It might be a little hard to see past the singing, partying, gifting, and celebrating of the holiday season. But see past it, you must. If you’re a writer who wants to be successful in the coming year, it’s time to do a wee bit o’ planning to help make next year start off a bit more smoothly.
Here are 13 nifty moves for writers who want to succeed in 2013.
1. Get something completed.
You’re not a writer unless you write. Forget the writing forums where you spend your time discussing the nuances of a writing career or railing against the popular misuse of “a myriad of.” Forget the writing groups where you forever meet and critique other writers’ work. Forget even the creative writing classes where you always seem to be in a constant state of revision. Forget all those things that seem to interrupt your flow. Just. Get. Something. Done. Make that a priority in 2013. Maybe you have five unfinished manuscripts on your hard drive. Maybe your blog dashboard is littered with post ideas that haven’t quite been fleshed out. Maybe the notebook next to your bed has a half dozen not-quite-there poems. Whatever it is, just complete something.
2. Send a query to somebody.
It doesn’t matter whether you are looking for a traditional book deal or you’re doing the whole thing on your own as a self-publisher. You need to get your work in somebody else’s hands. If you are looking for a traditional book deal, then query agents or small publishers to find a home for your project. If you’re publishing on your own, send out queries anyway. In this instance, you need to query those who also speak to your target audience. Send out queries to publications and blogs. You want to get your work in publications so more eyes can see what you are doing. You want to get your work on blogs for the same reason — so more people can learn about and (hopefully) fall in love with your work. The more queries you send out, the more chance you will have to share your work and grow your audience. Which brings us to …
3. Accept that rejection is a fact of your writing life.
Rejection comes with the territory. You don’t have to like it, but you do have to accept it. Simple as that. If you don’t accept the fact that rejection is a part of the writing life, then you will hold back. You will not want to risk rejection and so you will not send out the queries you need. You will not share the work you should. And you will not seek out the opportunities you crave. So accept that rejection is a possibility — actually, it’s a certainty — and step out there anyway. All writers get rejected at some point. But the successful ones keep pushing on anyway. Each rejection gets you closer to that yes. When you get a rejection, let it teach you, inspire you, or motivate you. Just don’t let it depress you… for very long, anyway.
4. Be active on at least two social networks.
I don’t just mean throw up a profile and post a few notes here and there. I mean really, be active. Take the time to fill out your profile. Befriend fellow members. Post regularly. Respond to others. Be a part of the community. Social media isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. And the days of thinking just writing is enough are gone. Writers who want to be successful in 2013 must market themselves and their work. You can’t afford to be the best-kept secret. If you are a best-kept secret, that means you’re not getting readers and you’re not selling anything. So do what you can to make people know you and your work. And that means integrating social media into what you do.
5. Build a home spot.
It absolutely makes no sense to be a writer today and not have a website. It’s just nuts. You need to have one place that you own and control where readers can go to learn about you, find out what’s new with you, and buy your books. Social networks are great, but you can’t make the mistake of relying on your social network as your home spot. Social networks are great in addition to your website. But you do need a website. It’s best to get your own domain name and hosting, but if for some reason you can’t do that, then even a free site is better than having none at all. If you do a free site, make getting your own domain name a priority soon. You’ll need it on your way to being famous and whatnot.
6. Take responsibility for your writing career.
You can’t leave your career up to an agent, publisher, publicist, or adviser. You have to take responsibility for your writing career. Sure, you can take advice and help from others, but don’t leave it up to anyone else to construct, manage, or direct your career. That means educating yourself about trends in the industry, your particular audience and its needs, and putting together a plan to reach your goals. If your career doesn’t work, you can’t blame anyone else. So do what you can to ensure you hit the mark.
7. Be entrepreneurial.
Let’s just get this out there: If you want to have a writing career, you’ve got to treat it like a business. No matter what kind of writing you do, you’ve got to find an audience, get in front of that audience, and encourage that audience to read what you produce. You must have the ability to see a need in the market, develop something to meet that need, and get in front of the audience that has the need. You don’t get to decide that you will be a writer or a business person. You have to be both. Because, you see, a successful writing career isn’t just about banging out page after page of your fanciful art. It’s about finding people to buy that fanciful art.
8. Choose you.
You don’t have to be anyone other than who God made you to be. It’s not necessary to spend your time contorting, twisting, and turning in an effort to fit into someone else’s skin. You might find other writers you like, love, or adore, but that doesn’t mean you need to turn into them. Read others’ work so you learn, but then take that learning and use it to improve what you do, not become a clone. There is no one formula for writing success or for building a career. What works for your favorite writer might not be what works for you. So be open to learning — read blogs, take courses, attend conferences — but use that learning to be a better you, not a watered-down someone else.Let you show up in your writing. Your perspective. Your experiences. Your take on matters that affect your audience. Your ideas for helping your audience meet its goals.
9. Connect with others.
Writing is a solitary affair, but building a writing career isn’t. You need others. You need readers. You need partners. You need supporters. You need a whole tapestry of souls. So seek to build relationships. Help others out. Share your best stuff. Ask them for help. Connecting with others allows you to grow in your career, do things you dream of, and be the writer you want. And remember, the best relationships come about when you seek to add value to the other person. So don’t look just to get from your relationships, but to give. Why not start now? Make a list of three people or organizations you’d like to build a relationship with. Then seek them out. Find and friend them on a social network, visit their website and shoot them an email, or find their number and give them a call. You’ve got to start somewhere. So why wait?
10. Kick one thing off your to-do list.
Aspiring to do a lot is great, but often that’s what’s standing in the way of your success. Taking on too many things at one time can overwhelm and distract you to the point that you are unable to get anything done. So in 2013, pare down that list to the truly important things you want to do. Then focus on them. Don’t keep outdated priorities or goals on your list, weighing you down. If these are no longer the things that move you forward, reflect your values and hopes, or deserve your time, then get rid of them. One of our clients and friends at RootSky Books, Judy Christie, is a master of this. She helps individuals and businesses clear the clutter from their lives and work and get the important things done. Click on over and check her out here.
11. Nab email addresses.
This is the one mistake I made early in my writing career that I truly regret. I didn’t take care of my mailing list. I attended lots of author events as a speaker, panelist, or exhibiting author. People asked me questions. Purchased my books. Signed up for my mailing list. Me? I just didn’t do anything with their email addresses. Because I was collecting the mailing list on sheets of paper with the intention of transferring them to my computer when I returned home, I often found that I didn’t get around to making the transfer. After a long road trip, getting back home and resting seemed to be more important than getting back home and updating my mailing list. So in way too many instances, I did not. The mailing list I have now is much smaller than it would have been, if I had been more conscientious about taking care of it. Thankfully, our mailing list is growing, and I am so grateful I get a do-over. But do yourself a favor. Start and take care of your mailing list now. Make 2013 be the year your email list grew. Do that, and you’ll have a great way to keep in touch with those who want to know what you’re doing. Tell your mailing list about your new books, speaking engagements, book signings, etc. They want to hear from you. That’s why they signed up. Speaking of mailing lists, if you’ve not joined the Writer’s Living mailing list, please hop on over to the home page and sign up. Gracias.
12. Upgrade your aspirations.
Make 2013 the year where you go for something bigger. Most of us don’t fail because we aspire for something too big. For most of us, the aspiration is too small. We don’t shoot for enough. We fail because we aim for nothing, and get exactly that. So mega-size your aspiration. Close your eyes. See that big dream, the one you’ve tried to push to the side because it seems too big. Notice how it makes you feel. Check out the smile on your face. Breathe it in. Now open your eyes. Can you still see it? Bet you can. So why not work toward it? Even if you don’t hit it exactly, there is a good chance you’ll do something really great on the way to it. But if you only settle for the safe, smaller dreams, then you’re only setting yourself up for disappointment and a life of what-ifs and nothing. So embrace your biggest writing dreams, then create a written plan for making them happen. Break that plan into steps. And get going. You do that, and there is a good chance 2013 will bring you some really big things to celebrate.
13. Be decisive.
Every story you write can go in multiple directions. Every day you wake up can include countless possibilities. Every information product, partnership, or project can be handled in more than one way. So don’t get sucked into the trap of constantly second-guessing and going back to redo work you’ve already done. You do that, and you’ll never see the fruits of your labor. Investigate the possibilities, educate yourself about what it will take to do the work, consider the result you want, and make a decision based on this information. Then get to doing. Know when to make a change that will enhance what you are doing and know when to keep moving forward, resisting the temptation to tinker just for the sake of tinkering. Note, this isn’t about being obstinate for the sake of being obstinate. Actually, it’s not about being obstinate at all. It’s just about making a decision and sticking with it in the face of the temptation to abandon it for no good reason. Your best work deserves your right mind.
Decide that you will have a successful 2013. And on that note, often, we say we are “trying” to do something, which is a way we program our minds to think that we won’t get there. So watch out for the “trying” attitude. Trying in this sense isn’t about actually doing something. It’s just an excuse not to do something. “I’m trying to be a writer,” is just an excuse to not to be a writer. Don’t “try,” to have a successful writing career. Just do it. So eliminate trying from your vocabulary when talking about your aspirations and your career. Instead, just tell yourself flat-out, “I’m doing this.” So instead of saying, “I’m trying to write a book,” say “I am writing a book.” Instead of saying “I am trying to succeed,” say, “I am succeeding.” Instead of … well, you get the point. Check the “trying” attitude at the door and put on a doing attitude instead. Make this change, and all the other changes will feel a lot easier!
Bonus move: Publish something digitally.
Technology makes it possible for all writers to be published. So publish one of your projects in e-format. Whether you are a freelance writer who makes a nice living writing projects for clients or you are aspiring to be published by a big house, get a project published online somewhere. It will give you confidence, a feeling of accomplishment, and allow you to begin finding your audience.You can still do your other projects — your printed books, your freelance assignments, your other work. But do this, too.
The new year will be here soon and with it, lots of resolutions, goal-setting, and hopeful thoughts, but you can decide now to make these nifty moves so you can position yourself for the best writing year of your life. A successful writing career doesn’t just happen. It is made.