There are a lot of paths to publishing your novels, and it can become quite overwhelming to decide which one is right for you. But under all the tech and strategies and marketing your success will hinge on only 4 core thing.
Over the coming weeks I’ll dive into each one a bit further.
Note: This series was adapted from a summer series available through the email list only. For more in depth writing advice be sure you’re on the list.
Publishing is not a linear process. You don’t start as an intern, pay your dues, and climb the corporate ladder until you reach management. I am a testament to this idea having had a wildly successful debut book, a flop sophomore book, a popular third book, then I burned out hard and took a year off, which killed my momentum and then had to start all over again.
I sometimes compare writing and selling fiction to one of those Tilt-o-Whirl rides at the fair. It’s not just ups and downs like a roller coaster but also violent jerks side to side and sometimes spinning you right around.
It’s not easy this career you’ve chosen, but it also doesn’t have to be so damn hard.
Let’s get into the 4S Fiction Career and get control of this wild ride, shall we?
THE 4 S’s
To build a fiction career, you need to nurture these four areas: Self, Story, Support, and Sales.
All four of these categories are crucial and require you to be paying attention because, as I said, it’s not a linear process. There are no ABCs or 123s about it. Each category has its time to shine, and each will let you know when it’s neglected, often by negatively affecting the others.
The self category is two-sided.
First, your values drive your interests, which guide your experiences that ultimately become the themes of your novels. No matter how hard you try, you cannot take yourself out of your stories. So it’s vital that you understand WHY you write in the first place.
Second, your brain and body are essential to your career as an author. Feed your creativity by choosing nutrition that clears your mind, movement that invigorates your body, and the spirit of curiosity to be continuously learning.
Writing a book is easy. Crafting a story is hard.
All the beautiful language in the world does not equal a compelling story, nor does a kick-ass character, a tightly plotted structure, or any other number of things you can find on Google by searching ‘How to write a novel.’
Crafting a story that is both well written and deeply compelling requires a layering of skills that develop over time. You reach this goal through practice, education (formal or informal), and the willingness to repeat/redo/rewrite until you’ve gone below the words’ surface and created an experience for your reader.
There are many forms of support for a fiction author. The most obvious is your readers.
You need people to read your stories and then talk about them. The talking-about-them part is what gets ignored. It’s not enough to have people on your email list or people that buy your books. You need their support in the form of talking, reviewing, sharing to gain more readers.
The next layer is your peers. You need other authors in your world who love you, your writing, and are happy to help you. Peer relationships are mutually beneficial. They are networks of authors who are in similar places in their careers who help each other. There is a back and forth flow of support. But beware of the Author Whirlpool Effect, which we’ll talk about soon.
The next layer is your mentors. You need people more advanced than you to guide you, help you, and support you because this trip is hard, my friend. Mentors can be generous authors more advanced than you or a coach that you hire to assist you. The mentor relationship is usually only one way. The mentor supports the mentee.
The last level is friends and family. The personal life aspect is tricky, and it’s honestly heartbreaking how many authors I talk to that have ZERO support from their spouses, family, and friends. If you are in a safe space to do so, practicing expectation and boundary setting can be beneficial because a lot of the time, it comes down to not understanding. Your non-writer crew just doesn’t get it. So help them get it.
Marketing is where so many of us get all topsy turvy on our path to monetize our fiction. The branding, and the websites, and email lists, and social media, and ranking, and ads, and banners, and bylines, and the covers, and the launches, and the fast track to burnout-town!
Your only goal after writing your book is to sell it to someone. Many someones, preferably. In the simplest way possible. This path is called a sales strategy. You need one that fits you, and it doesn’t have to be complicated.
It also gets tricky because your support (readers) is sometimes different than your market (buyers). Wait. What? Yup. The people who hand over the dollars may not be the people who are actively reading and supporting you. For example, your author friend from that Facebook group might buy your book to support you (and expect you to buy theirs in return, which means you’re at net-zero dollars, btw), but they might never actually read it.
You need to do some real work to figure out your market, where they are, and how they respond to different strategies. Contrary to what the gurus tell you about their ‘proven methods,’ it’s not just pumping money into ads, following a framework, being in certain places, or hanging out with certain people.
There are so many traps and false promises on the trail to sales. It’s wild. I’m on a one-woman mission to prove that 99% of what you’re doing to market your books is an unnecessary waste of your time. I’ll tell you why soon.
I’ll be back over the coming weeks to go into more detail on each category in turn.