Monday, April 05, 2010

Writing’s Not Enough

Yesterday, I read a post where the author said she did not tweet or promote because she’s too scared. She hates doing it and she has nothing to say ‘cause she never leaves the house. She writes. That’s it.

My first thought was man, that’s sad. Hardly anyone is likely to read her words. She may build up an audience through blogging, but in today’s world that’s not enough. In today’s world you have to put yourself out there.

Recently, writer Matt Baume did a wrap up of a talk by literary agent Ted Weinstein, who definitely agrees that you have to do more than write the great book.

Here are some nuggets from Baume’s post on the talk:
The facts are simple: “As a percentage of the population,” he summed up, “a much smaller percentage is going to be able to make a living.”

“The people who are going to succeed,” he says, “are the people who treat their careers as a profession and are businesslike and aggressive.” His clients aren’t just writers; they’re successful brands.

The point is that being a writer means more than just writing.

“How much time should a writer be devoting to writing versus marketing themselves?” I asked Ted. “It’s always been 50/50,” he answered.

“Stop thinking of yourself as an artist,” he emphasized as our fast-paced conversation wound down, small birds encircling my head. “You’re a businessperson. And the business is you.”
You can link over to read Baume’s full post called “Lit Agent Ted Weinstein: Successful Authors do More Than Just Write."

What about you? What are you doing to set up or treat your writing as a business? How much time do you spend promoting your books or yourself?
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37 comments:

  1. Sad but true. Promotion is such a huge part of breaking through the plethora of new books coming out each day.

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  2. "...the business is you." Love that! It's so true, we must put ourselves out there for the sake of our books. We are vital to the role of placing our books in people's hands.

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  3. I was hesitant about promoting myself on twitter and such at first because I wasn't comfortable with "blowing my own horn". I got over that pretty quickly. There is a whole community of writers and bloggers out there who happily push their product, and it works.

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  4. Doing it! Twitter, Facebook and blogging and it is amazing the people I meet!

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  5. I'm somewhat of a novice when it comes to this, but it makes sense. I know that personally I've bought books from authors -due to Twitter and podcasting- that otherwise I might never have heard of.

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  6. That is sad! If she never leaves the house, how much worldly experience will she have for writing the next book? I focus on both the real world and the Internet!

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  7. Writing is such a solitary act I would curl up like the wicked witch's toes under Dorothy's house if I couldn't be out in nature and with people to recharge my batteries.

    I had a hard time "promoting" myself at first because in my previous professional life I was always the woman behind the man.... but I figured out how to step out of the shadows while blogging and began letting my freak flag fly. You just have to find where your own comfort level is and go for it.

    :0)

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  8. I think it's a bit silly to hide your head under a rock and wish things were not they way that they are. It's part of the package- if you want to be successful you need to get out there.

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  9. I used to be like that. I hated the social networking thing until I joined facebook and realised how easy it was to communicate with my friends back home.

    Then I realised that I could do the same thing for my writing. That's why I started blogging. And the blogging world has brought me out of my shell and I'm absolutely loving meeting all these talented writers from around the globe. I really don't know why I didn't do this sooner!

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  10. Writers have always (with some exceptions) had to put themselves out there. It seems to be even more of a requirement in today's world. Luckily, there are so many new ways to promote yourself and your books. The plus is that you can make friends who will support you, especially important if you're not the kind who likes to get out there and "expose" yourself.

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  11. 50-50 - wow. When my memoir first came out, I think my ratio was 90 - 10 promotion versus writing. Now it's the other way around. I found blogging easier than tweeting and other social networking kinds of things. Hmmm...have to re-think this one.
    Karen

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  12. I'm just glad we've reached a day and age when a huge part of this promoting and publicity can BE in writing! Blogging, facebook, twitter... nobody else has to know my brain has frequent blips because I can edit before I post! I dream of a book tour, but it seems the reality of physically being there is SO MUCH harder than all this 'making friends in writing'.

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  13. I think the issue for many writers is that we're uncomfortable with the whole issue of 'pay attention to me' as we're far more comfortable being in the back of the crowd than standing out in front. However, the reality is standing in the back of the crowd doesn't get you very far. If you're simply writing for yourself - stay there. If you want other people to read what you've written you've got to step forward.

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  14. I have no problem with self-promotion, but figuring out the best way to do it isn't easy. And is it really safe to stop thinking of ourselves as artists? If we do that, we might lose track why we love to write. I say you have to see your self as both an artist and a businessman. 50-50.

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  15. I found that to be incredibly sad... I agree promotion needs to happen, especially in an environment so completely saturated with up to the minute updates, but one should not make the mistake of exclusionary statements of being an artist or a business person. It is true authors need to promote themselves (and should) but this means as well as being artists they need to work on their business skills. I'll head on over and check out that interview. Thanks, Helen! Great post!

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  16. It feels like we're entering a new world where the split personality reigns. 'Course, "split personality" has been used before on writers - since we live in two worlds already.

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  17. I wonder what it is with us? We put ourselves out there with our words. Through our characters we bare our souls, yet as a group we fear saying hi to a group of people who are there to meet us. It doesn't make a lot of sense to me if you think of it like that.

    I'm not an extrovert, but people don't frighten me and I enjoy meeting and talking with them.

    Publishing is a business. Writers must excel not only in the art of writing but in the business of publishing. We can't forego one for the other.

    Nobody said it was going to be easy. I'm still struggling, too.

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  18. So true. Thanks for sharing the talk and the link, Helen. :-)

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  19. I count myself as fortunate because I'm an exercise instructor and an actor too--I LOVE being in front of an audience. I ADORE "face time." It's a great break from the alone time of the writing.

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  20. Self-promotion, as painful as it is, is SO important. I write under a different name as a travel writer, and when I had a guide book published last year I did a lot of self-promotion. It's amazing how far you can get if you're not afraid to ask. It may be cringe-worthy at times but it definitely pays off.

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  21. Conda, it does help to be a bit outgoing or to have had at least some training in public speaking. I'm like you, I don't mind talking and speaking (I used to teach public speaking.)

    If you're uncomfortable, practice making yourself talk to others at gatherings or sign up for toastmasters. It'll not only teach you to speak to groups, but to converse one-on-one.

    Having said that, it sometimes is still not easy to say, Hi, I'm a writer.

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  22. I get the self-promotion requirement, but I think it's important to be ready before you put yourself out there. Otherwise it could backfire.

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  23. This post strikes at the heart of my current thinking. I'm considering discussing this very topic as I experience it in a new podcast. I've often wondered at the ratio, 50/50 sounds reasonable. I waver between 100 on either side. I am currently considering implementing a more regimented schedule. A writer must where many hats in the 21st century, and we could do with more advice on how to do that.

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  24. I've been trying to think of writing as my other full-time job. I blog every day, say stuff on Twitter, and go on facebook regularly.

    Can't wait until it's my ONLY full-time job.

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  25. I like visiting certain blogs not to promote my work but because I learn so much from them like right here. Writing can be lonely work and it helps to build a community of like minded individuals even if you only meet on line.
    I facebook and twitter as well as do my own blog but sometimes when the WIP is really flowing I skip all of them for days at a time.

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  26. Some people just do not do well in crowds, or even outside of their own home. I would hope that as writers, we might be a bit more sensitive in how we couch the "get out there and sell yourself" dictum. Some writers might do well with support for blogging and facebook posts, thereby managing some type of interface with people while managing to keep the demons in the outside world at bay. Not every writer is an extrovert.

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  27. The tricky thing about promotion is that it works best when it grows organically; while you're building and investing in a community, your name gets out there.

    That's the sad thing about the writer you mentioned. She's missing the chance to reach out to a great group of folks and make some good friends. How lonely for her...

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  28. I think it helps to set up a schedule for online promotion. It can easily get a away from you.

    I do like meeting people online. It's a wonderful opportunity the Internet has opened. And you can get a lot of promoting done that way. Plus, it's fun.

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  29. I used to be embarrassed to promote my work. I remember watching another writer was giving an interview to a local paper. When the reporter turned to me, I said, no thanks because I was shy. The other author told me I'd get used to it, that promotion was part of the deal.

    I think it's easier now for introverts to promote - no reporters or papers with agendas, just you and a keyboard and maybe a glass of wine.

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  30. Ahh, a glass of wine. I like that. If it wasn't almost bedtime, I'd get one.

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  31. I think part of the problem is writing gives you a tangible result, even if nobody's reading. Promoting just leads to more promoting and deferred dreams (though I'm hoping one day it'll lead to sales too).

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  32. Hmm. And it also leads to great friends, and wonderful advice and encouragement, but you don't see that at the start... Guess we should just encourage those non-promoted writers to give it a go.

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  33. I used to think like that. I used to ONLY want to write. I was stubborn. I grumped and I pouted..and then I woke up.

    The publishing world has changed. And it's important to change with it. So now I have a blog and post every day and comment every day. I've started twitter - a thing I was always against because it seemed to me so narcissistic. I hadn't realised the marketting potential.

    Now I keep thinking about all that time lost because I had been so stubborn!

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  34. I sometimes think I'm spinning my wheels with promotion. I spend about 75% of my time on marketing and 25% on writing with very little to show for it.

    I post on 4 blogs, tweet, fb, etc., but must not be tapping into the "buying public." (sigh)

    But, totally agree with your post.

    Mary
    http://marycunninghambooks.com

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  35. Baume's words are so true. It's hard to think like a business person sometimes, since writing and art seem far removed from marketing. But we must learn (even if they didn't teach it in art school!). I'm taking a marketing/promotion class this weekend and am really excited about it.

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  36. You HAVE to promote your book. With the amount of new books that come out all the time, you have to at least make the effort to gain more interest. My book isn't due for release until early next year, and I know already that the later part of this year is going to be spent promoting, and gaining a following for the release. I'm going to be busy but I'm planning on spending every spare minute on it.

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