We’ve All Been A Noob: What Not To Do
I’ve thought about whether I should write about this particular subject for a long time. It’s not going to be pretty. It will piss someone off. This subject has the potential to come across as precocious.
I’m going to do it, anyway.
Ask any author who’s seen success. At every level, you'll see different trends. If you begin to sell at all, someone else is asking, “How do I publish my book?” When your title starts to circulate, and you begin to see a bit of success, it’s, “Will you read the six chapters I just wrote and tell me if it’s any good?” A couple of thousand copies sold later you’ll see, “I’ve written a book called [insert title here]. Will you read it and write a blurb/announce it on your page?” You know you’ve hit the big time when they stop asking, and simply post their author page and/or book to your Facebook page.
Let me be very clear: I am not judging you. I know the desperation to achieve the dream as well as any writer. This blog is not to talk down to you, or to make fun of you. It’s to help you to achieve what is invaluable in the writing community: friends.
Authors have always been known as a group of introverted weirdoes—socially awkward and inept (don’t get mad, you know it’s true). That may very well be the case for some, but in the dawn of the eBook revolution and the Holy Internet, we have gained a huge advantage over veteran authors who remember what it’s like to write a novel on a typewriter: coworkers. Not only do we now have the ability to talk shop and get much-needed advice, you can also grumble about things that you need to get off your chest—both personal and professional.
If you approach an author whom you have never spoken to before with the following email:
Hi Bob! I recently wrote a novel and formatted it to an eBook! If you would help me spread the word, that’d be awesome! KTHX
...you’re not only going to achieve the opposite of what you need to do—gain a colleague— you’re going to lose trust. In this industry, you'll learn to form opinions early on about whether a person is talking to you hoping to coattail, or simply to gain a colleague. Everyone with the same goal you’ve just reached wants to know your secret. That’s not the conspiracy theorist in me talking. It’s true. If you approach a total stranger with, “I need something from you”, you might as well not waste your time.
Here is the answer you are looking for: no matter what the self-help self-publishing books try to tell you, there is no secret. We all busted our asses and took our licks to get where we are. We did the research and found our own way. None of us talked a successful author into advertising our books on their page to become an overnight success.
I have a dozen friends who are also authors that I consider very close friends. I have dozens more that I consider friends, or at the very least, respected colleagues. The writing community--for the most part--is a tight-knit group. Aside from the Traditional vs. Indie silliness, in my experience, another author is your biggest fan. Don’t try to abuse that, though. Don’t friend them on Facebook, and then every time you comment on one of their statuses mention the title of your book. Even in the form of a question on their Facebook page or Twitter.
“Hey, Jackie. Congrats on your success! I hope one day my book, XXXXXXX will be on that top list, as well!”
C’mon. Advertising your book is what YOUR page is for. Don’t do it on theirs. Don’t get me wrong. I WANT you to succeed, I will cheerlead you all the way to the top, but coat-tailing is not appealing to anyone, and you are clearly not giving readers enough credit. They see what you’re doing.
I will tell you how I gained so many friends, who’ve all given me a plethora of advice and each have their unique, invaluable knowledge of the industry: I treated them as friends. For different reasons, and never because either party was asking for something (other than the occasional, respectful request to speak on a panel, which is totally acceptable), a conversation was struck, and trust was built. I’ve never asked another author to read my book. They know I’m an author, and if they want to read my books, they will. None of the authors I’m close with have ever asked me to read their books, either. The irony of writing for a living is that you often sacrifice your reading time (unless you’re Tina freaking Reber and can read an entire novel in an afternoon). When I’m writing under a deadline, I’m not being mean. I simply don’t have time to read anyone’s book. Don’t make an author tell you no. We feel bad enough because we’ve been where you are, and we know you’re doing the best you can. But, we also got to where we are without soliciting established authors, and we know you can, too.
Everyone knows that a friend will tell you how it is, and share their wisdom with you like no one else. So treat other writers as friends. It will get you a lot farther than any of the tactics mentioned above. That is not to say you should pretend to be someone’s friend for the sole purpose of getting something from them. It won't help you in the long term, and becoming a successful author is a marathon, not a sprint. You don’t want to fake it, anyway … authors are fucking awesome, and you should befriend as many as you can.
I love you guys. Kick ass.