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This Is The BEST Time To Be A Writer, If You Work For It

There has never been a better time to be a writer. But that doesn’t mean that it is easy to find an audience, or find success as defined by book sales, positive reviews, or bestseller lists.

I attended the Writer’s Digest Conference this past weekend, spending my days chatting with writers, literary agents, and many who support authors. Below are the top three things I took away from the many conversations I had at the event.

AUTHORS ARE ENTREPRENEURS
AUTHORS ARE ENTREPRENEURS
If you want to “just” write, that is fine. But if you want to engage with the business of publishing, put on your entrepreneurship hat.

This year, I noticed that the writers in attendance were much more willing to embrace the many facets of what it means to be engaged not just in writing, but in the publishing and audience development processes.

This requires a broader range of skills, from market research, to messaging, marketing, partnerships, and learning how to not just craft a book, but craft a platform.

What this means is that if you are just looking for a lottery ticket, for someone to magically make your writing dreams come true, that you may be grossly disappointed. What I see at events such as this are writers in the trenches, sharing not just inspiring stories, but talking about the daily work of learning all facets of publishing and ensuring their work has an impact with readers.

The reality of what it means to be an author today is: there have never been more opportunities to find and audience and sell books; and that takes hard work.

DON'T LOOK FOR SHORTCUTS TO ENGAGING WITH READERS
DON’T LOOK FOR SHORTCUTS TO ENGAGING WITH READERS
It always surprises me when a writer indicates that they don’t want to talk to readers. They do this by calling it “marketing,” making it seem like a soulless process whereby you trick readers to read your work. But really, this is the good stuff. Whether you write fiction, nonfiction, memoir, poetry, or other work, wouldn’t you WANT to chat with others who share your love of this work?

Too often, I hear an author subtly asking for a “secret button” that shoves their work in front of thousands of people. They want some trick to using Goodreads or LinkedIn or Amazon that magically delivers an audience. But as any successful author will tell you, it happens one reader at a time.

When I work with authors, we work through the hard stuff that many writers skip: the deep research of their market, their audience, and how to establish communication channels and messaging that aligns them with readers.

For me, this is a process of creating meaning, establishing relationships, and turing ideas and stories into conversations. It is NOT about spamming social media sites with promotions for books.

Your journey as a writer should be filled with helping hands
YOU NEED A TEAM
Whenever a successful author talks about their journey to finding an audience and selling books, they always talk about their team: the partners who helped them. It could be critique groups, beta readers, literary agents, editors, publicists, and many others who support writers.

Consider who you can partner with on this journey. Information can be powerful, which is why I write this blog and create ebook guides on topics such as blogging and social media for writers. But I also feel that working WITH others is critical, which is why I teach online courses, and work one-on-one with writers to help them find and grow their audience.

Your journey as a writer will be uniquely yours. Be wary of excuses that close doors. The writers I find who are having the most success, be it traditionally published or self-published, are those who are open to rethinking what it means to engage with readers, and find ways to align with them, not sell to them.

Thank you.
-Dan

  • Good info to know! especially for those of us who are “wanna-be” authors!! It seems like common sense to me to want to chat with your readers, but I can see not all writers would feel that way. Thanks for always sharing such good information!

    • Diana,
      Thank you. I tend to find that many writers feel this exact same way, but still feel in the back of their mind, that there is just some secret trick to go from 50 readers to 50,000 readers. That if they just knew which button to press, everything would grow exponentially.

      And while a well crafted marketing and publicity campaign can indeed help these things happen, an author’s platform is judged not just on HOW MANY people one speaks with, but the depth of those connections and conversations.

      Thanks!
      -Dan

  • ByRozMorris

    Great point about engaging with readers, Dan. And in fact, what a relief. I’d much rather build relationships than have to pick up a megaphone and bleat about my books.

    And what are writers selling, at the end of the day? We’re selling our company for the duration of a book. Social media is a brilliant tool for demonstrating what that might be like, so we can find readers naturally. Yes, it’s not quick, and I’m glad people are acknowledging that now. If you’re wildly famous, you can get on chat shows with mega audiences. But what guests do there is no different from what all of us do on social media. It just takes us longer to find the massive readership.

    (Off to Twitter to bleat about this post… 🙂 )

    • Thanks Roz! I agree, and kind of feel that we have been swayed too much by celebrity culture and mass media. To me, the changes that social media has given us is not just more ways to go from ONE TO MANY, but something much more important: more ways to go from ONE TO ONE.

      Thanks.
      -Dan

      • ByRozMorris

        ‘Going from one to one’! Is there a ‘Like’ button here? Oh yes there is, that eyebrow thing.

  • Rebecca Cole

    All excellent advice which supports what I learned in your Blogging 101 online class and your e-Book which I am in the middle of reading. There is so much to know and do beyond just the writing, but luckily I like all of it. Now, to stay disciplined and make the time!

    • Thank you Rebecca! So much of this is about consistency and good habits. I appreciate your support!
      -Dan