In the writing world, what constitutes being a professional writer?
Is it your job?
Is it your college degree?
Is it how many books you have published?
Is it about popularity?
Personally, I think that a writing professional is what is seen in the eye of the beholder. I don’t feel that any one person can tell you that you are or are not the best in the field.
As people, we idolize writers like Frost, Poe, and Tolkien…among many. What makes them so huge in our existence?
It is our perception, their amazing use of our language and the pictures they can paint in our minds. That is what makes them great. AND, many of our favorite writers were not even famous until after their death…long after their death.
I read a lot. I have my favorite authors (yes, Tolkien is one of them) and I enjoy discovering new authors who can work their magic in my brain. When I read a stellar book, in my own opinion, I think of them as successful and a professional. A mentor even.
I have met some very talented people who have never attended college, never took creative writing in high school, and rarely read anything. They are gifted with the ability to draw masterpieces inside my head. As self-publishing becomes more popular, many people have a hard time giving new authors a chance. This is why:
- They had a bad experience with a previous author who didn’t know what they were doing.
- Many indie authors don’t know the difference between to, two, and too. Or there and their. What about where and were…weather and whether…the list goes on.
- Many indie covers look terrible. Well, even some published covers look terrible. But you know what I mean.
- The story is thin and predictable. The same old story told yet another way.
- The author doesn’t portray themselves as being professional.
I will admit…When I first began my writing adventures, I was more excited about having a publisher that believed in my abilities than taking the time to make my work spotless and perfect. When I realized my blunder, it was too late. My first printed book is a mess, riddled with typos and mistakes. Once it came time to hand out copies to people, I was embarrassed. I did book signings and promotions for it but felt very self-conscious about others looking at my dirty pages. The feeling is much like sitting in a cluttered and messy house and having your in-laws stop by. It is embarrassing, right?
That first book may have labeled me “unprofessional”. *sigh* That was not the reputation I was after. But is it ever one’s ambition? I don’t think so. The high of being published outweighs the reality of what it will look like without diligent attention to the final product.
Grammar mistakes are often grounds for dismissal of any new novel. Pay attention to your word usage. Write how you like to read. For me, I write simply so that people can be involved in the story and not stumble over my vocabulary. That is how I like to read. I have books that I have not made it beyond page one because I had to guess what a word meant or felt like I needed a dictionary handy to understand it. Am I not a smart person? I think I am very smart. But when you write with a thesaurus, it makes it difficult for your reader to get your message. It really does not make you look intelligent. I have found that writing in common language keeps it real. It is easy for the reader to relate to. It also makes it feel more personal.
Have a cover worthy of picking up. It should reach out and tickle someone’s curiosity, not look like it was put together on software from twenty years ago. Publishers can also be known for blazing through clients so fast that they produce less than par covers and no matter how loud you scream, theirs is the last word on the subject. If your publisher wants you to pay them to use your own art for a cover, PAY IT! Although I don’t believe that you should have to pay for your cover when they sign YOU to their contract, I know from experience that it is worth it to go with your gut and pay the money. If you are self-publishing, invest in a cover artist. Ask around for referrals from people you respect. It really does make all the difference. Unless you are experienced in making them, refrain from trying. Practice until another book comes out and you are that much better at it.
How many times have you read the story of a romantic encounter between two people that starts out good, then it gets pretty rocky and the girl leaves the man and he searches his soul and does anything to get her back? What about the mystery where a loved one is kidnapped, ransom is proposed and in the end, the police arrest the neighbor? Have you ever opened a book and known how it will end by the conclusion of the first chapter? Don’t be that transparent author. Put on that thinking cap and surprise your reader!
I go to websites all the time that have an interesting idea in a book, yet when you arrive at their blog, it is full of inappropriate language or comments that are unbecoming. Even sponsors in the sidebar can be offensive. I understand some genres having a particular theme going on, a horror book probably cares little about how they come across as it adds to the environment of their book. But to go on a site of a romance novelist or a nutrition counselor and find garbage content will make me decide against buying their book. If you want to be seen as a professional, you need to create the appearance that you are. If you need help with that, ask!
Do I consider myself a professional? I feel like I am just another person who does what they are passionate about. I write because I love it. Sometimes I write for my fans and what I think they will like to read. Sometimes I go for effect and twist things about to make them gasp in shock. I may not think I am a professional, but hearing feedback from my fans does make me feel important to them. Having a reader tell me that my characters feel like their best friends does make me feel like a professional.
In light of my seventh novel expected out in the next few months, I thought I might bring to light some of the points that authors miss. They are important to new readers so getting it right could be your ticket in…or out of the circle.
Here is a peek at my idea for my next cover of The Benevolent Light…