Once, many years ago, I had an employer who sent me to a Seven Habits of Highly Effective People seminar. I’m not much of a seminar person, but I did find a lot of the advice to be pretty valuable, particularly the habit that says you have to take time out now and then to have fun and recharge your battery. But that’s a whole other blog post.
The thing that impressed me the most was how many people were in attendance at the seminar. Not only that, I have heard of a huge number of folks who have read the book or attended the seminars. What could be so fascinating about this common sense advice?
Well, the answer is obvious, really. People want to know how the Highly Effective People do things. That’s why there are a slew of articles online about what successful people do with their mornings and with their weekends. I recently adopted one of the habits suggested by an article like that: waking up extra early to get in a good hour or so of writing before the day starts. Because apparently successful people get more done before breakfast than a lot of people do all day.
Another piece of advice I was given, in cosmetology school of all places, fits right in to this concept. We were learning about best practices for interacting with clients. My teacher, Ms. Dawn, asked a question along the lines of “What do you do if a client comes in and asks you to do full highlights with lowlight tints and then a layered haircut and you have absolutely no idea how to start because you just graduated from beauty school?”
After a few wide-eyed moments of silence in which we all prayed that we would never run into a client like that she answered, “You tell her ‘Yes, ma’am, whatever you want’ and you smile and hold your head up like you know exactly what you’re doing. If you need to panic and ask one of your coworkers for help, then go right ahead … in the back room. But when you’re face-to-face with that client you pretend like you’ve been doing hair all your life and what she wants is child’s play. You fake it ‘til you make it.”
Yep. Fake it ‘til you make it. Better advice is rarely spoken. And yet so few people follow it. Particularly in the brand new, wide open world of publishing.
I sometimes wish that I could get feisty and fiery Ms. Dawn to give a class to writers about how to deport yourself as you begin your career. I see a lot of people out there, myself included sometimes, who act like a newbie fresh out of cosmetology school, cutting hair at Wal-Mart (which I did, by the way, not gonna lie). Too many of us have “Amateur” written all over us as we venture out to try to make a name for ourselves.
I’ll spare you the laundry list of wince-worthy things we do. I think we can all name a few. *cough* spam posting *cough* What I would like to focus on instead is how we can fake it ‘til we make it. This all goes back to the concept behind Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and all those articles about the way successful people do things.
I personally believe that it’s crucial for us, as new, emerging authors, to study the way that long-established, best-selling authors deport themselves online. I think you’ll find that there are a lot of clear, easy to identify things that they do (or don’t do) that we need to emulate.
First and most important, they maintain an online presence. I have a huge amount of respect for NY times bestselling Historical Romance novelist Eloisa James. And I would definitely list her in the top five of the genre. She is very active on Facebook. Yes, some of the posts she puts up are promotional, but many of those are for her friends’ and colleagues’ books. However, a ton of her posts are personal and reader-oriented. She creates discussions with her fans, asks their opinions, and lets them know when exciting things are happening. She also occasionally offers giveaways. I like her!
Lesson: Maintain an active, positive, reader-oriented presence on Facebook and other social media outlets.
Another writer who I admire the heck out of, even though I have no interest in his genre (horror) whatsoever is Jonathan Maberry. I’m lucky enough to have interacted with Jonathan many times, as he is a fellow Philadelphian. Jonathan is passionate about the concept of projecting positivity as a writer. He believes in going the distance to help fellow writers, in opening a mutually beneficial discussion between writers of all levels that is absolutely free of negativity. This includes never, ever bashing another writer or their work, in public or in private. As Jonathan says, play nice because you never know who you’re going to want to or need to work with in the future.
I believe it was also Jonathan (and so many other established writers) who made the statement that you should never, ever respond to a negative review on Amazon or any other forums. In fact, a lot of successful writers I know recommend never responding directly to any reviews on forums like Amazon. It’s not an appropriate space for that kind of a response. This might rub some people the wrong way, but it’s the truth. Go take a look. How many top-tier writers respond to their Amazon reviews? We want to emulate what they do.
Lesson: Be nice. Project positivity and graciousness, even if you want to bash someone’s nose in for leaving you a rotten review.
Finally, and maybe most important of all, in this fast-paced modern world of instant book downloads and near-instant publishing, we tend to forget that up until last year or so it would take as long as two years for a book to go from contract to published. What were the authors doing in that time? They were working with professional editors to hone and perfect their manuscript. They were setting aside their ego and doing what needed to be done to bring the most complete, meticulously crafted story to market as possible.
I hate to say it, but this is a step that a lot of people excuse away in their process of self-publishing. You simply cannot cut corners when it comes to professional manuscript editing. Because these days it seems like the number one most viciously flaunted mistake that reviewers like to eviscerate self-published authors for is poor editing. Personally, I think modern reviewers are far, far harsher on self-published authors than they are on traditionally published authors for formatting, spelling, and grammar errors when we all know that so many traditionally published books are rife with editing warts. Fair or not, it’s what people like to pick on.
Lesson: Have your book professionally edited. Period.
I’m sure there are a ton of other habits and practices of the top five percent of authors that we could list and talk about. (Leave a comment and let me know what they are!) The point is that if you want to be a professional, respected, successful author you have to adopt the habits of a professional, respected, successful author. You have to fake it ‘til you make it.