The 3 Roles of a Modern Writer
“I work in publishing.” This simple statement is oftentimes followed by a lengthy conversation in which people share their hopes and dreams of one day publishing their book, novel, study, or magnum opus.
In this new era of publishing, I’ve tried to think through how I can best help people who hope to become published authors. Let me offer what I believe are the three basic skills that everyone needs in nowadays.
Creator. The onslaught of information that is now available to all us makes originality something of a novelty. As a modern writer, you must find a way to create something new or, at least, a fresh take on an established subject. You must be a creator.
One example that I like to use was actually a movie that was a box-office flop and hated by most critics. The movie “Lady in the Water” was written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan. I’ve argued that whether you liked the movie or not, there is a certain respect that is due to Shyamalan for one simple fact: he invented an entirely new realm of fairy tales. It is an amazing feat to take a common concept (like our fairy tales) and then craft a brand new world.
Franz Kafka said, “Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.” Whatever your subject might be, create a new way to cast light on it with all the energy you have.
Editor. Publishers receive about 73 gazillion manuscripts a month from people who want to publish their work. The impact on the person who hopes to be published is that you must submit sample chapters or a manuscript that is already edited. You must present your material in a manner that will accurately portray your writing skill. It is hard to both write material and then edit it, but it is a skill that will serve you well as you begin seeking a publisher. Remember what Elmore Leonard said, “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”
Another reason you must be an editor is that self-publishing is a real and potential route for many of the manuscripts that we produce. If your budget does not allow for you to hire someone to do the grammatical and content editing, then it will be up to you. Keep in mind that if you self-publish and it is a literary wreck, you’ve probably lost your one shot at gaining a loyal following of readers.
Marketer. Writers often exist at the extreme ends of the spectrum when it comes to marketing. As a publisher, I know authors who love to talk about their books because they are excited for people to consume the material. On the other end of the spectrum, I know authors who hate to talk about their books because they feel it is too egotistical or narcissistic to do so. Here is my unfiltered opinion: if you want people to read your book, then you must tell them about it.
Anaïs Nin said, “If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don’t write, because our culture has no use for it.” We write because our hearts are desperate to express themselves and others to experience what we have to say. So, if you are going to write, then write for everyone to hear.
Becoming a marketer for your book is not as difficult as you may think. Start with the people you know such as your social media network and go from there. Now, if you are not networking with people in social media (blogging, Twitter, Facebook, etc.), then start right now. As publishers see that you are willing to be an active partner with them, it will make it easier for them to say “yes” to publishing you. And, if they say “no,” then you can move forward in doing it on your own as you build a platform and possibly self-publish.
I am unashamedly a person who loves to write. The creative process of putting together ideas, editing them together, and telling other people what I’ve learned… it all brings me great joy. And, I do think that many of you have a book brewing inside of your heart. I hope that you will find a way to get it in front of the rest of us.