Want to sell your fiction? I receive questions about fiction sales a couple of times a week—often from baby authors, who haven’t yet started writing.
These embryo authors want guarantees that their writing will sell, before they invest time and energy. Sadly, writing comes first.
Please, write consistently, and effortlessly. If you’re forcing yourself to write, it will always be a struggle, and sooner or later, you’ll give up.
Luckily, writing can be easy, and so can sales, if you’ll stop worrying, and use your creativity and imagination.
To sell your fiction, write the easy way: avoid forcing yourself
Writers and authors who think “writing is hard” are flogging a dead horse. That is, they’re calling on their logical self to create. Your logical self can’t do that, only your creative self can.
Develop the habit of free writing. From The Tao Of Writing: Imagine. Create. Flow, by Ralph L Wahlstrom:
Free writing is as close to magic as anything you are likely to experience in writing. It can give you story ideas, article topics, and more; through it, you may be able to break through writing logjams by appealing to your inner voice.
If you’re unfamiliar with free writing, try Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages.
These tips have worked for many writers.
1. Drop expectations: just write
To write fiction you need to write. Readers will read your novel in a few hours, but you write your novel word by word. Those words build into paragraphs, then into scenes and chapters.
Important: you’re writing at a micro level, word by word. It’s easy to make judgments about your writing which are wrong because you’re too close to it. You can’t read as a reader does.
Do your best and tell your story as well as you can. No one’s asking you to be Hemingway. Fears of success and failure get in the way: entertain yourself, and you’ll entertain readers.
2. Not ready to write? No one is. Start anyway
Funny story. This morning, I completed a novel after procrastinating on the final scene for three days. Yes, I know better, but I procrastinated anyway.
I started the scene, didn’t like it, and… stopped. (Sigh…)
After three days I managed to convince myself that it was just a SCENE, and I’ll change it in revision and editing anyway.
We’re always our own worst enemy; writing can be a battle with yourself.
3. Wondering “what will people think?” Stop. Use your imagination to help you to write, instead
You’re a fiction author, so you have a good imagination. That imagination can be a double-edged sword. Control it.
Most people won’t think anything about anything you write, because most people would rather gouge out an eyeball with a rusty spoon than read your novel.
The people who do read it, if they’re friends, will be kind. They’ll lie to spare your feelings if they must. The people who aren’t your friends definitely won’t read it, and they’ll lie about that.
So use your imagination constructively. Focus on telling a great story for the people who love to read the genre/ genres that you write; entertain them, and you’ve done everything you need to do.
4. Prime the “writing” pump to overcome inertia
Can’t get started writing? On the days that the words flow like molasses, tell yourself that to sell your fiction, you must write something.
- Free writing;
- Mind maps;
- Writing an email message about your novel (don’t send it anywhere…);
- Asking yourself questions;
5. Get readers first, then sell your fiction
Want to sell your fiction?
Get readers first, by publishing your fiction, or snippets of fiction, to give readers a taste of what you write. If you have a blog, publish a short story. Alternatively, publish it on sites like Medium, HubPages, or Wattpad.
If there’s no response, persist. An endless tide of words swamps the online world; it’s hard to get readers, no matter what you’re writing.
6. Got readers? Now you’re ready
Please, start small. Begin by writing and selling short fiction. There’s a reason: call it building a platform, or market research, or anything you like. When you write shorties, you get feedback. (If there’s no feedback, that tells you something too.)
In addition to publishing your shorties (on Medium, or for sale on Amazon, or wherever) you need to keep writing.
Everything comes back to writing.
The super-simple way to sell your fiction
Here you go.
- Write, and keep writing, no matter what. If you hate it, that’s OK. You’ll get over it.
- Publish. Firstly, to get readers—even if it’s only five readers. That will grow. Next, publish to sell. No sales? Keep writing and publishing.
No time to write fiction? Bestselling author Irving Wallace wrote The Sunday Gentleman, about Sundays, the one day of the week he could write whatever he wanted to write. The title comes from the “Sunday gentlemen” of history, those men who were locked in debtors’ prison, and released to freedom on one day of the week: Sunday, the Lord’s Day.
You can become a Sunday writer too, if that’s all the time you have.
Onward: keep writing. Sooner or later (and probably sooner than you imagine), you’ll sell your fiction.
New edition, 2023
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Copywriter and marketing pro Angela Booth maintains a busy copywriting and ghostwriting practice. Fascinated by online marketing, she wrote one of the first business books for internet marketing, published by Allen & Unwin. She’s been an enthusiastic blogger since the late 1990s.