Zombie Zak’s Advice Post – How To “all that and a bag of brain dip”.
Ok, so, I was challenged and lo, I have come to the table.
I, by no means am an expert, and by no dint of my own hand, do I claim to know all the answers. And, moreso, in no way shape or form do I even think to profess to be the guy who can tell you, in four easy steps, how to “do it and be great.” I can, however, share what I’ve observed over the last few years and hopefully, provide some clues as to what to look for and how to get a little bit better ahead.
Lots of them. I don’t mean go up to every freak on the street and try and grab their hand and force them to like you, no (that will land you in an unpleasant place.) However, I do mean, talk to people, interact. In real life, on the web, in forums, on social media, wherever you can. But, understand that everybody else may be doing exactly the same thing. Now, many people are shy, or leery of doing this leg of the game. But it’s important. If you don’t get out there and socialize, why would anybody want to read your material? Sure, it might be the best thing on the face of the electronic world since the invention of neural net interfaces, but who’s going to care if they don’t see it? By interacting with the world, you bring the world to your doorstep. By being a nice person, you attract people to your world. And where possible, ask questions; not intrusive ones. And don’t be surprised if some experts or those to whom one idolizes, are abrupt or otherwise, as they probably get asked a lot of such questions. Everyone “out there” is looking to do likewise, so be different, be original and innovative when approaching people.
No one can accomplish success on their own. Other people are part of the equation. Publishers, editors, distributors, ad infinitem. By making friends with enough people, the statistical law of averages brings to bear, the very real possibility of hitting the right connection that can help propel your work to the forefront of someone else’s eyes, and continue to build on that body of work. “Overnight success, does not come overnight; it takes years of hard work to create the opportunities that allow one to become successful.” Or something to that effect.
PS: Go to conventions, too!
Social Media, the Online Revolution:
Use the tools available, but do so with a sense of calm and consideration. FaceBook, Twitter, GoodReads, etc are great places to “spread the word”. But, if you do it poorly, you’re going to look silly. Don’t post every 30 minutes, don’t spread your posts on everybody’s page. Doing so is likely to get you banned in some sites, and drive a lot of people into crazy land. As I mention above, interaction is the key art to develop here. Sign onto everything you can, and slowly, calmly build a history of interaction.
Now, I’m not talking about making friends just so that you can “use them” to get ahead, like a ladder of souls risen from the dead. No, it’s a part of the game of give and take. You want to succeed at your chosen profession, so do “they”. If you and “they” are playing the same game, and both are bringing something to the table to share, then both are getting ahead. I had a former boss tell me something about his personal point of view on success and how to get ahead, and I’ve always remembered it.
(Gonna paraphrase …): “Don’t be afraid to give a hand to the other guy trying to get ahead; and don’t be afraid to ask for help from the other guy to get ahead yourself. One never knows who’s going to end up in front, you, him or somebody else. But, if you’re a person of integrity, and you help someone else get ahead, don’t you think they will help you when it turns around? And, if you’re the “mean person” or they’re the “mean person”, what happens when one of you is on the way down?” So, my thought here is: Be friendly, be nice – it comes back.
I hear from some people, that this is something they don’t like to do. “It’s a burden,” to go out and chat with people; they just want to write and become successful and dang all the rest of that. But, the reality is, in today’s world, there are thousands of people trying to do exactly the same thing, in this world that keeps getting smaller and smaller by the year, the electronic world is scrunching all of the creative content creators into smaller and smaller boxes, and those who can differentiate themselves, can bring something truly great to the world.
You need it to write, you need it to understand what you’re working on, you should do it when you look to publish, too.
Check the publishers that you want to work with, check out those who are published that you admire, see what they have in common, and try to ally along those lines. There’s a lot of good people out there trying to bring the best work that they can, but there are also a number of nefarious people out there who want to run their own agendas. If somebody will “help you”, but you have to fork over cash to get that help, then, they’re probably not really trying to help you (they might be, but they might not be.)
Read publishers posted criteria for submitting work. Really read it. Don’t assume that you or your work is what they want, without checking out their guidelines. I’ve heard it often mentioned that publishers and editors and submissions checkers just absolutely love to receive thousands of submissions; and, it makes their tasks infinitely more easy to do, when they can easily and simply say “rejected, does not meet guidelines” and move onto something that does meet the guidelines.
It’s hard work trying to be successful, and it sure as sugar cakes doesn’t happen over night. You will produce crap, you will produce gems. A popular current theme states that (paraphrasing here): “You have to get your first million words out of you, before you can start making truly great literature.” If you can see that adage as it is, that the reality is, nobody starts making magic from the get go, right at the beginning. One needs to put in a lot of hard work, and effort. One must continuously improve, get better at the craft and never surrender to the dark cries that scream out to give it up.
There is lots of talk about self publishing, small press publishing and established (the big six or other oft used euphemism) publishers – about what is “best” and most appropriate at what level ad infinitem. Bottom line, what works for you, or for someone else, is not necessarily what will work for you, or for the other person. There are many publications put out via every form of publishing – some of them are “less than exemplary”, some of them are the “cutting edge of innovation and desirable literature for the contemporary mind.” Find the one that suits you best, and work it as best you can.
All it takes is one good, opportune moment to let your inner demons out and shake up the world. That’s when the magic begins. So, the main thing is, once you’ve decided that this is the gig you wanna pursue, keep doing it. Circumstances may prevent things from taking hold as strongly as you might want it to at the beginning; it may take years before one even sees the glimmer of realized potential sprouting against the backdrop of mediocrity. However, if one gives up when it’s tough, one cannot carry on through to when it succeeds.
So, those are my handy tidbits of advice on how to become a better author. Note, I didn’t talk about how to write better, nor how to learn more about the art/craft of writing. I’m talking about how to get ahead. I’m not there yet; but I’m certainly not going to stop until I’m either dead or there … (Uhmm, ok; rethinking that: “until I’m there, forget the dead part.”)
But, most important thing of all; the thing that, if no other thing rings for you from what I say; the thing, that if all else fails and the world spirals into a screaming vortex of rot, ruin and oblivion … the thing that matters most: Have fun with it. As a writer, we make worlds … and hope that others enjoy living in them. How cool is that? Personally, I think it’s very cool.