5 Skills Every Writer Should Develop

by | Jun 7, 2017

By Frances Caballo

Writers have to juggle a lot. Craft. Marketing. Blogging. Email list building.

I know that I tend to think that I’m not doing enough. I could be on social media more. I don’t write enough books. (My last one was published in December and I haven’t started a new one.) I’m not meditating. I could exercise more.

The list goes on.

And the rub is that you can always do more. I think that I could always do more. At least that’s the myth that I tell myself.

If only there were more than 24 hours in a day, right? Man, what I could accomplish with 28 hours!

But there are just 24 hours in a day, and we do have to factor into those hours a good eight hours of sleep, meal preparation, and for some, a nine-to-five job.

Yet there are some skills that every indie author absolutely needs to develop. So let’s delve into them.

1. Develop Your Craft

The first skill you need to develop is your craft. Your brand and your sales will depend on how well crafted your book is, so take the time to sharpen your skills.

Attend workshops sponsored by local writing organizations. In California, for example, check out a local chapter of the California Writer’s Club. Elsewhere, check out local clubs for the Independent Publisher’s Association or regional writing conferences.

Submit your work to contests that return your copies with comments that will help you to improve your writing. Sign up for creative writing classes at your local community college or college extensions for courses in writing. In Northern California, both Stanford and UC Berkeley have a variety of courses for writers.

2. Learn How to Use Social Media

Look at the demographic data for social media use by the Pew Research Center to determine where your readers hang out online. Then look at your Facebook Insights to study the demographics of your fans. Finally, review your data on your Google Analytics to determine the demographics of your website visitors.

Once you collect that data, use it to determine which social media networks you should learn so that you can engage your readers online.

The best approach is to learn one social media first. Once you know how to use it well, say after six months or so, learn a second and maybe a third. Maybe.

Keep sharpening your skills by reading social media blogs. There’s the Buffer blog, one of the top ten in the industry according to the Social Media Examiner. Also, read and subscribe to the Social Media Examiner. Of course, I write about social media as well ☺ at Social Media Just for Writers as well as Rebekah Radice.

3. Learn How to Blog

Blogging is important. It will keep your website current, offer opportunities to boost your website’s search engine optimization, and more importantly, help you connect with your readers.

Here are some blogs you can read to learn about blogging:

  1. Start with TheBookDesigner.com. Joel Friedlander, this blog’s host, started from scratch and built a blog that is considered a gold standard in the self-publishing industry. Learn from him and his example.
  2. Read Copyblogger, probably the best blog on blogging in the entire industry.
  3. Blogging Tips covers a lot of the basics.
  4. Daily Blog Tips is another highly rated blog you can read to learn more about blogging.
  5. The SITSgirls frequently write about blogging for authors on their blog.
  6. If you want to take a blogging course, the best one is by Yaro Starak at Entrepreneurs Journey.
  7. Adam Connell of the Blogging Wizard built his blog in record time. Today he enjoys high traffic and often uses freelancers. His posts are replete with plenty of tips, and information about plugins.

4. Learn How to Build Ads

With algorithms appearing on practically every social media network, the best way to beat them is with paid advertising. Take a course on Facebook ads from Andrea Vahl or Mark Dawson.

If you want to build your email list and sell more books on Facebook, you’ll need to develop some landing pages and create ads leading to those sales pages.

Amazon ads have become popular as well. Just go to this page to get started. Be sure to select a sponsored ad instead of a display ad. You’ll have the opportunity to add your own keywords. Make sure that you use at least 100; you can use up to 1,000! To learn about Amazon ads, be sure to read the post I wrote for this blog.

5. Drop the Shyness

Do you hate yourself on camera? I always have. Eighteen months ago I took a YouTube video course and still refused to get on camera. Then I took a Facebook Live course and still avoided the camera. Sheesh, right?

But earlier in the year, I started a webinar series called Conversations with Frances. Sometimes monthly and sometimes twice a month I interview someone for an hour. The result: I’m no longer afraid of live video.

As Nike says, Just Do It.

A Facebook representative says that within five years, the newsfeed will be comprised entirely of video clips. That’s right. There will be little text to read and either pictures or videos to view. So why not start now? There are plenty of tutorials on Facebook live, YouTube live, and similar platforms.

One Footnote

We’ve covered the five skills you need to develop, and I have just one addition. You need to learn perseverance. You won’t stick around this industry for long if you don’t apply yourself, be in it for the long run, and simply have patience. You will learn all that you need to learn as long as you persevere, learn one thing at a time, and never give up. There’s too much at stake: your career as a writer.
 
Photo: Bigstockphoto.com

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8 Comments

  1. Rohan Gillett

    Develop my craft? That is very hard. My blog covers a huge area and I’m always writing about different topics, some I know nothing about. And as I’m writing this I had a little epiphany. That might be my problem, writing about too many areas. If I had a team with me, it would be possible, but it’s only me. This has given me something to think about!

    Reply
    • Frances Caballo

      You can always find writing craft workshops and classes that don’t target a specific genre. I believe that learning to write well is completely independent of genre.

      Reply
  2. Chris Bunney

    As someone who spends their waking hours convincing would-be clients to devote resources (time and money) to producing video content for their brand and their products and services, would you agree that one of the most important components of a video, be it for blog or any larger marketing campaign, is a story. That story can be simple, but without it, we find engagement always lacking. What do you think?

    Thanks for the great content!

    Reply
    • Frances Caballo

      Yes, I completely agree. Even blogs that are completely text should include a storyline.

      Reply
  3. Michael W. Perry

    Should writers do it all, including the marketing?

    Maybe and maybe not. Being good at one thing often precludes being good at another. Getting obsessed over one’s failures to do that not-good thing often cuts into the more productive time spent doing the good one. In this case, that means if you’re good at writing but not at marketing should you lie awake at night beating up on yourself for your dismal marketing? Probably not.

    Saturday at a garage sale I met a woman who’d just graduated from college with a degree in photography. Alas, when I asked, she had no idea what she’d do with it to earn a living. I suggested she look into designing book covers and offered a few suggestions about getting started. I hope that works out.

    Traditional publishers have staff who handle aspects of publishing, such as covers, that authors may not be good at. That frees writers to ‘just write.’ Yes, there are big downsides. Authors lose the ability to make critical decisions and get less money per sale. But authors shouldn’t necessarily go to the opposite extreme of doing it all.

    Cover design is a good example of what can be outsourced. I get the impression that more and more authors are paying someone to do that for them. That’s good. A good cover will sell a book. A bad cover will hurt sales. Of course, I’ve got no interest in outsourcing covers myself. After almost 20 years of writing, editing and do-it-all-myself publishing, I like the covers I create and have strong opinions on the topic. I’d be wasting my time and money turning to someone else. Instead, I simply ask and take advice from friends and relatives.

    My advice is to be flexible with what you do yourself and what you outsource. I used to like working on cars, but now I hate all but simple maintenance. My fix for that is to drive an old but reliable Toyota that saves me so much money, I can afford to hire a mechanic for the occasional repair. On the other hand, I like piddling about in my yard and in the woods next to it. That I do myself. I get a kick out of accomplishing something there that doesn’t come when I fix my car.

    My sense is that independent publishing is still not quite there with offering a full-set of outsourcing services to authors who don’t want to do it all. Hopefully, that will change. Until then, my advice is to think through what you should do yourself and what you should hire done. Oh, and don’t think that just because you find something intimidating, you shouldn’t do it. Take a chance and you might discover that you have a knack for covers, for marketing or whatever.

    –Michael W. Perry, co-author of Lily’s Ride

    Reply
    • Frances Caballo

      Michael: Thank you for leaving your advice here.

      Reply
  4. Ernie Zelinski

    You say, “Yet there are some skills that every indie author absolutely needs to develop.”

    I only agree with the first one. Fact is, the other four are NOT “absolutely needs to develop.”

    David Chilton would agree with me. David recently phoned me trying to get a hold of me, leaving a message on my answering machine, saying “Ernie, you are one of the few self-publishers who knows what he is doing.”

    David, by the way is one of the most successful self-publishers ever, much more successful than me. David’s net worth is reportedly now over $20 million and it began with his great success with self-publishing “The Wealthy Barber” which sold millions of copies and earned him millions of dollars. David also helped the Podleski sisters (Janet & Greta) publish The Looneyspoons Cookbook, which earned David and the Podleski sisters well over $5 million in the first two years.

    When I eventually called him, David talked about the waste of time the majority of wanabee authors will incur by trying to use social media, blogging, and Facebook ads to make their books a success. Of course, I have totally agreed with David for a long time.

    Here is the bottom line: I have written 15 books and had all of them published with worldwide sales being over 975,000 copies. I have made money on all of them, with my pretax profits being around $2.6 million. I will write and self-publish at least another 5 books and possibly 10. I will make money on all of them without having to use social media, blogging, Facebook ads, or videos. One of the books will also be a true bestseller (not a fake bestseller) with it selling over 100,000 copies in its print edition. For the record, I have three true bestsellers, each having sold over 100,000 copies in print editions without having to rely on social media, blogging, Facebook ads, or videos. As Jack Canfield said, “results don’t lie.”

    One more note: If you want to be truly successful as a self-publisher, check out and buy the video series by David Chilton:

    https://thechiltonmethod.com/

    Don’t cheap out by thinking that you can only rely on free materials on the Internet. I may know more than 97 percent of authors know when it comes to being a successful self-publisher. Even so, David Chilton knows a heck of a lot more than I know, given that he has made many more millions than I have from self-publishing. Again, as Jack Canfield says, “Results don’t lie.”

    Ernie J. Zelinski
    International Best-Selling Author, Innovator, and Unconventional Career Coach
    Author of the Bestseller “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free”
    (Over 325,000 copies sold and published in 9 languages)
    and the International Bestseller “The Joy of Not Working”
    (Over 300,000 copies sold and published in 17 languages)

    Reply
    • Frances Caballo

      Ernie: I always appreciate your points of view. Thank you for joining the conversation here.

      Reply

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