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Three Rules for Making it as a Writer

/by Jenna McClure/

Since 2011 was such a fulfilling year for me (I got published!) and I now feel like I hold the key to the universe (HA!), I wanted to share a few things I’ve learned along the way. Are you ready? Okay, here goes…

1. If you want to get published, you actually have to write a book.
2. If you want to sell your book, you actually have to publish your book.
3. If you want to make money off your book, you actually have to market your book.

Some of you are probably scratching your heads and thinking, “Um, duh, Sherlock”, but for those of you who didn’t know these things, well, now you do.

Let’s take #1. There are so many people out there who have ideas for books, but they never actually get anything on paper. They are absolutely positive they could be the next John Grisham, Dan Brown or Nora Roberts, if only they could translate the words in their mind into words on paper. Their creative genius is just stuck in mental la-la land waiting to be set free and written down by some magic potion or pill.

“Bah, writing is like taking candy from a baby,” some say. Really? Then why doesn’t everyone do it? Why haven’t you spent the countless hours, days, weeks, months, or even years in my case, to actually sit down and write your book? Because it’s a LOT harder than it sounds. Ask any author, published or aspiring, how much writing a book is like taking candy from a baby, and most of them (except probably for Nora Roberts, who is as prolific a writer as rabbits are breeders) will tell you those people who said it was easy were LYING!

Okay, maybe it is easy for some authors, but for some of us, it’s a struggle. In my case, it’s a struggle to find the time. The words are the easy part because my mind never shuts down, but it’s the time I have a hard time (pun intended) finding. I work full time at a job where I travel 50% of the time, have three animals and would much rather read other books than write my own. I envy people who can actually sit down at a computer every day and crank out thousands of words, or even one scene, for Pete’s sake. Moi, on the other hand, sit in front of a computer all day, so the last thing I want to do after work is sit in front of another one (even if it is a nicer one with a big shiny screen).

Which leads me to #2…

Okay, so you’ve finally finished your book. Or at least you think you have. What happens next? Well, you can either find an agent or go directly to a publisher. I did the latter, only because I did not succeed at the former. Once I started working with a publisher (we’ll call my editor “She”, for ease of reference), She wanted edits. An editor wanting edits, you say? Outrageous! But She did. Every aspiring author thinks their book doesn’t need edits since it’s perfect the way it is. But no, no, no, young grasshopper…it isn’t perfect, and it does need to be edited. Three times and twice on Sundays.

You have to trim at least 50,000 words because it’s too long and will make readers nod off before they get to page 457. You have to make this character be more this, or you have to make this scene less of this. Then, you have to completely remove all references to this female character because she is too eerily similar to a certain Hollywood actress who’s been in and out of rehab more times than anyone cares, and who will most likely sue you for libel. Even though it’s fiction, and your character isn’t even loosely based on anyone, either living or dead.

Then, once you’re done with those edits, you move to Round 2 Edits. Thought you were done, did you? Au contraire, mon frere. Round 2 Edits is where you actually have to make sure that every word you use is actually a word (at least words that are acceptable to publishers and pronounceable by readers), and they’re spelled correctly. It’s where you make sure a character isn’t eating something in one sentence, then eating something completely different in the next. This, thank goodness, is the final round of edits, so you’d better be sure you’re actually editing each word, sentence, page and piece of punctuation because this is your LAST chance to catch something every single reader, except for you, is going to catch before your book goes to print. But no pressure.

Save the pressure for #3…

Oh your God, you’re finally published! What do you do now? Well, you could sit on your bum and hope every reader in the world magically learns about your book via universal mental osmosis from all the thinking and worrying you’ve done about it over the last (insert time frame here). Or, if you live in the real world, you’ll have to promote your book.

Promote, you say?! I’m a writer, not a promoter! Wrong, Genius, you’re both. It’s your book – you wrote it because you had something to say, you edited it so your message would be clear, so now you have to sell it so you can make your one hundred and three dollars. It’s not that hard, and unless you have tons of money to use for hiring professional promoters, you have to do it yourself. Here are a few things I’ve found useful when marketing my book. And I’ve actually sold a few books to people who are not related to me, so I think they might work.

First thing’s first…

Get a website. Hopefully you reserved your url as soon as you decided under what name to be published, but if not, it’s not too late. I use Web Hosting Hub and love them. They’re reasonably priced, have hundreds of site templates from which to choose (all you do is add content), and their customer service is quick and friendly.

Second thing’s second…

Create a Facebook page. In this day and age, you probably already have a personal page, but you might want to create either an author page or a book page. This way you can keep your two lives separate. It adds mystery, I think. And who doesn’t love a good mystery?

Third thing’s third…

Tweet. Create an account with your author name, link it to your Facebook page and start sending messages, either from Facebook or Twitter. The more you tweet, the more people will find you. Either that, or the more you’ll annoy people, but hey, at least you’re getting your name out there. I actually have the Executive Director of Greenpeace following me on Twitter, and who knows how many people follow him, so there is potential for word to get out about you and your book.

Fourth thing’s fourth…

create a QR code. “I’m sorry, was that English? You want me to create a what?” A QR code is a little square of jarbled nonsensical-looking characters you see on advertisements, commercials, posters and tons of products everywhere. QR stands for “Quick Response”, and it’s basically just a way to insert your website, Facebook page, blog or any other information into a two-dimensional barcode that anyone with a barcode scanning app can scan. For more information on these little squares of marketing awesomeness, check out Alyssa Goodnight’s article in the January 2012 edition of RWA’s Romance Writer Report. To create your own QR code, try . Once you have your code, you can post it on your website and Facebook pages, tweet about it and put it on t-shirts and mug to use as Christmas and birthday presents.

Go ahead, scan it and see how it works!

Pretty cool, eh? Have fun creating your own and doing with them what you will!

I hope you get something useful out of my ramblings. Needless to say, everything I’ve written here is for entertainment purposes only and is not to be taken as legal advice. I can’t believe I have to add this disclaimer, but since we’re in such a litigious society, there you go. And if you don’t find them helpful, I hope you at least don’t find them annoying.
Follow Jenna through ShortbreadStories
Or through:
Her Facebook Jenna McClure
Her Twitter @JennaMcClureRW
See the trailer to Animal Attraction
And buy her new book Animal Attraction through Amazon.

Rachel Marsh wrote a blog about Jenna called ‘Jenna’s Dedication’. Check it out here.

Jenna’s blog post is part of our Industry Insider series. Read them all here.


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3 thoughts on “Three Rules for Making it as a Writer

  1. This was interesting and very very full of useful advice and thank you so much for that. What did make me grin though was that as it read on it became more and more frantic so that once we reached the marketing paragraph I thought you might want to have a lie down. was that deliberate – if so well done – and of course it was, how could I ask – just in case it wasn’t though – did you realise that this has leached into your subconscious – oh dear maybe the next para should have been how to find a good therapist – kidding of course – the very best of luck with your book. I hope this year is even better than 2011.

    • Hi Diane,

      Thanks for your kind words! I did not intend to make it more frantic, but now that I’m reading it again, it does come across that way. Could have something to do with how I feel about trying to market my book…If you know a good therapist, I’m all ears. lol

  2. This is such a brilliant post with, as Diane has already pointed out, wonderful advice. I don’t know why I’ve never thought of using a QR code for marketing books, but what a fantastic idea. It really is so important to use every means possible to advertise your hard work. Thanks very much for all the tips and advice, Jenna.

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