In this day and age, writers really need to be a jack of all trades. In the days of yore, we could get away with just having to write a book, send it to a publisher or agent and repeat until you retire. That’s not the case anymore and I, for one, think that’s a good thing. There are few key points that we need to grasp in order to have a chance at becoming successful. I haven’t even started the main point and I’m already going to say that all of this is secondary. The number one thing you need as a writer is a good book. But all the other stuff can help turn a good book into a good career.
This isn’t just understanding how to post on them or which ones are popular at the moment. To get the most out of social media you need to have at least a basic understanding of how their algorithms work. Which is incredibly challenging when none of the social media companies will tell anyone how their algorithm works. Google has said before that they can’t because they don’t know. As more and more of these companies move towards machine learning and AI, the algorithms that power the entire network is designed and controlled by a machine. Having said that, understanding what types of content the different places favour will help make your life a bit easier. Generally speaking though, all social media companies favour content over anything else. Posting is key. The more you post the more they’ll show your content to people. Unless you post too much and then they think you’re spam. Social media is a can of worms that is beyond the scope of this essay, but understanding the basic principles of how they work will help you a great deal. Plus, there are countless tools, a lot of which are free, that will help you manage your various accounts.
You need to be able to market your book yourself because the publisher isn’t going to do it for you, most likely. Now, publishers don’t expect you to invest thousands and thousands on this and get adverts in magazines or on TV. What they will expect you to do is the low-level marketing stuff yourself. Your social media campaigns, appearing at local events and assorted writing-based events. If you have an agent they, or your publisher, may be able to help with these aspects but the onus is definitely going to be on you and marketing isn’t straight forward and is definitely something you will have to learn if you haven’t been involved with it before.
Having a basic understanding of the law for the professional field you’re involved with is generally a good idea but there are a lot of laws involved with the creative industry that aren’t commonplace in the rest of the world. Copyright and Trademark laws being the main two that having a decent understanding of will be beneficial. Can I use a brand name in my writing? Can I use this nursery rhyme? If you have an agent and/or publisher they’ll pick up on these things and tell you to take them out if you can’t use something. If you’re approaching agents and you’re using song lyrics you’re not even going to get a response back from them, generally speaking. It’s not worth the hassle for them. It’s even worse if you’re self-publishing. It’s not uncommon to see people’s entire Amazon accounts shut down because they published something they shouldn’t have. Plus, with all the different ways you can advertise your products – blogs, vlogs, social media etc – understanding the law and what you can post on their will solve you a lot of hassle further down the line.
Getting a grasp of the non-writing based skills needed to be a writer these days can be a daunting task but there are a lot of resources out there that can give you a basic understanding quite easily. But, please, be careful where you get your information from – especially when it comes to the law. The amount of people online who say that you can steal someone else’s work by asserting that you don’t own it is astounding, or putting a footnote to say I tried to find who owned this picture but couldn’t, so I used it anyway. Don’t be one of those people.
© 2020 David Chitty
Available under the Thanet Writers Education Policy
David Chitty was born and raised in Thanet in the 90s. He devotes most of his energies to writing fantasy fiction novels.