Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Right Advice (at the Right Time)

Writers are constantly bombarded with advice, everything from work habits that are supposed to help you find an agent (or not), get published (one way or another), get blurbs, promote your books, find reviewers, sell more books to personal habits that will help you avoid being overwhelmed, work harder and better, and use resources better, faster, more deeply. We are analyzed as introverts and extroverts and “in-between verts” and advised how to make the most of those traits. We are told what books are hot, which are not and how to take advantage of that.

We are advised which workshops and conferences will give the most bang for the buck, which social media will get our names out in the public—or whether it is worthwhile at all, whether readings at bookstores are worth your time, how to conduct readings to best effect, and what to do if no one shows up at your events.

The advice can be bewildering and sometimes seem at cross-purposes. It can make you feel like you’re never going to be able to do enough. It can make you doubt your abilities and your dedication. It can make you crazy.

So I’m going to give you some advice: Read all the advice you want, but  take to heart only the advice that is right for you at this particular time. At first every single tip you read may seem relevant. You are clutching at straws, hoping for that one little tip that will suddenly move you from unpublished to published; from sadly-published to best selling author. Advice that will help you not care if things aren’t going your way or that will make things go your way.

But some advice is better for you in your situation at this moment than others. The advice for how to promote your books is not useful if you don’t have a book out yet, and it’s a waste of your time to dwell on those tips. I’ve had writers who are unpublished ask me what I think is the best way to get a book reviewed in the newspaper. At some point this information might be useful, but it’s a waste of time and precious energy to worry about it until you need it.

I don’t mean you shouldn’t plan in advance—I just mean not too far in advance. At one point, before I found a publisher I began to collect everything I could about the best way to self-publish. I never used the information, but it wasn’t a waste of time because I was approaching the crossroads: I had two novels written and no publisher—and I wanted to be published. But to collect this information before you even have a novel completed is a waste of time.  And I don’t mean to ignore the advice. Start a file where you can keep information that you hope to use in the future.

But focus on the advice that’s useful to you right now!


Allan J. Emerson said...

This is spot on advice, Terry. I'm just beginning to promote my first book, and no matter what I do, I feel I should be doing more. It's important to realize you can't do everything at the same time.

Terry said...

Allan, this post was for me as much as for anyone. You're right. There's only so much you can do!

Grace Topping said...

You are so right! As writers, we try to educate ourselves about the things that can help us write, publish, and promote, but sometimes it becomes so overwhelming that all it does is cause stress. I collect tips and advice and store them in a file for that particular subject. That way I have placed it for future reference, when I need it. Hopefully, I'll need some of it sooner than later.