Thursday, October 9, 2014

Be A Published Author BEFORE You Are Published

Being a published author is more than simply having a contract and a book on a shelf (either a physical copy or a digital one). Being a published author is about having a presences out there for the world to see. Although many of you out there have been convinced, either by yourself, or by speakers and bloggers that "in the end it is about the book" it is really time to change that thought. I am sorry to say this, but it isn't JUST about the book. It is about the complete package and that includes who you are as a public person.

I really started thinking about this Monday after the announcement from USA Swimming about the 6 month suspension of Michael Phelps for his recent DUI. What I found interesting were the number of comments by people who were suddenly defending Phelps for this "accident" by making comments such as "he didn't want to be a role model." Well I am sorry to say this, but the approach he took with his career and his public profession DID make him a role model. And for writers, it is the same thing.

Readers are not picking up your books and simply amazed at the great storytelling. For many, they are amazed that you did something that many could only dream of doing. Think about this... how many times do you get the response, "I just don't know how you come up with those story ideas. I wish I could" when you tell someone you're an author. That is an admiration for the work you do, and, therefore, you have just become a role model in your profession.

What I have seen, however are two issues that need to be addressed. The first is when you start becoming that role model, and the second is how you prevent yourself from becoming that hated role model after you become published.

I really don't care if you are published or not, if you are in the process of being a professional writer, you have to start now. You have a reputation and this needs to be a professional reputation. People are watching you and people are listening to you. When you get on social media, people are watching and they are going to remember if you are someone who is professional, or simply a hack with an attitude. This isn't about creating a platform or a brand. It is all about public perception.

This extends also to the conferences. How you appear in public is one that needs to be professional. You need to treat others with respect. You need to help out when you can in your chapter and yes, if you can at the National level. You are a professional writer.

The second issue I stated is what happens when you are now published. I am sorry to see so many authors out there who seem to think they are ABOVE all of the other authors out there simply because they have a contract, or they are with [X Agent]. The last time I checked, we all put our pants on the same way. In fact, once you become published, you have to be even more of a role model to others. Not only do you have readers who are following you, there are also the writers who want to learn from you and know what you did.

I am reminded of something my son went through when he switched to his current swim team. We came from a team that had some good swimmers on it, but it wasn't so nationally known as his current swim team. When he switched, there was a week or so when he had this attitude that somehow, his speed had accelerated, simply because of the swim cap he was wearing. But we had to really stamp that out of his thinking. He had to learn that he now had an added responsibility of being on the team because he now represented the team. As far as his speed, that didn't change because of the hat.  

This attitude change is crucial if you want to succeed in this business but you need to start now. Take the time to really explore how you act and how you behave. Take time time to consider what your public image is for all around you. Are you being the person you would want to follow as a reader and a writer? Or, are you being that person you really look down on because you thought that person in the past to be a "diva"?

Something to consider...

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