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10 Things Every Author Should Do this Month
Tips for Optimizing Your Writing Career
It may not be New Years, but focusing on your goals as a writer and self-publisher is a great idea any time of year. Below are our top 10 resolutions for writers, from setting writing goals to keeping your website fresh to making meaningful connections with other authors. Now let's get productive!
1. Write more.
NaNoWriMo doesn't have to end in November. It’s easy to fall into the habit of only writing a few hundred words every couple of days, or only when you feel like it, or only at three in the morning when a really good idea strikes. Instead, set a weekly goal—whether that’s in words or chapters—that you want to hit. Perhaps it’s only 1,000 words a week, or perhaps you want to knock off a chapter every seven days. Either way, pick a goal and stick to it until you’ve finished your project.
2. Look for marketing opportunities.
Set aside time and funds to pursue marketing for your work. Research social media ads, blog tours, press releases, book trailers, awards (like the IPPYs!), writing contests, and more to see what will work best for you. Dare I say, marketing is more important in the book space than ever before, and being proactive is the best way to get your book into readers’ hands.
3. Read more.
One of the keys to making it as an author is knowing your audience. And what better way to get to know what your audience wants than by reading what they’re reading? Try the following schedule to stay on top of what’s trending and what’s evergreen in your market. (And help boost your Goodreads reading goal!)
- Read one newly published title in your genre.
- Read one New York Times bestseller in your genre.
- Read one older (5+ years) title in your genre.
- Read one New York Times bestseller that has nothing to do with what you’re writing.
4. Make a point of editing.
A manuscript is only as good as its editing. (Yes, said by an editor, but still.) You may have the most amazing story in the world, but the plot gets lost if you have typos or grammar mistakes on every page. Take time to edit your work as you write, and consider hiring a professional copyeditor or proofreader for extra help. You’ll be amazed at the difference even one round of editing can make.
5. Query or publish responsibly.
This resolution goes hand-in-hand with #3. Whether you are sending out queries to agents or self-publishing your book, make sure you’ve chosen the right time and place. Is your manuscript in the best possible shape? Is your web presence and running? Did you pick an agent who has shown interest in your genre? Do you have a strategy for driving sales to your book? The more prepared you are to enter a published space, the better chance you will have for success.
6. Update your website.
Keep the content—and the look—of your website fresh, especially if your website is also the home of your blog. Check up on your website every two weeks and make sure all the information there is up to date. Have an new event? Add it to the list! Received a great review? Show it off! Publishing something new? Let the world know. And if you’re blogging, try to set an extra goal to post regularly. No one likes to see a six-month gap between your latest writings!
7. Be more active on social media.
Like the blog and website goal above, it’s important to maintain your social media presence. Check out the steps below to see how you can be more active on your site(s) of choice.
- Step one: Be ON social media. Pick one or two outlets that suit your interests and the amount of time you can dedicate to posting. Then commit and stay involved!
- Step two: Don’t think of social media as a sales tool. Your followers don’t want to get spammed with “buy my book” posts. They want to get to know the real you. So instead, think of social media as an interaction platform, a place where you can promote your personality in order to promote your book.
- Step three: Go beyond simply liking a post. Connect with your followers by posting open-ended questions, (politely) sharing your opinions, supporting other writers, and making your Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or Pinterest feed interesting and relevant.
8. Get involved locally.
Everyone loves knowing a hometown author! Resolve to make inroads in your local writing community. Make a point of visiting your local libraries and bookstores to build those relationships (and be sure to buy or check out a book!). Join a writing group like SCBWI or RWA in your area, or keep an eye out for writer’s conferences happening near you. When you finish your book, you’ll be glad you created a whole community excited to read your work!
9. Make some writer friends.
No one knows the highs and lows of the writing process like another writer. Try to meet a few people who share your passion for writing, even if you pen YA and they publish non-fiction business books. Having someone to commiserate, edit, brainstorm, or just split a bottle of wine with can making writing—traditionally a rather solitary experience—even more enjoyable.
10. Start something new.
What’s on your writing wish list? Have you always wanted to try your hand at a picture book, or perhaps write an autobiography? Whatever your dream or challenge is, do it. And don’t let the thought of starting on page one worry you—every book ever written began there too.
Jillian Bergsma Manning is a contributing editor for Independent Publisher. She graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in English. She welcomes any questions or comments on her articles at jbergsma (at) bookpublishing.com. Follow her at @LillianJaine.