Publishing 99

kids at lemonade standWriting is a business, and it requires more thought than setting up a lemonade stand.

Writing isn’t magic.

It’s a craft. You need to learn it, hone it, polish it. You may have a gift for storytelling, but if you can’t use the language—your brush—you can’t paint the word pictures to bring the story to life. Problems with grammar, punctuation, spelling? There are good editors in the world: use them. Is your story losing cohesion? There are writing classes: take them. Learn your craft and practice it. The Bible has already been written: God’s next literary effort will not be to dictate your best-seller. You’re going to have to sit down and work. Resources are available—affordable, even!—to take basic writing talent to greatness. Use them. Become the best writer you can be, and then keep growing.

Writing begins and ends with readers.

Writing is about the story and how readers engage with it. Readers buy books—not agents, not publishers. Word of mouth sells books. This is not new. If you can get readers talking, you’ll have a shot at making it in this industry. It’s writers who took large bonuses from traditional publishers and failed to follow up with promotion and the next book who have injured the traditional publication market. They’ve made publishers wary, afraid to take risks. Publishers and agents want to find the next best seller. They want you to be that power-commodity, but don’t expect them to snatch you up based on a typo-laden query. They no longer have the time or money to throw away on anything less than pure gold.

Connect with your readers—and stay connected.

Build a social platform and a website to centralize your fan base. We’ve all heard readers frustrated by writers who don’t stay in touch. “Do you know when ____’s next book is coming out? I can’t wait.” That’s a sale. And if that reader can’t find out when your next book comes out, that’s a sale lost. You set up this ability to communicate with your readers before you publish. Call it author branding. Call it a mailing list. Or just call it good business sense. But it needs to be uniquely yours, a place where readers know they can find you. Would you set up your writing office in a stranger’s house? Why not? Because it’s your business. You want to have control over the rules, the schedule, and the product. Trad, indie, or lone wolf—all publication routes require you to connect with readers. End of discussion.

The industry isn’t going to stop changing.

This is our modern world. Things change. Fast. What works today may not work tomorrow. What works tomorrow may be the crazy idea you tossed away today. Be flexible. Don’t waste time arguing the superiority of one publication method over another. Write. While you’re at it, stop throwing money away on snake oil salesmen who promise instant, six-figure sales. Have money to spend? Perfect your craft. Connect with readers. Build your business.

A much needed thank you.

Writing without an editor is dangerous. I’ve been blessed to have Lori Brown-Patrick, also known as the Grammarwitch, as my editor on these blog posts. A good editor is invisible, but she shines a light in the dark corners of your work so you can see where it still needs a good scrubbing behind the ears.

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