Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Five Things Every New Writer Should Know

Last week I wrote a post on 10 Ways to Piss off Potential Readers. I'm not sure why, but the majority of comments I get never seem to be in the comment section below the post. Instead, I get contacted either via the website's contact page or a message of Facebook. 

At any rate, the comments, both private and public, brought to light the fact that new writers are being handed a ton of misinformation. 

And so I've made a list of what I think every new writer should know. 

5.) If you're writing on your manuscript but haven't started working on your marketing platform, you're already up the proverbial creek without a paddle. 

A platform is your foundation. It is a way to communicate with fellow authors, your fans, and potential readers. Most new authors have the "I'll deal with that when the book comes out" mentality. Unfortunately, it's too late then. It's like whispering in the stadium during the Super Bowl. So many voices are already shouting, and without a platform yours won't be heard. 

Yes, creating a website, blog, Facebook fanpage, Twitter, Pinterest, Goodreads author page, Amazon author page, Tumblr, (ect. ad nauseum)  does take time, but after everything is set up and ready to go, it's a matter of maintaining. I call it "feeding the baby." Morning, noon and night, check each account, update when needed, touch base with those that have commented, and then get to writing on the WIP!
A word of caution: It's true that more sites make a better platform, but only if they are maintained. Sites that are started but never updated gives potential readers the impression that you don't care, or that you've abandoned the dream. Better to start with the top two (Facebook and Twitter) and expand from there. 

4.) Take some time to get to know the hood. 

Now you've started your platform, it is crucial that you get out there and make your voice heard. But remember, you only have one chance to make a good first impression. 

No one likes a narcissist. Joining a social network group solely for the purpose of hocking your book will piss people off. It's important to join that Goodreads/Facebook group in the genre you write, and introduce yourself. Join in the fun. Participate in a group read or two. Offer advice when it's asked. Get to know the people of the group. And then, once relationships are established, invite them to a launch party, or to participate in your blog tour. The most important aspect of platform building is fostering relationships. 

3.) No rubber teets, please.

Seriously, most writers, when asked, say that they rarely felt like they belonged in their formative years. It's the right-brained thing. We get it, but that doesn't make it any easier to open up to people, does it?

And so many writers handle insecurity by hiding behind a mask of what they think an "author" should be. The problem is that readers want to know you for who you are, not see some cookie cutter stereo type. It's hard, but don't be afraid to show the real you ... flaws and all. That's what makes us human ... and relatable I might add.  

2.) Tea is better after its had a chance to steep

Your platform is up and running. You're now active on several groups and have met quite a few bloggers and writers that are encouraging you to go the distance and finish that manuscript. Jacked up on coffee and encouragement, you push through to the climax of your story and write a killer ending. Whoot! Now put it on the shelf for a month or so.

Wait ... what?

No, I'm not kidding. Stories are like tea; they really do need a chance to steep. Often that glaring plot hole, that character that is coming off as weak and winey, or that action scene that is just flat confusing cannot be seen right away. You're too close. And if your beta readers have been with you every step of the way, they can't see it either. No one is going to get shot at dawn if you don't have your work on Amazon by Friday. The cosmic forces of the universe will not conspire against you if you don't have it out by Thanksgiving. It's much better to invest an extra month or two and get it right than to be raked over the Goodreads coals by readers that are disappointed because it "fell short" somewhere. Trust me. You'll thank me later.

1.) Stories are like children ...  it takes a village to raise them right. 

Second only to thinking that a first draft is a final draft, the biggest mistake new authors make is trying to go it alone. It always amazes me that someone will invest an entire year of their life and countless man hours, yet they won't invest time or money to create a quality, finished product. You need beta readers, content editors, line editors, proof readers, formatters and a good cover designer to really give your work wings. When readers pay for a book, they expect a professional product. They want a good story that they can lose themselves in, not a grammar nightmare full of plot holes and weak characters.

Going that extra mile and getting professional feedback before you put your baby out there for the world to see is worth the effort.