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.