Hello Mr. Howey,
I’m Doug Rigsby and I came across your books on amazon looking for kindle science fiction books. My goal is to earn my living via writing science fiction novels. I’ve been writing in my spare time for the past 7 years. I’ve learned a tremdious amount during that time. I figure I’m within a year of launching my first ebook. Would you part with me some of your experiences? Things to do, not do? Developing a platform or online presence isn’t something I”m use to doing even though I’ve been in technology for the past 21 years. I appreciate your time and look forward to hearing from you.
Hey Doug, that sounds like a familiar dream! I always wanted to make it as a full time science fiction author. I’ll tell you what I’ve learned: It’s hard work; you really need to do it because you love it; and it’s never been a better time to be a writer.
The key is to get a lot of writing done. You need to produce many quality stories, not just put all your dreams into a single work. Form a habit of writing every day. Spend your free time when you aren’t writing dreaming up your next scene or plot. Obsess over your work. Read quality material in your spare time (or watch movies, TV shows, read comics, poetry, or preferably a mix of all these things).
Once you produce something you’re proud of, get some eyeballs on it. Join a writing group (in person is best; online if you must). Trade editing services with others. Or hire an editor if you can afford it. Get the best cover you can make or afford. Hire someone to format your ebook (Jason at Polgarus Studios does amazing work at rock bottom prices). And then make the work available to readers. Don’t sweat whether it takes off or not; this is a marathon, not a sprint.
Building a platform is also a slow and steady affair. Start while you’re writing. Craft a few short stories or scenes from your works and post them online. Introduce your characters. Write some backstory. It’s good practice, and it showcases what you can do. Tweet and Facebook and blog these things, even though nobody is listening. For the first few years, there’s a good chance no one will listen. But you’re writing; you’re practicing; you’re seeding the world with your craft. A blog needs content. It needs a history.
It’s actually better if you don’t take off for a few years or more. By the time you start gaining an audience, you’ll have tons of content on your blog, some practice with Twitter, and a back catalog of published works. If you devote time to it, even with a full time job and a family/household, you can produce two or three novels a year. In a few years, you might have ten or a dozen works out there. They will never go out of print, never grow stale, will always be there to become discovered.
Again, it’s important that you are writing because you enjoy it. If it makes you happy, you can’t lose. There’s the satisfaction of creating something that will outlive you. If it feels frustrating that you are writing these works and no one seems to be reading them, think of John Kennedy Toole, Stieg Larsson, Philip K. Dick, and the many others who never knew the impact they would eventually have. It might be delusional to think we could have the same impact, but there’s nothing wrong with daydreaming and staying positive if it helps you attack a hobby with cheer and gusto.
Another thing: Check out KBoards and read through the threads in the Writers’ Cafe. I’ve learned a lot from this forum and made some lasting friendships. Best of luck, man. I wish you every ounce of success. Most of all, I hope you stick with it because you enjoy it.