Author Etiquette - Author Success: There’s no Silver Bullet

by Jennifer 30. April 2018 10:38

Success. It’s a subject that comes up often in the writing world. There are daily announcements from authors on where their next short story will be seen, and when the next book will be available to the public. Some author’s careers take off, while others seem to stagnate. The envious look on at what could be and wonder why they can’t be like Successful Author X.

 

The simple fact is, success is different for every author. Getting there is a maze of hard work, trying out what works for you, and persistence. Nothing in the world of publishing is easy. The earlier you learn this, the better. There is no easy way to the top. No one single thing that will make your book popular except the repeated application of a few simple things and figuring out what works for you.

 

Being successful isn’t quick or easy. Figuring what works takes time and persistence. If you are unwilling to try a particular type of promotion for less than six weeks or feel that you should concentrate wholly on writing instead of expanding your fan base, learning the craft and figuring out the field, perhaps being an author isn’t for you.

 

Even if you are lost on what to do, there is hope and no need to give up immediately. Every author has to start somewhere or has low points in their career. The rules on what to do change all the time. The thing to remember is to figure out where you are going wrong and find a way to change it. Below are some steps that every author needs to reflect on.

 

Read

Every author should read, read often, and read widely. You will have your favorite genres. However, by reading outside of those walls, you will come into contact with different writing styles, different ways to tell a story, and hopefully learn many things about the world around you.

 

If you aren’t reading, you aren’t keeping up with trends, new takes on tropes, and various other things that authors need to be aware of. Marketing trends, what’s popular, and what is in decline should be a huge incentive for all authors to read whatever they can.

 

Reading widely doesn’t just mean reading outside your preferred genre. It also means reading outside your preferred manuscript length. Novelists should also be reading short stories, and vice versa. The techniques that a short story author uses in a story are often shortcuts to some novel techniques, especially in short works such a flash fiction. Short story authors should pay attention to how novels flow and characterization. While not everything is transferable, an author can work some of these tricks into their own works.

 

Learn the Craft

Surprisingly, this step can be difficult for some authors. You would think that a person who wants to create stories would want start with knowing the basics such as grammar, punctuation, and story structure. Well, if you’ve spent time in the slush piles of any publication or pick up a random story from the self-published shelves, your eyes could be opened quickly. (Please note that not all self-published works are problematic. There’s some really great stuff out there.) While even professional authors make errors, some authors do not believe that they have to follow the rules of writing.

 

If your stories are continuously rejected, your beta readers point out several errors, or an editor runs screaming away from your manuscript, you might need to brush up on your basic writing skills. Learn sentence structure first along with how to use punctuation. From there, things should be easier.

 

Taking some grammar classes at your local college, night classes, or hiring a private tutor can set you on the right track. If nothing else, look for the free online classes that some higher institutions have released to the public. Find out if your high school English teacher will assist.

 

Don’t worry about learning ALL the rules. Remember that even editors have to look things up on occasion. Learn the basics, learn them well, then apply it to your work.

 

Write, Edit, Submit, Repeat

The best way to start yourself on the path to success is to have several works out. Very few authors make it to the top on just one manuscript. For the most part, an author will need at least three works in the same world to being to see an upswing in their popularity. Which means, if you have just completed that first novel, depending on how quickly you write, you have a long road ahead of you. To get there you will need to write a lot of words, learn how to edit, and work on the next piece while waiting on submissions.

 

Make writing a habit. You might not be able to do it daily, but it should be something you do often. Find a critique partner or group and some honest beta readers. Learn to critique other people's works based on story structure, grammar, and overall readability. Grow a thick skin because critiques sometimes hurt. (It will prepare you for rejections.) Edit your work based on the critiques and comments from your beta group. Maybe send it to another beta group or a different critique partner. Make your work better. Then send it off. Open up a new page and start all over again.

 

Promote Your Work

Some authors will tell you that promotion is not a skill set that an author needs to learn. Concentrate on writing, is the moto for most; however, that leaves a very important aspect of being an author in the hands of someone else at best or no one at worst.

 

Larger publications know the value of promotion and put time, money and effort into this. But they don’t have time to promote every book for long periods of time. A short four to six week promotion push is really all that a large publisher can do for any book. Smaller publications might have a shorter push or none at all. Therefore it falls on the hands of an author to do the promotion or expand on what is already there.

 

First, if you don’t already have one, set up a website. Set up a free one if you have to, but have some place that is under your control to post news, contact information, and other important information regarding your books. Remember you can always set up something else later.

 

Next, share what you love. Social media channels are a great way to promote  your work. However, you don’t want to spam. Instead, share your writing journey, photos you take, your other hobbies, and spend a little time signal boosting other works you love. No more than 20% of your posts (1 in 5) should be a promotional post.

 

Set up some sort of newsletter. It can be brief, quarterly, filled with cat photos, whatever you like. If someone likes your work, have them sign up. And USE it don’t let it stagnate.

 

Introspection

Since being an author isn’t exactly a dot-to-dot, follow the road and you’ll be successful career, every author is going to have to take some time to really look at what they are doing and seeing if it works. We dive into the heads of our characters without fear, but it’s a lot more difficult to do it to yourself.

 

Although you might love writing in a certain sub-genre, it might not be popular or profitable. If you define success by money in your pocket, you might want to rethink or combine what you love with writing to market. You might have to continuously refine and retune your promotions. You might need to find out how to apply for grants or take classes in the newest promotional craze. You might even have to consider writing a secondary character as a primary in their own books because readers love them.

 

Examine your career periodically. This doesn’t mean on a weekly basis. Sometimes it means once or twice a year. Figure out what is working and what isn’t. Try new directions. Don’t be so stubborn that you won’t take chances and try something different.

 

Persistence

Lastly, but certainly one of the most important things you can do is be persistent.

 

Don’t drop a promotional push after a week of not seeing results. Don’t give up on a series after the first book. Just because that short story didn’t get picked up on the first, fifth or twentieth submission doesn’t mean it won’t find a home somewhere. Don’t give into imposter syndrome and compare your short story sale to another author’s series sale.

 

The authors who keep trying are the ones who build a career. They may have rocky starts, but they keep at it. It’s something to be admired and at least imitated if not outright copied. That’s right, most authors are open on how they do things and encourage other authors to do things like they do. Whether it works for you or not is up in the air, but it’s good incentive to keep trying.

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