A fellow author asked:
What is the most important thing an independent author needs to do to gain respect as a writer?
Being an independent (or indie) author means you are self-publishing your written work, but the answer applies to all authors. Whether you’re indie or traditionally published; whether your write novels, poetry, (screen/stage)plays, articles and online content, freelances various writing jobs, or ghost-writing … the answer is the same:
Be professional in your attitude and behavior, and produce quality work.
What does this look like?
On a personal level:
- Be genuine. No “selling” people on your books (aside from generic marketing). This means, you aren’t pouncing people with “buy my books”, spamming groups, or sliding into their DM’s to pitch them.
- Interact with people honestly and respectfully on a personal level and they will naturally be curious about your work and your passion (aka organic marketing). They will be understanding of you promoting your work and sharing your work-related content on your profile (not targeted directly at them), inviting them to your like your page or join your group, etc.
On a business level:
- Build a quality “brand” as an authentic person and produce quality products. This means a properly edited manuscript and blurb with a professional looking interior and cover.
- Learn the etiquette of contacting and dealing with reviewers, designers, editors, etc.
Understand that this is a business which requires an investment of both time and money. Don’t DIY unless you are a professional designer, editor, etc. and even then, have someone you trust look over your work.
I’ve come across authors who protest that we should be able to “gain respect” without focusing on the business aspect.
No matter what kind of writer you are, if you want to be respected, you have to learn the basics, hone your skills, network, market … ALL of it. Even if you’re traditionally published. The business part of it is vital, especially if you’re looking to gain respect. Otherwise, you’re not an “independent author”, you’re someone with a writing hobby.
If you want to be considered an author and gain respect of any sort, you need to work at your career like it’s a “real” job. Because, it is and Writing is Hard. So, be professional and produce quality work.
Every now and then someone decides to make a big post in a writing group to announce that they’re going to quit writing. Often, it’s accompanied by paragraphs of whinging that it’s just “too hard”.
Please, don’t do that.
Yes, writing is HARD. For some, writing is an actual career. It’s a business we pour time, energy, and money into. Like any career, we need to constantly be learning and expanding your skills. We need to make sincere connections and invest in our business. We need to hire sub-contractors (editors, cover designers, etc.). And, we need to remember to be a kind boss to ourselves; take days off to recharge, celebrate victories (even the small ones), and treat ourselves once in a while.
And, there’s another harsh truth: Talent only gets you so far. The key ingredient for success is determination. We make a choice every day about whether or not we’re going to commit – to our partner, to our family, to our job, to our passions … Am I going to dedicate the time and energy to learn more and be better? Am I going access the resources others have provided? Am I going to push back against the random stumbling blocks life puts in the way?
The reality is: Writing isn’t for everyone. That’s okay. Not every career is a good match, right? It’s perfectly acceptable to career-change, but there’s a difference between realizing it isn’t working for you and giving up because it’s more difficult than you expected.
Writing doesn’t work for you? Fine. That happens. People change careers all the time. You want to walk away – that’s okay, but please: Close the door quietly behind you. Keep your “I Quit” posts out of writing groups. PLEASE. You don’t know who is going to read your post and be negatively affected by it. Your frustrated post can cut the knees out from someone who may be having a difficult moment or new authors just starting out and feel unsure of themselves.
Protect the well-being of others by being professional when you “career change”.
After your book’s cover snags a reader’s attention, your blurb needs to hook them in and make them want to buy it. Yet, as important as the blurb is, some authors don’t give it the time and effort it deserves. Others simply don’t know how to make a blurb that grabs.
A good blurb needs to be short and concise while conveying the vital information of the story:
- Introduce Hero
- Introduce Setting
- Outline Situation
- Describe Problem/ Goal
- Introduce Opposition
- Describe What’s at Stake
Your blurb also needs to have a good hook to make the reader want to buy, so make sure that last part (what’s at stake) is big enough to create urgency.
Your blurb should read something like this:
Hero McGoodie just wants to enjoy a lazy summer, fishing and day dreaming. A strange set of footprints in the woods draws national media attention to his small town and tourists from all across the continent invade his fishing spot while looking for the source of the footprints.
Determined to reclaim his peaceful summer, Hero concocts a scheme to lead the media circus away from his community. However the owner of the mysterious footprints seems to have other plans, and Hero’s worries about invaders are about to reach intergalactic proportions.
So the break down looks like this:
- Introduce Hero: Hero McGoodie
- Introduce Setting: small town and surrounding woods/Hero’s fishing hole
- Outline Situation: Strange footprints are drawing unwanted attention
- Describe Problem/ Goal: Media and tourists are interfering with Hero’s summer plans
- Introduce Opposition: The owner of the footprints
- Describe What’s at Stake: Hint at an alien invasion (Note: Only hint about what is actually in the story. Please, don’t mislead your reader, even if the red herring is part of the story.)
Practice getting your blurb as concise and, if possible, run it past your editor for help with structure.
Good luck and happy writing <3
Download the Blurb Cheat sheet here or right click the image below and save.
What are you putting in your newsletter to prompt clicks to your site? If you’re only including things that fans have already been exposed to via your social media accounts, you’re missing out on the opportunity to generate traffic to your site.
Your newsletter can’t be just about selling your book(s). You have to give readers a reason to engage. In preparation for my own newsletter launch, I took notes on the ways other authors have mentioned to get readers clicking though to their site instead of just scanning the newsletters. Maybe there’s something on this list that will help generate more traffic for you …
Ways to Engage
- Polls (re: titles, character names, locations, future projects, etc.)
- A peek at your world-building
- Character interviews
- Cut scenes from your book
- Sample chapters of your book
- Samples chapters of another author’s book
- Asking the readers personal questions
- Asking them to send photos related to topic of newsletter
- Giveaways (gift cards, freebies)
- Swag give-aways (post cards, book marks, magnets, key chains)
- Flash stories/vignettes on your site
- Discounts on another author’s book
- A chance to win a beta read or critique of their story
- Adding only the beginning of an article with a “Read More” link to your site
- Book related art (ie. wall paper) and coloring pages they can download
- A chance to win video chat with you
- Video updates / behind the scenes
- You reading the first chapter of your book
- Photos of an event or activity (besides what you’ve posted on social media
Remember: The point is to get readers to open your email and click through to your site. Mention in your newsletter that you are doing/offering something and include a link to your site they can follow to participate.
What do you do with your newsletter to generate reader activity? Let me know in the comments!!
A while back, I wrote about How I Found My Beta Team for Eyes of the Hunter and promised to share the guidelines I provide my beta readers with to help them give me useful feedback. This is that post 🙂
When looking for beta readers, I target honest and dependable people who enjoy the manuscript’s genre. I also make sure they are familiar with both good writing techniques and important elements to the craft.
To make sure everyone is on the same page, I need to know exactly what I want from my beta readers. Then, I make sure that they know by providing them with a clear list.
Below is the basic letter I give my beta readers, which I tailor per project and person. You can also download the template for the Beta Reader Checklist [pdf] for future reference.
Dear Beta Reader;
Thank you for being part of my Beta Team! I sincerely appreciate you taking the time to help me make improvements to [Book Title]. Please, don’t worry about grammar, spelling, and punctuation issues; an editor is helping with those. The feedback I’m concerned about centers on continuity, character development, dialogue, flow, and completeness:
- Is the story interesting?
- Does it make sense?
- Any plot holes?
- Does the story flow?
- Is the continuity okay?
- Did I miss any important information or opportunities?
- Do you get a solid feel for the setting and people?
- Do the characters unfold well?
- Do any of the characters need more development?
- Is the pacing okay? Does it lag anywhere?
- Is anything clunky or awkward?
- Are there problem areas that need more attention?
- What worked for you? What didn’t work for you?
- … And, of course, anything else you feel I should know.
Specific concerns I have for this book are:
- [Specific feedback needed]
Please, be as specific as possible with your answers. Your honest comments will go a long way in helping this story be a success. I need your notes by [date]. I look forward to reading them and thank you, again.
Download the Beta Reader Checklist [pdf]
Need more information about what a beta reader does? Check out Duties of a Beta Reader, which includes a handy pdf to download.