Last week, I opened a new series of blog posts with a simple question:
What’s your goal for 2016?
To steal a line from Spiderman’s playbook, “With great power comes great responsibility,” and with great optimism I think you’ll find a great capacity for willpower and determination to see your New Year’s resolutions through. When it comes to self-publishing, I realize that I have a bit of a vested interest––alright, I definitely have an extremely vested interest––in that I both work professionally as an advisor within the parameters of the self-publishing industry and I personally believe in the mission of self-publishing, and in recapturing the rights and privileges that come with calling the shots on your own manuscript. But despite my proximity to the issue, I think I’m being fully objective when I say that self-publishing this year is not “too much” or somehow “beyond” your ability to make happen. You can publish in 2016, and I hope to provide you with some resources here in this series that will help you make that happen.
Last week, I examined four goals to get you started down the path to self-publishing this year. They were to:
- Set goals.
- Facilitate goals.
- Make writing a priority, and
- Read, read, read.
This week, I’m going to take a close look at three additional goals, and challenge you to:
- Master at least the basics of social media.
- Research deeply, and
- Connect with other authors.
So, how does one become a social media guru overnight? Well the short answer is, you can’t. Or I should rather say, I couldn’t. Not easily, anyway. As with so many tips and tricks of the trade, mastery of social media platforms doesn’t just require proficiency––it requires significance. Because social media is selling a product and that product is you, self-publishing authors have to be careful to create extensive social media presences without sacrificing what makes platforms like Facebook and Twitter and Goodreads so attractive in the first place: personality, presence, and authenticity. (And a side note: it’s always better to pick up new social media skills slowly and incorporate them into a sustainable long-term strategy rather than burning yourself out on producing new content at a breakneck pace all of the time.) Given all of the hassle of setting up a dozen separate accounts with their own quirks and password combinations, is it really worth going through the trouble? Short answer: YES. If you want to publish your book, you need to connect with your readers, and you need to stay up-to-date on the ways in which they discover and respond to their favorite stories. If you’re strapped for time, you can always turn to a hybrid self-publishing company like mine, Outskirts Press, to take care of this part of the process for you.
And what’s this about “research”? I thought I’d left all that behind when I graduated from school. But research, when push comes to shove, is what elevates a book from being “interesting in theory” to “convincing and immersive.” This isn’t to say you should stifle your impulse towards creative license, but it is to say that you should always be intentional about your digressions from fact––you should alter reality, not out of ignorance, but rather out of ambition, curiosity, and cleverness. Says author Robert McKee,
“Do research. Feed your talent. Research not only wins the war on cliche, it’s the key to victory over fear and it’s cousin, depression.”
But “research” can look like many things, including visits to your local library to grill the staff on duty or, yes, even the occasional perusal of Wikipedia pages. These are not the only options, however! As Roman Payne writes,
“Who’s to say what a ‘literary life’ is? As long as you are writing often, and writing well, you don’t need to be hanging-out in libraries all the time. Nightclubs are great literary research centers. So is Ibiza!”
Speaking from my own personal experience, boots-on-the-ground research is every bit as invaluable for the writing process as is amassing a databank of all of the relevant facts which circle your piece like electrons around the nucleus of an atom. Research is not, however, the end goal: The end goal is to write and publish your book. Never forget, in the immortal words of Dune author Frank Herbert:
“Highly organized research is guaranteed to produce nothing new.”
Which is to say, research alone won’t write your book for you. Only you can actually bring a world to life on the page!
And while there are many ways to motivate yourself to leap (back) into the writing process, none has proven so valuable as the chance to connect with other writers. Ultimately, no one knows the internal life––and struggles, and strengths, and successful strategies––of a writer than … you guessed it! … another writer. This year, I recommend that each and every one of us involved in the indie, hybrid, and self-publishing industry should resolve to use social media or in-person or even online writing groups to connect with these rare global citizens, these other writers. The relationships we build will prove invaluable, and provide us with opportunities to share publishing tips, encourage and inspire each other, and transform the “solitary life” of a writer into a journey that feels less lonely and more part of a greater collective effort to move forward.
Always remember: you are not alone. ♣︎
||ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 18 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, pre-production specialists, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.