Open Secret


I’ve spent far more time this past month promoting my last book than working on my next one, which highlights the open secret about writing: successful authors are shameless marketers.

If you aren’t a tireless self-promoter or don’t have an aggressive agent or pushy publisher in your corner, your chances of making a living as a writer are worse than of winning the lottery. (Lottery: a tax on people who are bad at math.) A successful literary career is composed of 50% writing skill, 50% marketing savvy and 50% serendipity. (If you’re good at math you wouldn’t be a writer because you’d figure out how little it pays per hour.)

Knowing how to turn a phrase is not sufficient; you have to be able to attract attention. With ten million books on Amazon, who’s going to hear about yours unless you’re shouting yourself hoarse. And books that make it onto bookstore shelves have less than 60 days to move a respectable number of units or they’re replaced.

But isn’t it enough for a writer just to be published? To see his words in print?

Not for a professional. The initial rush doesn’t last. Selling books is required to support our habit. As Scott Meredith points out in Write to Sell, “All serious artists are interested in money. And that means all great artists, too; take a look someday at Beethoven’s correspondence with the London Philharmonic.”

Lots of talented wordsmiths never make it because they’re uncomfortable blaring their own horns. This is where you, the reader, come in. When you discover a writer you like, lend a helping hand. Share an endorsement on Facebook. Post a review on Amazon. Tweet a recommendation.

And—most important—buy a book.

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