A Letter to All Aspiring Authors
It doesn’t take a fucking rocket scientist to publish a book, it takes Amazon and a laptop.
So, you want to be a writer. Not just any writer either- you want to be an author, the kind with novels all over the NYT bestsellers list. And I guarantee you’re already doing it wrong.
If you want to become an author, forget what you think; You are not in the business of writing. You, my friend, are in the business of media, which in the end, is the business of storytelling. Don’t get it twisted, you still need to pump out a novel frequently to stay relevant, but that’s just the basis. If you’re adding 2 + 4 and thinking, ‘Isn’t writing basically telling a story?’ you would be correct. You would also be wrong. Successful media isn’t just about the story, it’s about how, where, when, and to who you are delivering that story to, it’s interacting with people, being real in a world of ‘experts’, ‘thoughtleaders’, and ‘gurus’, and being relatable to the people you are trying to reach. I am a huge fan of Gary Vaynerchuk because he doesn’t sell bullshit get-rich-quick ideas, he sells hard work industy knowledge, talent, and results.
I head marketing at a modest but awesome publishing company, and not a day goes by in which at least one author asks me how to be successful, how to market their book, what they ‘should be doing to promote their books’ etc. Why? 90% of the time they’ve gone into this industry half-blind. If you’re in the business of writing, you’re actually in the business of marketing and media, so you better learn how the hell to build a brand before you focus on how to avoid passive voice. I said, I meant it.
Anyone can be an author, you are not special. I’m serious. Take offense if you like. It doesn’t take a fucking rocket scientist to publish a book, it takes Amazon and a laptop. That’s why we are so over-saturated with shit books with zero editing, with hundreds of thousands of scam artists promising to get you 1,000s of sales overnight, and real authors are struggling to make a dime (literally). Being an author is no longer impressive in and of itself, you have to be a big deal to get noticed in this world.
And that’s why anyone studying and researching writing is woefully unprepared to be an author, if not wildly ignorant. Yes, your publisher and publicist will help promote your novel. Yes, there is a certain amount of talent needed to truly write an appealing and creative story. Mechanics can be learned, or better yet, edited later. What you need to really learn before you get into this industry isn’t likely taught in your English department or the creative writing class at the local community college. Building a fanbase, using HTML for newsletters, how to make a wordpress or website, how to reach and relate to an audience, lead-nurtured list building, how to use instagram (and every other social media) the way it’s supposed to be used, with native content. Most writers don’t have a clue what the fuck native content is or how to do any of this, and it’s killing their chances because they’ll be buried in the Amazon slushpile almost immediately.
Learn what readers in your genre read, watch, snapchat, eat, tweet, breathe. Learn everything you can about your audience and where they live, how they interact, and then offer relatable value through those channels. Throwing up a giveaway on Goodreads when all of the kids nowadays reading MG-YA novels are snapping their faces off is virtually a waste. Instead, snapchat good, interesting or informational content as much as you can, while promoting your snapchat on other channels, and THEN throw up a giveaway on snapchat asking them to tweet about your book or whatever call-to-action seems worth it to you. Learn how to market yourself as a brand and how that brand can offer utlity to your writing demographic. Give as much value to them as you can, and more importantly, show your readers that you give a crap about them. When you do release that new novel, it will pay off in spades because now they care. If you care for them, they will care for you.
If you’re young enough to still be thinking about college, here’s my advice: Don’t go to school for writing. Get a minor if you like, but go to school for marketing, or communications, or something else. Plenty of authors have done so by being an expert in their field or a niche topic. Don’t lock yourself away every night forcing yourself to write 10k words. Write every day, but go and experience life every day. If your life if full of knowledge, new experiences, new people, new things, the well of inspiration with never run dry.