Advice From Other Authors I’m Glad I Finally Listened To

Written by Chantelle Atkins | June 11, 2015

As an independently published writer I follow a lot of social media pages about writing, and more specifically, promoting your writing. I expect most ‘indie’ or self-published writers do the same. We are all searching for the holy grail of advice, the top tips to success that have so far eluded us.
I read anything that sounds promising, make lists of things that interest me, and try to put them into practice as soon as I can. Here are the three things I have found the most useful and inspiring on my own journey.  Strangely they are all things I either ignored or shied away from in the beginning. Over time, I changed my attitude and now I am beginning to see results from all three of these strategies.
1) Write More Than Just Your Book
I heard this advice at the start of my journey and I rolled my eyes and thought “NO.” All I wanted to do was write books. I didn’t think I had the time to write anything else, let alone things I had never tried before, like blogs or articles or short stories. Oh, how wrong I was.
I can now see that there are many reasons to write more than just your book. Writing things outside of your comfort zone stretches your writing muscles and makes you work harder. I recently wrote my first short story since I was a child. I had never been interested in writing them, so didn’t see the point in wasting my time. I am so glad I changed my mind and gave it a go.
I wrote the story and submitted it to a competition. I don’t expect to win anything, but just getting it done and feeling confident enough to submit it was a huge step for me. I now have the itch to write more short stories, and with so many competitions and magazines publishing and paying for short stories, this can only be a good thing. As with anything, I am sure I will get better at it if I keep practicing.
When I started my blog, I only used it to post chapters of the book I was working on. I didn’t feel comfortable sharing anything else with the world wide web; not my thoughts or feelings, or my opinions on the writing life. However, slowly but surely I came out of my shell and now I blog about whatever takes my fancy; writing tips, ideas, inspirations, just anything that pops into my head and needs releasing.
In fact I have a sneaking suspicion that I do my best writing when I totally forget that anyone else is going to read it. By learning to tag and sharing to Twitter and Facebook, I have seen my blog following expand and I now get comments and likes and re-blogs on nearly everything I post, whereas before I was just talking to myself. If people enjoy the style and content of your blog posts, then the chances are they will enjoy your books.
Writing articles was another thing I discounted in the beginning. I just didn’t think I had it in me, and I wasn’t entirely sure what the point was. I finally plucked up the nerve to submit to Author’s Publish once I had enough experience under my belt to feel like I had points worth sharing. It was well worth it. Thanks to the pieces I have had accepted, I have seen my Facebook author page following grow and grow. I have made many useful contacts and I have had direct sales as a result of people enjoying my articles.
I have since started writing mini articles about various subjects for a local magazine; something I would not have thought possible two years ago. I have not looked back and cannot recommend diving into the unknown enough. Write other things. Stretch your skills and break out of your comfort zone. It’s scary and risky, but you might just pull it off, and there is no better way to get your unique writing voice and style out into the world.
2) Think Local
This is another piece of advice I ignored in the beginning. I had so many excuses. I didn’t have the time, I didn’t have the confidence, I didn’t know how, or where to start. I was happy enough in my writing bubble; writing books and hitting share on social media and letting very few people close to me know what I was up to. Why did I need to bother focusing on my local area when I had the whole world at my finger-tips on-line?
I see things differently now and wish I had not been so stubborn in the beginning. There are many ways to think local; from making up business cards that you can pass out to people you meet, to approaching your local bookshops about possibly stocking your print books, to attending local writers events and having a stall with your books available to buy.
For me it has been about reaching out to my local community in a slightly different way that helps them, but also lets them know what I do. I recently started my own writing group, which at the moment runs children’s creative writing workshops, and in the future will also involve a regular writing group for adults. There  have inevitably been some start-up costs and I need to build my reputation before things can really take off.
But this is a great way to get myself out there, meet new people, and spread the word about who I am and what I do, whilst also putting something back into my local area. I’ve already made some invaluable local contacts and was asked and paid to run a workshop for a local writer’s group, as well as my own. My first workshops were such fun. My long term goal is to get into the local schools, deliver free writing workshops and even after school clubs. This might not be for you, but thinking locally as well as globally is great advice that should not be ignored.
3) Pay It Forward
This is possibly the best advice I could give anyone and possibly the best advice I have received myself. There are so many ways you can pay it forward and so many reasons why you should.
When you start out, you feel totally alone, totally clueless.
You’ve got your writing, but what to do with it? How to get it noticed? How to find a cover designer? What social media sites to join and how best to use them? Who to trust? How to get reviews?
You put one foot in front of the other, you take a deep breath and you start your journey.
Along the way you will make many mistakes, have many moments of crushing self-doubt, and many times you will think about quitting and going back to keeping your work private.
Just think how much easier it would be, and how much better you would feel if there were other authors around to reach out to. To ask advice. To chat to on-line or meet in real life. Being an author can be a very lonely business, and most of the time we probably prefer it that way. But when it comes to marketing and promoting our work, or getting to grips with the many problems that arise, we do need to reach out. Paying it forward is good for you and good for others. It works both ways, and there is really no excuse not to engage in it on a regular basis.
So what sort of thing do I mean? I’ll give you a few examples. Reading and reviewing people’s books. I don’t mean setting up reciprocal reviews, as Amazon tends to frown on this. I mean finding other authors you are interested in, liking their page, sharing their posts and  reading their books. It will mean the world to them just like it would to you.
It means liking people’s pages in return if they like yours. Commenting on their posts instead of just ignoring them, sharing their promotions, downloading their free books, tweeting their reviews, following their blogs if they follow yours, and actually reading and commenting on them as well!
I know all of this takes time, and you don’t have a lot of time. But it is worth investing some of your time in people, just as it is worth investing some of your time in promotional activities and some of your time actually writing. I know writers can be shy, introverted people at times. But there is nothing worse than following a writer who only ever talks about themselves.
Engage with others, make an effort, find some like-minded people and read some great books! Be part of the community, for your own benefit as well as others.
It has worked for me in many positive ways and I will give you just a few examples. I have made friends. Genuine friends. I have discovered some amazing authors I cannot get enough of, and I am friends with them, which is even better! I have been interviewed by other authors numerous times on their blogs. I have had people help me with cover designs and formatting. I have completed a very useful writing course a fellow writer offered to me for free, after I had linked up with him on Twitter, and read and enjoyed his novel.
People are generally nice. Especially if you are nice. Support others when they need it, ask for help when you need it.
You will be amazed where it can lead.