Monday, October 6, 2014

What 'Doing it Right' Looks Like

This weekend one of my writerly friends held her first-ever book signing. It is an important milestone for any writer, but especially for an indie author who is doing it without the support of a publisher with deep pockets.

Seeing my friend achieving her goals is inspiring to someone like me, still firmly lodged in the 'aspiring' category. It got me thinking about which other writers make me feel the same way, which lead to the question, are there any common factors in their success that I (and you, dear reader) might learn from?

The answer is yes, and I would like to share what I think those factors are. But first, let me introduce you to the writers in question. They are the friend I just mentioned, Lacey Dearie, as well as Mysti Parker, and Shirley E. Watson (Clicking on their names will take you to their Amazon author pages).

"A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom."—Roald Dahl

These writers are a diverse bunch. All write in different genres, have different writing styles, and, I would imagine, different career goals. One is retired, the other two are raising young families. One of these authors resides in Europe. Of the two Americans, one is native-born, the other a naturalized citizen. What ties them together is I consider all three to fit my definition of what life as a successful indie author looks like. Namely, they all publish regularly, take their craft seriously, and all earn an income from their writing.

I should pause here to note, I have no knowledge or information as to the particulars of how much these writers earn from their work, nor is knowing how much they earn necessary for me to label them successful. Rather, for the purposes of this article I'm assuming success for an indie author is the same as for any other artist, where there is an upwards career arc over time as the artist's body of work grows, matures, and develops a following.

So is there any other commonality between these writers? Is there a pattern in their career paths that might point us to the root of their success? I believe there is.

"The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair" - Mary Heaton Vorse.

There is one important characteristic that these ladies share that seems very simple, but actually eludes quite a few people. It is why, in fact, so many writers never transition from 'aspiring' to 'published.' What is this mystery quality? It is simply this: discipline. These ladies write, if not daily, then close to it. For all of them, writing is as much of a priority as paying the mortgage, and as routine as doing laundry.

"A great deal of talent is lost to the world for want of a little courage." —Sidney Smith

In order to be a writer, one must write. Similarly, if one wishes to be an author, one must publish, which can't happen if one hasn't written. Sounds like it should be obvious, yes? Well, you might be surprised to find how many people spend copious amounts of time studying writing, or talking about about writing, but never actually write. It is an easy trap to fall into, and a convenient way to avoid the fear of failure that haunts so many writers.

This brings us to the next important quality these three ladies share, the courage to put their work out in the world. Believe me, this isn't easy. The reading public can be very critical, and very nasty. I know at least one of these authors, an excellent writer, has been attacked by trolls who consider it sport to bash indie authors just because they can. Did she give up? No. In fact, she made mincemeat out of them, and encouraged others to stand up to them as well. And then she kept right on writing, and publishing. That, my friends, is what courage looks like.

“If you have knowledge, let others light their candles with it.” –Winston Churchill

Last, but not least, the writers I've mentioned all do one other thing that I believe is a hallmark of success in the indie arena. All three give back to other writers. They don't view another author's success as a threat to their own, in fact, they welcome it. This is important, because the world of independent publishing can only measure its worth by the quality of the work being published, so it behooves all indie authors to help each other be the best they can be.

To this end, both Lacey and Mysti blog about writing and showcase other writers on their blogs. Mysti also mentors developing writers at Writers Village University.  Shirley focuses her mentoring efforts on immediate family, (yours truly included. Disclaimer: Shirley is my mom). She regularly bases characters in her stories on her grandchildren, much to their delight.  She has co-published a book of adventure stories with grandson, Zachary Watson Hall, while Granddaughters Allison and Stephanie are about to embark on their second NaNoWriMo in the Young Writers division, thanks to Grandma's influence.

“I can’t write without a reader. It’s precisely like a kiss—you can’t do it alone.”― John Cheever

There is one final, critical element in the success of any independent author, and it is you, dear reader. Yes, you. You have the power--a super-power some might even call it--to help advance the careers of the independent authors you enjoy reading. Whenever you write a review, share which indie authors you're reading on social media, or sign-up to follow an indie authors blog, you help them expand their circle of influence just a bit wider. So don't just think of yourself as a reader, consider yourself a patron of the arts, and make it your duty to help bring the best and the brightest in independent publishing to the attention of others.

You can start right now with a visit to these writers' Amazon pages, as well as their blogs and websites. I've included links throughout the text, but here they are again for your convenience.

Visit Lacey's blog, or buy her books on Amazon.*

Visit Mytsi's website, or buy her books on Amazon.*

Visit Shirley's blog, or buy her books on Amazon.*

*To learn what other e-book formats are available, please contact the authors directly through their websites.

Want to know how my writer's journey began? Read my inner narrator tells the tale.

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