Saturday, August 2, 2014

Do You Treat Your Writing as a Career?

Copyright © 2013 Jami Davenport
Originally published by 1st Turning Point

Writing is a Job, Not a Hobby.
How many times have you heard a brand-new author say: I have a book coming out today.  Do I need a website?  Do I need a blog?  How do I promote my book?  What’s Twitter?  Facebook? Etc. I shake my head in amazement.  The book is already out there, and they’ve done nothing ahead of time to prepare for their career as a professional writer.  That floors me.
How about the newly contracted author who just received her first round of edits?  They’re brutal and she’s shocked.  She’s never heard or POV, active vs. passive, telling vs. showing?  Again, I’m shaking my head.  Is it the editor’s responsibility to teach craft to an author, even if the publisher chooses to offer a contract to a new author unaware of craft basics?  While I say shame on the publisher for contracting authors not quite ready to be published, ultimately, it’s on the author to learn their craft. 
What about the self-published author who publishes a book full or grammatical, spelling, and continuity errors? She thought the book was perfect and is surprised when reviewer lambast her lack of professionalism.
Picture this:  A new hire for an accounting firm walks into the office on his first day of work and announces he doesn’t know the difference between a debit and a credit.  A computer technician tells you he doesn’t know how to operate a PC.  A bartender doesn’t know how to mix drinks.  A car mechanic doesn’t know how to change the oil in a car.
All of these are examples of a person hired to do a job that requires a certain level of expertise, yet they don’t possess the expertise.
As a published author or aspiring author, why wouldn’t you treat your writing as you would any other career choice?  I’m not referring to the hobbyist who writes for personal enjoyment, but the aspiring author (and possibly published author) intending to make a career out of writing.
If you accept money in exchange for your books or sign a contract with a publisher, you are a professional writer.  You should behave like any professional, even if you do get to wear your jammies to work in the comfort of your own home.  Your editor, agent, and the publisher’s administrative staff expect professionalism. Most ofyou’re your readers expect it. Yet many writers, especially newbies, do not behave in a professional manner; do not take responsibility for knowing the basic aspects of their chosen career.
Educating yourself takes time, but it goes with the territory.  The authors who survive in this brave new publishing world will treat their writing as a business.  They write on a regular basis.  They accept constructive criticism from trusted sources.  They maintain an up-to-date website, possibly a blog, Twitter, and Facebook.  They continually improve their plotting methods and knowledge of craft through interaction with other writers.
Yes, you do have to start somewhere.  For romance writers, that somewhere is RWA (Romance Writers of America) or another similar writing organizations. I learned craft from RWA chapter workshops and presenters, not to mention conferences, and I’m still learning.  Many of the authors I mentioned above have never heard of RWA.
Regardless of how you get your book out there, this profession requires that you improve and put out a better product with each book you publish.  Your readers will demand it, or they will walk away and never look back. You make an unspoken promise to your readers when you publish a book and they put down hard-earned money for it. That promise is that you’ve made this the best book you can, either by contracting with a reputable publisher or hiring the best support staff you can afford. 
Here are some of my requirements for a person at the entry-level stages of being a professional author.
A professional author:
Has a polished website which is easy to navigate.
Understands the basics in craft, plotting, conflict, motivation, and characterization.
Welcomes constructive criticism from trusted sources.
Belongs to and attends a writers’ group, even if it’s online.
Strives to improve their craft and knowledge of the profession.
Understands promotion basics.
Researches their books and makes them as accurate as possible.
Sets aside time to write on a regular basis.
Takes risks by putting themselves and their work out there.
Stays abreast of current publishing trends.
Avoids gossip and knows that publishing is an amazingly small community.
Writing a book might be done in a vacuum, but the publishing end of the business cannot be performed in a vacuum.  You owe it to yourself to be as educated as possible in your profession and treat it as you would any other profession.
Would anyone like to add any other points to my above list?

An advocate of happy endings, Jami writes sexy romantic comedy, sports hero romances, and equestrian fiction. Jami lives on a small farm near Puget Sound with her Green Beret-turned-plumber husband, a Newfoundland cross with a tennis ball fetish, a prince disguised as an orange tabby cat, and an opinionated Hanoverian mare.
Jami works in IT for her day job and is a former high school business teacher and dressage rider. In her spare time, she maintains her small farm and socializes whenever the opportunity presents itself. An avid boater, Jami has spent countless hours in the San Juan Islands, a common setting in her books. In her opinion, it is the most beautiful place on earth. 

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