First, you write a book. But, what do you do after that?
Well, you might try to get an agent or a publisher or both. Let’s say you’re successful. That feels amazing. But, unless you’re one of the lucky few who lands a big-time publisher who thinks you are worthy of a mass marketing campaign, being a published author doesn’t mean you just get to write for the rest of your life and watch the checks roll in. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned about being a published author (The Travelers, Saguaro Books) and also lessons from other authors I’ve known or read about.
#1 The first lesson is don’t quit your day job.
If you’re writing just to make money, stop now. The large majority of published authors really don’t make a living off it. It can be a lucrative second job, but usually won’t sustain you alone. I joke that it’s more a like “a really expensive hobby.” But, it’s probably way cheaper than taking up golf.
#2 The second lesson is: there is much more to being an author than just writing.
You have to be a marketer. This means you have to figure out all the ways to get your book out in the world and create the materials to market it. When you send books/queries to publishers, especially smaller presses, sometimes they even ask for a marketing plan with the submission. So, if you’re looking to get published, you should start thinking about marking now. Once you get a publisher, usually they will help with marketing, but the degree of help varies. Unless you’re first name is J.K. or your last name is King, you’ll need, at minimum, to supplement and, at maximum, essentially do most of the work yourself.
You have to be a publicist. This is different than a marketer. It means reaching out to media outlets and pitching them, not just on the story of the book, but also the story of you.
This leads to the third lesson…
#3 If you’re not interesting or if you don’t think you’re interesting, you’d better get interesting fast.
You’re not just marketing a book, you’re marketing a person (that’s you in case it’s unclear). If you’re like me and think you’re super lame and wonder why anyone would be interested in anything about you, coming up with that “hook” about yourself you can be daunting. But, everyone has a story to tell and if you’re a real writer, you can make a story out of anything, even yourself.
#4 You’ll need to get thick skin
If you went through the editing process with a publisher, your skin should already be thicker. Once your book is published, people will read it (hopefully). And people will review it (hopefully). You will get more feedback. Some will be good, some will be not as good. As authors, we already think every word we write is awful. So the “not so good” can feel really terrible. Just remember, books are subjective. Not everyone loves Harry Potter. (I know that sounds crazy, but it’s true!) Embrace the criticism and learn from it.
Tip: Target the right reviewers. If you wrote a memoir about golf, don’t send it to a bunch of YA fantasy bloggers.
#5 You’ll need a personal assistant.
That doesn’t mean you’ll get one, again unless you’re one of those lucky J.K. Kings. But you’ll need one because you’ll have to do book signings, call people, coordinate with your publisher, review/answer emails and other correspondence, order books, potentially review other people’s books.
#6 You have to learn you’re ABCs.
Those of you who have seen the great movie “Glengarry Glen Ross” understand what this means – Always Be Closing. You have to constantly be thinking of selling your book and how you can promote it no matter what you’re doing.
#7 You’ll need to talk to strangers and ask for help.
If you’re an introvert, and I think many writers often are, you’ll need to become an extrovert or at least learn how to do a passable imitation of one because people want access to your books and to you. You’ll also need to ask for help. This can be hard. We all like to think we’re independent people who can do everything on our own. But, friends, family, they will want to help. They will be excited for you. Take them up on it!
#8 You’ll need to be a social media strategist
I spent much of my adult life avoiding social media. Before I became a published author, I had a Facebook account where I would receive a notification that said “welcome back” every time I checked it (which was at best once a year.) I sometimes frequented Instagram because, well, I like pictures of puppies. All that has changed. Now, I tweet. I make bookstagrams. (To be honest, it’s more like I’m totally obsessed with boostagrams now.) I like and retweet and comment. I blog and blog and reblog. And, you know what, I get why people do this. It’s fun and you connect to others. So get out there and experience social media or more of social media if you already dabble in it. Don’t wait until you’re published either. Start now.
#9 You’ll need to look failure in the face and tell it to go to #@!&
If this list does not discourage you from going forth with your “novel” pursuits, then you are truly a real writer. Everyone gets discouraged. If you get your first edit and the editor tells you to change pretty much everything or you get your first royalty check and realize that you get a very measly portion of the profit, and you give up, maybe writing isn’t for you. If that happens and you wallow for a little and then you say to yourself – self, this is in my blood and bones and I need to do this – then you are a writer. You’re not doing this to be rich. You’re doing this to keep writing and putting your work out there in the world. So, keep writing. Go forth and conquer the writing world and all that comes with it!