How do you distinguish between a serious writer who pursues his craft as a vocation, versus the more casual writer for whom writing is an avocation? It’s not easy, but it is important.
Let me first say that I encourage anyone who enjoys writing as a diversion. It’s a wonderful creative outlet. Let me also say that I will never buy your work no matter how good it is because I’m not paying for something that isn’t your best effort. If you want me to take your work seriously, here’s what you’ll have to do:
- Have your work professionally edited. This is expensive if you’re self-publishing. It’s also necessary. There’s a lot of sloppy writing out there already. Don’t add to it.
- Try to find a traditional publisher. It lends credibility to your work and ensures that you won’t go broke paying for printing, editing, proofreading, and cover art.
- Give me a glimpse of your writing style, whether it be via a blog, newsletter, or even social media posts. I want to see if you can construct a sentence.
- Be careful. I’m not a grammar Nazi, but if I see “your” used as a contraction for “you are,” we’re done.
- Develop a general understanding of punctuation and style. Get the Chicago Manual of Style, or just check out the back section of a dictionary.
- Don’t ignore punctuation, but don’t obsess over it. If you can’t decide between a period, dash, semi-colon, or ellipsis, flip a coin. I’ll never know the difference.
- Build your brand. Show me your bio, do a press release for your books, promote your work on social media, like, follow, and share. Post and comment about issues that matter to you, but don’t spend all day on Facebook or Twitter. I like writers that write.
- Go easy on the free books. I’m not impressed by writers that do mass giveaways. It diminishes their brand, establishes an expectation for future giveaways, and puts downward price pressure on books in general. That’s not fair to other authors. This is just my opinion. Others may feel differently.
Whatever you do, keep writing. In the final analysis it doesn’t matter whether you pursue writing as a vocation or avocation. You’re establishing a written record, footprints in the sand for future generations. People will know you were here. That matters.