Writers: Avoid Self-Sabotage!
I don't have a website.
I don't want to use social media.
I am too shy to network.
I don't have time to learn new things.
I don't know what books compete with mine.
The writer in the garret with a quill pen is a musty myth. Today, writers need to be multi-talented, empowered and savvy. The difference between visible writers and manuscripts that gather dust and hopes that fade is the application of self-belief and elbow grease. It's okay not to know where to begin. But begin you must. Nobody is going to put thousands of readers or hundreds of admirers, or a literary prize or award-winning short story in your lap, out of the blue. You must make yourself known to the world, as a task separate from your writing time. Take matters into your own hands and empower yourself!
Fact: You Need a Website. Period.
That's just a fact, Jack. You don't need to know how to code and you don't need to be a Wordpress whiz and you don't have to hire someone to help you. But if you do have monetary resources - yes - there are plenty of professionals around. Just get it done. I use Wix but there are multiple other platforms, including Weebly and SquareSpace to name a few. Here is a link so you can do some investigating. Get started today. A writer without a website is like a bird without a song. Nobody will know you are there.
Fact: Social Media is a Good Thing
Look, I get it. I'm not into being on social media all day either, and I'm certainly no marketing pro. But think of social media as not just marketing or publicity but as a way to get to know like-minded people in your communities of interest. Don't think of it as narrowly as advertising your book or writing ten times a day with give-aways or pull-quotes. It's right in the name - social media. Interact. Chat. Learn. Show up. You don't have to go share crazy or marketing crazy right away. Get to know the lay of the land. Not every platform will be your cup of tea. Facebook has a number of groups for writers that are friendly and helpful. Instagram can be fun and inspiring. Pinterest is a visual feast. Who knows, maybe you're a Tik Tokker and you don't even know it. Take it slowly and check out your options.
Fact: Networking is Crucial & Takes Time
Almost every wonderful opportunity I have ever had was because I knew someone who knew someone. Go to events (virtual or IRL). Make sure you have a business card. Be friendly. Be helpful. Today a fair amount of networking happens online (social media, above). It takes time to cultivate a good network. Always be working on it. Make yourself useful; give feedback, offer assistance or advice. What comes around goes around. Stay in touch with your network regularly.
Fact: Learning & Professional Enrichment is Abundantly Available
Whether you take a Masterclass through social media, or a course through a professional organization that you belong to, you should always be searching to improve your writing and other skills. Youtube offers tons of quick tutorials; you can learn how to cook, crochet or, more ideally for this discussion, learn about the powerful tools available within Word docs or how to use a project management platform like Trello. Use the Google. "Classes for writers" or "Tools for writers." If there is an area of writing craft that eludes you - use the Google. Use your network. Use social media to ask other writers how they learned what you want to learn. Make the time or get left behind.
Fact: Doing a Competitive Title Search is Simple
First, what the heck is a competitive title search and why does it matter? Competitive titles are book titles that are - wait for it - competitive with your own. Meaning books in the same genre that have already been published. Why does it matter - because these are the titles that your work will be compared to when you pitch it. It also matters because you need to be conversant about writers and titles that are anywhere near your wheelhouse as a writer. It will come up in conversation, it will help you pitch and write back-book material, and it will also help you avoid unpleasant or embarrassing surprises.
Every literary agent knows how to do a competitive title search and now you will too. Go to Amazon and type in the title of a book that is similar to yours, i.e. have you written a memoir about an eating disorder? If you can't think of a specific title, simply search for "memoirs about eating disorders." Historical fiction; apocalyptic YA, women's fiction, erotic romance - ditto ditto ditto ditto ditto. Just look at the list of titles that comes up. Click through them. Which ones are best sellers? When were they published? Look for titles that sold very, very well and are less than three years old. Note the authors, page count, publisher and date published. How is your book different from each? Don't wait for someone to do a competitive title search for you - learn how to do it yourself. Stay abreast of what other writers are putting out there.
Writer, empower thyself. You'll thank me later.