Define Yourself

I have a button (one of those round ones, with a pin on the back, and words on the front) that says, “Among animals it’s eat or be eaten, among humans it’s define, or be defined.” Marketers and politicians have known this to be true for as long as their professions have existed. It’s time for writers to recognize this as well.

By defining the terms you control the discussion.When it comes to your career, you should be the one defining the terms. Dean Wesley Smith wrote a recent post that touched on this. His post was mostly about how indie writers should take the long view, and regard the time they spend building their career as an investment. That, like a biweekly contribution to a retirement fund, the time devoted to writing will only gradually yield growth. This is important for impatient people like me to remember. The message: just keep writing and over time, with the magic of compound interest (in your books) success will grow. He defined writing as an investment.

But Dean also defines other terms. He says:

In the last article in this series, I went on about the difference between an “Author” and a “Writer.”

And in indie publishing, the difference can really, really be seen, with the “Authors” doing nothing but promoting “their book” while the “Writers” just get out to readers what they have written and then move on to writing new stories.

And let me repeat something I said:  It is the “Authors” who are going on and on about what indie “Writers” MUST DO.

And then Dean goes on to say what he thinks writers must do. (Write. A lot.)  My point is not to say “gotcha” to Dean, my point is that he has defined what he believes works, and he is following that path. Part of that path is sharing his definitions with the world, just like the “authors” he defined are doing.

As we must all do for ourselves. We don’t have to share it with the world, but we must figure out our own way amid the clamoring voices that are trying to tell us the “right” way to get our books written and in the hands of readers. We should not accept what an author, or agent, or even a publisher says without critical thought. We must ask ourselves if what they’re asking, or telling us to do, fits with what our vision is for our future. Of course, that means we have to have a vision for our future, even if that vision changes over time.

I sympathize with the desire to find out “the secret” to success. We had that desire in a different form, when we wanted to know how to best phrase our query letters and synopses, so a publisher would buy our latest effort. Now we indies have substituted the desire to know which review blogs to submit to, whether we should use professionally designed covers, and how to manipulate Amazon to get a better ranking and more sales.

The community of writers, and the indie community in particular, is one of the most supportive I’ve ever belonged to. Everyone I’ve talked to is willing to share how they do what they’re doing and give advice. I’ve learned a tremendous amount from authors who generously shared their experience with me.

The problem is, the advice from one source often conflicts with what the next person says. And because the indie environment is so new, there isn’t much available in the way of cold, hard facts. We’re all flying by the seat of our pants, even the ones who sound very sure of themselves. And even if they’re right about something today, next year the market will have changed.

One thing I know “for sure.” It’s that it is possible to stand still waiting to be certain that a particular path is the best. And while you’re waiting, you’re not moving forward. Try something. Don’t wait for “best.” Go with “good for now.” Define your path. It doesn’t have to look like anybody else’s. You can change direction later if you want. Most mistakes aren’t fatal, and all of them can teach. (And keep records so you’ll know if what you’re doing is working.)

How is all this affecting what I’m doing? Well, I have another button. It says, “If you’re going to walk on thin ice, you might as well dance.”

Honestly, I’m just dancing as fast as I can. I’m getting my finished work out, and writing new stuff. I’m having a blast doing it, too. I don’t have much time for more than that. As I said in my last post, I may turn more of my attention to promotion when I have a number of titles for sale, but not until then. And I use the words “author” and “writer” interchangably.



Filed under Publishing, writing

4 responses to “Define Yourself

  1. Good food for thought. I’ve tended to get sidetracked on the marketing side and the writing has definitely slowed down as a result. Good reminder I have to get back to what is important in the long term.

    • Thanks, Anna. It’s hard sometimes to know what the best use of our time is, and I know many choose differently from me. My mind keeps going back to the idea that I’m stocking my store, and the more stock I have, the more customers I’ll attract, and the more I’ll sell. (I hope!) I just wish I wrote faster! 🙂

  2. Thanks for the encouragement. I just got the final edits on my MS done- once I fix things, then formatting, cover art, and no more excuses it goes on the web- I may throw-up just typing this!

    • I know, Alica, indie publishing is both exciting, and nerve-racking, often at the same time! I’m still feeling anxious about whether my current publishing project is ready for prime-time, even though I know it is.

      If you’re hiring out the cover art, start now. It takes a little back and forth before you get exactly what you want. And once you get it, that cover makes it real. I still get a thrill seeing mine.

      Good luck!

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