The Modern Author–A New Breed of Writer for the Digital Age of Publishing
Being the social media expert for writers has been an interesting experience. I recall when I first started teaching social media, most writers refused to use e-mail. I used every shiny thing I could think of to convince writers that social media wasn’t the devil, it was actually going to be the key to our freedom. We no longer had to throw everything to chance. We had some control over our futures!
Now that we are in the throes of the Indie Revolution, writers are really embracing technology and are seeing the liberation I promised years ago. Yet, the debate rages.
What is the Key? What is the Secret to Success in the Digital Age?
Product–Some say it is content. Write good books and lots of them.
Platform–Some say it is social media. We must build an amazing platform or we will be invisible now that EVERYONE can be published.
Promotion–Some say it is all in the bundling, promotions, give-aways and blog tours.
What do I say? All of the above…but likely to different degrees. If you want to know more about the Three Ps, check out NY Times Best-Selling Author Bob Mayer’s post Platform, Product, Promotion. And YES, folks, this post was good enough for me to go digging through the WDW archives, so check it out…seriously.
But back to our topic.
There are all kinds of arguments about what is the most important. Frankly, it depends on your strengths, but these days, to really become a success? REALLY a success as in “sellabunchabooks success”? We need to be stronger, faster, and smarter. We must be better trained than any writer in human history.
Every vocation evolves in the face of new technology, but for today’s purposes I want to talk a little about war. War? Yes, bear with me.
Kristen’s Brief History of War
See, in the beginning when disputes could no longer be settled with name-calling and stealing goats, we used rocks and sticks. Of course, it wasn’t long before some dude figured out how to totally cheat and affix a pointy rock (flint) on the end of his stick…CHEATER!
So, then Man retreated to the caves to figure out what could be done about those dudes that were cheating and affixing pointy rocks on their sticks. They chewed on those red berries that helped them stay up late into the night and finally handed the problem to their engineer–Og–and Og figured out a way to use some dried critter tendons and TIE them to the stick and then shoot the other stick with the pointy rock affixed to the end. He named it after his favorite pet monkey…Bo.
True story I just made up.
A thousand years later–give or take a few centuries–the art of firing pointy sticks was, indeed, an art. In fact, once we figured out a little bit of basic geometry (Thanks a lot, Archimedes) we got to use cool gadgets like catapults…which, strangely have nothing to do with cats.
So not only did we figure out new weapons, we also had to devise ways to shield ourselves (no pun intended) from whatever weapon was all the rage of the Dark Ages, Renaissance, Civil War, whatever. In fact, one really fascinating subject is the architecture of castles. Did you know that, after the advent of the cannon, the shapes of castles/forts changed. They transformed into shapes that resembled stone starfish…not stoned starfish. Stop giggling and pay attention.
Why did the castles/forts change shapes? Well, because a flat wall, when hit with a cannonball just caved. So, the architects realized that if they changed the shape of the castle, the cannonball would always hit with a glancing blow. It could never hit flush, so the walls would be far harder to take out.
Yes, I am trivia flypaper.
Anyway, fast-forward to the 20th century. In WWI we really started seeing the influence of the Industrial Revolution on warfare, but soldiers still were often just used as fodder and we see this all the way up through WWII. Those in command just threw sheer human numbers at the problem.
Yet, in Vietnam, everything kind of came to a head. War had changed so much. We were no longer two sides lined up an a cornfield shooting in the smoke and whoever had the most dudes standing at the end was declared winner.
No, it was all different.
We were facing submarine attacks and air attacks and machine gun attacks and HOLY COW NUKES! With each new technology, different technology had to be invented to overcome the other technology. But more than the technology changed…the people changed.
The soldier changed.
Gone was the illiterate youth conscripted off the farm and handed a musket. Today’s soldier is highly trained and highly educated. He (or she) learns basic hand-to-hand combat, but he also learns how to use technology so space age most of us wouldn’t know whether to hit the “On” switch or hit it with a stick. And I am not even talking Special Forces, because, well they are special. Just everyday enlisted people have SO much training and education to keep pace with modern warfare.
Soldiers now operate predator drones and bomb-sniffing robots. They use laser designators to drop bombs, and we even have dudes who have to do trigonometry before they kill someone (they are called “snipers”). Today’s armed forces is smarter, faster, and better trained than any force in history.
The thing is, as technology marches forward and changes our world we either evolve or we die. No one ever heard from that other tribe after Og invented the stick-thrower, btw.
What Does War Have to Do with Writers?
Now back to writers. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but we must be GOOD AT IT ALL, especially indie people. Gone are the days of Hemingway where writers could power drink, chain smoke and hide away writing books with little to no outside communication with the world (except the agent and occasional book signing). That is as archaic as going to war with a slingshot. Sure, the slingshot rocked back in biblical days, but now it is a formula to DIE.
Writers Don’t Have to Be Literary Fodder
Do you know where the word infantry came from? The Latin word infantem, which means “youth.” In early warfare they would put the young and inexperienced youths in the front ahead of the seasoned soldiers and essentially use them as fodder. If a kid survived, he got promoted. It was a sheer numbers game that was bloody and brutal and ended mostly in death for the infantem.
Sound like the traditional publishing paradigm?
Throw enough new writers out there and the one that survives gets another book deal. In the indie age, we no longer have to be fodder, but we have to be TRAINED and we need to be part of a TEAM. Blind luck is for the foolish.
The Competition is Getting Leaner and Meaner
Yes, we need to write good books, but the competition can write good books, do social media AND run promotions. Haven’t you noticed more and more indies are making the best-seller lists? Sure they had good books, but they also had a ROCKIN’ platform, they blogged and marketed their tails off and all that hard work booted the traditionals from those top slots. I feel we are going to see a lot more of that in the coming months.This is why I work so hard to teach you guys about this business in a holistic way.
We can’t put a shiny bow on a pile of literary dog poop and call is a rose. No amount of marketing is going to sell garbage. We have to learn to write good books. Notice I use the plural–books. We can’t slave over one book forever making it perfect. I said we need to write good books, not perfect books.
We also can’t toss junk out there and think promotion will make it a hit. Good books will always sell way more than crappy books. Not rocket science. We should always be learning as much as we can about our craft, our trade, our art. This is why I blog on craft and point you guys to the best teachers in the industry.
Platform (Social Media/Blogging)
But this is also the reason I work so hard to give you guys tools to do social media effectively and in far less time. It is also the reason I have created MyWANA (here is the short video that explains). Plug in on Twitter at #MyWANA or on our brand new MyWANA Facebook page here. Platforms take time to build, but they take a LOT LESS time if we are part of a team.
A New Breed of Writer Rises from the Ashes
The Modern Writer is a BAD@SS. She writes, blogs, does social media and she has a killer team of fellow ninja-writers who have her six and offer cover-fire (Retweets). Lone writers DIE, but packs of writers create mayhem through the city taking all the wine and chocolate…
Wait, that went sideways. Try again.
The Modern Writer lets go of the past, the lone soul who sat alone, hunched over a typewriter and who was only responsible for glorious prose. The modern writer is part of a community and a team. She doesn’t whine about technology, she gets in and OWNS IT.
It isn’t called a slave drive for nothing ;).
The Modern Writer writes, promotes, learns newer and newer technology and manages a business. The She-Writer is a FORCE OF NATURE. The He-Writer is MASTER OF THE UNIVERSE.
The thing is, the Modern Writer is one of the most highly skilled people on the planet. We create new worlds and civilizations from black letters. We research, write, network, market, promote, run a business, learn a MOBI from a jpeg, and on and on, though we don’t have Predator Drones…yet ;).
We Have to Do it ALL?
So your WANA-Mama is here to tell you the rough truth. It is ALL important. Sure, some things we will do better than others. I write and do social media WAY better than promotional stuff. But that is why I have a TEAM. I have WANAites who will just looooove to get their sticky little paws all over my next book once it is ready to release. These people LOVE throwing parties and dreaming up games and contests. Not my strength…but it doesn’t have to be.
I feel that the authors who hammer on that the ONLY thing that matters are books and content, that is their strength. It is easy to tell others that the only thing that matters is a good book when you start the game with 10, 20, or 40 titles. It sort of feels like the one and ONLY time I played RISK with my family members (who cheat, btw). They felt that tanks were the key to winning the game. Well, sure, they had tanks…ALL of them. If you have ALL the tanks, then tanks are a pretty good plan.
The hard truth is that, to some degree, we are going to have to be able to be at least proficient in ALL of these roles. We need to write good books (plural), but we also need a platform and an ability to promote. This is why I work so hard teaching you guys on this blog, and I am also developing new classes and more classes to help make all of manageable, because it IS A LOT, but we are not alone!
Writers now must learn hand-to-hand combat (craft), but we also need advanced weapons training (technology), balanced with a little satellite communications & cryptology (social media and networking) and military strategy (business). We must be masters of gathering intel, or just let Porter Anderson do it for us (Go to Writing on the Ether). But the fact remains that, to survive and thrive in this new world, we need to work together. There is strength in numbers. We are not alone.
We are the Modern Author.
What are your thoughts? Have you been excited about the changes in the industry? Do they scare you? Do you feel more empowered or do you really miss the old ways? Hey, I am nostalgic. No shame in loving the traditions of old. What resources do you recommend to your fellow WANA peeps?
I LOVE hearing from you!
And to prove it and show my love, for the month of March, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.
I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of March I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!
I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are ON SALE for $4.99!!!! And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.
This Week’s Mash-Up of Awesomeness
12 Things that Will Kill Your Blog Post Every Time by SEO Moz Pro
Six Reasons Author Should LOVE Timeline on Facebook over at Girls with Pens. Thanks Lisa Hall-Wilson. Frankly, FB isn’t going to give us a choice, so we need to learn what the heck we are doing. Great blog and yes, I switched.
BEAUTIFUL post by Colin Falconer. Where the Wind Blows Steady Down the Plain. Just gorgeous writing!
Cute post by Mark Klapowitz Remember When TV Programs didn’t Have Animated Promos for Other Programs?
Two Ways to Make the Most of Goodreads by Jane Friedman
The brilliant, talented Jody Hedlund chimes in about marketing on Are Your Efforts Unique or Do You Blend In?
25 Things You Should Know About Word Choice by the amazing Chuck Wendig.
Just Say It Sucks by Ginger Calem. What? That mascara doesn’t give me 9x thicker, fuller lashes?
For something different and REALLY interesting, Piper Bayard’s writing partner, Holmes gives us the skinny on Iran and Nukes and what it means.