When setting up a career as a writer, it’s important to save as much money and energy as possible while increasing a fanbase — so I wanted to share some things with you that some established writers have done in the past that turned out to be a complete waste of time and energy. By sharing these, I hope I can help you avoid the same mistakes they made.
1. Thinking They Can Do Everything Themselves
Many writers think that the more they can do themselves, the better things will be in the long run. Why should they pay other people to do something for them when they could just do it for themselves? Things like editing, proofreading, cover design, blurb writing, even publishing and marketing — surely these are all easy enough to learn?
In reality, this often turns out to be wasteful and even destructive. Most writers are not expert editors, proofreaders, designers, and so on. Most will admit to being at a loss when it comes to sales and marketing in particular. All these things are vital to a writer’s career if it is to be run as a business. But to learn them all to a professional standard means working silly hours — and those hours could be precious writing hours.
The value of these things is often underestimated in the writer’s mind, but they are not in marketplace: a badly edited (or unedited) piece of fiction can doom itself to obscurity, not to mention the fact that too many proofing errors are a surefire way of driving readers away from the page. And that’s before we even get to the vital skills of cover design, blurb writing and the rest of the professional world of marketing.
The brutal truth is that some professional costs have to be built into a plan to develop a career as a writer, in the same way that, if you were a chef, you would expect to pay for tuition, ingredients and premises to have any hope of developing credibility and a customer base.
2. Trying To Get The Attention Of Any Reader Just For The Sake Of Having Readers
Most writers new to the world of marketing still believe that they should be bombarding the internet with ads in an attempt to acquire as many readers as possible from as far afield as they can. They have no strategy for choosing a readership; they instinctively think that ‘deselecting’ sections of the market must be totally wrong.
Eventually they learn — but often after wasting months of time and perhaps thousands of pounds or dollars in their fruitless quest. The real secrets of marketing are simpler and easier to apply — and are fruitful.
3. Giving Books Away For Free
Many writers do this because at the start of their careers they feel guilty about charging for things that come naturally out of their heads. How can they seriously expect readers to hand over hard cash for such things?
It can be very difficult to make the transition from creating a work of fiction to selling it as the product of a business. But writers — even ones who get published through traditional publishers— are running a business and need to charge for things that they have created: unique, crafted and often beautiful things which frequently have subtle, powerful emotional and evocative effects upon other human beings. It's not about time spent, or about the ‘insubstantiability’ of the act of writing a story, it's about the value and the result the work can have in the hearts and minds of readers.
There’s a process that can be gone through to bring a writer to a fresh understanding of the value of his or her work, which I talk about elsewhere — it’s a crucial process, if the writer is to come to a swift understanding of what he or she is actually doing and why it’s worth charging money for it.
Many writers, if they could go back in time to when they started out, would definitely not give anything away.
So try to avoid the above three fundamental errors. Instead, build into your plans the costs of professional help at the right points, an effective organic marketing strategy, and an understanding of the real value of what you do.