Regardless of how often you write every day or how many books you’ve written, if you’ve published a book or are planning to publish a book, you are a professional author. You’ve probably heard that you will only be as professional as you act. So how can you act professional?
Is it wearing a suit and tie while you type your next manuscript?
Is it writing exclusively on a typewriter?
How about selling a bazillion books?
Professionalism is much more intangible. It’s an attitude that says you take your work seriously. You are putting forth your best effort to be excellent in your craft as a writer, and you act in a way that lets others know you’re serious.
Because professionalism is an attitude, it’s difficult to put into concrete “do this” and “don’t do this” action steps. But I’ve come up with six things that are traits or actions of a professional author. This list is The Independent Author’s Professionalism Manifesto.
As a professional independent author, I pledge the following:
1. I will not bemoan my situation on social media.
Nothing says you view your writing as a hobby like talking about how poor sales have been, how you’re not good at parts of the indie author job, and the like.
“I can’t believe I actually sold a book this month!” and “I can’t figure out what to do with Facebook. I’m so bad at marketing. 🙁 ” are both unacceptable status updates for a professional author.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t have low sales or feel like you’re bad at marketing. And it certainly doesn’t mean that you should keep it to yourself. Network with some other professional authors and discuss these issues privately, working together to find solutions.
2. I will make a marketing plan and actively promote my book.
If you’re going to be a professional author, you need to make your book’s existence known. You don’t want to be the author who only talks about his or her books when they are released, then never mentions them again. Plan to do at least one promotional action every month—more if you can!
3. I will check my website for outdated information.
It amazes me how many authors have outdated websites. The trend seems to be to (maybe) update your “My Books” page when you have a new book coming out, so that page is (usually) up to date. But what about your author biography page? Are you still living in Ohio? Is that guy still your boyfriend? How many cats do you have now?
Maybe those details aren’t too important, but are there any past event dates listed on your sidebar? Or maybe a “coming soon” banner somewhere for a book that’s been released for six months? Time for a good scrub, right?
4. I will price my books based on their actual value.
Most indie authors I’ve talked to are convinced that to sell books, they need to set lower prices than other “more professional” authors. But think about the message you might be sending with that rock-bottom price. You could be communicating that your book is only worth half or a third of the other books in your genre.
Instead of racing to the bottom, resolve to do two things this year. First, ask several of your readers what your book is really worth. This is especially helpful if you feel like your work is subpar—your readers probably think otherwise! Next, look around Amazon for other books in your genre and categories. Look at prices, overall review scores, and page counts. Use that information to find out how those books are priced, and then check your own price to see how well your book’s price fits.
5. I will set deadlines.
Nothing says unprofessional like an author who can’t tell you when his or her next book is coming out. It doesn’t have to be a specific date like “April 18.” Even soft deadlines are better than saying your book will be published when you get around to it. “Next spring” or “August” are both acceptable soft deadlines. You know how long it takes you to write a book. Take a guess, make a deadline, and then do your best to achieve it.
6. I will not apologize for my work.
You can have doubts about your work. It’s okay. But you don’t need to wave those doubts in your readers’ faces. The only thing you’re doing by telling someone about the problems with your book is turning on the reader’s problem radar. Set yourself up for success by presenting your book and letting readers draw their own conclusions. And if there’s something you wish was better in one of your books, remember that and make it better in your next one.
Sign the Manifesto
It’s a new year! If you haven’t been acting like a professional author, make this the year you begin. Leave a comment below as your signature on The Independent Author Professionalism Manifesto.