Everyone’s always trying to get to the top of the game in whatever they’re doing with the least amount of work possible. It’s human nature. We all want to be the top-top of whatever we’re doing, and more importantly we want to do that fast.
I get approached for writing advice and marketing advice on a daily basis now, which is great, it means people perceive what I’m doing on both fronts is working and valuable.
But a lot of people who approach me for this also think I have a magical secret to getting all this done like I popped out of thin air and had a great success. My debut novel did very well, my follow up did equally well even though it’s in a nichier sub-genre, it’s only been one year in the business, right?
That’s where they’re wrong.
I’ve been writing since i was 18. Though I didn’t put professional attention to it until about 2014, and didn’t really even put good hobby time attention to it until about 2010, I’d always thought about it, it’s always been a part of my routine in some way. In 2014 I really started putting work hours into it. I didn’t come out of nowhere. I managed a web-comic and its content traffic for 3 years, I did weekly fiction for the Doomtown: Reloaded card game. There’s always been work involved, it wasn’t write one novel and go.
There’s truth to the concept of having to put 10,000 hours into something to become a professional at the work. Or 1,000,000 pages written as is said in the writing genre. Some people move a little faster or a little slower in the learning, the clicking as to what works and what doesn’t, but for the most part, this holds true. And it’ll take you at least a couple of years to put in that many hours for the product to really show the results. You should see what my editors tell me about my new books coming down the pipeline vs. my older writing. It’s a big change positively, and it’s because I understand what I’m doing to a much higher degree than I used to. The only way around it was to put in a lot of hours.
It goes the same for editing. The Stars Entwined, which is releasing March 20th, was actually the first book I wrote. I originally took an editing course How To Revise Your Novel by Holly Lisle before engaging in my first edit of this book back in 2012, which offers some good systems for looking at your work. When I edited the first time, I didn’t know what i was doing, I thought it was fine. I brought it before several people. They told me (politely) that it was trash. And it was. The concept was a good one, but the story and prose weren’t there on a lot of levels. I significantly rewrote it again in 2014 and changed the world significantly before setting it aside to work on another book. Working on a second book actually helped me look at this book fresh. And by the time I’d actually gotten to rewriting The Stars Entwined again, I’d edited 3 other books already in addition to the work I’d put into this. I had to gain the understanding in craft in order to make this work. This 2017 version is now in my opinion my best work to date. But those hours, those pages all had to be there for the story to be this epic and this clean.
It’s the same for marketing. I’m good at going viral, and getting people to pay attention to my work. Part of it was a little bit of luck. Part of it was cultivating friendships of people like Todd McCaffrey, Vox Day, Robert Kroese, Nick Cole, John C. Wright and others to talk about me and promote me and give me the leg up. But part of it’s producing content on a daily basis, always putting myself out there, growing the back end and making sure I understand all the 4 Ps of marketing. I’m not just screwing around on Twitter all day and selling lots of books.
I’m a big multi-tasker. So while I’m firing off a quick tweet, I’m usually doing something else more constructive along with it. But I’ve put the kind of background work into marketing — even moreso than I have into writing. I’ve done marketing work in day jobs, I studied at the Haas School of Business, a top 10 business school in the whole country. Business and Marketing I’m more of an expert in by writing because I’ve put so many more thousand hours into it. And that’s why it shows.
But you don’t have to have these backgrounds to put in the work. Research marketing courses that are effective. Do more than just ask questions, engage in it, treat your work like a business. Track sales, see what works and gets engagement and what doesn’t. You’ll have a lot of trial and error — and you will in your writing too — but once you get around that 10,000 hour mark in the work, you’ll know what you’re doing.
If you like my thoughts on the industry and how to succeed, you’ll probably like my fiction writing too. Check out For Steam And Country, the book that keeps selling because it’s so much fun.