Some days, I worry I’ve taken up permanent residence in the Land of Uncertainty. We may write alone, but we flourish within the community of the right circle of writers.
Where do you seek advice on your plot, your next career move, or navigating social media? When need be….
Seek the counsel of more experienced writers or industry professionals.
Writers are everywhere — online at blogs, various social media groups. Or, in person at coffee shops, book signings, workshops, etc. Most love to discuss the craft, others are knowledgeable about the business and you can get many answers, at no charge.
* Other writers – Whether you have a weekly critique group to brainstorm book ideas, or one writer friend to state your intentions to out loud, there’s something powerful about the camaraderie we share with one another.
* Published authors – Many writers are open to answering a quick question presented in a short, well-written email. Seriously, the longer the email is, the less likely they are to read it, much less respond. And, the bigger the author is, the less free time they may have, but it’s worth a shot. Drop him a line to say how you enjoyed his book. If he replies, then ask a brief question.
* It’s about relationships, not transactions – This past year, I read and enjoyed three debut novels from three indie authors and left positive reviews for them all on Amazon and Goodreads (it’s the best way to help authors). I then emailed each one to say how much I liked their books.
I’ve become online friends with two and will occasionally email them questions. I do not bombard them 24/7, and send information I think they might find useful from our conversations. I’m developing friendships, not sucking them for information.
Be Open to a Paid Consultation
Hear me out first. Yes, I realize money doesn’t grow on trees, but do you visit the dentist for free? Do you get a salon haircut for free?
No. All these people are providing a service, one of value.
Writing is no different. Even though my critique group is priceless to me, I had specific niche questions about author websites, social media, etc. I needed an expert.
Many publishing professionals (authors, freelance editors, marketing gurus) offer consultations and post their rates on their websites. The money you spend today may save you cash from mistakes made tomorrow.
I made an appointment with for Writer’s Digest editor, Jane Friedman. The woman knows publishing and charges $150 hour for a 60-minute consultation (Yowza, but she prorates the cost to the actual time spent discussing writing).
It was worth every penny.
Through her questions, she gave me clarity that my fiction and nonfiction were aimed at two different audiences and conflicting with each other right now. She confirmed my passion was more toward my novels and how I should set my nonfiction book aside and put all my energy toward publishing the Pennies from Burger Heaven series.
Boom. Those 10 minutes alone were worth the investment, but she gave me even more.
Before our consultation, Jane also looked at my website, Facebook and Twitter pages and critiqued them all, with both praise and suggestions. I left both energized and organized with my To Do list. I also made another valuable contact in the industry.
Be sure research that person before you give them cash. Look at their website to see if their message resonates with you. Find testimonials, google their name, see what you can find out about them on social media for both praise and warnings. The internet is your friend.
You might conference via Skype (that’s what Jane and I did), Google Chat, or a good ol’-fashioned phone call.
When Seeking Advice
I know most writers are introverts and it’s scary talking to others, especially strangers, but the rewards outweigh the risks. Here are several reasons why:
* Knowledge is power — Learn directly from others the do’s and don’ts on writing and publishing.
* Focus — It’s hard to be objective with your own struggles. An unbiased outsider can help you identify problems and offer solutions.
* Game Plan —Walk away with a clearer strategy of what to do next.
*Enthusiasm — You can’t put a price tag on passion for your writing and your career.
You might have a spontaneous conversation with an editor between breaks at a seminar, but when possible, prepare ahead of time. Especially, for a paid consultation:
1. Have a list of questions ready to help you concentrate. You might be nervous with VIPs (I was).
2. If you can, have a pen and paper (or computer) ready to take notes as they talk.
3. Be pleasant, but look professional.
Of course, trust your instincts. Whether this person is a pro or a new acquaintance, if their advice or suggestions don’t sit well with your gut, do what you think is best. It’s your writing. You must live with the choices you make, on and off the page.