It’s the quality, stupid

1 Comment

I just fin­ished up an inter­view with the folks at Dead Robots Society for an upcoming episode of their pod­cast. It was a great dis­cus­sion, and it really got me thinking.

There are a lot of aspiring writers who focus on the wrong angles in their efforts to go pro. When I was coming up, I was easily dis­tracted by the need to net­work and market myself. I joined webrings, I had a blog, I went to cons and put a lot of effort into schmoozing.

You know what I didn’t put enough effort into? Writing.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. In this busi­ness, craft is king. You can be a great person, you can be gor­geous. You can be bestest bud­dies with every industry pro in the busi­ness. You can have an inspiring per­sonal story. If you don’t write a man­u­script that a pub­lisher thinks is going to blow the doors off, guess what kind of a book deal you’re going to get?

If you guessed “the kind where you don’t get one,” you’re right.

The latest dis­trac­tion is social media. I’ve actu­ally heard pan­elists at cons say that pub­lishers look to see what kind of a social media pres­ence writers have before buying their man­u­scripts. I *highly* doubt that this is true (I know it wasn’t for my deal), but even if it is, it’s wrong headed.

Example: I have 673 Face­book friends and 251 Twitter fol­lowers. Now, let’s be gen­erous and say that I had twice as many, for 1,848 people. Now, let’s say that by some mir­acle, every single one of those people went out and bought a copy of my book. And then let’s say that by an even greater mir­acle, they each told a friend and that friend also bought a copy. I’d have sold *less* than 4,000 copies. It’s a nice number to be sure, but is it a living? Is it enough to con­vince my pub­lisher to go on buying man­u­scripts from me in the future?

I’ll give you 3 guesses.

But what about writers who have over a mil­lion fol­lowers, like Neil Gaiman?” Some of you may ask. I’d answer that with a ques­tion of my own: “How do you think he *got* all those followers?”

By writing amazing books. Fame can become a self-licking ice cream cone as pop­u­larity feeds on itself, but at its root, atten­tion is a reward for quality.

Social media has a role, of course. So do inter­views, book sign­ings, con appear­ances and every­thing else you do to pro­mote your work.

But in the end, only *one* thing is going to make you a suc­cess. You have to write a DYNAMITE story. You have to have com­pelling char­ac­ters. You have to have a grip­ping plot. Your prose has to be evoca­tive. Your con­cept has to be original.

There’s no end run around it. If writing is some­thing you want to do for a living, then you have to be *good*.

And you get good by working. So get to it.