Newbie Writer Resolutions
- I will start/finish the damn book
- I will always have at least three stories on submission, while working on a fourth
- I will attend at least one writer's conference, and introduce myself to agents, editors, and other writers
- I will subscribe to the magazines I submit to
- I will join a critique group. If one doesn't exist, I will start one at the local bookstore or library
- I will finish every story I start
- I will listen to criticism
- I will create/update my website
- I will master the query process and search for an agent
- I'll quit procrastinating in the form of research, outlines, synopses, taking classes, reading how-to books, talking about writing, and actually write something
- I will refuse to get discouraged, because I know JA Konrath wrote 9 novels, received almost 500 rejections, and penned over 1 million words before he sold a thing--and I'm a lot more talented than that guy
Professional Writer Resolutions
- I will keep my website updated
- I will keep up with my blog and social networks
- I will schedule bookstore signings, and while at the bookstore I'll meet and greet the customers rather than sit dejected in the corner
- I will send out a newsletter, emphasizing what I have to offer rather than what I have for sale, and I won't send out more than four a year
- I will learn to speak in public, even if I think I already know how
- I will make selling my books my responsibility, not my publisher's
- I will stay in touch with my fans
- I will contact local libraries, and tell them I'm available for speaking engagements
- I will attend as many writing conferences as I can afford
- I will spend a large portion of my advance on self-promotion
- I will help out other writers
- I will not get jealous, will never compare myself to my peers, and will cleanse my soul of envy
- I will be accessible, amiable, and enthusiastic
- I will do one thing every day to self-promote
- I will always remember where I came from
- Keep an Open Mind. It's easier to defend your position than seriously consider new ways of thinking. But there is no innovation, no evolution, no "next big thing" unless someone thinks differently. Be that someone.
- Look Inward. We tend to write for ourselves. But for some reason we don't market for ourselves. Figure out what sort of marketing works on you; that's the type of marketing you should be trying. You should always know why you're doing what you're doing, and what results are acceptable to you.
- Find Your Own Way. Advice is cheap, and the Internet abounds with people telling you how to do things. Question everything. The only advice you should take is the advice that makes sense to you. And if it doesn't work, don't be afraid to ditch it.
- Set Attainable Goals. Saying you'll find an agent, or sell 30,000 books, isn't attainable, because it involves things out of your control. Saying you'll query 50 agents next month, or do signings at 20 bookstores, is within your power and fully attainable.
- Enjoy the Ride. John Lennon said that life is what happens while you're busy planning other things. Writing isn't about the destination; it's about the journey. If you aren't enjoying the process, why are you doing it?
- Help Each Other. One hand should always be reaching up for your next goal. The other should be reaching down to help others get where you're at. We're all in the same boat. Start passing out oars.
I Will Use Anger As Fuel. We all know that this is a hard business. Luck plays a huge part. Rejection is part of the job. Things happen beyond our control, and we can get screwed.
It's impossible not to dwell on it when we're wronged. But rather than vent or stew or rage against the world and everyone in it, we should use that anger and the energy it provides for productive things.
The next time you get bad news, resolve to use that pain to drive your work. Show fate that when it pushes you, you push right back. By writing. By querying. By marketing.
I Will Abandon My Comfort Zone. The only difference between routine and rut is spelling.
As a writer, you are part artist and part businessman.
Great artists take chances.
Successful businessmen take chances.
This means doing things you're afraid of, and things you hate, and things you've never tried before.
If, in 2008, you don't fail at something, you weren't trying hard enough.
I Will Feed My Addiction. Life is busy. There are always things you can and should be doing, and your writing career often comes second.
So make it come first.
Right now, you're reading A Newbie's Guide to Publishing. Not A Newbie's Guide to Leading a Content and Balanced Life.
You want to get published and stay published? That means making writing a priority. That means making sacrifices. A sacrifice involves choosing one thing over another.
If you can't devote the time, energy, and money it takes to pursue this career, go do something else.
I Will Never Be Satisfied. Think the last resolution was extreme? This one really separates the die-hards from the hobbyists.
While an overwhelming sense of peace and enlightenment sounds pretty nice, I wouldn't want to hire a bunch of Zen masters to build an addition on my house.
Satisfaction and contentment are great for your personal life. In your professional life, once you start accepting the way things are, you stop trying.
No one is going to hand you anything in this business. You have to be smart, be good, work hard, and get lucky.
Every time you get published, you got lucky. Don't take it for granted.
When something bad happens, it should make you work harder. But when something good happens, you can't believe you earned it. Because it isn't true. You aren't entitled to this career. No one is.
Yes, you should celebrate successes. Sure, you should enjoy good things when they happen. Smile and laugh and feel warm and fuzzy whenever you finish a story or make a sale or reach a goal.
But remember that happiness isn't productive. Mankind's greatest accomplishments are all tales of struggle, hardship, sacrifice, work, and effort. You won't do any of those things if you're satisfied with the status quo.
Who do you want on your team? The kid who plays for fun? Or the kid who plays to win?
If you want this to be your year, you know which kid you have to be.
This year I'm only going to add one resolution to this growing list, but if you're writing for a living, or trying to write for a living, it's an important one.
I Won't Blame Anyone For Anything. It's tempting to look at the many problems that arise in this business and start pointing fingers. This is a slippery slope, and no good can come from it.
Do agents, editors, and publishers make mistakes? Of course.
You make mistakes too.
Hindsight is 20/20, so we can all look at things that didn't go our way and fantasize about how things should have gone.But blaming others, or yourself, is dwelling on the past. What's done is done, and being bitter isn't going to help your career.
So try to learn from misfortune, forgive yourself and others, and make 2009 a blameless year.
I Will Be Wary. The medium in which stories are absorbed is changing in a big way, and it will continue to change. 2009 will go down in publishing history as Year Zero for the upcoming ebook revolution. Writers should explore this new territory, but we need to understand that Print is still King, and any goals and dreams a writer might have regarding publication should be focused on getting into print.
That's not to say that ebooks shouldn't be explored and experimented with. They should be, and in a serious way. Erights are a very long tail--one that can potentially continue long after our lifetimes.
Don't forsake print for ebooks without understanding what you're giving up, and don't give away your ebook rights to get a print deal.
I Will Be A Pioneer. Remember the old saying about how to recognize a pioneer? They're the one with the arrows in their backs and fronts.
I've tried to be forward-thinking in my career, rather than being content with my role as a cog in a broken machine. Your best chance for longevity is to question everything, test boundaries, experiment with new ideas, and be willing to change your mind and learn from your mistakes.
Your job is to survive, by any means necessary. So pull out the arrows and forge ahead. Discover the difference between determination and stupidity by being an example for one or the other or both.
Though this may seem at odds with the previous resolution about being wary, it's actually quite simpatico.
Q: What do you call a wary pioneer? A: Still alive.
I Will Read Books. I'm surprised I haven't mentioned this in previous years. If you're a writer, you must be a reader. I don't care if you read on your Kindle, or on stone tablets. Reading, and giving the gift of reading to others, is essential. Period.
I Will Stop Worrying. Worrying, along with envy, blame, guilt, and regret, is a useless emotion. It's also bad storytelling. Protagonists should be proactive, not reactive. They should forge ahead, not dwell on things beyond their control. Fretting, whining, complaining, and bemoaning the state of the industry isn't the way to get ahead.
You are the hero in the story of your life. Act like it.
I Will Self-PublishJust twelve short months ago, I made $1650 on Kindle in December, and was amazed I could pay my mortgage with ebook sales.
This December, I'll earn over $22,000.
The majority of this is on Kindle. But I'm also doing well self-pubbing in print through Amazon's Createspace program, and will earn $2700 this month on nine POD books. I'm also finally trying out B&N's PubIt program, which looks to be good for over $1k a month, and I'm doing okay on Smashwords, with Sony, Apple, and Kobo combining for another $1k.
This is nothing short of revolutionary.
The gatekeepers--agents who submit to editors who acquire books to publish and distribute to booksellers--are no longer needed to make a living as a fiction writer. For the first time in history, writers can reach readers without having to jump through hoops, get anointed, compromise integrity, or fit the cookie-cutter definition for What New York Wants.
I'm not saying you should give up on traditional publishing. But I am saying that there is ZERO downside to self-pubbing. At worst, you'll make a few bucks. At best, you'll make a fortune, and have agents and editors fighting over you.
But remember: even if you are being fought over, you still have a choice.
DO NOT take any deal that's less than what you believe you could earn in six years. If you're selling 1000 ebooks a month, that means $144,000 is the minimum advance you should be offered before you consider signing.
It blows my mind to think that way, let alone blog about it. I got a $34,000 advance for my first novel, and even less for my last few.
Currently, I have seven self-pubbed novels, each earning more than $24k a year. In six years, at the current rate, I'll earn more than one million bucks on those.
But I don't expect them to maintain their current sales.
I expect sales to go up.
Ebooks haven't saturated the market yet. But they will. And you need to be ready for it. Which leads me to...
I Won't Self-Publish Crap
Just because it's easier than ever before to reach an audience doesn't mean you should.
I can safely say that I'm either directly or indirectly responsible for thousands of writers trying out self-publishing. The majority of these writers aren't making the same amount of money that I am, and are scratching their heads, wondering what they're doing wrong.
Luck still plays a part in success. But so does professionalism.
Being a professional means you make sure you have a professional cover (http://extendedimagery.blogspot.com), and you have been professionally formatted for ebooks (www.52novels.com) and for print books (http://yourepublished.blogspot.com.)
Being a professional means you're prolific, with many titles for sale, and that you diversify, exploiting all possible places to sell your work (Kindle, Createspace, Smashwords, iBooks, iTunes, Sony, Nook, Kobo, Borders, Android, and no doubt more to come.)
But most of all, being a professional means you won't inflict your shitty writing on the public.
Self-pubbing is not the kiddie pool, where you learn how to swim. You need to be an excellent swimmer before you jump in.
If your sales aren't where you'd like them to be, especially if you've done everything else I've mentioned, then it's time to take a cold, hard, critical look at the writing. Which segues into...
I'll Pay Attention to the Market
To say I'm excited about the ebook future is putting it mildly. But that doesn't mean I have carte blanche to write whatever the hell I want to, and then expect it to sell.
Yes, writers now have more freedom. Yes, we can now cater to niche tastes, and write novellas, and focus on more personal projects.
But if you want to make a living, you still have to understand your audience, and how to give them what they want.
Self-pubbing is not an excuse to be a self-indulgent egomaniac. On the contrary, it's a chance for you to learn what sells.
For the very first time, the writer can conduct their own real-world experiments. By trying different things, learning from mistakes, and constantly tweaking and improving, we have more power than ever before to find our readers.
A lot of folks know how much money I'm making. But how many know:
I've changed or tweaked cover art 45 times.
I've reformatted my books five times each.
I've changed product descriptions over 80 times.
I've changed prices on each book two or three times.
Unlike the traditional publishing world, where published books are static, self-publishing is dynamic. If something isn't selling as well as you'd like, you can change it. The work doesn't end when you upload your ebook to Kindle. The work is never-ending, and vigilance is mandatory.
Self-publishing is a wonderful opportunity to learn and to grow. This means you MUST try new things.
2011 is going to be a turbulent year for publishers and bookstores and editors and agents. Change is coming, and many of the stalwarts of the industry aren't going to be around for much longer.
But savvy writers will be safe from harm. In fact, they'll thrive like never before.
For the first time in the history of publishing, we have control. Embrace that control, and make 2011 your year.
Go get 'em, tiger.