But first, the stories worth reading this week:
A Former Book Publicist’s Advice to Traditionally Published Authors (Andrea Dunlop on JaneFriedman.com): “What’s true now is that you don’t have to so much as leave your couch to help your cause. Get your head around social media, web analytics, bloggers, all of it—there are a million resources out there to help you help yourself, and there’s no excuse for you not to be an integral part of your book’s promotion.”
Brews and Books: Beer and Book Pairing Recommendations (Aram Mrjoian for Book Riot): “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, books and beer are a perfect match. Trust me, if you need a legit fix for a lousy day at the office it’s the best medicine. Here are some new recommendations for pairing books and brews.”
The Biggest Marketing Mistake an Author Can Make (Amanda Luedeke, MacGregor Literary): “YOU HAVE ALREADY CREATED SOMETHING. You created your book. Now is the time to step out of the world of creation and into the world of relationships and networking. Get in front of the people who would typically read your book (and no, your author friends don’t count). Engage them. Befriend them. Let them know your book exists. THAT is marketing. And THAT will sell your book.”
Neil Gaiman Shares Writing Advice to Fans on Tumblr (Kristian Wilson on Bustle Books): If you’ve ever wondered how the pen behind Sandman and American Gods keeps writing, you’re going to want to pay attention.
Pinterest for Authors: A Beginner’s Guide (Kirsten Oliphant on JaneFriedman.com): “Finding the balance between actual writing and all the online promotion is a real struggle for writers. Lately I’ve heard many voices saying that writers need to be on Pinterest. With all the platforms to choose from, is Pinterest really an effective platform for writers?”
This week I’m over on She’s Novel, a great writing website run by the lovely Kristen Kieffer. I first came across Kristen’s site through Pinterest (yes, Pinterest is chockfull of writers), and I loved that she had totally nailed her branding and built such a vibrant platform—as a fiction writer!
I know I promised everyone a post answering that big question—do fiction writers need platforms?—but I thought it would be much more interesting to have Kristen tell you herself why she found platform-building worth her time, even when it means less writing time.
So next week I’ll be sharing a conversation between Kristen and I, as well as some of her on-the-ground advice for balancing writing time and platform time.
Until then, let’s talk about the simple habits that any writer can start building now to lock-in their success later…
Remember that earmarked book from the 90s that was supposed to teach us how to be highly effective people? I think we need one for publishing. Raise your hand if you agree!
Everyone wants to be highly successful. And we all know who the highly successful authors are: they get all the sales, all the reviews, all the fame and fortune. But how did they get there, and how do they stay there? Is their success the perfect confluence of writing skill, platform savvy, and maybe some pure, dumb luck?
Yes and no.
Yes, there is an extraordinary amount of whacky, weird luck in the publishing world. (Lookin’ at you, adult coloring books.) But there are also some underlying principles—an operating system, really—that runs on autopilot for these successful authors. They know how to do the right things, because they’ve done them over and over and over again.
When I started out in the publishing world as an editor, I didn’t know a foreword from a preface. I had a full tank of enthusiasm and an empty skull, waiting to be stuffed to the brim with publishing wisdom. At the time, I was pretty sure I knew nothing about publishing.
And I was pretty right. But what I didn’t realize was that I did, actually, have a few things going for me. (Other than a knack for pestering the heck out of people until they would give me interesting work.) I had four things:
- An obsession with following up and deadlines. (This from a brief stint as a paralegal at a law firm.)
- A stubborn desire to be over-the-top nice so that every single person would like me. (This is not always a good thing, let me tell ya.)
- An annoying amount of curiosity about how publishing worked. (I think I abused the “any questions?” prompt more than anyone can reasonably forgive me for.)
- No other options.
Publishing was it for me, and I was going to have to make it work or go back to that law firm. (And I was not going back to that law firm. People shouting made my bookish-self nervous.)
Over time, I realized that there were a lot of other skills and habits I needed to develop if I was going to do a little better by my authors each year. I also realized that many of the most successful authors I worked with had exactly those habits I wanted to develop. I was learning a lot from them, and they were learning a lot from me. Eventually, I began noticing the habits that were holding certain authors back, and the ones that were most helping other authors succeed. These are the same habits that Literary Agents also strive for, and I think any writer, blogger, or creative can benefit from developing these habits. And while I think the interplay between emotion, behavior, and creativity is too unfathomably deep to fully cover here, these are the habits I’ve noticed fuel the most successful authors: