The Unwritten Rules of the Game (Seriously. There Are Rules!)

I love writers.

Seriously. Nobody understands a writer like other writers. Creative people don’t think like normal people. (Stop snickering!) Our brains are wired differently. Don’t believe me? It’s been researched by psychologists, neurologists, and probably a lot of other disciplines I’m currently unaware of. But that’s another topic for another time. Maybe.

Writers support each other. We listen to each other whine and complain when things aren’t going well. We celebrate each others’ successes. We promote each others’ books. We follow each others’ blogs and like each others’ Facebook pages. We retweet each others’ Tweets. Sure, there are always a few rotten apples, even in the literary barrel–those who give nothing but expect everything–but for the most part, we’re there for each other. Years ago, when I was starting out, a group of us got together once a month for dinner, during which we’d share publishing info and bounce ideas off each other. We traveled to writers conferences together. 

One of the best bits of advice my agent gave me shortly after the sale of my first novel was to join a local writers group. She stressed the importance of networking, of getting to know other writers. She was so right. No one, not even a writer, is an island. The more writers I got to know, the more I realized how much I didn’t know about “the business.”

I’ve been fortunate to have had good friends in the writers community throughout the almost thirty years I’ve been in the business, first in traditional publishing, then as a self-published author. And I’ve learned a great deal from each of them….

1. Read each others’ books–and review them! If you expect other authors to review your book, you’d better be reviewing theirs, too. (And if you’re reviewing books in your genre, readers will see those reviews and be more likely to buy yours, so think about that. When I post a review, my name is always followed  by “author, The Unicorn’s Daughter” since that book is now the first in an upcoming series.)

2. Same goes for blogs. If you’re not reading and commenting on others’ blogs, yours is going to be a pretty lonely place. Again, when you’re seen making clever comments on other bloggers’ blogs, their followers are likely to check out yours. That’s how I found some of my favorite bloggers.

3. Promote each others’ books. Invite other authors to guest post on your blog–or interview them. For my Amazon author page, I used an interview my partner in crime, William Kendall, did with me. It was a lot more interesting than the standard author bio!

4. Invite other authors to join you in promotions.  Example: Hilary Grossman, author of Dangled Carat (which, by the way, is now on sale at Amazon!). Hilary is an inspiration. She was working on her book when a rather nasty hurricane named Sandy hit the east coast. I remember Hilary’s struggles in the aftermath of Sandy’s devastation–but she finished her book, published it, and went on to arrange a couple of successful book giveaways–not only to promote her own book, but those of her friends as well. I was honored to be asked to participate–and pleased with the boost in sales I got each time.

A few years back, William Kendall, Mike Saxton, Beth Muscat, Krisztina Williams, Eve Gaal, Shelly Arkon, Mark Richard Hunter, April Morone, Lena Winfrey Seder and I formed Writers of Mass Distraction in the Writers Digest online community, a group where we could laugh, bitch and moan, whatever was needed, and have friendly ears listening and providing sympathy, advice and a few cyberhugs as needed. When the WD community went extinct, we moved the group to Facebook, adding a second group, Writers Mayhem, which we opened to a larger membership than the original group. We’ve had to boot a few bad apples from that group, but overall, it’s been a success.

Get a bunch of writers together and we’ll put a Shriners convention to shame. After being alone with our own thoughts and a cast of uncooperative characters for days on end, we need the release. Be patient with us. Sanity doesn’t come easily to writers!


22 responses

  1. I've seen too many writers who go the opposite path, decide not to do anything that remotely helps other writers while expecting everyone to go out of their way to back them up.

    Sanity certainly never comes easy to us!

  2. So have I–but fortunately, they're in the minority. I've known a few who would sell their own children to make the bestseller list, and I've known one or two who made promises they conveniently forgot once they got the endorsement/review/sales or whatever they were after. But they only get away with that once.

  3. OMG !
    The first photo made me laugh.
    Like any artist you work for long hours in your studio alone (except if you have demanding Square Dogs) and need to talk to other humans to help keep yourself semi-human.

    cheers, parsnip

  4. The friendships we make are a wonderful bonus, Grace!

    I think forming those connections as soon as possible is essential for first-time authors. After all, friends and family aside, who's going to notice a first novel by an author no one's ever heard of–without the support of established authors? The odds are against it.

  5. I was pleased to be able to tell my family I was a writer. Now, instead of calling me crazy, they say in hushed tones: “She can't help it. She's a writer, you know.”

  6. Norma, this is really a great post full of advice and with your heart and soul in it. Really, what can a writer do without her other writer friends? It is not just about the networking and the sharing, but it is also about the moral support when authors sometimes get so frustrated they want to give up. It is about being able to be our crazy selves together and to appreciate our uniqueness and to build bonds of fellowship and friendship. It has been an honor to know all of you great writers here, and really I thank you for all of your kindness, support and for coming in to my heart! We do have to support each other both professionally and emotionally. It really helps just to have great friends who can make us smile and laugh with quirky jokes and cute things that we come up with. Writers are a special breed of our own. Take care! 🙂

  7. We are indeed unique, Lena–we're looking at “quirky” in the rearview mirror! And we're each others' cheerleaders when the going gets tough. Established writers get friends who have been in the same boat, and new writers get the benefit of the pros' experience.

    We were all newbs once. After all the years spent in traditional publishing, I thought self-publishing would be a piece of cake. I was shocked to find it was like going to another planet–but I was lucky to have met a few self-pubbed authors who'd been doing it for a while and were willing to share their experiences.

  8. Thanks. Blog posts by experienced authors and bloggers, telling it like it is, are a great gift to those of us getting ready for publication. I've gotten quite an education since I started reading the blogs – and have bookmarked the posts I know are going to come in handy.

    I also find that blogging clarifies my own thoughts and records the processes my brain goes through to write. Even with the caveat YMMV, posts that make explicit how to do something go a long way to reducing the fear.

  9. I agree, Alicia–blogging does help the writing process.

    And I do the same–I've bookmarked a lot of posts for the same reason. Are you familiar with How I Found the Write Path? It's a compilation of letters author have written to their past selves about the writing process. I'd recommend it to any author at any stage in their career.

  10. Sanity??? Oh yes, that brief second before the mind reals off on a totally bizarre course.
    But seriously, thank you for the great advice and the laughter along the way. I will be checking out the Facebook group.

  11. How did I miss commenting here???? I thought I did! Thank you so much for spotlighting me Norma! I am so thankful for our friendship and all of your support! You are one amazing lady!

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