Don't be afraid to take yourself seriously
Whether you come from a creative writing background or you’re new to the game, I’m sure you’ll be aware of the judgment that awaits writers. Not just from editors and other writers, but also from our colleagues and friends. A lot of people, amidst their own self-consciousness poke fun at those of us who try, those of us who take our work seriously, even if we haven’t yet been published or won an award. There are always going to be people who laugh at your efforts, and believe themselves to be superior in comparison to whatever it is that you're doing. You don’t need these people, and you certainly shouldn’t shy away from your writing because of them.
It’s taken me a long time to learn this lesson. Because of these people, and the fear of their comments and judgment (never constructive in any way), I never used to promote and share my work. I would keep my projects to myself. But recently, I’ve let myself become confident in my knowledge and if not in my talent, in my perseverance. It’s the first time in years I’ve let people know just how seriously I take my writing. And while some people may have scoffed, many more have actually been impressed and have been inspired to do the same.
Create a website/Author Platform
The online world has changed the way us writers get exposure, gain a following and join communities. Creating a website, or an ‘Author Platform’ is just one of the ways you can get a readership going, even before you publish your book. Blog about the process, give away snippets, share your latest reads, and engage in conversation. One of my favourite author platforms is Chris Cleave’s (have a look, here). He blogs about book tours, ongoing projects, answers questions – it’s very simple, very casual, but it’s a great way to give his readers a little insight into his world of writing. Another author who's taken her platform to the next level is Joanna Penn, the fingers that are rapidly typing behind The Creative Penn. You only need to take a quick trip to her site to see what I mean. You can also check out our Writer's Edit interview with Joanna, here.
What I love about creating an author platform besides the fact that it connects you with readers and like-minded folk, is that you get to document your journey. I've recently started blogging about the challenges that have come with editing my novel, it's a great release and it also lets people in on what's gone into the product they have (or will have) in their hands at the end. You can check out my platform, here.
Some tips for creating your website?
- Get a proper domain name. By this I mean a .com or a .com.au - not a .weebly or a .wix. This is just personal opinion, but it doesn't look professional. Domain names are inexpensive for the most part, and cheap web hosting can be found as well. It really is worth having your own individual platform, you are after all, creating an author brand.
- Go WordPress. It's one of the most widely used content management systems out there, it has thousands of free and cheap themes available for download that are user friendly. I'm no internet/computer expert, but I've definitely got the hang of it now.
- You need to be yourself, but professional as well. Let your personality shine through the website, but ensure that your content remains courteous, relevant to your writing, and if you choose to have images - no 'selfies' (if there's a place for that, it's not on your author platform).
- Get some content on there before you start promoting it across social media platforms and telling all your friends about it. It needs to be impressive. This is the space where eventually, people will purchase your books from. Give it time to grow first.
- Include your short stories, novel excerpts, poetry and writing news, regularly.
- Ensure that your website has a 'shop' feature. If not, as the very least make sure you link to any pages from other websites where your books are sold, you'd be surprised at how many new authors forget to do this.
Become a regular contributor somewhere
This was something that was never stressed enough to me, but I would advise that every writer contribute to some kind of blog/magazine/forum. Becoming a regular contributor somewhere allows you to establish yourself as an author, as an authority on a certain topic/in our industry, it also connects you with other writers who are interested in the same things, it gets a conversation going! Many authors, myself included, hate the idea of 'networking'... It's got some negative connotations doesn't it? But think of contributing as becoming a part of a community. You want a voice and friends in this community, because it's here that you will get advice, it is here that you will sell your novels and start to get your name out there.
Contributing to publications is also valuable just for the experience, as well as keeping you on track with your writing. If you've promised an article to a publication and you're working to deadline, there's no more procrastinating. When you've committed to writing something for someone else, you're so much more likely to stick with it. Any writing is better than no writing, it's great to keep yourself in the discipline even if you're not currently working on your own project.
Pay it forward
Us writers are all in the same boat, which is exactly why we need to support each other. The online world makes this so much easier than ever before. With author platforms, social media pages, sharing links, it's never been this simple to help a writer pal out. Have they published an article lately? Have they got a new website? Are they hosting an event? Like/Share/Comment on everything! Obviously, you want to contribute, not just click buttons for the sake of it, but a lot of authors don't understand the power of the online world.
I don't necessarily mean that these same people are going to Like/Share/Comment on everything you ever post, but it's being a good sport, and hopefully some social media karma will come your way when you need it most, ie. when you're launching a book, or trying to get people to come to an event... This is certainly one major lesson I've learnt in recent months. We're a very supportive bunch when we want to be, and 'paying it forward' also enables you to become part of a much larger community than imagined.
Things You Should Try
- Going to a writer's festival.
- Starting a blog or website.
- Sharing your work and accomplishments on social media.
- Getting together with writer friends (and actually talk about writing).
- Reading books and writing reviews.