If you’re seeing this because you signed up for my newsletter, you may have forgotten who I am. I’ve been terrible at interacting with my readers, but that ends now. I hope you’ll stick around, because you’re in for some awesome perks in 2017!
Thanks so much for your patience. I’ve survived yet another NaNoWriMo and am celebrating it by co-hosting the Insecure Writers’ Support Group this month! If this is your first visit, welcome. Every Tuesday I blog about unsolved mysteries, spooky places in the world, scary true stories or the supernatural. You may have missed yesterday’s scary true story, since it posted late. Here it is.
As I prepare to spend three years focusing almost solely on fiction, I’m bracing for some financially lean times. Perhaps not as bad as when I waitressed at Pizza Hut, but pretty damn close.
I don’t know about you, but I’m a sucker for anything that promises to help improve my productivity, write a better query letter, get more newsletter followers, or sell more books. I’d hate to guess how much money and time I’ve spent on courses, workshops, books, and boot camps over the years. And you know what? Most of them weren’t worth it.
The sad truth is, one of the easiest ways to make money as a writer is to create books, workshops and courses for other writers–but just because someone is successful doesn’t mean their brand of success will work for you (and if they’re so successful, why do they need to run courses and workshops?)
As insecure writers (and who isn’t insecure in this industry?), we’re particularly vulnerable to believing we need these things.
So, without further ado, here are five things writers don’t need to spend money on:
1. Costly writing retreats. (NOT conferences–those are different.) I’ve attended several different writers’ retreats over the years, and you know what I remember? Eating. Socializing. Going for walks with other writers. Talking about writing. Was it fun? Sure. Did I vastly improve my writing or get much (or any) writing done? Nope. Writing retreats with other writers (the ones that tend to be $5K-$10K) are great for socializing, making new writer buddies and getting inspired. But you know what? There are many cheaper ways to do this. (Have you heard of a little community called the IWSG? It’s free!)
2. Expensive agent-led bootcamps/workshops. I’m a sucker for this one, I have to admit, to the tune of hundreds and hundreds of dollars. This agent will finally tell me what’s wrong with my query letter. That agent will foolproof my first ten pages. No, no, no. You will come away from the workshop with the highly subjective opinion of one person (maybe two if you’re lucky), same as you’d eventually get for free if you kept submitting your work. And, no offence to the great agents offering their services, but–how many books are they selling while they’re leading workshops and giving in-depth feedback to strangers? One of the most successful agents I know is almost impossible to find online. He doesn’t Tweet, and he barely has a web presence. I have to wonder if there’s a correlation.
3. Fancy productivity or “success” journals. As I gaze across the room at my lovely $77 success journal, I am reminded of one thing–the success of the guy who created it. You don’t need a fancy journal to set goals and stay on task–you can adapt any dollar store notebook or find free templates online. Miss the inspirational quotes? They’re online too. An additional downfall of productivity journals is that they often take a lot of time to fill out–time you could use to, you know, write.
4. Business/life coaches and marketing consultants. With the average coaching and/or consulting package starting at $500, it’s easy to see how this service can quickly drain your bank account. Yes, it’s very comforting to put your life in the hands of an “expert” and have that person hold you accountable and at least pretend to listen as you babble on about your week. You know who else will do that? A good friend. Talking through things with my boyfriend resulted in at least as many, if not more, epiphanies than working with a coach.
5. Online courses targeted to writers. I’m sure there are good courses out there. But the vast majority of them are time consuming, labor intensive, full of advice you’ll forget within two months, and taught by other writers who don’t have much more experience than you.
On the flip side, here are some things worth investing in:
1. A designer. A talented web and/or cover designer is worth her weight in gold. It’s an investment that will pay off.
2. Equipment. Sure, you can get away with using the same computer for 13 years like I did, but I don’t recommend it. With the time I wasted rebooting and swearing, I could have written another book. A back-up system of some kind is non-negotiable–if you don’t have one, get one yesterday. Trust me.
3. Photography. Whether it’s high-quality stock photos for blog posts and ads or headshots for guest posts and your next cover, you won’t regret spending a bit more for better images.
4. Travel. The inspirational and creative boost you get from a change of scenery is amazing. And you don’t necessarily have to go far–sometimes a walk around the block or a journey to the next city is enough to recharge your batteries.
5. An editor. Yes, I’m an editor, but I also use one for my own work. Whether your goal is indie or traditional publishing, a good editor is essential. Just make sure you hire someone who’s an actual editor–not a writer who needs to make more money. There’s a big difference. Some professional editors are writers as well, but not all writers are suited to be editors.
Of course there are exceptions to every rule, but I hope this will help you avoid some of the costly mistakes I’ve made. What would you add to the list? Anything you wish you hadn’t bought or something you think is essential?
The Insecure Writer’s Support Group’s purpose is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds.