Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Dos and Don'ts of Taking Your Writing to a Career Level

A few years ago, I decided to stop circling my writerly wishes and set some career goals.  Since I did not set deadlines, it took me a lot longer than I'd intended to even start to get my act together.

Get your North figured out.

If you want to get published by a traditional publisher or become self-published, you are going to need to start with being realistic.  Tell yourself you’re not likely to hit it big with just your first book, not unless you learn everything necessary to the industry, marketing, networking, platforming, editing (quiz: what’s a galley edit?), or the inside-out, know-hows of writing and selling commercially publishable bestsellers’ material.  Ever thought of taxes as being part of the overarching process?  Bookkeeping?  Yep.  Most don't.

My intent is to become a full-time author. Is yours? 

Turn this into a checklist, print it out, put it in with your Career Goals, and then research the hell out of each topic.  Figure out what is best for you personally, and then adapt it.  Take detailed notes as you learn, and share what you learn as you go--it helps you understand what you are learning better.  And most importantly, always work toward completing the next step.

This is the order of business:

  • Research apps that help writers and test them.
  • Research habits of successful, bestselling writers.
  • Research pitches, synopsis, plot structure, querries, etc.
  • Research productivity tips for writers.  There are ways to reach 10,000 words a day, guys.  Familiarizing yourself with recording devices is one of them.  It is awkward at first, just like learning to type is, so I suggest using them for writing prompts first, to practice.
  • Research how to write commercial fiction: plot structure, character arcs, and other components of stories.  There's a huge list of things that goes into a commercially successful book.
  • Research Trello and editorial calendars. You may use other systems, but Trello has served me best and I like that it's free and very versatile.  Editorial Calendars will give you deadlines and push you to achieve more by certain dates.
  • Write a business plan. Where do you (as a writer) want to be in five years? Ten Years? How many books do you want to have published 2 years from now? How many books do you want to have published by the end of next year?  Make sure you have a forgiveness process because you don't want to push yourself into tears when you don't reach goals.  At least you made progress!!!
  • Research the editing processes (there are multiple rounds and types of them).
  • Research the marketing process (web design, business cards, tag lines, reviews, etc).
  • Research platform development - and get started NOW!!!  Even if you take baby steps. Having a single user ID across many social media platforms helps your searchability.  I always try to make mine 7bloodfire -- whether I am on Twitter, Facebook, Wattpad, or elsewhere .  I even own the domain name for 10$ a year through Enom.)
  • Research how to create your own brand.  Think series books, or a specific type of fiction or memoir you are good at or enjoy a lot.  That’s what your brand will be from, and you need to figure out what it is and how to develop it.
  • Research how to make money from writing novels, how to set improve sales and traffic, etc.  This includes website analytics and conversion rates.
  • Research what all goes into a self-published book: cover pages, ISBNs, EINs, marketing, costs for print, promotions, gift ideas as promotions, contest ideas as promotions, etc.
  • Research how to promote your book: conferences, tours, press releases, starting book clubs, etc.
  • Research Web Site Development and HTML.
  • Plan the focus and layout of your site, blog, etc.  You'll want an overall goal the site will achieve, and an action funnel that drives people to that ending action.
  • Create your site, blog, etc, and link them all in a very tactical way while thinking of that action funnel.
  • Research networking and creating business partnerships. Implement as it comes up.
  • Start, join, or hire: Review Groups / Beta Readers / Book Clubs.
  • Attend Seminars / Conferences / Webinars / PodCasts, etc.
  • Research setting up Seminars / Conferences / Webinars / Podcasts
  • Set Up your own Appearances at Seminars / Conferences / Webinars / Podcasts later, when you are famous, too.  If this is a goal, it stays on the list.  Get used to the idea that writing is a business.  And businesses have training seminars and meetings.
  • Research and Develop Email Lists, Customer / Fan Bases, etc.
  • Research and then get paypal or other online and POS (point of sale) banking methods of getting paid for ebooks and physical books.
  • Research and keep up with Industry News.
  • Research genre types and how to write in them.  Same with looking up published books’ lengths.  This gives you idea on what is expected across the board.
  • Create a Career Journal and add to it: Projects, Goals, Syllabus, Scheduling, Tours, Travel, etc.
  • Improve your writing productivity one project at a time.  You could improve more than just speed with a dictation app or program--it also trains you to speak comfortably and publicly.  If you don't have a dictation app, just record yourself and transcribe it later.
  • Incorporate all research or research notes' file links into one place for easy reference.
  • Put the editorial calendar to use.
  • Practice and incorporate anything new that works - dictation and transcribing? Yeah!
  • Research copyright laws, like Fair Use, Plagiarism, etc.
  • Research using social media for business use, like marketing campaigns, posting times and frequency, etc.
  • Research blog post types, like Round Up posts and other types.
  • Implement Deadlines, break down your project into stages, and strive to meet those deadlines.

I am a little over halfway through my list.  And I HIGHLY recommend Trello for the Editorial Calendar, as I mentioned.  It also works for book writing processes and many other things. Here's a link to Trello, if you want to get started:

So, as you can see, if you’re like me and got the ball rolling before you knew where it was going to have to go in order to get commercial, you’ll have to put the writing addiction on the back burner in order to get your alphabet straight. You have to research what to research.  Having a good list to start with HELPS.

As for improving your skill at the craft? I always recommend Donald Maas’s Writing 21st Century Fiction.  It’s...AMAZING.  There are a lot of really good books out there, though, and I couldn't even begin to name all of the ones I've read and enjoyed thoroughly.

By the way, traditional publishers want you to already have a huge platform with a couple of thousand fans anyway.  You’ll be marketing your own material even if they sign you on, and after 6 months, whether your book sells or not, you become competition to the very company that signed you on.  (Better look up publishing contracts while you’re researching! There is a saving grace called a backlist.)  Also, they don't always catch every error.  The pros of self-publishing have increased against the cons over the years, so the many hats is a plausible step for many writers now.  Self included.

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Thanks for stopping by!  I'm glad if any of my advice here on my writer blog is helpful!

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