Ok, it’s time to take stock, tally it up, figure out what went right and wrong. Welcome to the Passion2Profession Top 5 edition for 2017!
Top 5 resources I loved:
- Writing App: Ulysses. If you know me at all, you know I’m a Mac girl all the way, so forgive me for the Mac-centric advice (sorrynotsorry). One thing I’ve learned about the way my brain works in the last few years is this: I don’t do complicated. If it requires a lot of fussy stuff it’ll just confuse me, frustrate me, or bore me (usually all three). I hate Scrivener with the passion of a thousand burning suns, so I always thought MSWord was my only option for a writing app. Then I discovered Ulysses. Yay and hallelujah, baby. It’s not perfect, but it finally enables me to rearrange scenes, view chapters all at once, and switch between documents with ease. It’s much simpler than Scrivener (which is why for people who like lots of complicated bells and whistles it may not work), and for me that’s perfect. Best of all, the fabulous Lauren Layne has recorded an introductory video on how to use it. Find that here:
- Graphics app: Canva. I think everyone on the planet knows about Canva by now, but just in case–get it. It’s free, simple, and allows you to create polished graphics with virtually no graphic ability whatsoever (trust me, I have none). My only advice is to make sure to use it to its full capacities–don’t be afraid to switch out fonts, images, colors, etc. because if you don’t, you can end up with graphics that are obvious boilerplate material.
- Stock Photos: Again, you ALL know about Depositphoto, right? Every year Appsumo has a wicked deal on Depositphoto and we all buy it and then everyone says their photos are everywhere. But here’s the thing, if you’re going to be legit with your business, you NEED to always use licensed images. Whether it’s a picture of a flower for a graphic in your reader group, or manchest for that takeover you’re doing, don’t pirate images y’all. The fantastic thing about having a deal like Depositphoto is you’ll never run out of licensed images for all those little things.
- Social media scheduler: Smarterqueue. I’d never heard of this one until a couple of months ago, but I’m loving it. It allows you to schedule evergreen content–particularly useful for Twitter, which I hate. It also allows you to post to Instagram via your laptop (although I haven’t tried this myself), and lets you categorize your posts so you can track if you’re posting a good mix of things. It’s not cheap, however–$19.99 for four profiles–but honestly, given the poisonous nature of much of social media this day, and my personal struggles with Hootsuite over the last year, I’m happy to pay it.
- Wordcount tracking app: Pacemaker. There are a bazillion ways to track and schedule your writing. I love Pacemaker. It’s free for two projects or “plans” at a time, and allows you to set parameters like whether you want to write more on the weekdays than the weekends, and it will recalculate your words if you fall behind or do extra. If you do decide that you need to have more than two plans running at a time, it’s an $8/mo subscription fee.
Top 5 lessons I learned:
- You can never go wrong building your backlist. The saying “backlist is golden” really is true. I’ve utilized audio rights, foreign rights, and new platforms with my backlist this year, and it’s carried me through a truly dismal fourth quarter on Amazon. Part of the key to this is getting past the “my book is my baby” syndrome. When you become a professional writer you eventually realize that books are not all as precious as we’d like to think. We’ll love some more than others, and readers will too, but ultimately, these books are pieces of a greater portfolio that is there for you to leverage. They’re the contents of your store, and you will move them from shelf to shelf, put them on sale, pull them out of circulation, put them back in again, etc. If you form a deep attachment to every individual book, you can’t make the kinds of decisions you must as a business person. Build your backlist, leverage your backlist, treasure your backlist.
- If it’s working, keep doing it. I don’t want to think about how many times in my career I’ve done something that worked–a marketing approach, a trope, a series–and then didn’t rinse and repeat. Why? Because in my mind I had a “plan” and it meant doing something else right then, or it sounded more interesting to move on to something else, or someone told me a different approach was all the rage. There are a thousand different reasons our easily distracted writer brains can use to do something else. But if what you’re doing is working, keep doing it until it no longer does. Full stop. The things that work in this business are few and far between. Take full advantage of that, y’all. Milk it for all it’s worth.
- BUT, if it’s not working, quit doing it! What’s the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Make 2018 the year you change what isn’t working. There is more than one way to be successful, more than one genre, more than one platform, more than one market, more than one way to advertise, more than one award to win and list to make. If your career isn’t where you want it to be at the end of 2017, if you’re not feeling so passionate about your profession right now, resolve to make a change.
- You be you. It’s so tempting to look around, see what’s working for others and copy, copy, copy. However, while they might be successful, are they you? What works for one writer won’t necessarily work for another. Your work is your own, your voice is your own, your strengths and weaknesses are your own. Only you can find your recipe for success.
- What goes around comes around. When indie authors and ebooks exploded the publishing industry changed. The traditional gatekeepers were tossed aside, and the gates were opened wide. But in 2017 it became abundantly clear that there were still guards at the gates, simply different ones than before. It is now officially just as hard to be successful in publishing as it’s ever been. So if you’re not passionate about this profession you should probably think about doing something else.
Top 5 challenges still to conquer:
- Comparison is the thief of joy, and therefore stop comparing.
- Find your audience. If you’ve found them, build them. If you’ve built them, reward them. Then do it again and again.
- Decide what success means for you, and only you.
- Forge at least one new partnership, because writing is lonely enough, and you need all the friends you can get.
- Use social media instead of having it use you. Social media is a tool, try to do better at making it such.