The gurus tell you to "just do it"...take that "leap of faith" and go for your dreams so you can "live your best life." Yeah, well, the gurus tend to leave out some key bits of information leaving us who have leapt to sometimes fall short and land in ugly heaps on the floor, just narrowly escaping the jaws of death.
Okay, yes, that was a bit dramatic, but I am after all a storyteller; a fiction storyteller at that so my take on things is bound to come out a bit more embellished than usual. What I'm trying to say is, I leapt in April 2021. It is now a year and change later and here are four significant details I'd wish I'd known before I quit my job and went full-time with my writing business.
If You Write It, They Might Not Come
I never for a second, doubted my ability to write a good story. I was confident once my stories were in print and available for sale, my desired readers would flock to my site, buy the books then tell their reader friends how much they loved it which would in turn drive their friends to buy my books, and so on. I had friends who recommended books to me all the time, surely there were others out there who did the same?
Not so much. In fact, quite the opposite. My friends and family have been supportive of my writing in that they may buy a book or two, attend an event or two, may even mention me to one or two of their reader/writer friends. But for the most part, beyond that, they're not the "spread the word" kind of crowd.
At some point, I thought maybe my clients would step in and become my cheerleaders. And again, one or two of them have steadily referred people to me since we worked together but once more, not to the extent where I am inundated with new bookings or sales.
The lack of 'support' from those closest to me made me doubt my calling on more than one occasion. I wish I'd been better prepared to accept the fact that while they may love me, and enjoy my writing, they're not salespeople or automatically on board to be my marketing team. If you have friends and family who will shout your book's availability and quality from the rooftops, then good for you. If you don't, try hard not to be discouraged. There are plenty of reasons they don't, and not all (or any of them) are a reflection of your skills as a writer. This brings me to lesson number 2.
Staying Comfortable is no Longer an Option
Most of the writers I've met who look forward to the writing part of the process are typical introverts. The less time spent with other humans the better. The problem for them, as it was (is) for me, arises when it's time to market the book. I was hoping others would do that for me, for free even, but alas, as you read above, that was not the case.
To this day, I wish my website and social media did the heavy lifting of convincing people to buy my books or book me as a coach, but my experience thus far has proven, that I sell books when I'm talking to people about my writing. I book clients after I've done a workshop. There's no getting around it. I have to be "in public" when it comes to sales. Covid shutdowns and social distancing aside, I've got to create opportunities for me to be in front of the crowd so I can tell them firsthand about my work. Thus, I have to come out of my shell and (gulp) pitch myself as an author, speaker, and workshop facilitator. I've got to sign up to do readings or open mic events. And, my shy friend, so must you. Unless you have an agent, or can afford a public relations firm right off the bat, you're going to need to put yourself out there; pitching to book clubs, submitting workshop proposals, going to (safe) networking events - however you do it, you're going to have to get out of that comfort zone and let the world know you exist. You'll definitely want a nice online presence, but don't let that be the only way people have of learning about you and your books. Speaking of online...
Social Media is a Must (at least for now).
I hate Facebook, have no clue as to how Instagram or Tiktok work. And does anyone still pay attention to Twitter? There are a million other social media platforms out there that the cool kids are using to their advantage and I was bound and determined not to use any of them.
Right up until that fifth or sixth time I had to tell someone, "um, I'm not on Instagram". It became obvious that I was missing out on a huge pool of potential readers (buyers) and clients by not being on one of the hottest social media platforms at the time. Consequently, I sucked it up. After several tutorials from my daughter (bless her millennial heart), I now have an Instagram account, a Facebook page, a Twitter account, and (whew) a YouTube channel. All of which, are in the business of funneling potential customers to my website and events, where I can hopefully show them why they should buy my books and book my services. If you too have a hate-hate relationship with social media, time to get over it. While there's no need to be on all the things, you do need to pick one, preferably the one where the majority of your ideal readers exist, and learn how to use it to your benefit. I'm on several platforms, but the one that is most near and dear to my heart is YouTube. Fortunately, I can create one video for my channel, that then breaks down to a few reels for Instagram thus allowing me to generate multiple posts from one piece of content.
You may have noticed, I'm a one-woman show. I wear all the business hats. I wish I didn't have to and that brings me to my final hard-learned lesson, and that is...
This @#$% is Expensive
It was part of my dream that I'd have "people" to handle the marketing, booking my gigs to do workshops and presentations. There'd be someone to keep track of the bookkeeping and a business manager to make sure everyone was on the same page. Maybe if I'd started this journey with a million dollars, or if I'd kept my day job long enough to pay for those people before I quit, then all would be write...I mean right with the world. I could have indeed quit the day job, then spent my time writing or speaking.
Instead, I'm having to DIY the entirety of my business operations which quite frankly, has greatly reduced the amount of time I have to write. I'm consumed with worry about generating revenue so I spend more time marketing and trying to network than I do actually putting words to page. It's frustrating, to say the least. On top of that, the increased worry takes away from my creativity. The voices of my characters can't be heard over the incessant buzzing the fear of not being able to pay rent this month creates in my brain.
I'm all for keeping overhead as low as possible when you're first starting out as a novelist. You want to spend as little as possible on the front end, so you can maximize your profit on the back. But it may behoove you to set aside a chunk of change to hire a professional to handle at least one aspect of your business operations thus taking one burden off your shoulders. My recommendation would be either marketing or bookkeeping. One should help you earn money, the other, help you manage it so you don't end up bankrupting your dream before it's had a chance to flourish. I wish I had thought about that when I was making my 'leap of faith' plan. I budgeted for six months of living and basic business expenses but not a dime was set aside for anything else.
And there you have it - four things I'd wish I'd known before I quit my job to go full-time in my business.
Thank you so much for stopping by. Leave any notes or questions in the comments. I'll be sure to respond. Meanwhile, as always, sending light and inspiration!