Here is your main take-away from this post:
Serious writers should strive NOT to be junk peddlers. Self-published/Indie authors have the worst reputations for being junk peddlers.
If you're going to make a business of your writing, it's very important that you do your part to change that perception. Do your best to make your writing worth someone's time and money.
Here are a few things to increase the chances of your writing being well-received.
1. Read more books.
One of my college professors told me that reading expands the vocabulary, improves the attention span, cures laziness, and staves off over all ignorance. So, I guess that makes it a cure all. But if nothing else, the more you read, the better you write. No one wants to read any work that looks like it was written by someone who never read a book...ever. Spend some time in a library and/or a bookstore and just read.
2. Read articles and blogs.
Find useful information and apply it to developing your craft and preparing yourself for publishing, including learning what to look for and what to avoid.
Here is one most excellent blog by the Passive Income Author, Skellie with tons of great insight.
Here is another one from Maria Murnane about the importance of editing.
One more, from Mallary Jean Tenore, speaking with bestselling author, Jennifer Weiner about social networking tools.
And Writer Beware and Preditors and Editors are excellent reference sites for authors looking for publishing options, editors, and agents. Yes, I know "predators" is misspelled, but I'm sure they thought it was a really clever play on words at the time. It's still worth a look.
Look around. Read, read, read!
3. Observe other writers and learn from them.
For this, you should be willing to read through some other up-and-coming authors' work, and not just authors whom you already admire. Visit their websites and blogs. Attend author events, workshops, and conferences, if possible. If you can't attend a conference or workshop...you guessed it. Read! Learn what other authors do well, and decide what you want to emulate. Learn what they don't do as well, and decide what you'd like to improve for your own writing platform and future works.
4. Write openly, honestly, and without inhibition.
Yes, this takes work. Writing is personal, and it's hard enough to allow someone else to see your work without the added pressure of someone not "getting" it, and therefore not enjoying it. Take your time to get to this point. You'll be ready to share when you're ready to share. But at some point, you'll need to put fear and inhibition in your back pocket and move. And a lot of it will be painful and scary, but that's what good writing is, in my opinion.
5. Write for readers, not for other writers.
If you're developing a story, a character, or something else in draft form, or if you're writing just to vent or blow off steam about the challenges and lessons of the journey, then it's always a good idea to bounce your thoughts off of other writers. For that, find a good writer's forum, like She Writes. But once you're ready to push forward with a finished work, understand that your audience is different. Most of your reading audience doesn't care about the journey. They just want you to bring the story home. In order for your readers to care about you and your work, and to want to support it, they need to feel connected to you and what you're offering. Write about things that they care about, and they will care about you.
6. Treat your writing like a business.
If you want exposure, and possibly to publish and distribute your work, create and build a presence, online and in real life, and that's more than just spamming people with BCC emails and regularly blasting ads for your book on their Facebook walls. It's lazy, ill-mannered, annoying, and usually ineffective.
Remember: Engage and connect. While your Facebook page is a great place to socialize and network, you'll find that it's not the best place to sell books. Think about it. How many books have you bought from your Facebook friends? How much actual support have you given to a business listed on Facebook, other than "Like" the page? Exactly. All the more reason to get out and about on the Web and broaden your cyber horizons.
7. Create a website, or at least a blog, that's geared toward attracting readers. Take an interest in what interests your readers. Search for and find readers who are actually interested in what you write, i.e., your genre or subject matter.
Don't assume that one person's audience will be drawn to your writing just because you write in the same genre. Put in the work. Research. Pay attention.
If you have a personal website, Facebook page, or Twitter profile, consider creating and maintaining a second website or profile that is exclusively for your writing business. And for the love of beans and gravy, please treat your website with care. Check it and update it regularly, especially to catch and correct typos, and to make sure your links work. No one will take you seriously as a writer, editor, publisher, etc., if you don't take the care to maintain your web presence. There are tons of places that you can build free or inexpensive websites, such as Weebly. And believe me when I say that they make it super user-friendly, and still help you put together an attractive, professional site. If you want to invest in a professional to build your site, then okay; but just know that there are some free-of-charge options out there.
9. Keep it professional.
Whatever you do, don't treat your business website like an old MySpace page, with music and graphics bouncing all over the place. It's distracting, especially if it's a song that I know, and too many moving parts and too much noise will make it look (and sound) amateurish. It's all right to be an amateur, as long as you put a professional foot forward. For an occasional sanity check, ask family and friends to look over it and give you feedback. A fresh set of eyes will often catch things that we miss in our own work. I prefer a silent website, but depending on your target audience, music and a few subtle graphics may work for you. Just keep it professional.
Well, that's it for now. As always, this is just what I'm learning as I go. Use what works for you, and brain dump the rest.
Take care, all. Happy Writing!