Saturday, March 18, 2006

PTC #2, Part II

2. Staying Pro: I'd like to see more on how to KEEP selling, or how to organize my time (and) Once you start selling the plan is to keep selling and have a nice long career. Pointers?

Last night I talked about the popular propaganda about how to keep selling and have a nice long career. Let me emphasize again that the traditional play-it-safe-and-join-the-herd advice, which is handed out to nearly all of us when we join the pro ranks, is solid, blue-chip wisdom that you should seriously consider following. When in the herd, do as the herd does, and you'll be okay.

If you want more, you have to give up the herd, the guarantees and the tried-and-true methods, and go solo. Here are some of my ideas on how to do that, along with the amount of risk to the safety of your career:

1. Lose the herd mentality. Your writer organization's name isn't on your book, your name is. Publishing isn't a club or a bake sale or a night out with the girls. This is your job, and it's a very rare and much-desired job. At this moment there are a hundred thousand people competing with you for it, and those are just the professionals. We won't think about how many unpublished writers are wanting your spot. All the time you spent on your writer organization you can then use for doing some actual writing. Note: this doesn't mean you have to tell everyone in the herd to piss off; you can still be nice to your colleagues without blindly following in their footsteps. (low risk)

2. Be an entrepreneur, not an assembly line worker. Don't write in imitation of another author, no matter how much you admire him or her. Find out who you are as a writer, and capitalize on your individuality. Give your readers fresh, new, market-savvy novels that showcase your voice, your talent and your storytelling style. (moderate risk)

3. Break new ground. The writer who gets noticed is the writer who does something no one else is doing. Chances are best seized wisely, so before you try something daring with your writing or your career, think it through first. Be sure you're willing to accept any consequences, good or bad, that might result from it. (high risk)

4. Ditch the well-trodden road and take a different direction. Nearly every author takes the same approach to making a career in publishing: Sell the book, join the writer's group, do the promo, sell the next book, go to the con, do the promo, etc. It's like lather, rinse, repeat; I could do it in my sleep. Do you really want to sleepwalk through this gig? If you don't use your individuality, your strengths, and your creativity to navigate and enhance your career, how are you going to stand out from the rest of us and get noticed? (moderate to high risk)

5. Experiment, challenge yourself, and try new things with your work. Widen your range as a writer as often as you can. Write short stories, flash fiction, and promotional e-books. Take a writer for hire job. Write some magazine articles, or do a series of interviews with other folks in publishing on your weblog. Well-rounded writers are much more employable than single genre writers. (low risk)

5. When your career stalls, don't freeze. Don't lock yourself in a genre dungeon. If you can't sell a romantic suspense, pitch a paranormal. If you can't sell a cozy, pitch a thriller. If you can't sell a historical, pitch an alternate historical, etc. etc. Be flexible, inventive, and never give up. (low to moderate risk)

6. If after five years of trying you still can't sell that damn book of your heart, which you've rewritten three or four hundred times, for God's sake, bury it in the backyard and write something else. Better yet, burn it so you're not tempted to dig it up and rewrite it again. Make a vow never to write another one. (low risk)

7. Make the work the first priority. I know I keep harping on this, but the writing has to come first. When you're not writing, someone else is. When you're not pitching, someone else is. When you're off getting drunk in the Tiki bar at Paradise Con, someone else is at home mailing out a submission to your editor, or querying your agent. P.S. Some of them are better writers than you. (low risk)

8. Be frugal, pay off your debts and credit cards, and save your money and/or invest in yourself. Rather than financing your writing org's next big con luncheon, save your money or spend it on your writing needs. That $1000.00 you waste on airline tickets, con fees, widgets to hand out to other writers and your hotel room at the national conference could be spent on a better web site, or new computer and printer, or postage for the next year of submissions. If you've got all you need, put that money in the bank and save it for a dry spell. (moderate risk)

9. Find a healthy outlet for your negative emotions that has nothing to do with publishing, and use it as needed. Cooking, working out at a gym, gardening, going on power walks, sewing, playing raquetball, or anything like these things can help channel your frustrations so you're not tempted to get online and post something imprudent, like Ten Things I Totally Despise About My Editor, the Bitch, or worse, call her and tell her over the phone. (low risk)

10. Employ your sense of humor. Someone very wise once told me that if you can laugh at something, it has no power over you. That little saying has saved my ass as a writer more times than I can count. (moderate risk)

Related Links (including some on organizing yourself):

Chip Scalan's Organizing the Writing Life

Courage and Good Decision Makers are Successful People by S. Manikandan

Ten Things for Marketing & Planning

Find More Time by Organizing Your Writing Space by Michelle Jean Hoppe

Writers-Editors.com's The Business End of Writing

22 comments:

  1. Great advice. Thank you for taking the time to answer ALL these questions. It's been quite an education as always. :)

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  2. Thank you for answering all these questions.

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  3. Part I made me think, "Sheesh. Sounds just like a day job." Part II sounds a lot more like the job I want to have.

    Writing is a high risk business, and the risk doesn't end after you make the first sale. Better to know that and plan accordingly than to delude yourself into believing "playing it safe" will make the risk go away.

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  4. Anonymous5:01 AM

    Thank you for taking the time to write these notes. I'm reading this post again, and again, and again, hoping to impregnate my mind with it.
    The most trouble I have with is also the most important one: making Work a priority. Sometimes I just wonder why (why? why? why?) is it something in me that resists work every day? (banging head on the keyboard ;o().
    Best,
    Pencilone

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  5. Thank you for not only taking the time to answer all the questions, but also for giving such honest detailed answers.

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  6. You rock! Thanks so much for taking the time to give such great advice.

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  13. Above deleted comments were all SPAM.

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  22. Above comments deleted, again all SPAM.

    I'm closing comments to this post to prevent any more SPAM bombing.

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