by Will Viharo
The common complaint amongst “purists” and traditionalists in the publishing industry these days is that virtually anyone can upload a bunch of words strung randomly together, placing it instantly on the global Internet marketplace alongside established literary lions like Stephen King and J.K. Rowling, and consider themselves a “published author.”
But will anyone else consider them an actual author? That’s a matter of personal perspective, frankly. But there are ways to positively influence one’s public perception and professional reputation.
Earning respect and credibility amongst both your peers and the public is one of the toughest challenges any indie author will ever face, and it’s linked directly to the most difficult issue every author pursuing a “legitimate” career must surmount: generating sales.
While it’s true “anyone” with Internet access can self-publish a book of any length or quality, regardless of his or her experience, background or agenda, not anyone can be a true writer. Just like belting out tunes in the shower doesn’t make one a true “singer.”
Here are three “checkpoints” to consider reaching before boasting about your self-designated professional status to either friends or strangers. These matter whether or not you're actually making a living (yet) with your chosen craft, an often unrealistic standard that only those who haven’t actually pursued writing believe to be a fair barometer of “success.”
Make Sure Your Books Are Professionally Edited and Designed
The flip side of being essentially your own “boss,” without a staff or payroll to worry about, is that you are solely responsible for the quality of all content you produce and promote with your “brand name” attached. This may mean some out of pocket expenses to get your business up and running properly, including hiring freelance editors, cover artists, interior designers etc. to ensure your book can stand up to scrutiny.
Many digital publishing platforms offer these services, and if you lack confidence in your abilities – and trust me, spotting all of one’s own typos is pretty much impossible – you may need to take advantage of them if you truly desire the most pristine presentation of your work possible outside of a major contract deal.
Build a Solid Social Network
Whether you’re published by a small press, large corporation, or yourself, you will probably need to do much if not all of your promotions, including setting up live readings, arranging reviews and interviews, and generally keeping your book in the spotlight as long as possible, extending its viability and “shelf life” indefinitely. As long as there are people out there who aren’t even aware of your book’s existence – and that’s likely the vast majority of the literate population – you have opportunities to introduce your work as brand new, even if it’s been languishing on the marketplace for a while.
The best way to both launch and keep your book “in orbit” is by maintaining a strong presence across several social media platforms, all of which should be as inviting and “slick” in appearance as your books.
They should also be routinely employed to share links to reviews, interviews, public appearances etc. It’s very important to sustain visibility, especially when competition for reader’s attention has never been more intense.
An informative and constantly updated website/Facebook page/Twitter account gives the impression of an author that is dedicated and engaged. The higher your profile as an author, the more seriously you’ll be taken by consumers and critics alike.
Lastly, you know you’re a “real” writer if you spend a lot of your spare time actually writing. Writers don’t just talk about writing. Writers don’t just aspire to write. Writers actually sit down and write. For hours, days, years. And then they rewrite. That’s the best way to hone your storytelling and compositional skills, via proactive experience, in addition to formal education or research.
Also, besides just relying on self-publishing, where you don’t have to answer to anyone but your audience (one of its main attractions to both amateurs and veterans), you really should try submitting at least some of your work to publishers. Frankly, self-publishing can be as much of a crutch as it is a revolutionary tool, insulating one from the outside world in ways that can be detrimental to one’s creative growth. And if you don’t endure any growing pains, that means you’re not realizing your own potential.
Rejection not only highlights possible weaknesses (especially if you keep hearing the same negative feedback from totally different sources), but circulating your work to experienced editors and publishers helps strengthen character and ultimately gives you confidence and resolve.
Not just in your work. In yourself.
Because in the end, that’s the only person you have to prove yourself to. If you believe you’re a “real” writer, that faith and conviction will eventually prove contagious.
What are some other ways you define authenticity as an author?
PHOTO: DREW COFFMAN