My Speech to Aspiring Writers Everywhere
Posted by Alan Edwards
There’s never been a better time to be a writer. Seriously.
Imagine being back in the Middle Ages. If you had a story you wanted to write down and share to the world, you’d have to join a monastery, learn how to read and write, spend the next 30 years of your life transcribing the Bible, sneak small bits of paper into your monastic cell so that you could scratch your tale furtively by the light of the one candle you’re allotted per month. You might finish it before you’ve gone blind, only to discover that no one could read it except your fellow monks, at which point you get burned at the stake for heresy or witchcraft or Overwarm Genitals or whatever else was a burnin’ offense back then. Oh, and if you’re female, then I am fairly certain expressing the desire to learn to write to begin with was grounds for getting burnt as a witch right off the bat. Not a good time to be a writer.
OK, how about after the printing press was invented? Similar problems, although the rooms are probably a little nicer. Unless you’re from a noble family, or rich parentage, chances aren’t very good that you can read or write well enough to have the idea even enter your head. Writing materials are expensive, let alone the cost of binding and printing and blah blah blah. There are exceptions, but you have more of a chance of making millions of dollars in the NFL today than you had of making money as a writer back then.
How about the Post World War II world? Still not a great time. Unless you had connections or money or both, getting published was a difficult proposition. The Great Publishing Houses stood strong, firm in the belief that unless they nodded imperceptibly over a work, then said work was rubbish and unreadable. You could go through the route of self-publishing, if you wanted to be laughed off as a vain and foolish person afflicted with The Vapours (wait, I think that was the Victorian era again. Nevermind). That is, if you had a considerable amount of money to spend getting the books printed and warehoused, all expenses paid up front, and were ready to try to sell your book door to door alongside toasters and Tupperware. Again – bad time to be an aspiring writer.
But today – oh, my friend, about today.
It’s the Digital Age! Internet! Global communication! Flying cars! (You know, we were promised flying cars by now. Someone needs to get on this) What does this mean to you, oh aspiring writer whose prose doth drippeth with the profoundest ruminations on the condition of the human spirit since man put paint to cave?
For about, say, 50 bucks, you could write and publish your novel and make it available around the world in a variety of formats, from traditional paper to new-fangled eBook formats. The kids with their skateboards and iPads and pants all loose and droopin’ at the butt that won’t stay off your lawn can buy your book with a few taps of a finger. The money you make is transmitted to your account electronically. For a little bit more cash, you can get a professional, eye-catching cover done by an artist like you, working not for a major studio but for himself, crafting unique visions of art brought to life by your own unique vision. It’s like The Circle of Independent Artists, wrapped in a huggy, feel-good world of capitalistic symbiosis.
And you’ve got the whole wide Internet at your fingertips. Forget sitting in some dumpy, ill-lit chain bookstore behind a table surrounded by stacks of books containing your masterpiece while a long queue of eager customers – waiting for the breathless moment of touching your hand as you scribe a witty bon-mot inside your work just for them – completely fails to form at all while the fellow who sweeps the floor picks his nose and tells you about all the people who were there for the other author that was in last week. You don’t have to do that anymore, unless you’re a masochist or, better, a hermit, since a book-signing or -reading is often the best place to be perfectly alone.
Forget all that.
Now, every fan who’s ever read a line of your work can find you on the Internet, if you’re savvy enough to know how to type and click. There is a multitude of free information available for you, the Aspiring Writer eager to share your words, about how to market your work and connect with people who will want to read your book. You can trust me on this, since the people who provide the advice are all better writers than I am. Here is the tip of the iceberg: start here and begin delving:
- L. M. Stull: She provides all manner of practical advice for using sites like Twitter and Facebook to market and connect, and more importantly, she teaches you how not to be the obnoxious asshat who does nothing but post links to their work.
- Katie Salidas: Another indie writer who goes out of her way to provide helpful and practical advice on everything from where to find cover art to how to market your work.
- Joe Konrath: An inspiration for a lot of independent authors and a success story. If you wonder if you can even be a success as a self-published author, read his site. So much material about marketing and publishing, all for free.
I mean it when I say this is the barest tip of the iceberg. My advice to you (which I hate giving, but I will here because I believe in it 100%) is to go to Twitter, create an account if you haven’t already, and follow L. M. Stull (@LMStull) and Katie Salidas (@QuixoticKatie). Follow the people they follow. Read the articles they link. You won’t be disappointed, I promise.
Beyond Twitter and Facebook are writing groups, all over the internet, like IndieHorror and a host of others. You can find people who write and are interested in the niche genre you prefer, people who are willing to critique and review your works and engage in discussions about literary devices and mood and trade fart jokes. You can help those people, and in turn they will help you. It’s like a hippie commune with showers.
And you can do all of this sitting at your table. No joining a monastery, or hoping for a rich daddy, or sucking up to agents, or getting stuck with a local writing group comprised of the guy who writes fan fiction about the online role-playing game he stopped playing two years ago and the old woman who writes prim romances where the lovers kiss each other chastely on the lips before retiring to their separate bedrooms in far-flung wings of their mansion. You can do all this WITHOUT WEARING PANTS. I’d recommend a padded seat, though.
Trust me. You can get published and make money selling your book. You can meet extraordinary people all over the world. You can be a success at writing, and that is a pride and joy and feeling like nothing else in the world. Take it from me, the guy that used to write fan-fiction about the online role-playing game he stopped playing two years ago.
You got this.