Writer Wednesday—Back to Basics

It occurs to me that many, many people are in the process of writing a book. Now, I’ve said repeatedly that not everyone should do that, and I’ll stand by those words.

See, there are storytellers, and there are writers. Often, very often, people have both of those skills. Sometimes they don’t. You may have the ability to verbally tell an interesting, funny, or engaging story, but that doesn’t mean you have the ability to put it down on paper in the same interesting, funny, or engaging manner.

Sometimes, too, a person might tell a story and hear, “Oh, you should write a book!” That’s nice, but writing a book is a lot of work—and, here’s the catch, the average-sized novel runs around 80K words or even more. That’s a really long story to tell, so unless you can stretch out that 10-minute version, you might be in trouble if you try to turn it into an actual manuscript.

The third point in today’s lesson, boys and girls, is that you also have to master the mechanics of writing:

Use the Oxford comma.

Do not leave two spaces between sentences.

Do not even argue with me about these two things.

Do not capitalize random words.

Learn the difference between “Mom” and “my mom.”

For heaven’s sake, learn about comma usage.

Will you screw up? Sure, we all do. But a consistent “my Mom” or “the Minister” or “the Author wrote a Book” is going to irritate your readers.

And you know what else? If you do these things on social media posts or blogs or wherever, I’m NOT going to want to read anything you’ve written. I doubt I’m the only one . . .

So here’s the list, if you want to be a writer:

Learn your craft.

Practice every day.

Make sure you have enough things to say—original, not repetitious.

If you don’t know how to do or spell something, ask. Or Google.

And finally, a few nuggets of writerly wisdom:

It’s okay to only write when inspiration strikes.

It’s okay to make out a grocery list and include that in your daily word count.

It’s okay not to have a daily word count.

It’s okay to type, or use Dragon, or write longhand.

It’s okay to write a short story. Or a poem. Or a series. Or a sequel.

None of the things on this final list make you a writer—or not. All of these things are highly individual, unique to you as a writer. It’s all the rest that makes you a writer—learning, mastering, telling an interesting story.


Writer Wednesday—The Cost of Doing Business

There’s a lot of debate and discussion about how best to promote one’s books, and it mostly centers around cash. If you have a product, aka a book, that you’re trying to sell, you’re in business.

As the old adage says, “You have to spend money to make money.”

There are two basic ways to promote and market your book:

Pay someone to do it.

Do it yourself.

I know quite a few authors who opt for the first, and I don’t quite understand why. You could pay someone to market your book if you had a lot of spare cash sitting around, or if you have better things to do with your time.

For myself, I definitely qualify in the second way, but certainly not in the first.

Plus, I like to be hands-on. No one is going to do for my book what *I* am going to do. They just won’t care “enough.”

The biggest problem with paying someone is knowing what or if they actually accomplish. Now, if you pay someone to promote and market and your sales suddenly zoom up, that’s wonderful! But what if they don’t? Either the company/person you paid didn’t do anything, or enough, or your book stinks.

But maybe your book doesn’t stink. Maybe they just took your money.

No, I don’t know which companies are good and which are bad. Consult Preditors and Editors. I know authors who claim to have had good experiences with bad companies, too. But I have to wonder if their idea of “good” is the same as mine . . .

What bothers me is the amount of money these companies, good and bad, often charge to do the same things YOU could do, for free.

The first thing you need to understand is the difference between “promotion” and “marketing.” Promotion is where you put out reminders about your book, so no one forgets about it. Marketing means you are actively pursuing sales channels.

No one should pay for promotion, not with the availability of social media. But you have to be visible—and that means opening up those privacy settings. Your friends are going to get mighty tired of hearing about your book, plus you can’t take advantage of all that “six degrees of separation:” if no one can easily share your promo posts, no one will see them.

Now, that doesn’t mean you have to 2,999 “friends.” Quality is often overlooked in favor of quantity. All those “like me and I’ll like you” invites may garner a couple sales, but it’s really just a trade-off of people trying to up their numbers. I’ll let anyone follow me on Twitter, for example, because all kinds of people read books—but that doesn’t mean I’ll follow them back. This isn’t grade school, after all.

Another thing that authors often do is join groups. Writing groups, author groups, etc. Again, be choosy. How many groups can you realistically keep up with? How much of your time is spent being “social?” Which ones have the most value for you?

The trap you may fall into is promoting and marketing ONLY or MOST OFTEN to other authors. This is like going to a conference and trading books or buying the book of everyone who buys yours. You might get home and say, “Wow, I sold 20 books!” Yes, but you also BOUGHT 20 books, most of which you probably won’t read and therefore won’t tell anyone about either. Exactly what the others are saying/doing.

Sure, writers and authors read books. But it’s a big world out there. Don’t make the mistake of thinking TOO local . . . social media or in real life.

Read my marketing book when you have a chance. It’s there, in plain English: find your target reader.