No one saw 2020 coming.
We thought we did. We thought we knew what to expect. But it blindsided us. And for many, the uncertainty about the years to come leaves us with a lot of questions and fears. What's next? we wonder.
If there is anything to be gained from such a globally turbulent year—whether it’s in terms of the pandemic, politics, or the growing awareness of what has been undisturbed for too long, and what needs to rest—it’s that we learned things. Maybe it was the hard way. Maybe it was the cruel way. Maybe it was the “lying on the floor in sweatpants and crying” way. But we learned.
And the key to all learning is to know what to take with us as we journey forth.
With that in mind, we’re looking back at some of our best blog posts and advice for writers from 2020. Whether you're working on a manuscript, having your book edited, planning a launch, putting together a social media profile, or gearing up for sales and marketing, there's something here for you.
Why you should keep writing during a pandemic
For more, check out “Writers in a Dangerous Time”
For many authors and writers, the pandemic proved to be promising encouragement to stay home and write, even if it didn’t always work nearly as well as we hoped. Earlier this year, this blog addressed the importance of writing during dark times.
“Escaping from fear can be a challenging prospect. Technology provides us with numerous options: movies, television, video games, and social media. But only through books are we most effectively whisked away to a completely different world untouched by our current reality. Especially in fiction—and the more fantastic the better (who doesn’t like living at Hogwarts from time to time?)—books provide an escape that can last for hours, days, or even weeks. And through your writing, your short stories and books and poetry, you have the ability to make a safe place for someone else. Will readers forget their troubles? Unlikely. But for a short period of time, they can leave them behind, giving their brains and hearts some time to breathe and heal.
“Isolation can open up opportunities for everyone, but especially for creators. For writers, it’s an opportunity to not only lose ourselves in our work but also use our creativity to help others.”
Your writing skills can be transferable to other means of income
For more, check out “How to Make Extra Income as a Writer”
Some writers and authors hold full-time jobs and do their writing on the side. Others rely on part-time or contract work that allows them to take time off for writing. There are even a fortunate few who can afford to write full-time. But with a little resourcefulness, a lot of hard work, patience, a willingness to learn, and of course, our blog tips, you can find other streams of income, such as:
- Writing for newspapers and magazines
- Contributing to literary journals, magazines, and websites
- Writing reviews
- Working for other writers
- Writing for businesses large and small
Hiring a reputable, professional editor can be one of the best things you do for your book
For more, check out “Why Your Book Needs a Professional Editor”
Think your book doesn’t need an editor? In this blog post, we separate some of the facts from fiction and talk about the benefits of hiring a professional editor. Why? A poorly edited—or unedited—book will sell fewer copies and is less likely to be well reviewed than one that is professionally edited. Editors can turn a good book into a great book, and while you might not notice a good editor, you will definitely notice the absence of one.
“Your favorite books that grace the bestseller lists? They’ve had, at minimum, THREE different editors working on them throughout the production process: a content, or developmental, editor; a copyeditor; and a proofreader...
“There seems to be a misconception in some circles that editors are only for bad writers and bad books. This is a flagrantly false assumption. The best writers in the world have excellent editors. After all, a good editor does more than just check your spelling and grammar. A good editor can identify plot holes, spot inconsistencies, improve story structure and flow, provide feedback for clarity and context, and even suggest ideas on how to make the book even stronger. They’ll fix sloppy writing, repetitiveness, and most important, they are the one person that can see what’s happening in your blind spot…and correct it.”
Amazon is a great place to sell your book...but it’s not the only place
For more, check out “12 Places to Sell Your Book”
We want writers and authors to be successful, and one of the best ways to do that is by selling enough books to keep writing (and OK, maybe the added ego boost is nice, too). In this blog post, we talk about some of the pros and cons of diversifying your sales on other platforms, including how much it will cost—or save—you. Here is a list of Amazon alternatives that may intrigue you, or convince you to stick to Amazon:
- Your website
- Apple Books
- Google Play Books
- Barnes & Noble Press
- Kobo’s Writing Life
How to turn your author website into a marketing powerhouse
Often overlooked or even avoided, an author website is a key component of marketing your books and even yourself as an author/writer. Some authors think it’s unnecessary. Others see it as intimidating and requiring large amounts of money and time. And it can be. But if you’re willing to teach yourself, the cost can be lower than you expect, and you might just learn a valuable skill.
“An author website is key to announcing the presence of both your books and yourself as a writer. Your website can be a glorious place to not only engage with readers but sell your books, introduce people to your writing, and establish and reinforce your author brand. But before diving in, [it’s helpful to understand] how to make your website an effective experience for both you and your readers.”
In this blog post, we talk about what your website can do and how to get started, but most important, a great author website needs the following:
- Immediate promotion of your book(s) with an easy “Buy Now” button
- A great author bio. Your readers want to know about you and your writing/professional background
- Links to all your (public) social media profiles
- A means for readers to contact you
- A newsletter sign-up
- Quality content (such as blogs, articles, short stories, and more)
- Press/media information and materials
Don’t just give your book one marketing push—give it 14!
For more, check out “14 Surprising Ways to Market Your Book”
One of the biggest mistakes self-published and indie authors can make is skimping on marketing and promotion. Too often, authors plan too late for their book launch and beyond, often giving up after only a month or two of marketing efforts. Here are a few marketing methods we discussed that can widen your audience, increase your visibility, and/or boost book sales:
- Publishing another book, or even a novella
- Promoting your backlist
- Writing for other publications
- Engaging with readers on different platforms
- Exploring crowdfunding
- Aiming for a high-profile blurb
- Teaming up with another author
- Using trending topics and current events to promote your book
- Making a book trailer or animating your book cover
- Selling your nonfiction as a promotional product
You don’t have to take part in NaNoWriMo to benefit from it
For more, check out “6 Major NaNoWriMo Lessons for Every Writer (Even if You Don’t Participate)”
National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) happens every November, and an unholy number of authors and writers step up and challenge themselves to write a book in a month. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea (or wine), but the exercise has fantastic merit to it.
Writers and authors not only learn that it is possible to write a book in a month (even if it still needs work later) but also how to step away from competing with other writers, the benefits of shaking up our writing routines, the importance of planning ahead, and even that when we lose, we win.
“The biggest and most important lesson all of us (even nonwriters) can learn from NaNoWriMo is this: even if you don’t complete the challenge, or your end result wasn’t what you hoped, you still come out on top. By challenging ourselves to make a change and do something different, we discover the possibility of finding new ways to approach our work and of creating new work that never would have existed.
“This one of those genuinely rare moments to undertake a potentially herculean task and have something incredible to show for it. How often does that happen? Because when it comes to writing a book, it doesn’t happen as often as we think it does.
“Years ago, I read that of the many people who ever set out to write a book, fewer than 10 percent of them actually completed it. When we step out of our comfort zones and confront our ideas of what we’re capable of—and what we have the capacity to create—we can change our entire writing lives. Maybe this book is the one that will change your life. And maybe this book is the one that will change someone else’s life.”
Hannah Guy lives in Toronto and is a professional writer and copywriter who specializes in books, books, and more books. Follow her on Twitter at @hannorg.