People ask me all the time...what are the most difficult things about being a writer? My first reaction is, “Where do I start?” Seriously, the list of challenges is long but if I had to choose my top six, they would be as follows: 1. Having trust, confidence, and patience. When you only have twenty readers on your Facebook page and a half completed manuscript that you haven’t been able to touch in weeks sometimes your future as a writer seems bleak. I know, I’ve been there. I can tell you with full honesty if you possess trust, confidence, and patience you can make it as a writer. Talented writers are plentiful and the skill of writing isn’t some kind of magic that you have to be born with but is powerful magic that can be learned. Anyone can learn to write well. After you’ve mastered the craft what will set you apart is trust in your abilities, the confidence to keep learning/evolving, and the patience that your day will one day come. Do whatever it takes to cultivate these three attributes. I think many writers give up just shy of their big break. Even if the big break never comes the positive things that writing attracts into your life will be a handsome reward that enrich your life tremendously.
2. Finding quiet time to write. This can be as difficult as juggling chainsaws while wearing woolen mittens. Since it’s such a challenge to make a living at writing you must find an alternative means to pay the bills until you’ve established yourself. Having to work the equivalent of 1.5 (or more) jobs forces you to efficiently utilize every single moment of your day if you wish to get anything done. A smartphone helps tremendously by allowing you to record important ideas the moment they strike during short spans of quiet throughout your day. A mobile phone is also gives you the freedom to freshen your social media accounts on the run. To purposely carve out larger blocks of time it’s best to have a designated area to write that assures you peace and quiet. It seems like the moment you turn on your computer and the writing really begins to flow you become the center of attention of everyone (including animals) within a five mile radius. People who aren’t creative don’t understand the creative process, they just don’t. It’s your job to educate them about the importance of your quiet time. Make it your goal to find your own time for peace and quiet so you can do your thing.
3. Promoting your work online with a small budget. For the first few years of its existence social media was the last missing piece of the puzzle that made indie publishing work. At last indie authors were able to get their work in front of enormous amounts of people for little to no cost. Although social media can still be an effective way to promote if used correctly it’s not as easy to grow the size of your readership as it once was. In the last eighteen months Facebook has begun severely limiting the outreach of posts from business pages. What’s worse is your outreach is most limited most during peak times on weekends when more of your readers are logged on. Facebook has adopted this practice to encourage page owners to “boost” their posts for a fee. In my experience, boosting posts is a bad investment, boosting has never translated into a sizable amount of sales. There are a couple of ways to expand your Facebook outreach for free during peak times, regularly remind your readers to "like" and "share" your posts with their friends and link your Facebook author page to your Twitter feed. Also, create a blog, post to it several times per week, and encourage readers to subscribe to your blog. It’s important to remember to enable the widget that allows your readers to enter their email address to subscribe to your blog. Once they sign up your subscribers get your posts delivered directly into their email box where they’re most likely to be read. A subscriber list is still the best way to scale your network of readers at no cost.
4. Establishing a reputation as a “real” writer. The market is flooded with indie authors and you must be able to get yourself noticed amongst the babel of millions of voices. You accomplish this in three ways, writing what you know, never undervaluing your work, and genuinely valuing your readers. In a way you must also play the role of the best-selling author you wish to become and, trust me, you will naturally grow into it. This doesn’t mean you should project a false perception of yourself or your work but you must learn to present yourself professionally both online and in person. You must become your own best spokesperson. When someone asks what you do proudly tell them, “I’m a writer!” Go ahead say it out loud, it feels amazing doesn’t it? Above all else you must always do right by your readers by consistently exceeding their expectations when it comes to content. Work hard to give your audience quality content, something of value that makes them laugh or makes them think and in time you will build a loyal fan base. Be generous in any way you can and those acts of generosity will come back to you tenfold.
5. Generating sales. To make a living at this you must sell books and the only way to sell a lot of books requires you to grow your network of readers. At first concentrate on offering lots of free quality content on a consistent basis through blog and social media posts. This is an investment in your future as a writer. Remember to offer the reader something that will truly engage and benefit them in some way. Write in a voice that makes your audience feel like you’re speaking to them personally. This forges an important bond that will earn enough trust that people are willing to spend their hard earned money on your work. Also, you must become a promotional idea generating machine, constantly coming up with new ways to sell your work. I keep an idea log in the Notes app on my iPhone and try to come up with a few new ideas every day. Don’t be afraid to test your ideas in the real world. If an idea works, simply take note and repeat it. If an idea flops, tweak it slightly or try something altogether different.
6. If you’ve done your job some people will assume you're wealthy (and in reality they’re correct). Yes I know, if you’re a writer, this sounds absurd. If you’ve presented yourself professionally online and in person you will project success. There are many folks who think that if you’ve published books and promoted them well that you’re already living the glamorous life of a best-selling author. The good news is, if you keep at it there is always the chance you will eventually achieve whatever goals you have for your writing career. For this dream to be realized it’s imperative that you be madly in love that act of writing itself. You must make up your mind that you will write even if you don’t receive a dime for it. From day one of your writing career there’s great wealth to be gained but it is a wealth other than the financial variety. The immense feeling of content that comes with writing a really good piece of work has sustained me through the darkest of days. Connecting with and receiving feedback from my readers has lifted me to new heights even when times are good. Contentment is a kind of currency that is sheltered in even the worst of economic downturns and will leave you with a life that is rich beyond measure.
About the author: Eric Vance Walton is a novelist, poet, aspiring world traveler, and tea junkie. You can find many more practical tips on writing in Eric's new book One Word At A Time: Finding Your Way as an Indie Author, on Amazon in print or as an ebook. He invites you to follow his unfolding story by "liking" his Facebook author page at https://www.facebook.com/EricVanceWaltonAuthor for updates and promotions on his current and upcoming projects.
Article © 2014 Eric Vance Walton