This month’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group question asks what pitfalls you’d warn other writers to avoid on their publication journey.
The best advice I can give, (other than my oft-repeated “Don’t take advice from other writers”) is this: don’t waste your money and time searching for the fabled magic bullet.
We’ve all heard about those people. The ones who write their first novel just for fun, only to have it turn into a massive bestseller. Or the ones who got laid off and started writing out of desperation, somehow building a successful career in a year or less. The ones who did everything “wrong”–wrote a bizarre query letter listing the reasons the agent shouldn’t offer representation; published their book on a public forum; left an agent and Big Five publisher to go indie–and yet became major success stories. Who wouldn’t want that kind of win?
Stories like that are what sends us straight into the arms of other prosperous authors. The ones promising that if you just spend hundreds (or thousands) on their course/program/workshop, you too will double your book sales. Or make your first million. Or go from obscurity to Stephen King-level fame. However, if one does a little poking around, they’ll discover that these authors make their money not from their fiction, but by selling courses, workshops and how-to books to desperate authors.
The expensive life coaches. The endless books on craft and marketing. The software programs that promise to choose only the very best Amazon keywords for your opus. The overpriced editors with no credentials. No matter what issue you’re having–writing too slow; writing too infrequently; poor sales; no responses from agents–there’s someone charging a ton of money to fix it for you. And when you’re a writer, and you want so desperately to succeed, you’ll jump at these offers like they’re the Holy Grail. Or a magic bullet.
The problem is, there’s no such thing as a magic bullet. Just because that romance writer makes a comfortable living publishing twenty books a year doesn’t mean you will. That sci-fi icon made a mint using Amazon’s KDP program, but that doesn’t mean you can replicate his success. Although that literary scribe got a top agent with his unusual query letter and a professionally bound book, that doesn’t mean it’s the right move for you.
It’s so appealing, so attractive, to turn to someone who seems to have all the answers in this confusing, often heartbreaking, business. But the word seems is key–no one has all the answers, no matter how much they try to convince you otherwise.
Practice your craft. Seek advice or mentorship from other writers who are where you’d like to be. Heck, read the occasional how-to book or listen to a podcast on marketing. What can it hurt? Just keep in mind that all the people I’ve mentioned in this post got to where they’re at by doing something unique. They followed their own path to success, not the one-size-fits-all Sure-Fire Book Sales Program some author is charging a thousand dollars for.
While it’s tempting to keep searching for the magic bullet, especially after a setback, save your money and time for things that are guaranteed to improve your chances of success. For those wishing to be traditionally published, a great developmental editor. A subscription to Publisher’s Marketplace. Blue pencil sessions. Pitch conferences. For indies: still a great editor, but also a fabulous cover designer and formatter. A gorgeous website. A virtual assistant to help you manage the tasks you don’t have time for.
In my experience, there’s only one secret to writing success that’s universal. Work hard, write hard, and make sure your writing is available somewhere people can purchase it. That’s it.
I know; I know–the magic bullet is sexier.
The purpose of the Insecure Writers’ Support Group 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. To see a full list of IWSG authors, click here.