Virgin Author Ch 8: But That's Like WHOLE Months Away...
But That's Like WHOLE Months Away...
The more and more I ply this street corner trade, the more and more I come to the conclusion that this is all about working hard for your money. For your imagination. For yourself, really. I help market for the aforementioned Gateway to Publishing Conference and Convention in St Louis. There, I’ve not only been able to be a part of a wonderful, talented group of passionate writers, but I’ve also been able to take a sneak peek at the professional writing industry. Now, a con is a con is a con is a con, but basically, everything comes down to talent, persistence, and who you know. It’s relationships and hard work. I would be tempted to say luck, but as Branch Ricket (*we think) once said, ‘Luck is the residue of design’. Recently, we tried to get Jim Butcher to be our star writer guest we could feature at the con. And we eventually heard back from his people that he’s booked solid two years out. Two. Years. I mean, I don’t even know what’s going to happen next month, let alone next week for me. So, it became the running high-brow joke among us Gateway Con organizers. What are we doing in two years? (Jim, we still love you, please come to our dumb con?)
By thinking macro, it helped order and focus our micro and mid-range. See, as much as we want that sexy sexy headline author to come show us a good time, we weren’t thinking big enough then (we’re working on it now). A writer and a con aren’t really that much different. You want to make friends with a lot of people. You want them to come so you can teach them a thing or two (maybe even in a hotel). You’re growing a community around a shared experience. You want meat and mechanics. What are you doing two years from now as a writer? I’m serious. Name them. Before you scramble to put some clothes on like you just got walked in on, take a breath and think about who you are. Who are you? Who do you want to be known as? Remembered as? Known as? This doesn’t necessarily have to be an exercise in ego, more as honest, bare-naked honesty. If you can be comfortable in your own skin, you’ve got something special. Remember back when I told you to set up all your author social media? Website. MySpace. Ask Jeeves. You know. Social. Maybe even an AOL Messenger? Strive to consistently be who you really are. Publicly. Privately. The whole shebang. I know this probably sounds like a no shit moment, but it’s true. So get your theme colors in order. Figure out which symbol is yours. Regularly engage with people in real life and online. Make it a habit until it’s like breathing. Look for new opportunities. Even if you’re broke like most of us writers, putting yourself out there day in day out does pay off over time. Try to be a decent person. Don’t be a dick. Stay away from crazies and get-rich-quick schemes. Learn that the stove is indeed hot. Do these things not only because they’re right and good, but also because they’re bottom-line best practices professionally. Character and identity are actually what all branding is really about deep down. And if a person or brand can’t communicate these two things they’re bankrupt on a deep level.
Now that we’ve covered the heavy let’s get back to that what are you doing in two years thing. Do you want to have your book published in two years? Pick a publishing route now and then steer by that guiding polestar. Is there a certain type of story you’d like to write? Want to be traditionally published? Want to attend the Book Expo?
Do your first author tour across the nation? Name it. Plan it. Do it.
Take the necessary steps to do what you’ve always wanted to do. No one is going to magically make this happen for you. This is your life to live. If you don’t live it, you’ll honestly just drift through as a passenger with someone else, or circumstances, at the wheel instead. If you don’t know the steps, that’s ok. We’re all awkward our first time. The fact that we’re able to admit we don’t know means that we’re humble enough and strong enough to admit our own weakness. It also means we trust someone else enough to ask. And as my favorite Victorian fantasist, George MacDonald said, ‘To be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved’. Why? Because love cannot exist without trust first. This entire series has been about trust. Every damn silly word of it.
So plan ahead. Figure yourself out. Learn what it takes and means for you to make good art. Then do it, and keep doing it. Make a list. Write it out. Make a vision board. I don’t know. Make a series of cringy YouTube videos. Whatever it takes. Just do it. Don’t let this be something that you’ll get to later. Because there is no later. Just right now. And right now. And…. You get the idea. If you want something enough, you’ll figure out how to make it happen. Or not. On author networking, again, cons and guilds are the places to be. Social media can work if you live in an isolated part of the country, but it’s not a real alternative to living, breathing people (I know, eew, gross, right?). Well, ignore that last parenthetical aside. Because if I’ve said it once I’ve said it a thousand times. Writing requires other people. She probably won’t ever read this, but I’m really proud of my writer friend Dana Lockhart. 2018 was a terrible year for me. 2019 isn’t much better so for. One of the very few count-em-on-one-hand good things that did happen to me in 2018 was that I started the Hannibal Writers Guild. I was sick and tired of having to drive all the way down to St Louis to catch a St Louis Writers Guild meeting every time I wanted to be around other writing professionals. I mean, I know there’s other talented writers in my area just waiting to hook up. I couldn’t be the only person who liked writing, right? Turns out I wasn’t. Turns out where I live has lots of other talented people all over the genre and skill spectrum who are all yearning for the same thing: Community. We all want other genuine writer friends we can share our triumphs and failures with. We all need someone to lean on. We need other people who get it. We want to share our passions. Our hopes. Our dreams. And while life may necessitate those hopes and dreams and passions to work out in wildly unexpected ways, they do work out given time and nurture. Anyways, one of the Hannibal Writers Guild’s founding members was Dana Lockhart, author of The Unlife of William Moore. What the guild has done and will do has and will be many things. And among those many things, I can say that I know for sure they helped Dana and others like her finish that book. Publish it. And claim the vaunted title of Author. I may be just another dumb millennial up to their eye holes in debt, but I’m a part of something that’s making a real difference. Suck it, corporate America. TLDR: be a decent person. Set long term goals with actionable steps to obtain them. Join guilds and attend writing conferences and conventions – learn and make friends while you’re there. But That’s Like Months Away | They’re Just Other People, Relax
Ok. Grandiose statements are one thing. Lasting ideals are great, I guess. But what about now? How do I actually make these mythical writer friends, anyway? If you’re looking for cons, go online. Use your handy-dandy preferred search engine and search. Go to your writers guild and ask for recommendations. Investigate said cons for specific things they’re offering. Do you have your story all done and shining and feel ready to get a literary agent? Find the cons that have agents who are looking for your genre and go to those ones. Do you really want to get better at such and such writing nuance? Go for it. Want to network with a certain tier of the writing industry? Find em, attend em, bingo-bango-bongo. If you don’t think you can afford to go to more than one, then pick one. Save your pennies. Get a writer friend or two to split a hotel room with you (Hell, stay with a friend or AirBnB a room – but don’t let the other con people catch me saying that to you – the hotels that host hate competition.) As for making friends, just pretend you still pick your nose and finger paint, like you did back in kindergarten. (If you, uh, by chance, still pick your nose and finger paint… Awesome! Somethings never change). In the continuing chapter tradition of quotes, the immortal Fred Rogers (AKA Mr. Rogers) once said, ‘When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ Important people with fancy titles come and go, but those who are decent, talented sonsofbitches are rare. Look for them. Learn a few things from them. At the very least, grab a few drinks with other con attendees at the hotel bar after the classes are done. Even if you don’t drink, let other people. Ask them questions. Listen. Learn a thing or two. Also, don’t always go straight for the A-listers of the night. Sometimes, you can learn more from people who you feel are closer to your current author level because you’re on a similar path. You’re probably quietly wondering the same sorts of things – and even if you can’t find the answers, you at least have common ground and shared experience. Loneliness is a very real thing haunting writers, editors, and agents in the industry today. If you eat at the hotel restaurant or at one of the gala dinners, look for people who are by themselves and sit with them. There’s a good chance they’re an agent (no, really!). Be polite. Talk shop. Share and tell. Practice kindness. What I’m trying to say is something I’ve already told you at least twice now: Relax. They’re just other people.
We’re all in this together.
Next up it looks like we’ve got… eh… oh! Yes! Oh, you’ll like this part… Go on, you’re almost to the end of this so you can say you read it on Goodreads (and review it, of course) and make all your reader friends envious or something? I honestly don’t understand the hubris or dopamine behind Goodreads…
Eee Gad! Didst thou miss last Ch?