Focus. Focus is the key

Well, focus is something I have to work into this mixture with this whole independent author journey.

Hi!

I’m A.D. Ellis, author of A Torey Hope Novel Series. I started writing in October of 2013 and published in April of 2014. I followed my debut with a release in July, November, and the newest released January 19, 2015. Four more books are scheduled for 2015.

I wish I could tell you that I got all of this done because I was focused. But that’s not what this article is about.

I’m a mother, a wife, a teacher, and an author. I am the queen of multi-tasking and I think that’s why I’m able to get a lot done. I focus and give my best to all I do, but I have to work on several things at once.

If I was not being a mom and a teacher and a wife, maybe I wouldn’t have to multi-task, but I have to so I do!

This post is going to multi-task. It’s going to focus on a few of my biggest tips for success.

They are in no order, they don’t require 100% focus (although, you WILL have to put forth effort and do your best), and they can be done along with several other things all at once.

Engage with your readers:

  • Ask their opinions.
  • Invite them to send you their thoughts and feelings on your work.
  • Open yourself up to their comments and questions.
  • One of the very best parts of being an author is getting to meet and interact with my readers.

A side note: DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT engage negatively with readers EVER. Not on review sites, not on emails, not on social media. Keep it positive. It never turns out well and you’re trying to build your name up and reach readers; you don’t need to get a bad reputation.

A side note on my side note: Just because you publish and are (hopefully, but very honestly likely not) a huge overnight success, this does not give you the right to start slamming others and expecting that every single reader will love your book. Stay humble.

Back to engaging with your readers…they are the most important people in this whole thing.

Readers leave reviews, readers tell their friends, readers buy more of your books. Treat them right.

Research to get it right: If you’re going to take the time to write and publish a book, take the time to get the details right. My first couple books had some topics I knew a lot about from my years as an educator; no research needed there.

But, there were some topics on addiction and recovery that I wasn’t familiar with. Sure, I knew what I saw on television and movies, but I wanted to get it right; I talked to addiction and recovery therapists to get their insight.

I don’t have a medical background other than watching ER years ago. In my newest release, there were medical scenes and I wanted them spot-on. I spoke to paramedics and nurses. There were some scenes involving police and laws, I spoke to people in the law enforcement field.

I’m currently writing and need background/input on construction and the point-of-view of a gay man. So, what am I doing? Talking to those in construction and having a blast talking to families of gay men and gay men themselves.

What if you don’t know nurses, paramedics, police officers, gay men, therapists? JUST ASK! I promise, if you’re on social media and you put out a plea for information, you’ll get at least a couple people willing and able to help.

Open yourself up to critique: This is very hard. When you first write your book, it’s your baby and you don’t want anyone saying anything bad about your baby. But no one is perfect and everyone can improve on something.

It’s hard at first, but toughen up, admit that there are things you can strengthen, and accept constructive criticism.

Another side note: There will be tons of reviews where the criticism is anything but constructive. Dry your tears, punch a pillow, laugh with some author friends, see if you can find anything helpful in it, and then MOVE ON.

If you have the urge to reply to the review or call the reviewer out on social media or gripe about the low review to your readers/followers, please refer back to my previous side note about NEVER, EVER engaging with readers in a negative way. Just don’t.

Find a group that understands and supports you: The indie author community is one of the most welcoming and helpful groups of people around, except when it isn’t. And it isn’t open and supportive quite a lot lately.

It’s a saturated market, especially the romance genre, and everyone is trying to get a piece of the pie.

That said, there are some great people out there. Sit back and watch; buddy up with people who seem to be like you; ask questions; stay out of any and all drama.

You will soon find one or two people who you click with and they “get” what you’re going through because they are in the same boat.

Unless you have personal friends or family who are independent authors, they probably won’t “get” the emotions and effort and struggles and frustrations you’re going to deal with. Having author buddies is a tremendous help.

You know when I said don’t respond to negative reviews? Well, if you’ve got those one or two close author friends, you can vent to them.

They’ll understand because they probably got a bad review as well. Do it secretly; cry, cuss, vent; move on.

While on the subject of groups, get a group of beta readers. Beta readers read your work before it’s ready to publish. Authors do it differently; some send it chapter by chapter, some in bigger chunks, some when it’s completely finished. Betas read your work for errors, holes in the plot, things they like/don’t like, places where things don’t make sense, etc.

They aren’t necessarily editors, but they have proven invaluable to me. When I’m doubting my work (and, if you’re a writer you know how we all sometimes doubt our work) I will send it to my betas and they give me feedback that lets me know I’m on track or helps me get back on track.

Keep writing: You wrote one book. People loved it. They want more. You can’t give them more if you’re not writing, writing, writing. If readers decide they like your work, they will voraciously want to read more.

Be sure you have more to give them. That doesn’t mean rush through your work and offer up less-than-your-best, it just means, don’t sit around waiting for that one book to make you a star. The more you write, the more you publish, the more readers you reach.

My final note (wow, I got a bit wordy, huh?) is this: Don’t give up. You will have bad days, you will have good days, and then there will be more bad days. If you truly aren’t feeling it, reassess and see if it’s what you want to do. But don’t reassess on a bad day. Wait until you’re between the good and the bad days. More than likely, you’ll realize that being a published author is just too much fun (and hard work, and sweat, and tears, and frustrations, and….) and you’ll decide to keep telling your stories.

Because, in the end, that’s what it’s all about. Getting those stories out of our heads and onto paper so you can share with readers.

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Radu Balas

Radu is the Founder of Publishing Addict and author of "Sell More Books Using Your Author Website | The Easiest Way To Brand, Build, Market, and Manage Your Authorship" Soon available on Amazon.

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