I have been graciously accepted into the writing community as of late, and I have become friends with numerous authors, who – like myself – are trying to share their stories with the world and somehow make a living out of it.
Over the course of a few months, I have come to learn there are some myths that are spreading like wildfire among new writers and they are living by these strange ideas as if there is simply no – other – way to be. So, this post is to squash those ridiculous myths. They are holding you back from success. They are keeping you from progressing. It is not until you channel your inner-Elsa and LET IT GO, will you jump onto a springboard that will catapult you towards your writing dreams.
So, swallow your pride, grab your notebook…it’s time for some home truths for the new writer.
Home Truth 1: No one cares about what you write.
I know this sounds offensive. And yes, I can hear you screaming at me from your laptop. “But my best friend thinks I’m awesome! My mum told me I was born to do this! My friend’s cleaner says I’m the best writer in the world!”
The truth is, no one cares about what you write as much as you do. And the majority of people in the world do not care about what you write AT ALL. Unless you’ve already established yourself as a writer and have a large reader base.
For me, this was a freeing concept. Wow, no one cares? Really?
Do you know how POWERFUL that is? Now is the time, to shape your craft, work on your skills as an independent author, build your networking skills and soak up as much information from others as humanly possible. No one knows who you are yet, so it’s pretty safe to make some epic mistakes. And what better way to learn this business, than to put yourself out there and make some royal boo-boos?
Back in 2012, I published a short story named “Angels on Probation” along with two non-ficiton books.
Ah, Angels on Probation. It was a Monty-Python inspired dark comedy about Martin and Derek who were a couple of builders who enjoyed ripping people off and had no remorse for their greedy ways. When suddenly they die in a shocking state of affairs. When St. Peter looks at their deeds, it seems impossible for them to enter heaven. However, their last act on Earth was saving a cat which had jumped off a hanging piano as it was being craned into an old granny’s apartment. The cat leaped off Martin’s arms and ran away just in time when the rope snapped and poor Martin and Derek were squashed by the granny’s grand piano.
St. Peter offers them both a choice. Go to a black wailing pit and sing the dreary song, “We’re not sorry,” with the inhabitants for all eternity…or enroll in Angelversity and learn to become kind, selfless angels. They become Angels on Probation.
Now, I STILL have a soft spot for this series of short stories. It’s my humour through and through. Dark, witty, silly…and with a message that being a good person is a process and it’s never too late to turn things around.
However, despite being downloaded 700 times and receiving a few decent reviews. My friends hated it. A few even chastised me for writing about the afterlife with humour. Another friend from the past, even decided to write a 1 star review on Amazon and rip it apart.
I was mortified. Humiliated. ASHAMED.
Funnily enough, years later, I see the show on Netflix called “The Good Place” and with its booming success, I see that my story has an audience. But if I had made the stories into a TV show and had Ted Danson from Cheers on it, I’m sure it would have done well too.
What’s it about? Eleanor is selfish, mean-spirited and likes the way she is. When she is strolling out of the supermarket with a bottle of alcohol and a cheap magazine, she is hit by a row of shopping carts and meets an untimely end. She then meets Michael, the architect, who informs her that she has made it to “The Good Place” based on their algorithms of all the good things she has done in her life. She soon learns that she was sent to The Good Place by accident and chaos ensues.
Dark humour, afterlife, Good place, bad place, learning to be good….YEAH. So, I’m in NO WAY suggesting that someone stole my idea. Because The Good Place is AWESOME and I love the direction it’s taken. It’s totally original. But the lesson for me….well it brings me to the next home truth….
Home Truth 2: There will be people who will HATE your book.
And some of those people may be your nearest and dearest. It is one of the reasons why so many authors use a pen name. Many authors I have spoken to recently, have admitted that they do not tell their friends and family that they write books. I thought only authors of erotic fiction would use a pen name. Why not be proud of who you are? And share what you do?
But having been on the receiving end of judgments and well-meaning “feedback” from my circle of trust, I have seen the wisdom in this. If I could go back and do it all again, I think I would use a pen name as well. Hey, if you see a new series called “Angels on Probation” reappear on the internet with the name Susie Bonkers, you know who it is. Ha ha ha.
But seriously, it’s just like ice cream. My son HATES banana ice cream. I LOVE it! Your book won’t be for everyone, and the sooner you learn that, the better. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire has over 7.5K 1 star reviews on Goodreads.
Home Truth 3: Other Authors are not your competition.
In the world of network marketing, competition is fierce. Cut-throat, even. No one dares to let their friend’s list be made public for fear of other sellers coming along and stealing their customers. Which, in my view is totally nonsensical. But that’s a whole other blog post.
I have seen new authors thinking the same. They want to keep their cards close to their chest, not share what marketing strategies they’ve learned, and they would never think of giving a shout out to another author to their readers.
Here’s the thing, readers are voracious and they will read far more books a year than you can write. So what better way to keep them engaged and following you, than by partnering up with authors who write in your genre?
Also, I have author friends on Instagram where we comment and share each other’s posts all the time and it has massively helped us all to reach more people within our particular genre.
Say it with me: Authors are friends. Not food.
Home Truth 4: No matter how good your book is, no one will find it unless you MARKET it.
“If a book is well-written, it will sell itself.”
No!! You can’t just publish your book, cross your fingers and hope someone will read it!
There are between 600,000 and 1,000,000 books published EVERY YEAR in the USA alone. Do you really think, that your book, even if it is a jewel in a sea of rocks…will get seen?
You need to learn about marketing. SEO. The power of having a newsletter. Networking with authors, editors, readers, cover-designers, all the people who bring a book to life.
You can not just let your book sit on the proverbial Amazonian shelves and let it become dusty, with no traffic, no exposure and expect it to become the next Harry Potter.
Same goes for when you are traditionally published….which brings me to…
Home Truth 5: Don’t be a snob when it comes to being independently published.
“Oh, I would only ever publish ‘properly,’ and go down the traditional route,”
The stigma around self-publishing is dying. And do you know why? A USA TODAY Best-Selling author pal of mine, told me that going traditional did not necessarily make her more money. She is an indie-author as well and advocates going indie all the way.
I know authors who are indie and they are earning 6 figures a year, just through publishing on Amazon.
It’s a lot more work, and everything is on you when it comes to self-publishing, but the rewards are huge.
Home Truth 6: You need to read. A lot.
Some writers think they do not need to read in order to be a good writer. Perhaps in some aspects, that’s true. But if you want to Write to Market. (And if you want to sell lots of books and make a living from this, you DO) Then you need to READ. Study the best-selling books in the genre you want to write in. Find out what the common themes are. How are they written? Is there one POV or multiple? Does the series follow the same people? Or different people in the same world?
There is so much to learn by reading other books and it will help you to improve in ways you never thought possible.
Home Truth 7: You will make mistakes.
There’s no such thing as “doing it right, first time,” when it comes to writing. That’s why we have editors.
If you sit around waiting on that manuscript and hesitating to push “publish,” because you’re waiting until it’s “perfect” with the perfect marketing plan and the perfect titles and blurb, and the perfect keywords…then you’ll be waiting a long time.
Keywords need to be changed regularly for one thing. And social media and marketing change all the time. Facebook is constantly updating its rules and changing algorithms, you simply can not wait until you have it all figured out.
It’s trial and error and being humble enough to accept that you will make mistakes and wise enough to learn from them as you move forward.
Now, go and write that book.