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  1. Zeppo595

    Zeppo595 Contributor Contributor

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    Am I being honest with myself?

    Discussion in 'Traditional Publishing' started by Zeppo595, May 31, 2020.

    This is about many things but I think this thread might be the best place for it.

    I was emailing an editor I had paid to help me before, and one thing she said to me was 'be honest with yourself. If you want to just do writing as a hobby - do that. If you want to make it a career, you need to plan for that. Find your audience by branding yourself, using social media and networking.'

    It just hit home with me. I might not be honest with myself what I want out of writing. I keep saying, 'oh yeah, the work is valuable in itself. I don't care about success!' I think I like the idea of what the writing world was back in the 1950s, where you just kind of slaved away in isolation and sent out stuff to be published in magazines. Then, if you built a reputation for stories, you maybe got an advance to write a novel. I am totally aware this world barely exists nowadays, yet all my behaviour is in line with a writer living in this world. I am not really opening my eyes to the reality of the market.

    I've never really said to myself 'writing is JUST a hobby' OR 'I need to be successful.' I think the main thing about success would be that my status in society would be the same as what I believe my greatest strengths as a human being are. So THAT would be great. Instead, I feel like a bit of an imposter in both worlds. A fraud at my job and not REALLY a writer.

    I'm not even talking massive success. I'm talking like, a series of publications. But why would that solve anything? It would just create the need to continue the publication streak so as not to lose my precious status as a writer.

    But yeah, instead of choosing one of those things, I say something like 'this is a hobby but it might be something else someday if I work at it and get good enough.' This isn't a PLAN OF ACTION. It's just a daydream. I feel so damn conflicted cos some people say 'just enjoy the work and it will come' but if you just enjoy the work, you aren't necessarily doing all the necessary marketing you need in the modern world.

    I feel like I need to start working more concretely about how to make things work for me OR realise that it never will. I think the daydream of thinking somehow someday some way it might all fall into place is just too pleasant of a thing to let go of. But maybe, it's a necessity.

    What do you think?
     
  2. Dr. Mambo

    Dr. Mambo Contributor Contributor

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    Sometimes things just magically fall into place, but it's rare. Not just in writing but with anything. Ask yourself the necessary questions: What's your ultimate goal, and what's stopping you from getting there? What are you doing to realize this goal? If you need to be doing more, what's the first baby step you can take right now to get back on track? What might happen in your life that would cause you to reevaluate or change your ultimate goal?

    Since it sounds like you are very much undecided about your goal, work on the things that are necessary no matter what path you choose. Before you spend too much energy on marketing, networking, etc., hone your craft. Good writing is the basis on which you build everything else.
     
  3. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Funky like your grandpa's drawers.... Staff Contributor

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    You talking selfpub or traditional? Big difference in the achievability factor, though how one defines success is entirely relative.

    For me as a writer, I always defined success as being able to make enough money to not have to work a regular job anymore and still lead a comfortable lifestyle. And then successful, traditionally published authors I met (some on this website) essentially laughed at me. It was never possible for any of them to quit their day jobs., they said. Not in their wildest dreams. Many of them were being published without advances, and a book that netted them, say, $10-$15K was considered a very successful.

    That was the end of the monetary success definition in my book. I'm not scoffing at $10K, but that's barely a down payment on a car, never mind a viable path to financial security. Now if I was 21 0r 31 instead of 41, I might have a different attitude, but at this point of my life, I can see what the back nine of my viable earning years look like and, well, this is no time for daydreams, haha.

    Money aside though, it all depends on how you define success. For me, I would still like to publish a traditional novel before I die, but it's nowhere near as important to me as it used to be. The odds are just so infinitesimally slim (and least in the making good money sense) that doubling down on it seems more and more unwise as I get older. I always knew that, but the 41 year old brain is more pragmatic than the 21 year old brain. Still though... just to have done it would be reward enough.

    I'd go the self-publishing route, too, but like your editor eluded to, there is a lot of marketing involved, and I abhor social media. But I would do it if it needed to be done.
     
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  4. Not the Territory

    Not the Territory Senior Member

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    I think it's good that you're weary of coasting on dreams. A decade can easily zip past if you are not paying attention, leaving you none better than a bit closer to The Exit. Maybe you're not as bleak as I am though, and I honestly hope you aren't.

    That's about it... you reminded me to get back to my WIP.
     
  5. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    I'm curious, @Zeppo595 . Was your paid editor referring to what you write or how you write?

    If you concentrate on what you write (genre, etc) you probably have an easier marketing path than if you don't. But maybe those genres, or strict adherence to the current requirements of that genre, isn't what you want to write. Then what? You might be able to forge a career with writing, but is it going to satisfy you if you're writing something you don't believe in?

    If she was referring to 'how' you write, though, she might simply be suggesting you need to improve. Not 'change' but improve. So continue to write what you want to write, but do it to a more professional standard.

    I think if you take the second route you are more likely to please yourself. And if you do manage to become successful with what you write, you will be proud of your achievement.

    In either case, you must have a product to sell. So concentrate on getting the product to a state where it is publishable. Then see what you have.
     
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  6. Cloudymoon

    Cloudymoon Member

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    Jannert, I feel very much like you. I've always wanted to write a 'successful' novel but never really defined 'success'. I am currently half way through the novel I've always wanted to write, at the ripe old age of...ahem! I belong to a local critique group, and with their help I'm learning/polishing/honing as I go. I have now got to the point where I think I'll actually finish the book this year or next - woohoo! But have realised that I would really like success to be measured by lots of people reading and liking the book - which means actually selling it! I have already self-published a small book of short stories on Amazon (by way of a practice) but did no promotion to speak of, but did set up a website and face-book page. Very few copies sold/read on ku but reviews received (not many) have all given 5 stars, which is encouraging. However the short stories are dark humour/horror whereas the book I'm writing now is adventure/coming of age and totally different. I am beginning to work on a marketing plan for WIP and am thinking about biting the bullet to engage with social media etc. etc. to at least try and find some sort of audience before publishing. However, I hate this side of things and am not very knowledgeable with marketing. I begrudge the time it takes when I could be doing the important stuff - creating. Unfortunately I don't have much by the way of funds to pay for marketing or someone to do it for me, so will have to spend time on researching low cost ways. Would be great to link up with someone who wants to do the same to help/compare notes/where to market etc. If you decide to go this route, do let me know! Whatever you decide … don't stop writing, it's good for the soul. ;)
     
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  7. Zeppo595

    Zeppo595 Contributor Contributor

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    She said that if I wanted to sell, I'd need to target WHAT I write to an audience. This would I mean really focusing on what aspects of my writing are sellable. She said I already have some popular elements in my fiction - humour, intrigue, suspense - but that I would need to really focus on those things to brand myself to an audience.

    I tend to agree. I just hate thinking in those terms. It's as if I'm doing this for fun, but like a child I imagine it'll reach an audience someday. I guess it's good to realise it won't. And that it was still satisfying.
     
  8. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    As long as what she was suggesting feels okay to you, why not give it a try? The worst that will happen is it won't work. But you will know, after you've finished a piece that's focused that way, whether or not it gives you what you want from your writing. And just because an editor you've paid to look over your work thinks 'x' that doesn't necessarily mean it's the last word either.

    If you think back over the people who HAVE made a lucrative career from writing, most of them have broken new ground to do so. The wannabes flood in after them—and some do okay. But the followers rarely outsell or outshine the leaders.

    If you create something new that works, you're just as likely to sell it, as churning out copies of stuff that has already sold. So I would say write what you want, but get it written to a very high standard. That means no SPAG errors, but it also means learning what makes a story 'work,' and what can hold it back. Concentrate on grabbing readers, holding their attention, and leaving them satisfied and wanting more from you as an author.
     
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  9. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    It sounds like you already know what your weak points are. That's half the battle right there. Now just concentrate on spending some time learning what you need to in order to address them and make them strong points. Just a couple at a time. You advance by breaking down what you need to learn into bite size chunks and working on each a little at a time. A step a day.
     
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  10. pyroglyphian

    pyroglyphian Word Painter

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    Unless you consider the necessary marketing a part of the work to be enjoyed.

    I’m reminded of a passage from ‘Flow’ by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, 1990:

    'There are two words whose meanings reflect our somewhat warped attitudes towards levels of commitment to physical or mental activities. These are the terms amateur and dilettante.

    Nowadays these labels are slightly derogatory. An amateur or dilettante is someone not quite up to par, a person not to be taken very seriously, one whose performance falls short of professional standards. But originally, “amateur,” from the Latin verb amare, “to love,” referred to a person who loved what he was doing. Similarly a “dilettante,” from the Latin delectare, “to find delight in,” was someone who enjoyed a given activity.

    The earliest meanings of these words therefore drew attention to experiences rather than accomplishments; they describe the subjective rewards individuals gained from doing things, instead of focusing on how well they were achieving. Nothing illustrates as clearly our changing attitudes toward the value of experience as the fate of these two words.

    There was a time when it was admirable to be a an amateur poet or a dilettante scientist, because it meant that the quality of life could be improved by engaging in such activities. But increasingly the emphasis has been to value behaviour over subjective states; what is admired is success, achievement, the quality of performance rather than the quality of experience.

    Consequently it has become embarrassing to be called a dilettante, even though to be a dilettante is to achieve what counts most — the enjoyment one’s actions provide.'
     
  11. Cephus

    Cephus Contributor Contributor

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    Yes and no. If you are just writing to enjoy it, that's perfectly fine, so long as you recognize the inherent limitations of that decision. However, there are a lot of people who seemingly write to enjoy their time, but they also try to get their work out there in a "professional" manner. You can't be both an amateur and a professional at the same time. Each one carries different requirements. Either one of them are fine on their own, but when someone uses the "amateur" label to ignore the responsibilities of "professional" behaviors, that's where there are troubles. If you are posting your work for sale, and we are in the marketing forum so that's the assumption, then you need to behave as a writing professional and do all of the things that writing professionals do. Otherwise, if you don't want to do that, don't stick your work up on commercial platforms like Amazon.

    It's really not that hard.
     
  12. Zeppo595

    Zeppo595 Contributor Contributor

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    And what exactly do writing professionals do that 'amateurs' don't ?

    And as it is so seemingly easy for you, I look forward to your tips on the subject.
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2020
  13. Cephus

    Cephus Contributor Contributor

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    The don't make absurdly basic mistakes left and right, they can write in coherent English (or whatever language they are writing in) and don't turn in manuscripts littered with hundreds of SPAG issues. They comprehend story structure, they understand how characters work and honestly, they know how to tell a story. When you're reading for professionals, you don't have to constantly correct "there", "their" and "they're" five times a page. You're actually reading for content, not for grammar. It actually looks like a finished manuscript, not what someone vomited up this morning and threw up unedited. Professionals don't get emotional about their work. They don't get mad at valid criticism, in fact, they don't get mad regardless. They are looking for things to help them polish their novels, they are not seeking mindless validation.

    Is that a good enough start for you?
     
  14. Arsel

    Arsel Active Member

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    All this sounds more like a prerequisite than a deciding factor for professionalism. The big leap from amateur to professional doesn't necessarily come from improved storytelling - it means commiting to aspects of publication that have nothing to do with writing, like finding quality editors, marketing on social media, setting up a website, etc. This means sacrificing a lot more time and doing drudgeous tasks. Many people write A-class stories without ever being noticed, because they did not commit to making it their paid profession.

    All I can give is my relatively limited personal experience.
    I'm writing an epic fantasy, so a HUGE project. Success as I see it is to have written a holistic story that reflects the complexity of the real world, and to have readers view it the same way. But the main reason I keep going is because it's a whole lot of fun.
    I've thought many times: Do I want to incorporate this contemporary phenomenon that I don't really find interesting but that would find a big audience? Or: Should I restrain myself exclusively to light-hearted and whimsical writing, as this is my strength? I don't think there's a wrong answer, actually.

    Beware of a false dichotomy. Is there really an All-In or All-Out? I've heard of authors becoming popular without a facebook page. Do you have to view this as an ultimatum?

    I think it also comes down to what's at stake. If you have a stable livelihood and are writing for the heck of it, and if you think the quality of your work is benefited by a laissez-faire approach, then why change? You said you don't care about conventional "success".
    If you actually do, if you want writing to become your main-hustle, it seems hard to get there without sacrificing some enjoyment. I hate social media so I can totally relate... But fact is, your book better be brandon-sanderson material if you want it to succeed without getting down in the trenches and doing the dirty work.

    Sorry for these rather incoherent ramblings, hope there's something useful in there :D
     
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  15. Cephus

    Cephus Contributor Contributor

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    It comes from an increase in skill where someone can rationally consider putting their work into a paying market and having a decent chance of anyone actually wanting to read it and pay them for it. It's a lot further down the long and arduous road of improving craft. Of course, with any action, there are consequences and as you say, some of those include marketing and the like because no one can buy your book if no one knows it exists, but it's still a milestone in the ability of the writer, or at least it should be. It takes no time at all to look around the various writing forums to find people who clearly are not at that point, yet they expect their current (and often first) work to be saleable and successful when they don't know the slightest thing about writing, period. In fact, I can think of at least three individuals at this very moment on multiple different forums, that are expecting to sell their work when they clearly have no idea what they are doing and they're desperately trying to get people to tell them what to do and write by committee. Invariably, they are going to fail because I don't think they'll be able to successfully make it to the end of the first draft, much less be able to produce a finished product, but they've been told that writing is easy and anyone can do it and be good at it and they are simply wrong. Their expectations are completely out of whack. Other writers who are further down the road are doing them absolutely no favors by lying to them and telling them that this is easy, they just have to try and they can go from the starting line of their first race to the Olympics in no time flat. This is not how reality works and it isn't helping anyone to tell them that it is. Far too many amateur writers think that by encouraging everyone and telling everyone that they can do it, whether they can or not, that somehow, that means they can succeed as well. If anyone is allowed to fail, then they can fail too. The simple truth is, if your goal is to get to the "Olympics" of writing, the vast majority of people that you meet along the way, they will not be lining up in the blocks beside you at the beginning of the race. Most people do fail. It's only the people who are willing to put in the time and the work and toil for years on end to better themselves and their craft that are going to wind up reaching that point. Telling people who don't have that that they can do it anyhow... you're just wasting their time. And yours.
     
  16. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    They get paid. That may seem like an obvious answer, but it's true. The professional writer produces work that sells.
     
  17. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    ^ I think I would add 'consistently'.
     
  18. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    I'm not so sure I would agree with consistently. Most of the time I have to write a whole bunch of crap to write something good. But being prolific helps both with selling and writing more. It might seem to some people that I publish somewhat consistently, but behind the scenes I'm working my ass off to keep that image.
     
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  19. Zeppo595

    Zeppo595 Contributor Contributor

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    Marketing and writing are totally different skills. I posted this thread in the marketing forum because it came to my attention that unless I figure out how to market myself, it doesn't matter how good I get at writing - it'll only ever be a hobby.

    I don't think being a 'good' writer is the only thing you need to be successful these days. You appear to have a somewhat romantic notion that if the work is good enough, it'll rise to the top. I don't think so, but I don't think the opposite is true. I don't think you can just magically be a success without working hard at the craft, which is a point you seemed to fixate on that I never made. I'm not cheer leading for people to NOT work hard at the craft. I am just aware that it's not enough anymore.

    I don't really know what you're talking about in terms of delusional people. In terms of on these forums, I think the criticism is pretty fair and often times more on the side of critical than fawning.

    Ultimately, I think being a good writer and being a marketable writer are different things as well. In 2020, the smart move is to strive for both. If I was not me and giving advice to someone else, I'd tell them to use all of social media and constantly promote themselves and fuck the 'industry.' Carve your own space. I struggle with this mostly related to wider self-esteem issues and perhaps a bit of unhealthy contrarianism. At least I'm aware, but I don't know if I'll change.
     
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  20. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    How you reach that end really depends on whether you are self pub or trad pub

    in the self sphere marketing mostly means adverts - AMS, FB and Bookbub being the triumvirate, with other add on like kobo promotion and the booksys.

    In the trad sphere it is very difficult for an author with a lower royalty share to make a positive return on adverts (its not exactly easy for anyone), so marketting for trad authors is more about building your brand and getting known in your niche
     
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  21. marshipan

    marshipan Contributor Contributor

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    To me personally, trying to be a successful professional self publisher means researching and writing to market before pen even hits the paper. Whereas a more "hobby" way to look at it is creating what I love, and then trying to find a market for it. I do a lot of market research. I look at the bestselling charts for my market daily, read my competitors frequently, and find forums where my intended readers talk about the stories they like. I want to give my market what they want and the more I focus on that, the more successful my stories are becoming. It's about crafting a product for others, and not what I want to see, how I could improve on the niche/sub genre, or anything like that.
    I agree. I see a lot of mediocre writers finding a lot of success on Amazon these days and a lot of good writers not. Good writing will get you fans but it doesn't get you readers, and good writing will still fall flat if you aren't giving readers in your market what they want and love in your niche.
     
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  22. Zeppo595

    Zeppo595 Contributor Contributor

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    Totally agree.
     
  23. marshipan

    marshipan Contributor Contributor

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    You could always give "professional" creative writing a try and see if you like it. It doesn't have to be all or nothing. I tried freelance writing for about a year and realized I absolutely hated it. If you do try it, I'd recommend finding a market that has shorter stories that way you don't have to write a massive novel while you learn, grow, and try it out. I have no qualms writing erotica and so that is where I'm learning the ropes while also trying to figure out what market I want to be in long term. And you don't have to do everything at once. I'm not doing ads at all and have decided to leave social media for a later date. I'm still making money despite that and learning a whole lot.
     
  24. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    :supercheeky:

    Yes, you seem to be a natural. You just can't help yourself, can you? (Or is it just me reading things in?)
     
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  25. marshipan

    marshipan Contributor Contributor

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    It must be one of our subconsciouses....or both. :ohno:
     
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