Friday, November 8, 2013

Making a Living as a Writer: Invaluable Tips from the MacGregor Literary Marketing Seminar

Okay, so last weekend I had the privilege of attending the annual MacLit Marketing seminar in Chicago. It was one day packet full of invaluable and applicable wisdom and I’ll do my best to post the highlights of my takeaway.

If you want to make money as a writer, view your writing as a job, not just a hobby. 

Chip provided an example of a famous writer, I believe it was Cec Murphy, ((CORRECTION: TOM WOLFE)) who literally woke up early every day, put on a three piece suit, left his house, walked to the end of the drive way, turned around, went back inside and sat in his office to write. He would break for lunch and end at the same time every day. It was a priority. It was his job. And he took it seriously. He didn’t just lounge around in his jammies and wait for inspiration to strike. (How many of you know how well that works out!) But he put action to his dreams. Now it doesn’t have to be this regimented, especially for those who require less discipline. But this illustration really resonated with me. Whether part-time or full-time, give your craft the dedication it needs to thrive.

Start a writing calendar and a writing budget calendar.

Stay on track, establish a routine. In other words, be intentional. Make a plan. Which days can you dedicate to writing, which hours? If you think you’ll just fit it in, you’ll lose ground. And for the budget, if your goal is to make X amount of dollars a year to justify your time spent writing, how many books do you need to write that year to achieve that goal? How many months does it take you to write that book? Crunch the numbers. If you can assign a dollar amount to your weeks or even hours, you’ll start to see the value of your words and the time spent hunched over your art. And your progress will translate into building a career and a livelihood, not just penning a nice story in your spare time.

Determine your definition of success.

We don’t (and won’t) all need to be New York Time Bestsellers to reach our goals in writing. Our stories
can make an impact on a smaller scale and still serve their purpose. In order to gauge if you are making it as a writer, first decide what it is you need to accomplish to be a success. Maybe you just want to get published. Stay published. Maybe you’d like to hit a certain marker financially, or be able to quit your day job. If it’s not about money, what will help you feel successful in your endeavor? Defining this for yourself can make all the difference in how you view your writing. Your worth. And the cost of your time away from your family and other responsibilities.

No one can market your book like YOU can!

Dedicate two half days a week (dispersed however you like) on marketing. Even before you have a book that might mean blogging, social media interactions (be careful with this one—time suck), researching your audience and where you can reach them, doing reviews, or guest posts ect. The days of the reclusive writer holing up in a lakeside cabin and cranking out bestsellers are gone. With the internet and all the social media connection it is easier than ever to reach your readership. Easier than ever to find your target market. Do the leg work. Pound the pavement. It will pay off.

Have a three-legged stool.

If you want writing to be your bread and butter try to have several sources of writing income. For example, in addition to writing your trade length novels, self-publish some novellas that branch off from your stories. Write articles. Visit blogs. The smartest way to make a living with this is to broaden your horizons and have multiple sources of income. Put it on your budget calendar. You get your quarterly advance, you’ll make say...roughly $300 for each article you put out, how much more do you need to sustain a living? Crank out those extra e-books to bridge the gap. Provide an editing service. Schedule a speaking engagement. Get creative. We know it’s in there!

Okay, so those are a few nibbles to get you started. I know it sounds busy, but as much as we have agents helping us plan our careers, and we are at the mercy of the publishers to see our potential, YOU have the power to make or break your success. Decide what your goals are and ….Get crackin’!

Check out Chip's blog for other great tips! here

What marketing ventures have proven successful for you? And how do you measure success in your writing, or in life?

Amy Leigh Simpson writes Romantic Suspense that is heavy on the romance, unapologetically honest, laced with sass and humor, and full of the unfathomable Grace of God. She is the completely sleep deprived mama to two little tow-headed mischief makers and wife to her very own swoon-worthy hero. Represented by the oh-so-wise and dashing Chip MacGregor of MacGregor Literary Inc.


Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Great post, Amy! I've been guilty of waiting on inspiration, instead of pushing through and treating it like a job. Sometimes the muse doesn't show, so you have to just "do it".

Krista Phillips said...

Such good information!!! I came into this writing thing thinking I'd totally ROCK at treating it like a job. I'm a numbers person, totally analytical, and was raring to go. But the reality was much less like that! My creative side of my brain does NOT play nice with my analytical, so I usually seperate the two, otherwise they fight. A lot. But then I've found that my creative side goes WILD when I write, and my other side is quiet. And when I'm working on my non-writing job... my analytical side is ON THE BALL but my creative side is away pouting.

I think I need to tell them to play nice in the sandbox so they can work TOGETHER!!

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Morning girls! Oh, I think we are all guilty of the "waiting on inspiration" excuse. But I also notice when I sit down and strap in for a few hours the words loosen up and the my creativity starts to flow. Sometimes it takes longer than others to start that thawing process, but well, like Rachel Hauck says, "Butt in seat." :)

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

And I think some people don't do the leg work on marketing because they see it as this insurmountable task, and they don't grasp how they can start small and practical... and slowly build. The seminar was packed full of useful tips! I might have to write another post!

Gabrielle Meyer said...

Great tips and pointers! I'm reading this at 9:23 am, still in my pajamas. :) It made me think and try to figure out ways to put some of this into practice. Thanks for the post.

Gabrielle Meyer said...

Great tips and pointers! I'm reading this at 9:23 am, still in my pajamas. :) It made me think and try to figure out ways to put some of this into practice. Thanks for the post.

Anonymous said...

Great post Amy! I will try to help as much as I can with those lovable tots:)

Jeanne Takenaka said...

This is fabulous, Amy! I need to re-establish the early morning habit of writing. This, of course, requires getting to bed earlier, but I'm so much more productive when I get up early to write. I've been very unfocused for the past couple months. I'm coming back to this post to remember where my head needs to be in this journey.


Unknown said...

The author I mentioned (who got up each morning and put on a suit to "go to work") was Tom Wolfe, author of The Right Stuff, The Man in Full, Bonfire of the Vanities, etc.

Cecil Murphey is a good friend, but I doubt he owns a suit. -Chip MacGregor

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

You mean most people change out of their pj's before noon? ;) Trust me, Gabe, I need to work on this too! The writing schedule is so hard with little ones.

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

I go through periods of time like that too, Jeanne... especially when I just finished a project. I take a few weeks/month to recover and refocus. And READ a lot!!! To make up for lost time. We don't want to burn out but we do need some sort of focus and schedule. It will help us achieve our goals in the long run! Thanks for stopping by, always :)

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

(Wincing) Oops! Tom Wolfe! My bad :/ Must take better notes and not rely so heavily on my mommy-memory.

Thanks for the great information last weekend, Chip! I feel like I've only just scratched the surface here.

Ashley Clark said...

LOVE this post, Amy! I especially needed to hear the part about discipline yourself to write in routine! I've been guilty of the jammies thing! HA!

Unknown said...

Thanks for taking good notes for us, Amy. This is the decision I came to earlier this year: I will treat this like a real job (or career). I'll intentionally plan out each book and set a goal to complete it. And, by the way, there is no "if" I get published. Publication is part of the career path, so it will happen naturally if I stick to my goals. I haven't stumbled across your blog yet. Love it. Adding it to the Feedly list.

Pepper said...

Fantastic post, Ames
I think treating it like a 'real job' (or at least full-time job) depends on superfluous dynamics know, family :-)
One of my goals is to work my speech-language job 2 or 3 days per week and write the other part. That's my long-term plan when our family dynamics change to support that -HOWEVER in the meantime, I'm trying to develop habits with the time I DO have.
Social media has a tendency to be an ugly distraction for me - especially lately :-) but I've been trying to shut that down when I need to hunker down and write.

Dedicating time to marketing is something I really need to consider, because I've not intentionally done that.

Thanks a bunch, friend!

Ashley Clark said...

YES, Pepper! I am the same way with social media. It's almost like socialization time, really... in the same way hours can slip by at Panera when chatting with a friend, it's easy to get a'chatting on Facebook without even realizing how much time you've spent. And don't even get me started on Pinterest!

Pepper said...

But phone calls with friends are ALWAYS welcome!!!

Julia M. Reffner said...

I do notice that when I dress up, I tend to do a better job at working at home. Makes psychological sense, yet I don't always seem to do it.

When I read what you say about marketing my first thought is yuck. I don't want to think about it, but I need to.

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Thanks Ron and Ash! So glad my notes were helpful! There was a lot that I didn't even touch here. Maybe I'll do a part two :)

Casey said...

This post is CHOCK FULL of awesomeness!! Great kick in the pants (the story of the three piece suit guy always is. ;-) Thanks for sharing everything you learned, Ames! Good, good stuff right here.