Wednesday, September 26, 2012

More Than Just Writing

If you haven't heard or noticed that the world of publishing has been changing at lightning speed, then you probably aren't a writer.  Or even a reader.  Or you live in a cave somewhere near Outer Mongolia.  More opportunities to find a home for your book---your baby or even baby-of-the-moment---keep opening up every day.

Those lightning-fast changes affect more than the Who and Where and even the How of our writing. There have always been additional things that are needed before a book hits the shelves. The MORES of writing are growing by leaps and bounds, too. They include the social media, the cover art, the revisions, the bios, the galleys, the promo, and the what-will-I-work-on-next, just to name a few.  For those who are self- or indie-publishing, there may be the formatting, the uploading, and the tricks of salesmanship to get on the Top Whatever list.

As writers, our main goal is to get our books, the stories of our heart, into the hands of readers---as many hands as fast as we can.  The two most significant reasons for that are:

  • We want to share our dreams and tales with others
  • We want to make money with our writing
Even a baby wants attention and praise, and that's really what that sharing boils down to.  Sharing isn't necessarily altruistic.  We're human.  We want others to like us and like what we do.  Let's face it, if all we got from sharing was negative return, we wouldn't do it and we might very well give up writing...or at least keep our writing to ourselves.  (Diaries and journals, anyone?) 

For most of us, writing is a business or we hope it will be.  While it may be true that in the beginning our writing was selfish and only for us to enjoy, the moment we give it to someone else, we're looking for a positive return.  For instance, I've been writing for as long as I've been able to string words together that made sense.  Diaries and journals at first, of course, which were not shared.  Not ever!  I wrote plays in grade school.  One look at my bio will tell you that I wanted to share those and how I went about it.  When I began writing later on in life, sharing or even selling a book wasn't my goal.  Not at first.  I wanted nothing more than to see if it was as much fun as I thought it might be and to prove to myself that I could actually write a complete book.  It didn't take long before I started wondering if there might be a miracle in my future.


So now we're writing.  We're hoping to share or we have moved on to sharing our gift with others.  And I say "gift" because that's what I believe it is.  I also believe everyone has a gift, but that's for a future blog. :)  Maybe we've sold or published our first book or even our tenth or our twentieth or even more.  We're writers and writing is what we do.  But it isn't the only thing we do.  Even before a book is finished, there are other things that must be done.
  • Revisions & Galleys - None of us are perfect.  Even after going through a manuscript multiple times, there will be words and phrases that need to be changed, removed or simply cleaned up.  HINT:  Don't fall in love with your words too much.
  • Covers and front matter - After the story, the cover of the book comes in a close second.  It's what readers see first, even before discovering what the book is about.  We want that cover to convey that story.  Some publishers ask for input.  Those who are self- and indie-published have more input, whether hiring someone to do the cover or doing it themselves.  Front matter is what goes inside the book aka your bio (see below), a dedication, a map, a genealogy chart, and whatever else is needed.  It's all as important as the book, so don's skimp on this and think it doesn't matter.  It does.  HINT:  Be thinking about this as you're writing the book.  Make notes, if needed.
  • Promo - This can be anything from having bookmarks made to setting up book signings and speaking engagements. The signings and speaking engagements can be done alone or in a group.  Doing it with another author or a group of authors can be fun and helpful.   HINT:  If you're part of a writers' group and not sure if you want to get up in front of people, practice on the group.
  • Bio -  Yes, readers want to know a little about you.  You're just as curious about the authors of books you read, too, aren't you?  But the big question is what do you include?  To answer it, think about what you want to know or enjoy reading in the bios of others.  If you're not sure of that, go read a few.  Be prepared to write bios of different lengths and keep them handy, in case you're asked for one.  Most bios in books are shorter, while bios on websites are longer and tell more.  Bios can be third person or first person, whichever fits your need and your style.  Some authors choose to be less specific about where they life and supply only the state or area.  There's nothing wrong with this, so decide what you're more comfortable sharing with strangers.  HINT:  Keep your bio(s) up to date!
  • Social Media - It hasn't been that long ago that a simple website would suffice when it came to online  connections with readers.  Now we have more choices than colors in the rainbow.  It can get crazy out there in no time at all, so before you jump into the latest craze, give some thought to what your goal is when using any one of the many platforms to get your name out there.  In fact, revisiting this topic at a later date here on the blog is now penciled into my Help! What Can I Blog About file.  HINT: It probably wouldn't hurt to have your own Help! What Can I (fill in the blank) About file.
The above is only the tip of the MORES iceberg.  As publishing continues to change and morph, others will appear.  The trick is for each writer to find what works best, because each will find something to like and something to not like.  Each will have a specific strength and a weakness to go with it.  Other things will fall into the middle.  There are always deadlines lurking around every corner, whether publisher deadlines or self-inflicted ones.  And sometimes there simply isn't enough time to deal with everything, especially when that last of the MORES comes along = WHAT WILL I WORK ON NEXT?
Part of being sane, is being a little bit crazy. ~ Janet Long

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