses on a specific niche. The trick is really to get them to like you and buy the books of their own free will. The main problem I’m seeing with a lot of upcoming writers is that they confuse marketing with spamming. I’d like to write an article on that in the near future.

  7. Thanks, Renato!

  8. That’s a good start.

    I don’t think I can give you a guaranteed answer for that. The first thing I noticed when taking to the writing field was none of my family or hometown friends really gave a crap about me becoming a writer. I once self-published a book myself and not a single one of them bought it after all the weeks of me talking about it. At first I was offended, but then I realized that the reason why no one bought it was because no matter what I do they will look at me as ‘the guy who was too drunk to drive home and crashed on their couch’. You have to expand your audience.

    The interesting thing about Twitter and Facebook is that while maybe the only people who are flocking to your networks are writers themselves, you must think of that as a marketing strategy. You see for every writer that connects to your page comes the 100+ friends that aren’t writers and whenever they like or comment on one of your posts you are exposed to every single one of them on the news feed.

    The real trick though is building your own empire so to speak, whether you make a blog or go a different route, find yourself a little niche on related topics or literature. Plus if you haven’t had enough sales for word of mouth I suggest doing free giveaways on Goodreads, or making it a free download on either a website or build an app with ShortStack for people who like your Facebook to get a free copy. This is how you get word of mouth marketing.

    Keep your name in everyone’s conversations.

    Thanks,
    Laurance

  9. Thanks for the kind words.

    Looks like you got a project for yourself. ;)

    I probably would have told you months ago if I had known about Novel Publicity. It was actually just a couple of weeks ago that a friend of mine posted a link to an article of this site and when I saw one of my favorite people from LitReactor was over here(Rob Lowe) I knew I had to be a part of the site. If you are new to blogging I suggest you hop over to my buddy Caleb’s site and learn a bit about SEO from him. He alone has taught me half the stuff I know.

    calebjross.com

    Thanks again,
    Laurance

  10. I’m a big fan of CreateSpace myself, I like how there is hardly any pay in (or at least none you really need) and the royalties are easy to monitor.

    I’m not sure if my novel will be coming out by a real press yet or not, but I always plan to take advantage of the self-publishing world with anthologies, or my own poetry and short story compilations.

    Thanks for reading.

  11. Nice post. The first is especially important (something I’ve dug into myself over at the Slothrop blog a few weeks ago). The author is something far too often romanticized. Hell, any profession is probably too romanticized (Yes, doctors save lives, but they also spend a great deal of time telling family members that lives cannot be saved). The point is, the construct of an author has changed. We’ve see it happen with journalism (morphed from field-reporter to crowd-sourced aggregation). Accept it for book writing, too.
    Caleb J. Ross recently posted..Part One of Three Dialogues on Literature with Pablo D’Stair and Caleb J. Ross, live at the Sunday ObserverMy Profile

  12. Jerrah

    Hi Laurance! I just love your post here especially that it talks about being an author.. keep it up!
    Jerrah recently posted..Sharepoint HostingMy Profile

  13. It’s like all I have to do is say your name and you materialize. I caught that post when it first came out over there. Good stuff.
    Laurance Kitts recently posted..THE NEED, by Kathryn SoveraneMy Profile

  14. I’m a genie. It’s a blessing and a curse.
    Caleb J. Ross recently posted..Novel Easter Eggs, part 4 – Fight Club and The Canterbury Tales (Video Blog Ep 010)My Profile

  15. I totally meant Rob W. Hart, that’s the second time I did that in one night. He’s a decent actor though, that Rob Lowe.
    Laurance Kitts recently posted..THE NEED, by Kathryn SoveraneMy Profile

  16. Okay, genie. My first wish is for you to show me the coding to embed links into these comments for future reference. Haha.
    Laurance Kitts recently posted..THE NEED, by Kathryn SoveraneMy Profile

  17. Your wish = my command. This link can explain it better than I ever could.
    Caleb J. Ross recently posted..Novel Easter Eggs, part 4 – Fight Club and The Canterbury Tales (Video Blog Ep 010)My Profile

  18. Great tips. I would also include publishing articles/short stories to help build your platform, especially if you’re focusing on a specific niche. I had several magazine and anthology credits before I wrote my first book. The book is about the struggles of interracial dating, so prior to publishing it, I joined and contributed to a bunch of FB groups that deal with–you guessed it–interracial dating. It’s definitely helped me.

  19. Good afternoon, Laurance.

    I’m with R. E. Hunter. Where were you months ago, or more precisely, where was I? Such a treasure trove of knowledge here. I’m so glad you got your name out there so I could trip over it. Thanks for sharing.

    Mac
    Mac Crowne recently posted..Virtual Scavenger Hunt & Blog Tour Finale!!!My Profile

  20. Egad. The “untold truth”? It was difficult wading through the arrogance of the first part, only to see it fizzle into nothing much useful in the second. And the self-defecating author bio at the end robbed it whatever authority it might’ve had.

    Look. Either you’re a writer or you’re not; decide. If you’re spending time debating the *definition* of “writer” and “author” (with others or yourself), you’re just masturbating. Stop it, you’ll go blind. and writing when blind is much, much harder.

  21. It’s funny you would call it arrogant when the bio was written by myself as simple sarcasm. As for the title it was changed by the editor and I don’t consider this to be any sort of ‘untold truth’, but rather something most people ignore. This is not an article on the craft, it is an article on marketing for people just starting out. They can argue with themselves what they are while masturbating all they want, WHO ARE YOU TO TELL THEM NOT TO PLEASE THEMSELVES? That freedom is not one you can take away from others, but while they are kicking around the idea of becoming a writer they should look at the ugly side of marketing themselves in the beginning.

    The real arrogance in all of this is you’re most likely someone who simply bashes articles on the internet as an attempt to establish your own authority on the matter and with such *prestigious* works such as “How To Get Started As A Technical Writer”, I don’t understand why you would need to. I hope all is well for you in your career of teaching people to write without the experience of writing anything of significance yourself. I don’t wish anything bad upon you and I hope you return to watch me masturbate more in the future.

    Your biggest fan,
    Laurance Kitts
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  22. James

    Laurance,

    “As for the title it was changed by the editor”

    Except that you say the same phrase (more than once) in the body of the article. But above all, your name is on the article.

    “This is not an article on the craft, it is an article on marketing for people just starting out.”

    One of the two main points of your article has nothing to do with marketing at all. The first point, the one you start with.

    “you’re most likely someone who simply bashes articles on the internet as an attempt to establish your own authority on the matter and with such *prestigious* works such as “How To Get Started As A Technical Writer”, I don’t understand why you would need to.”

    Thank you, Laurance. That more or less reiterates my point about the tone of your article.

    “I hope all is well for you in your career of teaching people to write without the experience of writing anything of significance yourself.”

    My career isn’t “teaching people to write”–it never has been. Neither is the book you casually ridiculed without reading–it’s about getting started in a job. It’s based on my own twenty years of doing the same job.

    But Laurance–am I to understand that you wrote this piece as a “simple sarcasm” as you said? Including the author bio recommending it be used as toilet paper?

    “I don’t wish anything bad upon you”

    And neither did I, and I don’t. I criticized your article.

    “and I hope you return to watch me masturbate more in the future.”

    Unlikely, given your response. Maybe you can blog about the effectiveness of *that* kind of marketing?

  23. You have a lot of time on your hands, don’t you?

    Glad you returned to watch my masturbation.

    XOXO,
    Laurance
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  24. Thanks for the tough love, humour and honesty with your piece. It was oddly reassuring as it backed my own thinking going forward. I’ve heard of Create Space but wanted to know if they take any commission of your published tome. As it’s an Amazon tool, does it create your work in a Universal format you can then apply to the iPad and other devices or just to the Kindle? I heard Smashwords took commission which was a surprise for me this week as I thought it was free?

    I know Amazon Kindle sales take a commission but wondered if by using Create Space a cut was taken twice over?

    Thanks : )
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  25. Laurance, Lots of good info for the novice and a “wake-the-fuck-up!” for the not-novice-but-somewhat-lazy (or, those of us in the middle of writing the next novel).

    I’m in the process of doing a little re-tooling my own blog (multi-blog) as I noticed it was becoming a bit narcissistic. And you’re absolutely right, building friendships through finding/connecting w/people who share a like-mindedness. Cheers to that!

    BTW… I, too, couldn’t get friends and, dare I say, most of my family to buy my first novel, and looks like the second is faring the same way; but “strangers” are finding it!
    MarkBeyer recently posted..Reading “The Kindly Ones” by Jonathan LittellMy Profile