12 Steps of a Successful Writer: Gather Your People

Successful Writer Dawning Through The Trees

If you want success, follow the path others have taken before you. You can't match the artistic expression, but you can match the success with hard work applied with smart and logical effort. This twelve-post series will deal with the steps needed to achieve success. It won't guarantee an explosive best seller or an instant Oscar award winning screenplay, but it will help you find what you will term "success" in the first place.

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Step Number Seven: Gather your People Together

While writing is a solitary function, it can't be done alone. Yes, you have to put your butt in the seat and get things written down, but you also need others to help you in this journey. Here is a limited list on who you should target to help you grow your skills.

1. Editor: Yes, as much as you think you can go through and give your piece a decent shot, you can't do anything more than your skill level allows. It also means you might not know or be aware of a problem. This is what an editor is all about. You need an extra pair of eyes there for you to point out what you'll need to change, and what works for you.
Protip If you can afford it, have a few people give your writing a once over. You never know what some people will see that others won't. The more voices you have pointing out the same error, the more you know you need to work on it.

2. Critique Partner: This one might be harder since you aren't really paying them for their efforts (though you can, which is fine too), and you are exposing yourself to someone you know well. You are giving them the power over your emotions, if you let them. Make sure you trust the word of those people you give it to, and make sure you have more than a few people who read it and give you their honest opinion.
Protip Stay away from the professional critique partners until you can get to a certain level. You might not be ready for what they tell you, and that is more demoralizing.

3. Formatter or Cover Artist: You can't be a writer and an artist at the same time, as much as some of us want to be. You also may not have the skill to format your book (if you are going for the ebook version). This means you'll have to get in touch with someone about both of these items.
Protip This will cost you some extra money, somewhere in the $100 range for acceptable to $1000 for quality work. Make sure you have some extra money floating around and remember this can turn into a money pit if you allow it.

4. Marketing arm: If you aren't doing this alone (you aren't doing the whole self-publish thing, or you are going through an indie publisher), you'll need to get in touch with the marketing arm of your particular publisher and see what they might have in mind. Odds are more than likely they don't have much and will drop it in your lap, but even if they have a few things in mind, you can use it to your advantage and make something amazing happen.
Protip Be aware you'll be on your own for most of the time. You won't have anyone to answer to, so make sure you act as your own marketing arm as well. You can glean some information regarding how marketing works via classes and shops as well as talking to your professional marketing person.

5. Fans/Customers: You need these people to buy your product, yes, but you'll need them more to be evangelists for your book. You should count on them to spread the word for you, and when they do, they will bring in people you might not even be aware existed in the first place.
Protip Treat your evangelists well. If they do an amazing amount of sharing, preaching, or anything else, do something for them. Send a signed card, give them an exclusive look at your notes, or something else that will make them feel specialBecause they are.

6. Fellow Writers: I'll be the first to admit I don't really have this down myself. I generally don't play well with other writers, not because I don't respect what they do, but because I see the potential left on the cutting room floor. I know my name is tagged to a lot of strange debates about my fellow writers, but you don't have to let this happen to you. Form a tribe of fellow writers, people you respect and admire, and make this your resolute goal: You will be evangelists for one another.
Protip Never devalue a fellow writer. They might not write the way you like, but they work hard at what they do. You don't have to appreciate what they do, but at least understand they worked hard at it. They'll never listen to you anyway, even if you did offer advice on how to write. Use those tips to improve your own writing instead.

People are Everywhere!

This list of people you'll need isn't complete, nor is it finalized. You notice I didn't mention an agent since so many people seem to shy away from them these days (Honestly, I can't see why. They are much like the sports agent: They are only getting paid when you are getting paid. Some might not get the best deal available, but they have their best interests at heart: Getting you money).

There are many other people outside of the writing world you'll need as well: Family, friends, loved ones, the guy who serves you the stiff drink at 11 am on a Wednesdaywell, okay, that guy just wants you to pay your bill and leave, but still

Make sure you have your people in mind. Make a list of who you think you might need to make this dream a reality. Keep expanding the list with every person you meet and every challenge you come across. You never know when people might be waiting with their hand out, ready to help you up to the next level.

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