There Is no ‘I’ in Author

Author Writer Pic

There is a ‘u,’ but no ‘i,’ in the word ‘author.’ As an author, I write primarily for you, not for myself.

There is an ‘i’ in writer. There are many forms of writing where I can write primarily for myself.

If I wish to write only for myself, I would keep a private journal or diary.

If you wish to have others read your writing, then don’t write just for yourself.

Another way to think of the ‘u’ in ‘author’ is unselfish.

Putting little or no effort into editing and formatting is selfish. Making a concerted effort to improve these benefits your potential audience (some of whom may screen your Look Inside for this).

Not bothering to learn the basic rules of writing and punctuation (or finding an editor who does) is selfish. Learning the rules, and then only breaking them when you have good reason for it, is something your audience desires.

Writing without first researching the expectations of a genre is selfish. Learning these expectations and understanding the reasons for them helps you write a book that fits an audience.

Publishing a book primarily for money is selfish. Writing to share your passion is far more likely to please an audience and help generate valuable word-of-mouth sales.

Blogging mainly to generate direct sales is selfish. Blogging to connect with people who have similar interests and to share your ideas and knowledge is what followers seek.

Little or no marketing is selfish. Marketing helps others find your book so that you can share it.

Lack of effort in a cover is selfish. Striving to put a cover on your book that your target audience will be happy to hold in their hands and which looks suitable for its genre helps the target audience find your book and shows them that you care about quality.

Begging for reviews is selfish. Trying to get reviews by marketing to get more sales and professionally seeking reviews on relevant blogs through advance review copies helps the right audience discover your work.

Responding to customer reviews is selfish. Understanding that the review is about the book and not about you, realizing that no book will please everyone, and refraining from commenting on customer reviews appears professional.

Complaining about bad reviews is selfish. Examining criticism to see if there are any valid points that can help you grow as a writer and discarding what remains may help you improve as an author.

Self-promotion is selfish. Finding your target audience and showing that you care, letting people discover your book rather than advertising it openly, and branding your author image are less selfish and more effective forms of marketing.

Sticking with an idea that pops into your head when you discover that it’s not working is selfish. Realizing that a cover concept didn’t come out right or that a writing idea isn’t working and correcting the problem is what your audience wants.

Publishing to have your ego built up from loads of high praise is selfish. Joining a writer’s group to help improve your writing, learning the trade, and working diligently to perfect your craftsmanship are far more likely to merit such praise.

Selfishness shows.

If you’re driven primarily by money, the book you write is less likely to sell well. If your writing is driven by passion, your book is more likely to sell well. So even if you really crave the royalties, it still makes sense for you to instead by driven by passion.

Even if it sells well initially, apparent selfishness or lack thereof can have a major impact on valuable word-of-mouth sales.

Your book is more likely to be purchased if it is well-written in terms of spelling, grammar, punctuation, use of correct tense, use of consistent person, showing more and telling less, editing, writing style, formatting, and other related issues. If the title, blurb, or Look Inside reveal any writing, editing, or formatting problems, it deters sales because many readers check this carefully before making a purchase.

Emotional and reactive behavior look unprofessional. Patience and professionalism help your author image.

Books that meet the needs of your audience are apt to sell better than those that don’t.

Show that you care:

  • Let your passion for your writing and subject show without self-promoting it.
  • Put the effort into perfecting your book cover to cover to deliver a high-quality book.
  • When marketing, show that you care about the person and not just the royalty.
  • Don’t just advertise you and your book. What can you do that will benefit your audience?
  • Market your book diligently without self-promotion to help it get discovered.
  • Care enough about being a professional author to behave professionally.
  • Learn the value of the words ‘thank you.’
  • Demonstrate by example that you have good character.
  • Don’t just focus on you and your book. Make each reader feel special.

People are more likely to invest in you when you first invest in them.

Chris McMullen, self-published author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

17 comments on “There Is no ‘I’ in Author

  1. This is very tricky business. When you are the entire sales and marketing department for your book, in addition to be the creative team, how do you market in a way that is not self-promotion?

    • That’s a good question. I like to think in terms of being discovered and branded without open advertising. If a stranger comes out and says, “I just wrote a great book that you should read,” it’s a turn-off. If I meet a stranger, converse with him, ask what he does, and learn that he’s an author, now I want to read the book of someone I just met. I don’t check out an online post that screams Read My Book, but I do check out books of authors if they interest me when I happen to read posts that interest me in other ways (I might check out their profile to learn of their books, or see their book listed in their signature). Providing information that I’m looking for, sharing creativity, and showing strong character get my attention. Interruptions that are demanding attention don’t get my attention, but get ignored. Of course, marketing techniques must also depend on your specific target audience and also what suits you. (By the way, I ordered your book recently and have been waiting for it to arrive in the mail. 🙂 Your effort to spread happiness and help people find it caught my attention.)

    • Dear Chris,

      While I know, I still have lots of dots to connect, your article sure does provide an area to work with in. Thank you for sharing ‘THE SECRET’!

      Thank you for reblogging this Robynn, It truly is a great read.


  2. Interesting but some conflicting thoughts, imo. If you research genre conventions in order to write for an audience that doesn’t seem to include you, then aren’t you writing for money? I also don’t see how little or no marketing is selfish when some authors use writing their book(s) as a form of (quite successful) marketing. The more I consider this, the more I think a word other than “selfish” would be more appropriate. An author actually has the balls to say, I have an idea that’s *so important* that I’m going to cause you to sit down and read about it for 10 days (average length of reader time for a novel). That is definitely selfish but also what it means to be a writer. I think that what would be closer to the truth is that there needs to be a balance between writing for an audience (showing a good skill set, formatting, etc.) and writing for selfish purposes. To be an author is to be *somewhat* selfish. Those of you who have families can relate. I “selfishly” take massive amounts of time from my family so that I can write and market. I “selfishly” think that my ideas will matter to someone (and why? Because, on some level, they matter to me). So I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being a selfish author. Of course, you don’t want to interact with people just to make money. What if you make no money? Then all you have to show for your efforts are a ticked off potential consumer and wasted time. At the same time, we are “selfishly” asking people to take a chance and spend money on our books. We’re not giving them *all* away, right? The writing life must be balanced.

    • Those are some great thoughts; thank you for taking time to share them. I absolutely agree that most books do and should involve writing both for an audience, for yourself (I’m not saying we should sacrifice style and creative freedom), and for money. In my draft of this post, I included a few paragraphs discussing this interplay and striving to put more emphasis on writing for others, as in the sharing nature of writing. I don’t mean to suggest that it’s multiple choice: Write for you, write for others, or write for money. There does need to be balance.

      Many of the things one would do to write for an audience would also result in money. I would argue that the author who really is money-motivated should try to produce a book that really pleases a specific audience.

      I also agree that we can use the words selfish and (self-promotion) in different ways.

      Mainly, what I was hoping to convey, was the importance of others when writing; and, especially, remembering what we prefer as readers when we go to look for writing. 🙂

  3. Great post you have here. I liked how you showed contrast between selfishness and selflessness. There’s a relatively thin line between them and one should tread with caution.

    • Yes, it’s a challenge, and depends in part on the audience. I get some interesting ideas when I try to imagine Patch Adams as a full-time writer. Thank you for stopping by. 🙂

  4. Great post, Chris. I, too, value genuine connection with other bloggers over ‘trivial stuff’ such as traffic and click-throughs. Sure, they’d be nice, but that’s not why I blog.

    I’m gonna tweet this just so I know where it is and can get back to it when I, you know, forget. 😉

      • What I also find helpful, Chris, is Pocket and Evernote. I save articles that may be of interest, in terms of helping me put together a blog post or an essay, and tag them meticulously. Even with this system, however, I still misplace or completely forget them sometimes. When that happens, it’s very frustrating. But it’s better than not having any system at all. 😉

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