I’ve been deep in the revision trenches this last week and as a result have been completely unable to come up with a blog topic. So, I took to Twitter and asked for a topic. Honestly, I didn’t think I’d get a response but I was happy to be wrong.
Chris Williams asked how about a strategy for a new writer to break into a full-time writing career?
Now, I can’t tell you that these things will definitely work since I’m still working on making writing my career but I can tell you what I think will work if I stick to it.
Also, I’d like to preface my thoughts by telling you that no one path will lead you to a full-time writing career. Brandon Sanderson and many other career writers have said that it takes at least 10 years before you make money as a writer. (Brandon says this in his BYU lectures. Watch them here.) Writing is an art and as such, subjective. A “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” kind of thing. And the market is fickle. You may write something perfectly brilliant but if the market doesn’t want it when you release it, you’re not going to make it. At least, not right away. Someday, it could find its audience and suddenly you’re JK Rowling or Stephanie Meyer. An “overnight” success.
But, even if the novel you’ve labored over for the last 10 years never becomes the next big thing, making you millions, I believe every writer has the ability to make writing their career if they’re willing to do a few things. At least, these are the things I’m trying to do.
Always be closing
Yep. Totally ripped this line from Glengarry Glen Ross. How could I resist when the movie is written by one of the greatest playwrights of our time, David Mamet. #inspiration
Anyway, in the film, this line refers to a sales tactic. If the salesmen are always closing they’ll be more profitable. In my opinion, the more prolific a writer you are, the more work you finish/close and release, the more visible you’ll be and as a result, more profitable. To me, always be closing means always finishing what I start.
If you remove those rarities, writers whose first or second books were a sensation, seemingly overnight successes (BTW, nothing is an overnight success. There’s always time and effort that goes into that overnight success the public doesn’t see.) you’ll find many of the most successful writers have a GIANT library of work. Stephen King, Brandon Sanderson, Agatha Christy, R.L Stine, John Grisham, James Patterson, Ray Bradbury, R.A. Salvatore, Isaac Asimov. I could go on. And let’s be honest, not everything they’ve written is the best but because there’s so much for people to choose from they’re bound to find an audience and profit of some measure.
Now, I’m not saying you should pump out crap. The process is important and every story should be given adequate attention in revisions and editing. You want your readers to keep coming back and you have to have a decent product to ensure they do. The point I want to make is to consider the amount of time you’re spending on each story. Do you need to spend 10 years on one novel or are you letting perfect get in the way of good enough?
If the book is actually good enough, close it! Submit or publish it! You’ll never make writing your full-time career if you never put something out there for people to read!
Don’t advertise. At least, not right away. And certainly not until you actually have something to offer. And even then, try to let your readers sell your books, through ratings, reviews, and if you’re lucky, fan art! Promote your readers not yourself. Your readers will love you for this and potential readers will love the idea of becoming part of a fandom with an involved and friendly author.
But what if you have no readers to promote because no one’s reading or rating or reviewing your book? Or you haven’t even published yet? Talk to readers with similar tastes in what you write. Talk to other writers about your processes, struggles and successes. Follow hashtags like #amwriting and #amrevising on Twitter. Join reading and writing groups on Facebook. But don’t just join, participate! And NEVER promote your work. Ask questions, reply to other people’s questions. Have conversations. Make friends and when your book comes up, casually, in conversation, you’ll find many of the people there will be glad to give your book a chance.
Do the legwork
If you’re doing everything from the previous point then you’re well on your way with this one. But as important as your online presence is, IRL appearances are still one of the best ways to make yourself and your work known.
Go to bookish events. Conventions, signings, festivals. Take photos at these events to post on your social media. Show people how passionate you are, not just about being a writer but about the entire bookish community.
Never give up
Duh! Right? As many times as so many people have said it, it’s still the most important and ONLY way you’ll ever reach your goals. But never forget, you may work your entire life and never make writing your full-time career but if you give up, you most definitely won’t.
A BIG thanks to Chris Williams for the question! This came a lot easier than I thought it would.
Well, that’s all I have but I would love to hear from all of you. Am I wrong? Have any of you made writing your full-time job? What were the things you did that led you there? Or are you like me, trying to get there but following a different path?
Thanks for reading and keep moving forward!