Becoming a Writer: 14 Things No One Told Me

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When you publish your first book, there’s so many things that no one tells you. I’ve been doing this for five years, and I’ve made every mistake you can’t think of. In this video, I’m going to share 14 things about being a writer that no one told me, so that you can avoid some of my early mistakes.

What’s up, guys? My name is Michael La Ronn with Author Level Up, helping you write better and faster. If you’re new here, consider subscribing. Click the little bell to get helpful writing videos every week.

And in this writing video, we’re talking about becoming a writer: 14 things no one told me. The advice in this video is brought to you in part by the school of hard knocks, and they’re a very generous sponsor.

I graduated summa cum laude with honors, so I know what I’m talking about here. Tip #1 is that the books that sell are the ones you least expect, and the ones that don’t sell are the ones you put your high hopes into.

In my first month of publishing, I made $5.79. That equated to 2 sales—one from my mom and one from my best friend. The first book never performs as well as you want it to. Just accept it and write the next one.

The opposite is also true. I wrote my book, Interactive Fiction, in response to some questions I got about how I wrote my first book, which is like a Choose Your Own Adventure for grown-ups. I wrote this book quickly, not thinking anything of it, not expecting it to sell.

And it sells a handful of copies every month. It’s a steady little earner for me. The universe is a funny place. That’s why I don’t worry too much about my book sales. Tip #2 is that no one owes you anything.

Just because you’ve put in countless hours to write your book doesn’t mean that people will buy it. That’s hard to accept, no matter how thick-skinned you are. For example, you guys don’t have to watch my videos every week.

I’m grateful that you do, but you don’t owe me anything, and it’s up to me to earn your respect and attention every week, just like it’s up to me to prove to readers that my books are worth their time.

It’s easy to get mad and blame other people for your lack of success, but that won’t get you anywhere. Own your own success, and if you’re not successful, take it upon yourself to change it. No one else will do it for you.

Tip #3 is a tough lesson I had to learn, and that’s that passion doesn’t always equal money. Just because you write a book that you would read, it doesn’t mean that others will buy it. And trust me, I’ve written a lot of books that I was passionate about.

Case in point: I wrote a sci-fi series called Moderation Online, and it’s about a group of terrorist vegetables trying to take down an empire of processed foods. Yes, I know, it sounds utterly ridiculous, but I love the series, love the characters, and the story has a lot to say about the deadly relationship we have with food in our society.

But yeah, that series doesn’t sell. When I wrote it, I couldn’t believe that. If you read the story, it’s really not as crazy as it sounds, but people probably couldn’t get over the weirdness factor.

That’s okay. I learned from the experience. (But if you ARE interested, check it out in the video description). Tip #4 is also related, and it’s about the emotional rollercoaster. You know, the ups and downs of your writing career.

When your book doesn’t do well, it’s easy to get down on yourself. When your book does well, there’s nothing greater on this planet than the euphoria you’ll feel. What no one told me is that the lows and highs follow each other.

For example, recently I landed 2 speaking engagements in one day, sold a record in affiliate income, came up with an idea for my first product for this channel, had a really awesome day at work, found a new tea…in other words, it was an amazing day.

Then, the next day, it was the opposite. I got a bad review on Amazon, my video shoot went haywire and I couldn’t use any of the videos I recorded, putting me behind for the month, I got some bad news about something at my house that I had to spend money on to repair, had a bad day at work, etc.

Literally, it was the next day. The emotional rollercoaster is cyclical. In my experience, the best progress for me happens when I’m somewhere in the middle, between the ups and downs. Changing gears, let’s get technical for a minute.

Tip #5 is that your first website is a work in progress. It took me 6-7 iterations before I found a website style that actually worked. I spent hours and hours on my first website, forever tweaking stuff.

And that first website was terrible. Too many authors I know waste their time trying to hand code their websites, or changing their WordPress theme every month. Stop that. Just create something functional, review it in 90 days, and then 90 days after that.

Here’s why this was a waste of time: when you’re just starting out, you don’t have any traffic…so if you look at your analytics, you don’t have a large enough sample size to make informed decisions on how your website is performing.

You’ll know your website is doing well when readers email you and tell you that they like your site, and when you start seeing increased affiliate income. Tip #6 is about affiliate income. It rocks.

Take advantage of book retailers’ affiliate programs and embed your links with affiliate codes. Link to writing apps and services that you recommend on your website, too. If those products and services have affiliate programs, sign up.

You’d be amazed how many people are willing to buy through your links if they like you and your work. If you think about it, if someone buys one of your books through your affiliate link, you’re going to make a 4% commission on that, on average.

So on Amazon, you’ve just improved your royalty rate from 70% to 74% for that sale. And if you are an affiliate for other things, you can make even more money. Just don’t rely on affiliate income as a steady revenue stream—it goes up and down.

And make sure you disclose affiliate links any time you use them. Tip #7 is a short one that many of you will promptly ignore, and that’s to read the Terms of Service for any website you use. That includes Amazon.

I won’t say much more because so few people listen to me when I say this. Early in my career, I got into trouble with certain service providers because I didn’t read the terms of service. Then I found myself on the wrong end of the contract when they enforced it on me.

All were 100% my fault. So I’ve learned to be careful and read the fine print on every app or service I use. This tip, my friends, is the main reason I graduated from the School of Hard Knocks with honors, and one of the driving factors behind my decision to attend law school.

But again, 99% of you are going to ignore me. You’ve been warned. Tip #8 is that Photoshop is really important. Aside from your writing app, it’s one of the most important programs you can learn early on as an author.

I avoided Photoshop for a long time. I used free apps like Gimp and Canva, or I paid someone to do simple tasks for me. It’s amazing how often you need Photoshop as an author—I’ve needed it for box sets, Facebook ads, YouTube thumbnails, making black and white versions of my author photos for podcast interviews, making images transparent, you name it.

You’ll need it when you least expect it. So learn it. GIMP and Canva can’t do everything that Photoshop can, nor do they work as well. Tip #9 is to pick a broadcasting medium—blogging, podcasting, or video, and stick with it, no matter what.

Not all authors should blog. Nor should they podcast or do video. But if you do, do it for the long haul. I’ve done it all, actually. I blogged for about 2 years, got no traction, and gave up. But more than likely, I quit without giving it a true chance.

I’ll wager that I was probably on the cusp of gaining momentum. Same with my YouTube channel. If I hadn’t taken a hiatus, I’d be much further along than I am now. The key is to improve on your quality and your content.

Create content that your readers want, and get better at it. If you do, you’ll build momentum. Keep that momentum. Once you start publishing, don’t ever stop. Even if it’s hard. That’s a lesson I’m still learning.

If I’ve done anything right for these last five years, it’s that I’ve maintained a podcast presence throughout. I’ve always been podcasting, so I’ve continued to get my name and voice out there so that new readers can find me.

Tip #10 is related. The smallest changes make the biggest differences. For example, once I redid my entire website. I bought a new theme, thinking it would be amazing. My goal was to improve my book sales from my website and make it easier for readers to find a good book.

I spent hours redoing all my pages, only to discover that the new theme didn’t work at all. It cut my traffic and engagement in half. So I reverted back to the old website, and instead I made some small changes to my book pages.

I ended up creating a small tool called Book Wizard, that uses a quick quiz to help readers find their next read. Took me an hour or two to create. That resulted in WAY more sales and engagement than redoing my theme.

That’s how you have to think. Look for small wins. Those are the wins that matter. Let’s move into some rapid fire tips now. Tip #11 is that some authors can be dicks. Major dicks. Avoid those people at all costs.

But most people are just trying to do the best that they can, and they’ll help you if they can. You should reciprocate whenever possible. Tip #12 is that being yourself on the Internet takes practice and hard work.

Just as you have to learn how to be yourself in real life, you also have to learn to be yourself on the Internet, and that takes a different skillset than you’re used to. It means you need to learn audio and visual presence, how to speak to your audience, sales tactics, and other things that will help get your true self across.

Tip #13 is that people, places, and things come and go. Today’s big name authors will be gone tomorrow. The service providers I used in 2014 are long dead. Most of them died because of a change in Amazon’s terms of service, so they weren’t able to continue operating.

Or they went out of business because the owner died or had financial difficulty, or something else. Trends come and go, too. How about the new adult genre? Adult coloring books, anyone? Tip #14 is the last tip, but stick around because after this one, I’m going to share 3 things in my career that I actually did RIGHT, so don’t go anywhere.

Tip #14 is trust your instinct. It’s never wrong, especially about people. The longer I do this, the sharper my instinct gets. So now, let’s talk about 3 things I actually did right, because those served me well throughout my career.

The first is that I always responded to fan mail. Even when I had 1 or 2 readers. I always took the time to respond to them and thank them for reading my books and supporting my blog, podcast, and YouTube channel.

I respond to every comment on this channel, unless it’s by a troll—then I delete it. But if you’re going to take the time to watch my video and comment, I’m going to take the time to respond, even if it’s just to say thanks.

This may not always be possible the bigger this channel gets, but taking the time to engage the people that support you is smart, and it’s the right thing to do. Be good to your fans, guys. The second thing I did right is that I made it easy for prospective interviewers to reach out to me.

I have a “Press” page on my site that highlights my speaking accomplishments and advertises that I do podcast and video interviews. You’d be amazed how many opportunities have come to me because of that.

I also make it easy to interview me—I put together a press kit for interviewers to minimize the prep work they have to do to interview me. Podcast interviews have been a big contributor to my steady growth over the last few years.

The third is that I never gave up. I’m pretty scrappy, and I never let something beat me. Sometimes it’ll knock me down for a few days, but I always get back up and try again. Forty books later, here I am.

So those are the things I did right. It’s a small list, but as I say on this channel, everyone’s gotta start somewhere. I’d love to hear from you guys. Let’s have some fun this week: Tell me one thing you wished you knew when you became a writer, and one thing you did right.

Let’s learn from each other, because the best advice often comes from you guys. That’s it for this video. If this is your first time watching, I’d love to have you subscribe. Every week I publish videos just like this one with writing advice to help you write better and grow your influence with readers.

I’ll see you in the next video. Thanks for watching. when you publish your first book there are so many things that no one tells you I’ve been doing this for five years and I’ve made every mistake you can think of in this video I’m going to share 14 things about being a writer that no one told me so that you can avoid some of my early mistakes what’s up guys my name is Michael Aaron without the LevelUp helping you write better and faster if you’re new here consider subscribing click the little bell to get helpful writing videos every week and in this writing video we’re talking about becoming a writer 14 things no one ever told me the advice in this video is brought to you in part by the school of hard knocks and they’re a very generous sponsor I graduated summa laude with honors so I know what I’m talking about here tip number one is that the books that sell are the ones you least expect and the ones that don’t sell are the ones you put your high hopes into and my first month of publishing I made 5 dollars and 79 cents that equated to 2 sales one from my mom and one from my best friend the first book never performs as well as you want it to just accept it and move on the opposite is also true I wrote my book interactive fiction in response to some questions I got about how I wrote my first book which is like a choose-your-own-adventure for grownups I wrote this book quickly it’s nonfiction didn’t really think anything of it I didn’t expect it to sell but it sells a handful of copies every month it’s a steady little earner for me the universe is a funny place that’s why I don’t worry too much about my book sales tip number two is that no one owes you anything just because you’ve put in countless hours to write your book doesn’t mean people will buy it that’s hard to accept no matter how thick skins you are for example you guys don’t have to watch my videos every week you have a million other things to do I’m grateful that you do watch my videos but you guys don’t owe me anything and it’s up to me to earn your respect and attention every week just like it’s up to me to prove to my readers that my books are worth their time it’s easy to get mad and blame other people that you know your book isn’t successful but that won’t get you anywhere on your success and if you’re not successful take it upon yourself to change it no one will do that for you tip number three is a tough lesson I had to learn and that’s that passion always equal money just because you write a book you would read it doesn’t mean that others will buy it and trust me I’ve written a lot of books that I was passionate about case in point I wrote a sci-fi series called moderation online and it’s about a group of terrorist vegetables attempting to take down an empire of processed foods yes I know it sounds utterly ridiculous but I love the series I love the characters and the story has a lot to say about the deadly relationship with food we have in our society but yeah that series does not sell when I wrote it I couldn’t believe that though if you read the story it’s really not as crazy as it sounds but people probably couldn’t get over the weirdness factor that’s okay I learned from the experience but if you are interested check it out in the video description tip number four is also related and it’s about the emotional roller coaster you know the ups and downs of your writing career when your book doesn’t do well it’s easy to get down on yourself when your book does well there’s nothing greater on this planet than the euphoria you’ll feel what no one told me is that the highs and lows often follow each other for example recently I landed two speaking engagements in one day sold a record and affiliate income came up with an idea for my first product for this channel had a really awesome day at work found a new tee it was awesome in other words it was an amazing day all that happened in one day then the next day it was the opposite I got a bad review on Amazon my video shoot went haywire I couldn’t use one of the videos that I recorded putting me behind for the month I got some bad news about something at my house that I had to spend money on to repair I had a bad day at work literally it was the next day the emotional rollercoaster is cyclical in my experience the best progress for me happens when I’m somewhere in the middle between the ups and downs changing gears let’s get technical for a minute tip number five is that your first website is a work in progress ie probably a train wreck it took me six to seven iterations before I found a website style that actually worked I spent hours and hours on my first website for ever tweaking stuff and that first website was terrible look too many authors I know waste their time trying to hand code their websites or change their WordPress theme every month stop that just create something functional review it in ninety days and then 90 days after that here’s why this was a waste of time for me when you’re just starting off you’ll have any traffic so if you look at your analytics and you’ll have a large enough sample to make informed decisions on how your website is performing you’re wasting your time you’ll know your website is doing well when readers email you and tell you that they like your site and when you start seeing increased traffic and income tip number six is about affiliate income it rocks take advantage of it take advantage of book retailers affiliate programs and embed your links in with affiliate codes lend to writing apps and services that you recommend on your website too if those products and services have affiliate programs signup you’d be amazed at how many people are willing to buy through your links if they like you and your work if you think about it if someone buys one of your books through your affiliate link you’re gonna make a four percent commission on that on average if you’re using Amazon so on Amazon you just improve your royalty rate from seventy percent to seventy four percent for that sale and if you’re an affiliate for other things you can make even more money just don’t rely on affiliate income as a steady revenue stream it goes up and down and make sure you disclose any affiliate links anytime you use them tip number seven is a short one that many of you will promptly ignore and that’s to read the Terms of Service for any website you use that includes Amazon I won’t say much more because so few people listened to me when I say this early in my career I got into trouble with a certain service provider because I didn’t read the Terms of Service then I found myself on the wrong end of the contract when they tried to enforce it on me this took my friends is the main reason I graduated from the school of hard knocks with honors and one of the driving factors behind my decision to attend law school but again 99% of you are going to ignore me you’ve been warned tip number eight is that Photoshop is really important aside from your writing app it’s one of the most important programs you can learn early on as an author I avoided Photoshop for a long time I used free apps like and canva or I paid someone to do simple tasks for me it’s amazing how often you need Photoshop as an author I’ve needed it for box sets Facebook ads YouTube thumbnails making black like versions of my author photos for podcast interviews or for events making images transparent you name it you’ll need it when you least expect it so learn it and canva can’t do everything that Photoshop can nor do they work as well now there are Photoshop alternatives out there that’s beyond the scope of this video tip number nine is to pick a broadcasting medium blogging podcasting or video and stick with it no matter what not all authors should blog nor should they podcast or do video but if you do do it for the long haul I’ve done it all actually I blogged for about two years got no traction I was really terrible at it I gave up but more than likely I quit without giving it a true chance I’ll wager that I was probably on the cusp of gaining momentum before I quit same with my youtube channel if I hadn’t taken a hiatus I’d be much further along than I am now the key is to improve on your quality in your content create content that your readers want and get better at it if you do you’ll build momentum keep that momentum once you start publishing don’t ever stop even if it’s hard that’s a lesson I’m still learning if I’ve done anything right for these last five years it’s that I’ve maintained a podcast presence throughout I’ve always been podcasting so I’ve continued to get my name and voice out there so that new readers can find me tip number ten is related the smallest changes make the biggest differences for example once I redid my entire website I bought a new theme thinking it would be amazing my goal is to improve my book sales from my website and make it easier for readers to find a good book I spent hours redoing all the pages only to discover that the new theme didn’t work at all it cut my traffic and engagement in half so I reverted back to the old website and instead I made some small changes to my book pages I ended up creating a small tool called book wizard that uses a quick quiz to help readers find their next read to an hour or two to create that resulted in way more sales and engagement than redoing my theme that’s how you have to think look for the small wins those are the wins that matter let’s move it to some rapid-fire tips now tip number eleven is that some authors can be dicks major dicks avoid those people at all costs but most people are just doing the they can and they’ll help you if they can you should reciprocate whenever possible and be friends with those people tip number 12 is that being yourself on the internet takes practice and hard work just as you have to learn how to be yourself in real life you also have to learn how to be yourself on the Internet and that takes a different skill set than you’re used to it means that you need to learn audio in the visual presence how to speak to your audience sales tactics and other things that will help you get your true self across tip number thirteen is that people places and things come and go today’s big-name authors will be gone tomorrow the service providers I used in 2014 or long-dead most of them died because of a change in Amazon’s Terms of Service so they weren’t able to continue operating or they went out of business because the owner died or had financial difficulty or something else trends come and go too how about that new adult genre adult coloring books anyone tip number 14 is the last tip but stick around because after this one I’m going to share three things in my career that I actually did write so don’t go anywhere tip number 14 is to trust your instinct it’s never wrong especially about people the longer I do this the sharper my instinct gets so now let’s talk about three things that I actually did right because they’ll serve me well throughout my career the first is that I always responded to fan mail even when I had one or two readers I always took the time to respond to them and thank them for reading my books and supporting my blog and podcast and YouTube channel I respond to every comment on this channel usually unless it’s by troll then I delete it but if you’re gonna take the time to watch my video and comment I’m gonna take the time to respond even if it’s just to say thank you this may not always be possible the bigger this channel gets but taking the time to engage the people that support me is smart and I think it’s the right thing to do be good to your fans guys the second thing I did write is that I made it easy for prospective interviews to reach out to me I have a press page on my website that highlights my speaking accomplishments and advertises that I do podcast and video interviews you’d be amazed at how many opportunities have come to me because of that I also make it easy to interview me I put together a press kit for interviewers to minimize the prep work that they have to do in order to interview me podcast interviews have been a big contributor to my steady growth over the last years the third is that I never gave up I’m pretty scrappy and I never let anything beat me sometimes it’ll knock me down for a few days but I always get back up and try again forty books later Here I am so those are the things I did right it’s a small list but as I say on this channel everyone’s got to start somewhere I’d love to hear from you guys let’s have some fun this week tell me one thing you wish you knew when you became a writer and one thing you did right let’s learn from each other because the best advice often comes from you guys that’s it for this video if this is your first time watching I’d love to have you subscribed every week I publish videos just like this one with writing advice to help you write better and grow your influence with readers I’ll see you in the next video and thanks for watching

Source : Youtube

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