Updated: Sep 2, 2020
It has come as a bit of a surprise to me that some of the most common questions I've been asked by readers since I started publishing fiction has to do with writing and publishing itself. Since there has been so much interest, I thought I'd write a series of blog posts for reference (because I'm lazy like that and want somewhere to direct people in future). Keep in mind that any advice I give in these posts are anecdotal. These have been my experiences and your mileage may vary.
Traditional vs. Indie Publishing:
If you're considering becoming a professional writer, you will have to decide whether you'll choose to go the traditional route or indie publish. Both avenues have their pros and cons. There are millions of articles online about this very topic. My only bit of advice here is to think hard about what your goals are as a writer. If you've always dreamed of signing a contract with a publishing house and to see your books on shelves at a bookstore, traditional publishing may be for you. If, like me, you just want to tell stories and perhaps make some money from it, maybe indie publishing is the way to go.
My dalliance with traditional publishing lasted all of one rejection. After reading Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead (still one of my all time favourite series), I decided to write my own young adult urban fantasy series (oddly enough, not Bloodline Academy). I sent it off to Richelle Mead's agent and got a prompt form rejection. It was then I saw the writing on the wall. Was I willing to wait years and received hundreds of rejections with the potential never to get an agent let alone sell a book to a publisher? The answer was a big, fat, hell no! So I pivoted and started researching indie publishing. And I have never looked back. Just be honest with yourself and do what makes you feel good. Remember that writing is a long game. You can always change your mind.
For Love or Money?
Once you figure out the kind of publishing route you want to follow, the next question to ask yourself is whether you're writing for love or money? As I'm indie published, I can only give you my thoughts related to indie publishing. Traditional publishing has their own requirements for the novels they accept. I can't even pretend to understand what the gatekeepers are looking for. It's best to stalk agents on their websites for this information. I hear that agents also sometimes reach out for unsolicited manuscripts via social media.
If you're deciding to go indie, you will inevitably be faced with the question of what kind of writer you're going to be. Are you going to be that writer who is working on their magnum opus, or the one who is writing because your ultimate goal is to toss in the day job? Both are valid. You just need to be honest with yourself about your goals and know that you are working towards your own dreams. There will be times (many, many times) when you will see others have successes that make you question whether you're on the right path. It's okay to jump on the bandwagon if you think you can handle it. If not, try and focus on your own paper. I know it's easier said than done, but at the end of the day, it's the only way you'll find peace.
One of the biggest things in indie publishing is called writing to market and more specifically, writing to trend. This means picking a market (ie. Academy) that is super trendy and writing books quickly to serve the market in the hope that you'll reap the financial benefits. A lot of indie writers are doing this successfully. It takes a great deal of grit, dedication and most of all, time, in order to hit a trend quickly. There are some who are lucky and the genres they love to read are super hot. There are some who can treat writing as a business a can write a trend they don't necessarily enjoy simply for the financial benefit. And then there are people like me who see that their genre is hot, try to write a book to market, get bogged down in my usual habits of writing epic series and then meander all over the place. All of these choices are fine. It all comes down to what your goals. Are you writing for the love of your stories or for the chance to make money? Every answer is correct. You just have to decide what's right for you.
I won't lie. Sometimes, I waver between the two. Sometimes, it bugs me enough that it stops me from writing. Why kill myself over these long stories with overly complex plots when I could write something half the length and make twice the money? After a while, I realise the only thing I have achieved by dithering is making myself miserable. So then I just go back to writing the stuff I love. You will fall off the goal wagon. Just dust yourself off and get back on.
These are some of the books/videos that really helped me to decide what type of writing career I wanted to carve out for myself.
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
Big Magic really resonated with me. It deals with writing and creativity as a kind of cosmic energy and teaches you that you don't necessarily have to make money from your hobby. I found it really freeing.
The War of Art is for all those writers who are completely hindered by procrastination (so, all of us!).
It talks about resistance and all the things trying to stop us from writing as well as what we can do to combat them.
The below video is from last year's 20Booksto50k Vegas conference. Dean Wesley Smith is a writing veteran with over 40 years experience. His take on the attitude of a fiction author has literally changed the way I think. If you've got time, the other presented at the conference are great too.
Hopefully, this post helps you to think a bit more about the kind of writer you want to be. Until next time.