This might be the most obvious statement ever expressed on this blog but there are a lot of writers out there. From those who’ve achieved enormous wealth and fame and those who manage to eke out a mid-list career to those who publish their own work and earn virtually nothing and those who secretly tinker away on novels without telling a soul, there are many of us including those who fall somewhere between the four descriptions above and those who fall somewhere outside of them but still consider themselves writers.
With so much competition in such a small pond, so many competing voices in which writers shout over each other and still struggle to be heard, it’s never been more important for writers to support other writers. Readers are all well and good – in fact, they’re very good – but when a writer is struggling for readers, the one thing that can keep their self-esteem in positive territory is support from other writers who know all too well what they’re going through.
I once told my cousin Zac – and tweeted it to the world (or at least everyone who follows me on Twitter) – as he made the decision to head into the uncertain world of writing that he had the makings of a top-notch short story writer and that as someone who hadn’t always appreciated the short story medium, he was giving me plenty of reasons to reconsider with his unique style and perspective. He thanked me later, saying that at the time, the whole writing process was nearly doing his head in and that my words of support gave him the impetus he needed to keep going.
I’ve had plenty of similar experiences myself. From my manager at my current writing job telling me I’m doing good work to Tara Moss liking my lengthy 5 star review of her book, The Fictional Woman, to the handfuls of 4 and 5 star reviews I received from total strangers when I published my first novel, Enemies Closer, the power of positive reinforcement is undeniable.
It’s even more important to me when I consider that most of my family, immediate and extended, and my network of friends, co-workers and acquaintances have never read either of my two books or this blog. So many of us rely on people we know to provide a crutch when we struggle for readers but this hasn’t happened for me and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Both of my books and much of the content of my blog have very specific niche audiences and, particularly in the case my second book, Project December: A Book about Writing, and my blog, which is also almost always about writing in some form, since none of my family (Zac has since tragically died), friends and co-workers and very few of my acquaintances are writers, there’s no real incentive for them to read my work. My sister, who writes a sewing blog, suffers the same problem. Nobody else in the family sews and most of the people who read her blog are other sewing practitioners, usually complete strangers.
There are plenty of ways we writers can support other writers. We can read their content. Whether it’s freely available blog posts or books available for sale, being read is a great compliment. When Tracy Cembor asked me to review her novella, Gaslight Carnival, saying she would provide a free copy for the purpose, I said I would happily buy a copy of the book. At 99 cents, it was hardly going to break the bank.
We can also promote the content of other writers. From liking their Facebook pages and blog posts to writing book reviews on Amazon, Goodreads and any other platform on which their work appears and simply employing some good old word of mouth promotion, a personal endorsement still retains some clout.
We can offer to be beta readers or editors or proofreaders. We can provide industry advice. We can introduce them to people we know in the writing and publishing industry. We can give copies of their books as gifts.
It’s all good karma. Keep paying it forward and eventually it will come back around to you. Not just in your writing but in life itself. Because being a good writer is about more than just writing well. And you can be just a good writer or you can be a good person who’s a good writer, too.