Stop Being Solitary: How Others Are The Key To Your Success As A Writer

“Look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own…I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.” – Former U.S. President Barack Obama

I opened this post with President Obama’s quote because it can be applied perfectly to writers. From my position as publisher and co-founder of Beautiful Losers Magazine, I have seen that some of the best poets and short fiction writers are not in The New Yorker, Granta, or The Paris Review. Of course, that is not to say that the writers featured in those magazines are not exceptional talents, because by and large they are, but only that many talented writers are never discovered by the readership of these magazines. In many cases, these writers are equals to their more established peers in creativity, knowledge of the nuances of craft, and work ethic. So why are some writers exalted and others remain in obscurity? Perhaps because no one gave them some help along the way.

Writing can be seen as a solitary profession, and to some extent it is, but there are many instances where receiving help can be the difference between success and anonymity. Here are a few ways in which others can help you along in your path as a writer:

1. Editing. Every writer needs an editor. My short fiction wouldn’t be nearly as good if my editors Rairigh Drum and Lauren Rubin didn’t examine every piece that I write and offer constructive suggestions towards improving them. The same holds true for my forthcoming book with Vakasha Brenman. Writers have a blind side when it comes to their own work. To gain an agent’s representation or get writing accepted in competitive literary magazines, working with an editor is mandatory. It’s my mission to help talented writers succeed in the literary game, and I want to help 100 writers who have never been published before have their work published. That’s why I offer editing services. If you have an unpublished manuscript that needs a thorough edit, I want to help you. You can read more about my services by clicking here.

2. Networking. Your manuscript may be well-written and edited to a publishable standard; however, that doesn’t mean that you will automatically be able to attract an agent’s interest and be on the fast track to a contract with a big publisher. If you are completely divorced from the network of writers, voracious readers, agents, and publishers, you are missing a golden opportunity to advance. Forming friendships with other writers, influential readers, or those involved in the business of literature can have immense benefits, not the least of which is putting your manuscript before a person in a decision-making position.

3. Inspiration. It happens to all of us, we start writing and hit a wall. Our mood drops, the ideas stop coming, and the frustration sets in. This is where friends, family, and romantic partners come in. The next time your writing hits a wall, get connected with others, and watch how easy the words will come to you when you resume your writing.

What other benefits do you find from turning to others? Comment below to share your thoughts.

If you found this post helpful, please like, comment, repost, or subscribe to my blog – all are appreciated!

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Five Benefits To Starting A Literary Magazine

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It’s been a while! I apologize for the lack of posts, but I’ve been extremely busy with other projects since last November. Quick update: I’ve been commissioned to write a screenplay for Supersonic Productions and a non-fiction book for a New York City-based nonprofit. In combination with my duties as co-founder and publisher of Beautiful Losers Magazine, free time has been at a minimum. Still, no excuses, right? On with the show!

Right here on WordPress, when I was scrolling through my feed, I found an incredibly talented writer named Dario Cannizzaro  We became friends, and he introduced me to his friend Austin Wiggins. They told me about their plan to start a literary magazine, and I was intrigued. I had started a couple of literary magazines in the past, but they had fizzled out for various reasons. Now, with a couple of high-character partners, we set out to start a literary magazine, and the rest is history.

Has running a literary magazine been easy? Not always! But it has definitely been worth it, and for many writers, choosing to start a literary magazine can be an incredibly valuable experience. Here are a few reasons that I’ve found as to how starting a literary magazine can be extremely beneficial for writers. If you know of any that I’ve missed, make sure to leave them in the comments below. Hope this helps!

  1. Networking. If you’re not Cormac McCarthy or Junot Diaz, you probably could benefit from gaining some new contacts to help advance your writing career. Running a literary magazine affords you the opportunity to network with talented writers. If you accept an author’s work, or even if you send them a personal rejection, you can start a conversation that can lead to some incredible contacts with ties to editors, publishers, and literary agents. Personally, I’ve become good friends with someone who’s collaborated with elite-level Hollywood directors. Pretty good for a budding screenwriter, right?
  2. Immersion. I understand that you might have to hold down that 9-5 until your literary dreams come true, but what are you doing on your time off? Starting a literary magazine gives you the opportunity to completely immerse yourself in the culture of writers. You’re responsible for reading countless submissions, so that means putting Netflix aside, logging off Facebook, and learning from your contemporaries.
  3. Credibility. If you’re submitting short stories or poetry to literary magazines, or manuscripts to literary agents, running a competitive literary journal shows that you have some skin in the literary game. If a journal or agent is on the fence about your work, this could be what tips someone in your favor.
  4. Friendship. Whether you choose to go solo or partner with others on your litmag, your dedication will likely attract the attention of other likeminded people, and many of the most valuable friendships of your life may develop.
  5. Discipline. Starting a literary magazine is a form of leadership. Your readers are dependent on you putting out excellent content. Your writers are dependent on you screening submissions in a timely fashion. As a writer, discipline is critical, even more so than talent. Working day in and day out on your magazine can instill the necessary work ethic needed for success in the literary game.

Have any questions about starting a literary magazine? Comment below and I’ll do my best to share my thoughts! If you found this post helpful, please like, comment, repost, or subscribe to my blog – all are appreciated! 

 

How To Promote A Self-Published eBook – Two Simple Ways to Get Major Results

I’m a huge fan of retro video games. Like many Reagan babies, I owned an NES, a Nintendo lunch box, ate Nintendo cereal, watched the Super Mario Bros. Super Show; I could go on, but you get the idea. After the NES faded in popularity, I went on to the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis, then the PlayStation and Nintendo 64, before losing interest when I attended college (Parties are more fun. Studying has its purpose too, I suppose).

Now, at 33-years-old and with a little bit of disposable income, I’ve started to collect some of the games I missed purchasing in my childhood. There are certain “brands” that I’ll buy pretty much anything from (e.g. Mega Man; Castlevania; Ninja Gaiden; The Legend of Zelda; Metroid; etc.), but what about the games I didn’t get a chance to play or that were unknown to me back then? I’ll buy a few of those too, but only if I see a demonstration on a YouTube channel, and hear some reputable voices vouch for it.

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The reason I include this anecdote is because the same methods that work for alerting me to retro video games that I should give a chance are the same ones that alert me and many other readers to self-published writers that are worth a read.

Dispel the notion once and for all that if you write it, they will come. They won’t. You have to get noticed or self-publishing is an exercise in futility if your goal is to make money and/or get people to read your writing. I’ve known many talented writers who choose to self-publish. What happens when they release their books? Nothing. It’s every self-published writer’s worst fear.

So, how exactly do you get readers and sales for your eBook? 

  1. Win over an influencer. Some think getting good reviews on Amazon or Smashwords are enough. Not true; they help, but you need to draw traffic first. The best way to do that is to have an Internet influencer promote you on their media. Who exactly qualifies as an influencer? A good ballpark figure is at least 1,000 followers on social media or WordPress, or the face behind a heavily-trafficked website that many people in your niche know about. While press anywhere helps, to get real results you need to get an endorsement from an Internet “star.”
  2. Give some of it away for free. That means giving free copies of your book to influencers. That means putting up chapters for free online. You’re not Dan Brown or Stephen King yet, so you have to earn your readers’ attention and show that you’re talented.

And that’s it. Are there other ways that you can promote your eBook? Of course. That said, if you want results in a big way and quickly, focus on the big win. Anything else is often just a tiresome waste.

Have you had success as a self-published author? Share a comment below to help aspiring authors. 

Thinking About Kindle Direct Publishing? Hire a Formatter!

Do you want to publish on Kindle Direct Publishing? Great! Just make sure to get your manuscript professionally formatted prior to uploading it on KDP or you might be less than satisfied with the results.

I was excited to roll out a collection of short stories, tentatively titled New Weird America, on Kindle Direct Publishing. I edited all ten of my stories once again, making sure they were as tight as possible. I wrote my dedications, my biography, my title page, my table of contents, the whole shebang. In less than a day, KDP had my title up and running. Two days later, I took it down.

A word to the wise – the formatting you use in Word (or Pages, or whatever you use to type your manuscript) doesn’t always translate so well to Kindle Direct Publishing. My table of contents looked completely off. My introductory pages were cut off in weird places. I didn’t even get a chance to actually see how my stories looked from the free introduction, but given what I had seen, it needed to be pulled.

With the new possibilities for reach using Amazon Direct Publishing, self-published authors need to consider the possibility of hiring professionals to format their manuscript for readability on Kindle. I found a website, Word-2-Kindle.com, that does this job for only $49. I suggest that anyone new to KDP utilize their service, or others doing the same.

The rap on self-published books is that they are of poor quality. Formatting issues that hinder a reader’s capability to enjoy your work are a big turnoff. To uphold the standards of your writing, make sure to get your manuscript professionally formatted prior to using Kindle Direct Publishing.

Why You Should Consider Entering Literary Contests

A bit ago I read an article in The New Yorker by Malcolm Gladwell about the difficulties that young people face in a capitalist economy. Gladwell equated their big hurdle to rolling a boulder up a hill. Essentially, what Gladwell argued was that for any recent graduate entering the workforce, it has become a difficult process to gain that first foothold of credibility that can be parlayed into a long and fruitful career. Despite those initial difficulties, Gladwell posited that once established, for most it becomes relatively smooth sailing afterwards, aside from the fact that younger workers begin gunning for your spot.

The nature of the literary game serves as a perfect example of the truth of Gladwell’s analogy…

I myself faced many doubts about my writing ability. I had a professor at Beloit College write “Don’t make a career out of this” on an admittedly horrible short story I penned for his class. I wondered many times if I was only wasting my time writing fiction, poetry, and screenplays.

And then I landed my first acceptance letter from a competitive literary magazine, one that only accepted 13% of submissions. Mind you, the vast majority of submissions to that publication surely came from qualified writers with previous publications to their name who were submitting their best material. Despite how difficult it seemed before landing that first acceptance letter, since then it has been a steady and relatively easy progression of acceptances of my poetry and short fiction.

For you, perhaps your first admittance into the literary game might not come from a literary journal accepting your short work, an independent publishing house deciding to publish your manuscript or an agent deciding to represent you – your first big break may come from winning or placing in a literary contest.

If most everyone chooses to go one route, that being the route of trying to publish their short stories or poetry or get their manuscript picked up by an agent or small publishing house, then perhaps it might be worth considering trying something counter-intuitive like utilizing a literary contest to get your first break into the literary game.

Here are three reasons why you may want to consider entering one or more literary contests:

  1. It costs money to enter most contests. I fully understand that most people do not have money to throw around; however, imagine that you apply to five contests at an average cost of $20 each. For that $100 investment, if you win or place in any of the contests, you have just earned a major feather in your hat and can speed up the process of embarking on a career as a writer going forward.
  2. Few writers enter most contests. For many aspiring writers, the price, even as low as it is, is prohibitive. For established writers, only a handful of contests have “name recognition.” This creates a perfect opportunity for the aspiring writer hoping to make a name as many contests have only approximately fifty or so applicants, yet offer up slots for as many as ten writers to win or place.
  3. Contests grant instant credibility. Winning or placing in a literary contest immediately commands respect, making it easier for agents and publishers to take you seriously and opening up many doors for your literary career.

To learn more about specific literary contests, consider making a habit of visiting Poets & Writers. They have a page devoted to writing contests (+ grants and awards). Check it frequently and if a contest appears to be an appropriate fit, then take the risk and enter it!

What do you think about literary contests? Do you think they are a good method for aspiring writers to break in? 

Why It’s Important To Celebrate Other Writers’ Success

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A friend of mine who is a successful poet quipped, and in my opinion, not untruthfully, “Writers hate other writers.”

Unfortunately, what he said rings true. For many of us, rather than celebrating when other writers’ achieve a success, we utilize it as an opportunity to deride. Some writers will even extend this into their own circles of friends, turning against any writer who starts to amass a degree of success. This practice is not only in bad form, but it can also hinder a writer’s career.

Here are a few reasons why writers should celebrate other writers’ successes:

  1. The literary world is vast. There are many literary journals, publishing houses, contests, grants, and awards. You have a wideness of options as you go forward in your literary career and thus there’s no need to perceive any other writer as your competition.
  2.  Bad reputations become known. Writers talk amongst each other. So do editors and other literary figures. If you have a reputation as someone looking to bring enmity into the literary community, there is a possibility that your writing will be blacklisted, regardless of its quality.
  3. Successful writers can become valuable resources. In writing, like in anything else in life, successful individuals have far more power to influence and bring about the success of others. It is not wise to alienate people who can help you in your own literary career.
  4. It feels good. The simplest and most important reason is this – it makes the world a better place when you spread positivity rather than negativity. You will feel better when you make others feel good and this will lead to more creativity and productivity.

How do you feel about this topic? Do you think that within the literary community there is a significant amount of tension between writers? Leave a comment below to start this discussion.