Why Do Writers Become Writers? And Why Do They Fail?
Most writers become writers for three main reasons, not necessarily in this order.
The first reason is income. They hope that writing can create some kind of cash flow from their work. They would like to earn a living, lead a particular lifestyle, and perhaps, if luck is on their side, make a small fortune.
The second reason is impact. Though they might not have thought through exactly what impact they would like to have, most writers have some kind of awareness that they are making a contribution in some way. Contributing to what? It’s all rather vague, but let’s call it ‘the culture’. Many want to entertain readers, but quite a few want to have some kind of more lasting effect on people.
The third reason is independence. When you’re a successful writer, you have the freedom to work when you want and where you want. Most writers have a picture in their minds of a perfect working environment and schedule.
The fourth reason is that they feel that they don’t have a choice in the matter. Something is trying to get out, using them as the conduit for doing so.
Despite their best efforts, the majority of writers I encounter aren’t achieving these goals, even the last one. In fact, many of them are broke, exhausted or both. It’s tough to make an impact when you can’t make a viable wage. And the stuff that is inside them can’t get out, because there aren’t enough hours in the day. Of the writers who are making money, most are exhausted from running around trying to market their work. Before long, they burn out. Why is this the case?
Here are some suggested answers, again in no particular order.
1. Ill-conceived Marketing
The first reason is that most writers’ marketing is not only passive and patchy, it’s based on a false set of presumptions and expectations. They think ‘I’ve worked hard getting some posts onto social media, trying to get my book out there a little bit. Hopefully people will see my book and buy it now.’ That’s not how it works. Most writers do marketing in ‘surges’. They blast ahead with posts and ads, and then back off, expecting results. But after a while, they back off completely and return to writing.
Brutally, the only way to tell if your marketing is working is whether or not you are getting enough sales.
2. Unreliable Readers
You’ve probably been advised to develop a picture of your ideal reader - you know, the one who will love your stuff. This ideal vision will not only rave about your books, they will be immediately drawn to your book’s cover and blurb even before they buy it. Wouldn’t it be great if actual readers behaved like ideal ones? You put out your cover and other info, they are attracted, and at the end of the line, they not only buy your book but write a rave review so that others will buy it too. That’d be great, but it doesn’t often work like that. You’ve got the concept of what you want to happen, but they don’t. Anytime you work with real people, there are variables. Things can stall or fail. The line from your presentation to a sale can become messy. The end result of unreliable lines is that your conversion rates are much lower than they should be: even when suitable people are looking at your book, not many are moving along to the checkout.
The third reason isn’t a marketing or sales problem — it’s a writing problem. The reason there are tired writers in the first place is that the model they bought into when they became a writer is unrealistic. Their model is probably based on a complete misestimation of effort, usually along the lines of 'I'll write this one super book and it will become a best-seller...' Writers can continue doing things the way they have always done them. They can use manual marketing (ad by ad, social media post by social media post), and manual selling (contacting friends and family directly and asking for favours). But there’s a cap on what they can accomplish that way because it’s too hands-on and labour intensive. It’s manual, slow, and hard. The other choice is the opposite of manual and slow. It’s automatic and fast.
Its based on
1. Rational Marketing
Writers’ marketing needs to be founded upon realistic presumptions and expectations. Instead of ‘doing marketing in surges’ they need to build a machine which generates enough sales over a realistic period of time.
2. Reliable Readers
Writers need to develop a picture not only of their ideal readers but of the range of readers who will buy their books. That means becoming a master of positioning. That might sound like hard work, but actually an understanding of positioning grows out from a complete comprehension of your own work.
Your journey out to more and more readers begins with a journey inward to understand the roots and power of your own writings. The end result of grasping the foundations of your own writings is that more people will move to the checkout.
Sounds like magic? It is the way things work.
If there has been a complete misestimation of effort, then what is a ‘correct’ estimation? And can the word ‘effort’ be taken out altogether?
The truth is that, from actual observation and experiment, it takes about one million words before a writer develops a critical mass sufficient to start automatically attracting attention. That’s about ten decent-sized books, depending upon how you divide those words up.
Think in terms of gravity, if it helps. Once a writer has enough words written and in a form that is recognisable to readers, they seem to initiate their own gravity and start to pull in attention. ‘Recognisable to readers’ doesn’t just mean ‘in book form’ though - it includes work that uses all the craft and methodology to which readers respond. There’s no point in writing a shopping list a million words long and hoping for the same effect - readers look, consciously or unconsciously, for patterns and archetypes which a writer needs to master if he or she is to draw in the required number of fans.
Mastery of those things, along with realistic expectations and a better understanding of who one’s readers might be, lead to a success that is almost automatic.
Start understanding your own work immediately by getting my book now. Then contact me for private coaching on how to do the rest of this for you and your work.