Ever since I inked the new contract, people seem to be more interested in me! And in several places, I've been asked what to do to succeed. Quick answer is that I don't know, but on further thought, maybe I do. If you like this post, I could do a series of them on each point, going into more detail.
Now I could sprinkle this post with gifs and stuff, but they get on my nerves, so I'm not going to. But you do get a cat. I like cats.
Writing isn't one thing. It's a succession of things. It's getting the idea, creating the story, with all its ups and downs, then writing it (my favorite part!), then revising, editing, submission, editing and more editing, then cover art, blurb, marketing...
That's if you want to do it properly.
So if you want to succeed commercially in your writing, these are the things you should consider doing:
- Write fast. Publishers and readers want more these days. But it does get easier as you go along. For me it was pacing, and deep third point of view. Once I'd cracked that, my writing flowed better. So establish the vulnerable spots in your writing, and get working on them. Do classes, read books from authors who excel in that area.
- Keep writing. Just keep getting ideas, moving forward. Don't rely on one book, one manuscript to bring you all the success you're looking for. You learn as you write.
- Write often. Every day. Write every day, even if it's only a paragraph, a sentence. A thousand words a day and you have a short book in 60 days.
- Write in series (not necessarily open-ended stories, but linked stories that have characters in common. Readers like series. They don't have to be about the same characters all the way through, as my Richard and Rose series was, but they can be stories that feature a set of characters, a situation or a "world." Or all three! Like the Nightstar series, where each story features a different member of the band.
- Know the market. Read the books in your chosen genre, especially the best sellers, even if they make you grit your teeth. Someone loves them. Try to find something in common between that book and your writing, and you've discovered a marketing hook. As long as it's not too close. Mind you, you can make a lot of money with a derivative work, but where's the fun in writing that? And forget the past. Read what is selling NOW, not fifty years ago, or even three. For instance, the Pride and Prejudice mashups of two years ago are dead. Gone. There is still a trickle crawling out, but they're not selling half as well as they used to. If you're already in the market, and you're a market leader, then you can write more, because you've established your groove. Go you.
- Put yourself about a bit, off and online. Go to conventions in the places you want to sell (eg I sell mainly in the US, so I go there every year to a major conference). If readers and editors can put a face to the name, they're more likely to remember you and recognise your work. But see the rest of the points. If you're a lovely person, but you can't write for toffee, then you're still not going to get published, unless you do it yourself.
- Have a blog, and a website, and chat regularly on social media. Not always about your book. You have to know how boring that is, a one-note person.
- Produce professionally. Well edited content, “clean” manuscripts, don’t miss deadlines, and remember that publishers are in it for the money, not the glory. Give them something they can sell.
- Don’t rely on one person or one thing for success. The market changes. Never put your career in the hands of one person or entity, whether it’s publisher, agent or outlet. You will eventually come to regret it. Believe me, I'm talking from hard-won experience here.
- Never judge yourself on the standards of others. Your success is whatever you decide it is. And your sales aren’t a reflection of other people’s, especially in the romance market, where readers will buy half a dozen books a month, not just one. And they won’t all be yours.
You’re still not guaranteed success, of course, but those things will certainly increase the chances.
Oh, and one more thing. If this doesn’t suit you, don’t listen to any of it. Writers are lemmings, and they will follow any trend they think will help them sell. Likely that the first and second writers will, the followers will make a bit and then there’s that long tail.