“The Meek Get Nothing,”
and Other Advice from the Experts
By Dawn Ius
“The meek get nothing,” New York Times bestselling author Steve Berry told students who took part in the International Thriller Writers first Online Career School, which wrapped up last month.
It was exactly the kind of empowering advice debut author Avanti Centrae had hoped to glean from the program—the ability to take control of her career, no matter what stage she’s at in her publishing journey.
“Steve Berry’s advice to treat writing like a business echoed the theme of the class in a powerful way,” Centrae says, noting that she especially related to his suggestion that writers should always find the courage to “ask.”
Whether that’s how to approach a fellow author for a blurb, obtain sales data from your publisher, or hire a publicist to help market your book, Berry encouraged students to take an active role, especially since many publishers don’t have the resources to support marketing efforts the way they used to.
For Colleen Winter, whose debut The Gatherer is slated to release later this year, she was surprised to learn that there is no magic bullet for successful marketing and branding.
“It’s a slow, steady process that could take up to 10 years to fully establish your brand as an author,” she says, echoing ITW Executive Director Liz Berry’s sentiment that authors are “a crock pot, not a microwave.”
That message, along with Liz Berry’s other branding tips is exactly what author Rick Pullen needed to take his career to the next level.
“I knew I needed to build a brand but was clueless what it should be,” he said, adding that post-class, it all became crystal clear. “I’ve been a journalist all of my life. My protagonists are journalists (or ex-journalists). So I now promote journalism and writing on my Twitter, Facebook, and web pages as my brand. Very, very helpful.”
Participants were also impressed with the information offered by Peter Hildick-Smith, whose presentation on the Codex report gave some insight into the effectiveness of a good thriller novel cover—and the back-up data to support consumer book-buying decisions.
“Though I didn’t have much say in my book design, the Codex report helped me see what consumers are looking for,” says Tracey Phillips, whose debut Best Kept Secrets hits shelves this fall. “The most surprising thing I learned was about blog tours—I didn’t even know that was a thing.”
Not just a “thing”—but an effective and cost-friendly tool for writers to create buzz about their new releases, according to social media guru Jillian Stein. In her class, Stein ran through the best social media platforms for writers, talked about emerging technologies, and drilled home the importance of author newsletters when it comes to connecting with readers.
And that connection—as reiterated by each of the expert instructors—is critical.
“The most surprising thing I learned was also my favorite thing,” says author Stephanie Scott Snyder. “Answer all reader correspondence—even if it’s negative. Doing this can spur intelligent and thoughtful dialogue as well as forge relationships with readers. I love the idea of taking something that can be viewed as negative and putting a positive spin on it.”
If you missed out on ITW’s Online Career School, don’t panic—the organization is in the process of putting together a Fall 2019 program. Email ITW’s Website Administrator Chris Graham to be put on the mailing list. Stay tuned for details!