BY SACHA HAMILTON
Being a writer is difficult enough with character development, plot creation, editing, rewriting, research, writers block, and grammar and punctuation; there's no reason to make it harder by ignoring these three easy tips (complete with recommendations):
1. You aren’t treating yourself like a business.
You aren't marketing, you aren't branding, you aren't writing expenses off when you do your taxes; this needs to stop! You're a business, treat yourself like one. I understand you may not be making "professional money," (and some of you may not be making any money) but you should actively focus on building your brand and yourself as a business. You don't need a finished product. Build your fan base.
Get a bank account and track spending. Have lunch with your editor? Buy a new laptop? Get more pens? Work from home? You may be able to write these things off when you do your taxes. Keep your receipts (file them in a simple filing system for easier retrieval) and talk to your tax preparer about what can be written off. Every little thing helps.
Make a social media account to interact with your fans. It doesn't matter if it's on Instagram or Facebook, you can introduce people to the fact you're writing and your style, and start developing your fan base. For example: People love to name characters and if they play a part in a character getting named, they can easily play a role in your profits later on down the line. They will tell people they named a character in your book and, chances are, they'll want to buy it themselves. Also, social media is great for releasing tidbits of work. This is a free way (other than the cost of internet) to create a space for yourself in the writing community. Releasing bits of work can get people invested in your craft if they see what you're capable of. You do not have to have something finished and released to start your marketing and building your brand. The earlier you begin the better.
Invest in a business consultant. Business consultants can add to your business and use their knowledge and connections to help you expand. They should have a thorough resume with actionable results. My recommendation is Akamai Enterprise because they work with all levels of businesses and have knowledge of the publishing industry. They are a trusted source to elevate your business (any kind of business but definitely clutch for authors).
2. You aren’t getting your work professionally edited.
If you do not know how to edit, save yourself the time and get someone who can. Don't trust your creation with someone that can ruin it.
First of all, no one's first draft is the best. If that's the case, you're saying the more you write, the worse you get. That's the complete opposite of how writing works. As an editor, I've seen some damn good first drafts, and even those have cringe worthy typos, errors, and general problems. A first draft plays a key role in the writing process though. The worst thing you can do is not give your manuscript enough effort to mature it.
Secondly, there's no difference between refusing to edit your work and editing it incorrectly, whether by you or someone else. I often see authors over correct, therefore, convoluting an amazing concept. I've also seen authors make the wrong corrections. Dialogue is very easy to mess up. I've seen people take correctly written dialogue and butcher it with punctuation. I've also had friends give me edits that completely change the style of my work while others have had me scrap perfectly good scenes altogether because they couldn't relate to it.
Besides knowing HOW to write, a good editor should also be able to take YOUR style and what you're already bringing to the table and enhance it while working on your weaknesses. This is why it's important to have some sort of rapport with your editor. I've been fortunate to build a relationship with my authors and I feel a big part of that reflects in the work. I can only imagine if you're trying to complete a project and you frequently don't see eye to eye with someone about something you created, it's bound to get frustrating and that may prevent the best work from happening.
When selecting an editor, keep in mind that your writing is extremely intimate and find an editor that you mesh well with. Through Vital Narrative's consulting services, we have developed a great process that encompasses all levels of editing. With this process that we implement, it allows us to offer a thorough, helpful, educational, and meaningful experience. On top of bound copies that the edits are in (and extras for yourself), we hold a private meeting to discuss your project so you know your next steps and what you're doing. Essentially though, when selecting an editor keep in mind that as a creative outlet, writing can be extremely intimate so find an editor that you mesh well with.
3. You alienated everyone on your friend’s list once your book came out.
Don't spam your friends. It's the quickest way to turn people off. If they don't like it, they simply aren't you audience. DON'T FORCE FEED IT DOWN YOUR FRIENDS THROATS! Not EVERYONE will be your fan--optimistically, you may find fans in the strangest places.
Keep a broad idea of your target audience and don't discriminate against your friends. At the same time, don’t assume they won’t be fans because of your writing style. For example, if it's extremely vulgar, it may not be for everyone on your friend’s list. But by adding people more indiscriminately than not you may catch a few fans where you least expect it. In my experience, quite a few people that I'd least expect to interact with my work have and it's been amazing. And even if they aren't as crude (and some shockingly are) they'll interact with the less vulgar stuff and with the more artsy stuff. There's such a huge payoff in that because it drives more traffic to your sites hopefully grabbing the attention of a new reader. I have everyone from school teachers, stay-at-home moms, business owners and nurses, interacting on my page making it more of a community while driving visitors from all over the world. And while there are millions of people that may not like what you're bringing to the table, there could also be millions of people looking to be your biggest fan.
Research your target market. Read articles. Narrow down who your market is and focus your attentions there. This is also extremely inexpensive because you can find most of this information on the internet. Similarly, if you're working with a business consultant, they can assist you in doing this as well.
These three mistakes can be easily avoided with just a little effort. Writing is a craft and should be honed accordingly. Just don't forget to treat yourself as a business that puts out a product. Neglecting that business aspect of your business will be its biggest downfall. But most importantly, never stop writing. Good luck!
Sacha Hamilton is Lead Editor for Vital Narrative Press.