In Your Corner: Use Facebook to Promote Your Book!

Facebook

It’s not exactly breaking news anymore when we say “Facebook can help you sell books and create a platform!” to our readers here on the blog, since we’ve written about it before and maybe even a brace, a thicket, a luxuration of times—but it can never be said frequently enough, in my opinion.

Facebook can help you sell books and create a platform!

There, whew. We can all go home now.

Or can we?

There are hundreds upon thousands of resources out there specifying how and when to take advantage of Facebook, but the greater challenge is deciding which of those multitudes is actually useful for you, isn’t it? Being “findable” (there’s a five-dollar word for you!) doesn’t mean much if the platform isn’t providing you with something sustainable and enriching on your own terms.

Here are my top five recommendations for putting Facebook to work:

  1. Build a fanbase. Facebook is great as a bulletin board space, but its real power is in mobilizing large groups of people who all share a passionate interest in something, and you won’t mobilize anyone if you yourself aren’t on your page, engaging with readers, reviewers, and more generally, fans—on a regular and sustainable basis! Make it worth their while, too: upload “behind the scenes” videos and create events, use QR codes to direct traffic to your page and paper-bomb your town with it, guerrilla-style! Once you have a large fanbase, you’ll be able to do pretty much everything else that you want as well.
  2. Use your Facebook account to link with other websites. Whether it’s your email signature or those wonderful “log in using Facebook!” ancillary websites, which allow you to create and link your Facebook account in order to streamline the login process, interlinkage is a useful stratagem on many fronts. It gets your name and face out there, yes, but it also makes it extremely easy for fans to follow your movements around the internet—from Twitter to Instagram to Goodreads to Ko-Fi to Kickstarter and more! That way, even though you’re making use of all of these websites’ useful and peculiar features, you’re working with one central account.
  3. Go elsewhere. By this, I mean: use your Facebook account to interact with other authors, on their turf. Facebook is about community, and no community thrives when it’s one-sided, so don’t expect everyone to come to your page without first having something to offer on theirs! You can do a little market research while you’re at it, too, and steal ideas from authors whose pages reflect the kind of presence you yourself want to establish. You can share specific posts that you enjoyed on your own timeline, which also builds that community spirit.
  4. Keep it visual. You’ve probably heard the word “clickbait” floating around on the interwebs, but if you haven’t, the term refers to material which takes full advantage of social media users’ predilection for clicking on links which have immediate visual appeal—usually a catchy image or an equally catchy, brief, and possibly controversial headline. You don’t need to dip into the controversy side of things, but you too have a good reason to pay attention to this particular market trend, and to pay attention to the psychology behind it! Facebook users are equally as visual as those on Instagram and Pinterest, so don’t skimp on posting images to your account and your timeline. Photos bring in clicks and views more than anything else! It doesn’t just have to be images of your book, of course, although some of my favorite accounts carry out a kind of “book scavenger hunt” or “book road trip” activity, where the author takes pictures of their books in interesting locations—or ask readers to take pictures and then share those pictures to your timeline as well!
  5. Make a meal of Facebook Insights. This is the Facebook equivalent of Google Analytics, since even without a paid account, Facebook keeps detailed track of what users are looking at your page and when, how long they spend, what they interact with, and more! It’s profoundly useful, for example, to know when your “peak viewing” period is—when the highest percentage of people access your page every day—and post new material right then, for them to enjoy. It’s also useful to know, for example, that your readers really do prefer your images over your text posts—and by a factor of … well, it will vary from person to person! Once you know your fans’ habits, it may be time to explore paying for a Facebook ad … or you may not need one, depending on the circumstances!

However you choose to use Facebook, you’re not wrong. But there may be a few things you can tweak in order to do even better, as I am learning every day.

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

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.

In Your Corner: 10 ways to promote your book for under $100!

Publishing is expensive, right? Well, yes, especially if you go about it the way that many blogs and books recommend, which assume you have unlimited funds, time, and energy in order to do what you like. But most of us—I’m assuming, at least—are not exactly rolling in it, not with the economy the way it is, and not with this whole thing called “having a life” is. Life can be exhausting, and expensive, and self-publishing your book should be part of the recovery process—not contributing to the problem!

grow your money

With that in mind, I’ve put together a list of ten ways you can market your book without breaking the bank. And if you have any ideas of your own, I’d love to hear them! Please feel free to drop me a line in the comments section, below, or you can contact us over Facebook or Twitter. (Our twitter handle is @selfpubadvisor.) Best of all, all ten marketing strategies I’ve listed below are cheap.

  1. Reach readers where they live. This is a process which starts with researching them. Thoroughly. What are their demographic details? How old are they? Where do they live, geographically speaking? Are they diverse in terms of ethnicity and gender? What social media platforms do they use and which have they discarded or never picked up to begin with? In the case of younger readers, are they old enough to be in command of their own savings–or will purchases be made by parents and caregivers? What subjects occupy their waking thoughts? You also have to actively go out and reach them. Carefully and effectively. With precision. Draft a well-thought-out, targeted marketing strategy that pares back on the manifold possibilities open to you … to just the ones that will reach your core readership. Once you have established a sustainable system in place, you can begin experimenting your way through additional marketing strategies and see what is sustainable.
  2. Give them a taste. Whether we’re talking about an e-book or an audiobook, digital formats offer some truly exciting possibilities for incentivization.  Amazon automatically offers the first ten or so pages for free (the so-called “first chapter freebie”) and you can replicate this on your blog and with other online retailers.  Curating your own freebie chapter isn’t an option with Amazon, but it is when you choose the method of delivery via blog or email, and I highly recommend taking the time to edit what makes it in to your freebie–this gives you an edge over the Amazon preview, which often cuts off in the middle of a paragraph.  Make sure the freebie ends with some sort of natural cliffhanger or emotional hook, to keep your readers coming back!
  3. Discount it. Perhaps the greatest weapon in your digital arsenal is the option to offer timed discounts and sales. Because you control the base price as a self-publishing author, you get to shape your own sales! You can time them to coincide with events of national interest (say, Father’s Day or the anniversary of Amelia Earhart’s final fateful voyage–you know, only relevant to you and your work) or you can use the calendar as a guiding star. Sales tend to find success when they close on the last or first day of a month, holidays, and so on.
  4. Host giveaways and hand out merch! You don’t want to leverage these as bribes for reviews, but you can certainly use them to incentivize coming to other events where your books are sold, or to encourage the sort of general enthusiasm for your work that will naturally lead to reviews!
  5. Offer a limited edition or bundle! Comic book authors have created some really good models for bundles that you can use for inspiration, and creating short runs of specialty covers is also a specialty of theirs; don’t hesitate to mix it up to build demand.
  6. Create loyalty by doling out insider access. Readers want to feel special for being your fans, and you should reward this impulse; maybe the purchase of a book becomes a ticket to an author interview via Google Hangouts–or maybe it gives them access to a limited-access “behind the scenes”  page on your website? The options are endless!
  7. Set up a book signing. You probably already guessed that this would rate a top ten list, and you’d be right! Book signings and readings are amongst the most powerful and effective marketing tools available. They take some work, logistically speaking, in that you have to be willing to carry a lot of the weight in organizing the programming and making the calls to set it up, as well as printing flyers and submitting a notice to your local newspapers—whatever it takes to alert people to an upcoming event. But the payoff is rich, and ongoing.
  8. Get thee to a book fair! Much like book signings, these events will give you and your book invaluable face-out exposure, bring you into contact with experts, reviewers, distributors, and many others who will be interested in partnering with you in the future. You can attend solo, or you can partner up with other authors who have published through your indie publishing company in order to lower costs. I highly recommend this kind of partnership, because it bodes well for my next point, which is ….
  9. Play well with others. Most self-publishing authors, no matter where they’re at in their publishing journey, could benefit from strong, dynamic, and useful collaboration. Collaboration can look like a lot of different things:
    • pairing up with another author or multiple authors to host a book discussion or workshop together;
    • gathering several other authors together and applying to run a booth at a local book fair, or a panel at a “con” (convention);
    • conducting interviews with other authors and sharing them on each other’s websites, providing insight into the authorial process; and
    • co-writing short stories or novellas together, to be distributed as giveaways or free to the public online.
  10. Optimize. What does it actually mean to “optimize”?  It means to try new things.  To try every new thing.  To try a new thing regularly. To try it daily.  To try it … always. To think about life and being an author and marketing as some kind of laboratory, where experimentation is the rule and not the exception–and where, like good scientists, we document our progress thoroughly so that we can track, exactly, which outcomes can be attributed to which changes in method.

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

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.

In Your Corner: Crossing the Streams!

… the income streams, of course. Not the proton streams, of course! That’s just dangerous.

No, the kind of streams we’re talking about today are revenue streams–those avenues through which you as an author make your money. Because–here’s a fun fact!–the self-publishing experience is neither monolithic nor straightforward when it comes to making money, even though it may be simpler than the alternative. You might just be surprised where they money actually comes from! Most authors will say that the majority of their money comes from one of the following five sources, which include …

  • … the books themselves: In an article for The Write Life, Alexis Grant writes of how UK-based author Mark Dawson has made a fortune off of selling his books–books which have sold upwards of three hundred thousand copies as of the article’s publication. It may seem a bit cliche to mention yet another self-publishing success story like Dawson’s, but we’re nothing if not thorough here on Self Publishing Advisor. Blockbuster success is still an exception instead of the rule, but many authors make a comfortable margin off of their self-published books these days.
  • … the digital books: Says Joe Konrath, a “name” within the self-publishing world: “I’m outselling a bunch of famous, name-brand authors. I couldn’t touch their sales in print.” The parallel evolution of self-publishing and ebooks has seen the two threads of the publishing industry become deeply entwined, and it seems like a crime to conflate the importance of ebook sales with those of print when it comes to self-publishing! Many authors find niche success through digital sales that they wouldn’t in print for a variety of reasons. It really is a separate revenue stream!
  • … the movie?! This is a thing that can happen!? In real life?! According to Drew Mackie of People, indeed it can, and has, to a number of self-published works–including The MartianStill Alice, and even Legally Blonde! (Now that is a range I can get behind, for sure.) Indie filmmakers especially have a deep appreciation for indie books (as in Still Alice) but genre films (like the rom-com Legally Blonde or the space-based science fiction masterwork, The Martian) also have put roots down into the world of self-published books which should not be discounted. And while in many cases the books are then picked up by traditional publishers after the film rights have been optioned, this is not the only format worth looking into. You can self-publish, remain self-published, and retain full rights during the film optioning process. This could even be a significant revenue stream for you!
  • … merchandising: We’ve written about this elsewhere and in great detail on SPA, but here’s the summary version: merchandising matters, and it’s both a money-making endeavor in and of itself as well as a way to boost book sales and therefore your primary revenue stream. Don’t ignore the merchandising!
  • … speaking engagements and book tours: “For many writers,” writes Alexis Grant, “marketing is the most difficult part [of the self-publishing process], either because [authors] don’t have the skills to pull it off or simply don’t want to. But the truth is, if you want to make a living as a writer, you have to be more than a writer. Figuring out how to promote your books is the only way you’ll sell copies.” And while not everyone may feel qualified or cut out for a speaking engagement like a book reading, signing, or tour, there’s a chunk of change to be made in building up your profile as a public speaker. For many authors, this eventually becomes a primary revenue stream and not some fiddly thing on the side. This seems especially true of authors of self-help and lifestyle or fitness books, but it is often true for authors in other genres too. Think about it!

The key to success isn’t in any single one of these revenue streams, but rather in a combination. And for every author, that combination will look a little different. Take a moment and think about it: what kind of revenue do you expect to see from your life as a self-published author? And how can you diversify those streams to create a more long-lasting, rewarding experience?

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

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.

In Your Corner: Royalties. What do they mean?

fountain pen money coins royalties

Royalties. There is no better word to convey a connotation of status, power, and entitlement for the published author … but it’s a word which can be dangerously misleading, or seductive. For one thing, getting your royalties isn’t the same thing as getting royalty.

royals tv show

Just sayin’.

You might be confused by the word. In fact, it took years of working in the self-publishing industry with legitimate experts on this subject for me to really get a handle on the finer points. I can’t go into all of them in a single blog post, of course, but I’m here today to talk about some of the common misconceptions about royalties as well as what royalties really are, and what they can do for you.

Definition A:
Royalties or a royalty paid to an author is a percentage of revenue earned on book sales.

Definition B:
Whatever the vanity presses can eke out of you without you knowing.

Traditional publishing houses pay royalties to their author clients based on a percentage of the listed retail prices of their books. This percentage depends on format, and can be tied to net receipts and/or net profits, which are essentially two more loopholes the industry invented to keep a little more of the money out of authors’ hands. And many times, these same institutions will offer authors advances against their expected royalties, which only occasionally works in the authors’ favor.

We never said they weren’t smart. But they’re definitely not out for their authors’ best interests.

So, what about self-publishing? Aren’t there royalties to be had there, too?

 

Yes and no. As a self-publishing author, you’re both author and publisher. So in the strictest sense, you don’t receive royalties because you don’t extend a deal to yourself and give yourself a percentage of your book’s profit, gross or net or anything else. But in a looser sense, and in most self-publishing literature, this is equivalent to receiving 100% of your book’s royalties–which sounds pretty great, doesn’t it? You’ve already covered the up-front costs of editing, publishing, and marketing, so what’s left is all yours, kids!

In self-publishing, your royalty is the total amount you’re paid. There might conceivably be situations where you split your revenue–say, if you co-authored your book, have a translator or illustrator you did not pay as an independent contractor, or if you accidentally publish through a shady vanity press service which keeps a percentage for themselves.

Read the fine print, always! This is especially true when it comes to paying vanity presses, self-publishing service providers, and DIY self-publishing platforms like Amazon’s Kindle Direct.

princess bridge inconceivable gif

Incidentally, the Princess Bride contains plenty of useful material for the conscious self-publishing author. Case in point:

princess bridge inconceivable gif

Royalty as a word has its roots in an ancient, mostly outdated traditional model of business. You want to steer clear of any of the aforementioned companies which offer “X percentage of your royalties!” unless they’re offering a flat 100%. Simply put, you’re already paying them for the same services which traditional publishing houses withhold from your royalties to pay for–marketing and such–so there’s absolutely zero reason to let these vanity presses take money out of your royalties on top of everything else you paid a flat starting fee for! They are counting on you not understanding what royalties were invented for, and fleecing you out of the difference.

It’s oh-so-easy to fall into a trap if you don’t do the math. And the only math here worth having is the full, 100% royalties delivered straight to you. Every book sale is your revenue or earnings, and always be sure to do your due diligence before selecting a publishing company. Your down payment and up-front publishing costs are an investment, and your royalties are the payoff! With a little care and a keen eye for the fine print, you can make back those initial expenditures.

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

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.

In Your Corner: Know Thyself … And Thy Readers!

There once was an ancient Greek aphorism: “Know thyself!” It was inscribed over the entrance, or forecourt, of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi–where the ancients used to go in search of supernatural wisdom or before battle, in hope of a cheerful word from the oracle. Socrates the philosopher invoked it, and therefore millions have read it down through the years:

socrates know thyself

What does Socrates and the Delphic maxims have to do with self-publishing? Quite a lot actually, if you ascribe to my theory, which is that to sell books you must know your readers and how to target them precisely, and if you want to know your readers you had best know yourself pretty thoroughly, too.

Perhaps I’ve been influenced by the resurgence of interest in mindfulness, which these days is often closely associated with meditation, spirituality, and environmental justice. Those are all great things, and while I think self-understanding is probably a crucial part of all three of these things, they’re not what I’m primarily interested in today. Today, I’m interested in examining the nexus between self-published authors and their readers, a nexus which we are bound and required to understand if we want to break even on our publishing expenses. In this context, being mindful of both your own self and your readers is critical.

(Boy, do I feel callous saying that. But it’s true.)

The fact of the matter is: selling books is dependent upon this peculiar relationship, and as many counselors and therapists are likely to tell you, while you can’t control the other person or persons in a relationship, you can control what you do.

So how do you get to know thyself?

  1. Make comparisons. Not, like, in terms of quality of your book! But identify a handful of books which are similar to your upcoming one in theme and content, and start jotting down characteristics which they seem to share. And … yes, you need to do this before your book comes out. Ideally, long before your book comes out. It will help you frame your promotional work as you start seeing what material these authors are putting out–blog posts, newsletters, YouTube video updates, etc–to reel in their readers. Experiment with these modes, and hone a few new skills. Nowhere does Socrates say that the self is monolithic and unchanging!
  2. Listen up. Yeah, this one seems totally obvious, but a lot of authors tend to find a system that they feel comfortable with and stick to it, even as it slowly becomes apparent that they’re not actually reaching their readers. So, listen. Listen, and be willing to alter your attack vector when it comes to marketing. Don’t keep doing a thing just because you like it or because you’re comfortable with it. Your feelings don’t sell books; your readers’ do. A part of self-knowledge is understanding what you’re feeling at any given moment, and simultaneously recognizing that others may or may not share these feelings.
  3. Go for the soft sell. Self-publishing is all about the relationship between you and your readers, and you’ll get nowhere by pushing your agenda (selling books) over developing real and authentic relationships with your readers. If you’re not willing to partner with your readers in this endeavor, then that’s something you ought to know about yourself, and adjust accordingly. As in, find yourself a marketing coach or perhaps even a social media manager to do some of this work for pay.
  4. Plug the gaps. Not like a boy with his thumb in a hole in a dike (man, where did my parents come up with some of their little anecdotes? It’s amazing what sticks!) but as a student of the self and and of relationships. Where are your weaknesses? A hint: usually they’re somewhere close by when you find yourself uncomfortable with some particular aspect of the publishing and marketing processes. Pay attention to feelings of discombobulation and discomfort, and either by yourself or with an expert sit down and start drawing up a list of skills to develop or strategies to adhere to in order to accommodate these weaknesses. For me, structuring my day-to-day routine is a nightmare, and this leads to spotty engagement online. That’s a weakness. But it’s a weakness that, like most other weaknesses, can be dealt with using a jot of foresight and good planning.

If you know yourself, you’re most of the way down the path to knowing how to reach your readers. And as Dean Koontz says:

dean koontz readers quote

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

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.

In Your Corner: Taking the Time

relaxing puppy taking it easy

Writing takes time.

… how often have we heard this line?

So why do we balk at the thought of publishing taking time?

Yes, even self-publishing. Or perhaps we ought to say: self-publishing takes time when you’re doing it right. There is such a thing as a rushed publication, and we’ve seen the results. (Not good. Not satisfactory. Not doing justice to the authors’ great ideas and skills as authors.) Sometimes, publishing can or should take a little … longer. Months, even.

Why?

Quality Control

The more rushed the publication process, the less likely you are to have a range of people looking at your work, and having “eyes on” the work is incalculably valuable to producing a polished, perfect book. I’m not just talking about editing, either, but the other fiddly bits: graphic design, interior formatting, clean margins and orphan control, or even satisfying the legal requirements and meeting publishing standards! There are simply so many balls to keep in the air during the publishing process, and not everyone has the time, energy, skills, or industry expertise to complete it quickly. Far better to take a little time, and bring in outside help to make sure you get it right!

Multiple Checks and Balances

Just as having “eyes on” your work helps with quality control of the finished product, it also keeps certain ideas and inclinations in check. In fact, the longer you take, the less likely you are to do something rash with your cover art or ‘experimental’ with your formatting–it’s just one of those things! The longer you ponder your publishing decisions, the more sound they will be, being rooted in a broader understanding of both standard practices and what’s at stake. Other eyes will catch what you’ve missed, and create a sounding board for some of your more ‘edgy’ or ‘distinctive’ choices. They’ll give you a notion of what works, and what doesn’t, and help you navigate the publishing process with as few hassles as possible. So, not only does taking your time during publishing serve as its own reward–time as its own check and balance–but it also gives you the opportunity to broaden the team of people involved in your project, and really choose the minds and services which will help bring your vision to fruition.

 

***

When push comes to shove, we have to believe our books are worth the time we take with them. We have to believe in them! I think perhaps the physicist and science educator Carl Sagan put it best when he said:

carl sagan quote

If books can break the shackles of time, we shouldn’t begrudge them taking a little time in the publishing process. To get it right.

All I’m saying is: don’t rush it. Self-publishing, even slow-cooker style, is still much faster than traditional publication, which takes an average of two years from start to finish. The ‘slowing down’ which I’m talking about is more on the order of months than years! The ultimate goal is to create a finished product which is perfect in every way, or at least in all of the ways which readers and booksellers appreciate.

Your book is worth taking the time! It deserves the best possible treatment. And if the process goes more quickly than you expected, well, isn’t that a happy surprise?

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

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.

In Your Corner: Knowing When to Quit

quit

We’ve all been there, and it’s a tough place to be: we’ve all faced the daunting question of “Should I continue writing this?” and not known the answer. But there are signs on the road that leads to doubt, signs which can tell us more or less reliably when the project needs to make a quick exit from our lives … and when to press on.

My first impulse as someone who works in author services is always to encourage, to say … you can do it! You can finish the thing! All it needs is a little more time and focus! … and sometimes, I’m right. But sometimes, I’m not. And a lot of my job relies on me being able to parse the right time to–yes, encourage–the writers I work with to part ways with their current piece.

It all starts with time, and waiting.

The first sign that it’s time to quit is that you’re waiting for inspiration. A lot. Maybe all of the time. It’s like a divine fire which descends from the skies and burns its way out of you, this inspiration. You can work through the night without even noticing, when it comes … but it doesn’t often come. The difficulty here is that if waiting is your M.O., you’re likely to eventually produce a manuscript … but not a workable book. Writing frenetically and disorganizedly, powered only by brief flashes of inspiration, isn’t enough to hold a book together–the secret to writing a novel isn’t to work through minor problems quickly and leave major ones until after the first draft is complete, but this is where waiters-for-inspiration tend to end up.

The second sign that it’s time to quit is when you wake up and realize you’re writing for someone else, not because you feel personally involved in the story being told. Some authors succeed in writing for the masses passionlessly, but it’s generally not a safe bet, because what draws the masses (in most cases) is a recognition on the author’s part–the author looks into the text and recognizes that there’s something magical going on there, some part of the self which has found its own kind of agency.

Oh, and authors who write for a market and not out of vision tend to neglect their craft. Why does the sentence-level work matter if the grander arc of the story doesn’t? Authors sense this discrepancy and it can kill enthusiasm stone dead.

The third sign that it’s time to quit is when you start finding reasons to not write. Like, if you’re reading this blog post because you Googled “How to know when to quit?” then … that’s what I’m talking about. Or when you find excuses to be too busy during your dedicated writing hour each morning (or evening, you night owls!). Or when “the fire just isn’t there anymore,” as one author lamented to me recently. Often, when we try to push through this particular sign, it’s because we’re more intent on being authors than we are on writing. We wish to belong to a category of people who live lives we think desirable. We want fame. But the burnout inevitably happens a quarter or midway through the manuscript, and it never really comes back.

Usually at this point in a post about quitting, bloggers start quoting authors like David Eddings and Samuel Beckett and Neil Gaiman. And don’t get me wrong, I love Neil Gaiman the same as you do … but isn’t that half of the problem? We lean on the voices of others when we find ourselves at sea to pin down an idea. And leaning is 100% encouragement-worthy behavior, in my opinion, if you’re feeling on the edge of some great Quitting. But: forget all of those authors who faced setback after setback before finding an agent or getting published (Stephanie Meyer and Kathryn Stockett, I’m looking at you!). Forget the inspirational quotes.

Yes, some success is the result of stick-to-my-guns-itude. Some. But for every Kathryn Stockett out there, there are ten authors who persevered with the same degree of determination that she did, and never got past the bottleneck. And for every Stephanie Meyer out there, there are ten authors who realized their work wasn’t going anywhere and figured out somewhere better it could go.

Stick to your guns … until you know the sticking is sheer stubbornness. If you quit, it’s not the end of the world. There’s another book out there for you, waiting to be written. Maybe quitting is actually an important skill to develop–tasteful quitting, graceful quitting, quitting when the object being quitted is holding you back from digging in to a new, better object just waiting for your attention.

Quit, darlings. Quit and start afresh. It’s okay.

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

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.