Pay It Forward

Written by Eric Vance Walton | October 9, 2014

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As an indie writer struggling build a career, it can be easy to lose sight of many things. Unless you’re fortunate enough to have friends in high places or you’re just plain lucky, you must devote a substantial amount of time to your career. It doesn’t take long to realize how frustrating and exhausting of a path you’ve chosen. The secret I’ve discovered after almost two decades in the writing business is there are two ways to approach a writing career, a really tough path and a much easier, rewarding, and more enjoyable one.

I’m embarrassed to admit that for the first sixteen years of my writing career I chose the tough path. The tough path is thinking that you can do it all yourself, being overly protective of your ideas, thinking you have nothing more to learn, and not taking the time to connect with others in the business. I’ve found that this tough path only leads to wasted time, frustration, exhaustion, and despair.

As I trudged down the tough path I eventually felt as though my career as a writer would never go anywhere. I was ripped off by vanity publishers who charged substantial fees to publish my books and then set the retail price so high that no one would buy them.  I also spent lots of money and energy on ineffective marketing and wasted years reading books that didn’t help my writing career one bit.

When I was entangled in the tough path I felt as though there was only a certain amount of success to be had in the writing business and if I shared my knowledge someone else would get my piece of it. If I only would have asked for the advice of other, more experienced, authors. Most of these costly mistakes could have been avoided. The tough path left me tired and unfulfilled.

I joke that it only took me a decade and a half to discover an easier and more effective way to find success as an author. I’m sure it wouldn’t take you as long to figure it out but let me share the big secret with you now so you don’t have to wait another second. The quicker, easier, and more pleasurable path to becoming a successful indie author is comprised of two parts. First you have admit to yourself that you don’t know it all and you must be open and receptive of ideas from others who have achieved greater success. Secondly, you must be willing to share what your knowledge with other authors who are not yet as successful. You must simply pay it forward.

It took me a long while to learn that an indie author’s level of success is a direct reflection of the breadth of their knowledge of this business. As an indie author, if you haven’t achieved the level of success you want for yourself, you’re not a bad writer. You simply have more to learn. It doesn’t matter what level of success you’ve achieved in your writing career, anyone can pay it forward. Even if you consider your success to be meager there are thousands of writers who are a few rungs lower on the ladder who could benefit from the knowledge you have accumulated. Sometimes when you help others they will be inspired to return the favor and teach you something as well.

A kind of magic occurs when you begin putting this simple philosophy into practice. What paying it forward encourages is an honest and organic form of networking, the sharing of ideas and relationships.  As human beings, we’re social by nature. This is how it’s meant to work. Paying it forward will benefit you in ways you can’t even anticipate.

I’ve found that sharing knowledge with other writers revitalizes my energy and optimism in my own career. Communicating with others in the business also serves as a sort of idea generator for all parties involved. In the process of sharing I’ve also developed a deeper appreciation and respect for the craft of writing as well as for other indie authors and their triumphs and struggles. We’re all sharing this arduous yet incredibly rewarding journey together so why shouldn’t we try to help one another?

Sometimes paying it forward can be as easy as sharing the fanbase you’ve worked so hard to build. Every week I run a promotion on my Facebook author page called, “Showcase Saturday”. Each Saturday I open up my page to other authors and encourage them to post their writing and links to where people can purchase and learn more about their work. This requires very little effort on my part but helps other authors reach a wider audience. I love reading these posts and the feeling I get from helping these writers is priceless.

I believe that good writing speaks for itself and sometimes lack of audience is an author’s only impediment to taking their careers to the next level. I’ve noticed authors who participate in this Showcase Saturday event also regularly share my posts on their pages which results in the potential for more likes and follows for my Facebook and Twitter accounts.

I also regularly post motivational quotes and links to educational articles for indie authors on my social media sites. Since the publication of my novel, “Alarm Clock Dawn” in 2013, I’ve started receiving a steady stream of questions from others about self publishing and other areas of the writing business. Indie authors are hungry for knowledge, they’re tired of feeling as though their careers are “stuck”.  It’s not always easy to find the time to answer these questions but I know what they’re going through so it’s important to me that I make the time. This outpouring of questions was one of the main motivators for me to write my soon to be released book for Indie authors on how to build a successful writing career.

In the eighteen months since I’ve put the paying it forward philosophy into practice my, fanbase on social media doubled, then tripled and continues to grow. The benefits of following this pleasurable path are much greater than increased readership. I’ve also received paying jobs as well as practical knowledge. Through relationships I’ve made in the last year I’ve begun to receive regular freelance magazine work and soon hope to finally land a literary agent.

A fellow indie author who I assisted with some questions offered to promote my writing and new book launch on her blog. I discovered this same author also teaches college courses and is going to share the story of my career as part of her curriculum to other beginning writers. Another fellow indie author educated me about the importance of submitting to literary journals and how being published in them can grow your career. Shortly afterwards a senior editor of a literary journal that I submitted my poetry to agreed to publish a few of my poems, a short story, and even help promote my new book on writing.

This concept of paying it forward is not just some new age hippy mumbo jumbo but rather something that is measurable. If you’re feeling unfulfilled as a writer you can easily try this method yourself.  First you must, as objectively as possible, analyze the current approach you’re taking to building your writing career. This step takes guts and only works if you’re honest with yourself. If you find, like most of us do, that you’re still hanging on to some elements of the “tough path,” begin to change your course. Open your mind and start sharing your knowledge with others.  Also be receptive of other’s ideas and feedback and see what happens.

Even if you’re not totally convinced this concept will work, try paying it forward for a few months. Since most of us are utilizing Facebook and Twitter the number of likes and follows are a simple way to measure how your approach is working. Throughout this process take note of the changes you experience in yourself and your writing career. I assure that you’ll be pleased with the results.

Bio:

Eric Vance Walton invites you to follow his unfolding story by “liking” his Facebook author page at https://www.facebook.com/EricVanceWaltonAuthor for updates and promotions on his current and upcoming projects.

You can buy Eric’s new book One Word At A Time: Finding Your Way as an Indie Author, on Amazon in print or as an ebook.