This is the second in a six-week blog tour series for the Northwest Independent Writers’ Association. NIWA serves Pacific Northwest writers working to achieve professional standards in independent writing, publishing and marketing.
Resources for the Weary Writer, by Thomas Gondolfi
So you don’t know how to take the next step in your writing career, whatever it may be. All of us professional authors have a small stack of resources we reach for when the going gets tough. I’m going to share my personal toolbox.
My first tool may seem obvious and even laughable to the vast majority of you – your internet search engine of choice. I only bring this up because I started as a pro writer before the internet raised its infant head. The World Wide Web is a tool beyond price. You can learn more in five minutes on a given topic than the weeks it would take to scour the library, chain book stores, and catalogs for information. I’ve said it before and will say it again, the internet allows you the ability to become at least surface competent on just about any profession in a short time. But this tool has a sharp edge. Be careful because despite claims to the contrary not everything on the internet is true.
I have one resource I go to time and again – my wife. Now understand this isn’t just a man going to his spouse. My wife is a massive bibliophile (she reads much more than I do) and thus her advice is often spot on! I urge you to find a book worm and lean on her/him for feedback and idea sessions. Along the line above, you can often get good advice from other authors/readers on social media but it is better to have someone you know and trust who is available most times to give you those swift kicks in the arse to get you headed in the right direction.
Critiques are a special problem. As much as you’d like to, you can’t take them from your friends and family – they have too much invested in you as a person to give you frank feedback. Even face to face critique groups can move in this direction. This is why I like the anonymity of online critique groups. There are several to choose from, some “free” and others paying a nominal fee. The primary payment you make, however, is to spend your time critiquing other writer’s work. When you receive feedback, the critic is unknown to you, he/she has no reason to fudge their views of you to keep you happy. I remember putting up the beginning of one of my novels to get a feel if I was moving in the right direction. I was so proud of it. I KNEW I would get nothing but good feedback. /WRONG! It was almost universally trashed, not because the writing was bad, but because it had no beginning of book hook. After pouting, I took the time to objectively look over their viewpoint. They were right. This is the value of critiques, seeing what you are too blinkered to see. I have used www.critiquecircle.com in the past and have been happy with both the quality of the site and reviewers. Note that this particular site is well past its prime and is in the middle of an upgrade that will take quite some time, so be advised.
To self or traditional publish is one of the stones we all must turn over in our mind. The thing that finally helped me make that decision was a book by Peter Bowerman entitled “The Well-Fed Self-Publisher.” I don’t know Mr. B, nor do I get anything for plugging his book. The concepts in his book really stood out to me. It defined the pluses and minuses of each choice (guess which he leans toward). He gives good advice on methodology. The only place I felt this book fell down was on specific vendors he suggested. I tried a couple and they all didn’t meet my expectations. So pay close attention to what and how he says to accomplish things and ignore the who!
Friends and Minions can be a huge help, especially when you are trying to do things that are difficult to impossible for one person. Here I have failed. I truly wish I had one or two really good minions that would come to my show with me, dress in cosplay of characters in the book, help me set-up / take down. But I’ve missed the boat somehow. I suggest you work to cultivate them in your own line.
Last, but certainly not least, professional organizations can be one of your best friends. I’m currently part of a group called Northwest Independent Writer’s Association (https://www.niwawriters.com/). I also recommend Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association (http://www.pnba.org/) but let my membership lapse as mostly they meet outside my comfort zone for travel. Both of these organizations (and those local to you) provide education, support, and most importantly a group of authors all trying to be successful. The latter is important because they will have different ideas when it comes to marketing, shows, and vendors. Many have probably already tried the latest idea you had for marketing/sales of your book and have feedback that can save you months, if not years of grief, and many almighty dollars. I also mentioned vendors. If you need a typesetter, or an editor, they can point you in directions of folks that have done them proud in the past and prevent you from pulling the slot machine handle based on a webpage or resume.
I hope these ideas help you with your journey into the wild world of publication.
About Thomas Gondolfi: Founding TANSTAAFL Press in 2012, Thomas Gondolfi is the author (and book parent) of the Toy Wars series, the CorpGov Chronicles, and Wayward School along with numerous other writing and editing credits which can be found on www.tanstaaflpress.com. He is a father of three (real children), consummate gamer, and loving husband. Tom also claims to be a Renaissance man and certified flirt.
Raised as a military brat, he spent twenty years of his life moving to a new place every few years giving him a unique perspective on life and people.
Working as an engineer in high tech for over thirty years, Tom has also worked as a cook, motel manager, most phases of home construction, volunteer firefighter, and the personal caregiver to a quadriplegic.