Success requires effort. Stunning, I know…

Over the years I’ve been fortunate to get feedback on my work from a number of incredibly talented writers, Rob Sawyer, Mike Resnick, Kris Rusch, and Steve Sterling to name a few. There have been others, to whom I’m equally grateful, but I don’t wish to be accused of name-dropping. Or, at least, not too many names! The deal we make when accepting help from those who have done well, is that we pay it forward. If, God willing, we’re able to achieve some measure of success, we agree to help those who follow in our footsteps.

meaning_of_life_1763245I had just such an opportunity recently. A young writer was directed to me for advice and counsel on the business of independent publishing. My response may be of interest, and I post it here for what it’s worth. I make no guarantees other than that I fully believe everything I’ve said in here is true.

To wit:

Dear <ID and initial niceties redacted>,

As for self-promotion, I’m probably the worst person on Earth to ask! The name of the game, these days, is “Platform building.” One’s platform is the crowd–hopefully vast–which one can influence. You build your platform by being active in social media, through contacts (professional, collegial, recreational, whatever), and by taking advantage of any and all opportunities to put your work in front of people who can act on it. That means they can buy, review, recommend, praise, and/or promote it.

But understand this: the promise you’re making when you embark on this promotional odyssey is that what you’re publishing is top flight, first-rate, numero uno material. It won’t have sloppy formatting or a wandering storyline. It won’t have lifeless characters or a pointless plot. It’s going to be worth every nickel the reading public pays for it, and more! You’re promising quality, but if you deliver crap–and all too many indie publishers do–you’ll condemn yourself to failure. Worse, you’ll very likely condemn all your future work to failure, too.

So, make sure you’ve got good stuff to sell, or don’t try to sell it. Make sure it’s thoroughly vetted. If your friends and fellow writers aren’t ecstatic about it, hold off on publishing it. Get another opinion. Figure out what’s wrong and fix it. You’ll never get it perfect–no one does. But get it as close as you can, because the market is brutally honest. If your stuff sucks, they’ll let you know in no uncertain terms.

If it’s truly excellent, you might get a few positive reviews. Revel in them! Nasty reviews are much, much easier to write, and disappointed readers are more apt to write them than the happy-talk feedback Mom and Dad give us.

That’s just the way it is.

Best of luck!

–Josh

About joshlangston

Grateful and well-loved husband, happy grandparent, novelist, editor, and teacher. My life plate is full, and I couldn't be happier. Anything else I might add would be anticlimactic. Cheers!
This entry was posted in editing, Historical writing, Memoir, novel writing, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Success requires effort. Stunning, I know…

  1. as we’re on the topic, I’d like to ask this:
    i got all the above + the platform building is going well. but the other day i was looking – just to make sure – that the format is good enough.
    and there is not a single page or post – exaggerating a little here – that gives the same format directions for amazon.
    e-book and print are different, i got that, all agree.
    but what’s the right format for an e-book?
    line spacing, margins, indents?
    fonts are best standard, 11 or 12 points, (a few agreed on this one, and i think they’re the majority) .
    then you have page numbers, author/book name, page breaks.
    i’m no microsoft word geek, in fact, i’m blind and i can’t even tell if i did those right.
    so, any advice here? if i keep on pulling my hair, i’ll be bald soon.

    • joshlangston says:

      Not to be flip, but considering all the issues you listed, your best bet might be to pay someone to do the formatting for you. I’ve found that formatting for ebooks is less difficult than formatting for print versions. For ebooks, font size and spacing are up to the viewer, and because of that, page numbering becomes irrelevant. I format my print versions first, then simplify for the ebooks. Both Smashwords and Draft2Digital will convert your MS Word manuscript into all the various formats. For an extra percentage, D2D will even format your print version for you. It’s not quite as easy as that, but this isn’t the right place to go into great detail.

  2. Doris Reidy says:

    Writing is the easy part. Marketing is my nightmare.

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