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Invest in Yourself

[1]Not so long ago, “being a writer” might have cost us our sanity, consumed countless hours each day and caused us to opt out of paying jobs, but it didn’t actually require spending money.

Those days are over.

A veritable writing industry has emerged in the wake of the  digital revolution, complete with webinars, seminars, conferences and manuscript consultations available to all — for a fee.  Amid today’s fierce competition, writers with professional aspirations know how important it is to partake in these.  Regularly.

At the same time, we all know that authors are becoming increasingly responsible for most or all of their publicity expenses.  With advances shrinking, too, that means emptying pockets, dipping into savings.

And with the rise of e-books and easy self-publishing, all writers have the opportunity to reach large audiences directly.  But building the awareness it takes to reach them, and appealing to them with a respectable level of professionalism, requires cash.

Yet somehow, the gritty, romantic notion of pinching pennies while quietly scratching out our drafts, of using advances to fix leaky roofs or pay off credit card balances then doing everything from building web sites to pitching the media by ourselves, continues to shape many writers’ choices.  We ask friends to copy-edit our manuscripts.  We design our own book covers.  And publicity?  Forget it.  Once the book is out, we tweet about it, do a few book club events, contact a local paper, cross our fingers and start writing something new.

But those of us who truly want to establish a niche as an author and give our books a fighting chance to sell MUST come to terms with the fact that in this day and age, none of it will happen without some sort of monetary investment.

I know it sounds terrifying.  It’s difficult enough to forgo an income and make other sacrifices for the sake of writing.  But to justify spending money on it, too?  Especially when the payoff in dollar terms can be slim?

Well, just look at the flip side: How can anyone justify making so many sacrifices without giving their efforts every possible chance to succeed?

In today’s environment, this means letting go of the anxiety- and doubt-driven impulse to cut costs by doing everything ourselves (or not doing it at all), and hiring professionals where appropriate who’ll help us do things right and put our very best foot forward.

Of course, like with any investment there’s a risk.  But remember: most investments yield the best results over time.  Awareness built today is the foundation for a growing readership tomorrow.  Buzz is often quiet at first but it feeds upon itself.  A reputation is built one review and one impressed reader at a time.

Not to mention that when you invest in yourself as a writer, things happen.  Taking a risk, going out on a limb, creates a whole new sense of commitment and accountability.  A new sort of momentum with the potential to open unexpected doors kicks in.

Recently, a client told me she’d decided to invest in my PR services above all to “honor” her book.  To me, this speaks volumes about her belief in herself as a writer, her devotion to the writing path and her chances of carving out a place for herself in readers’ hearts.

Sure, some people don’t aspire to share their work beyond their circle of family and friends.  In that case, it’s probably not necessary to spend anything other than time.  But for those who do hope to carve out a place in readers’ hearts more broadly, expenses for services like publicity, manuscript consultations, editing and design MUST be factored into those “writing life” plans.

For if we don’t believe in our work enough to invest in it and honor it this way, who will?

About Sharon Bially [2]

Sharon Bially (@SharonBially [3]) is the founder and president of BookSavvy PR [4], a public relations firm devoted to authors and books. Author of the novel Veronica’s Nap [5], she’s a member of the Director's Circle at Grub Street, Inc., the nation’s largest independent writing center, and writes occasionally for the Grub Street Daily.