I’m all about modeling. (No, not that kind.) If you aren’t familiar with the term, modeling is a word used to describe the study of successful people. The idea behind modeling is to find someone who has accomplished what you want to do, and replicate their success by following their methods. I.E. if you want to be a good surfer, find a good surfer and ask him to teach you, read the biographies of good surfers and study their methods. Ditto if you want to become an astronaut, learn to ride a bull, or bake a great cupcake.
But not every writer is worth emulating. I’m probably going to get the internet equivalent of a kick in the teeth for this, but you need to be very careful who you take advice from.
There are a lot of “writers” on the internet and YouTube, who peddle writing and marketing advice, but they haven’t actually made any money as a writer. I say this because I’ve stumbled across several internet/YouTube gurus who make really good, very entertaining, videos about the process of writing, editing and marketing fiction. But go to Amazon and research their books, you’ll find the vast majority of YouTube authors aren’t selling. I’m not going to name any names, so don’t bother asking.
You can tell how well an author is doing by looking at their book’s sales ranking. A sales rank of a thousand or better, means they are moving a lot of copies. Depending on the category it could be anywhere from a few hundred to a thousand or more a day. Anything over 100k and that author is selling only a handful of books a week, maybe less. Over 500k and their book is basically dead in the water.
Don’t be misled by a flashy cover and a bunch of positive reviews. The sad fact is reviews can be bought. I’ve never done it and I don’t condone it—let me make that clear—but I know it is possible. Reviews can be faked. The one thing an author can’t fake is sales rank. (Recently Amazon has started to crack down on fake reviews and I applaud their efforts.)
I have found the vast majority of the YouTube super stars doling out advice on how to write a novel have a handful of books on the market and none of them are selling well. There’s one YouTube personality who doesn’t have any books on the marketplace!
Would you take financial investing advice from a homeless man? If you answered yes, then you’re a special kind of stupid. If you are trying to get rich in the stock market and you have the choice between modeling Warren Buffet and your crazy uncle Horace who hasn’t got two nickels to rub together, you’d be well advised to heed Warren Buffet and ignore crazy uncle Horace. Buffet has the bona fides to back up his claims. Crazy uncle Horace has a collection of Budweiser dishes and a history of drunk and disorderly charges.
The same is true for writing. There are a lot of really good writers out there giving advice with sales to back up their claims. Mark Dawson comes instantly to mind. The last time I checked Dawson was making something the neighborhood of 150k a year from his books. Derek Murphy is another YouTube author with consistent sales. Plus, you have to love his hair. Seriously though, both Mark Dawson and Derek Murphy have proven they know how to sell books. Both offer not only good advice, but free tools on their websites for formatting and publishing.
If these two giants weren’t enough, there’s always James Patterson. He offers a $100 course on writing. Now, some of you may be thinking, I hate James Patterson! His books are utter garbage! No way am I taking advice from him.
To that all I can do is shrug and say, suit yourself. His publishing empire is worth somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 million dollars a year. And that’s low balling it. Patterson earns more in a month than most people earn in a lifetime. As far as the quality of his work goes, I could take it or leave it. I’ve read some of his books that really held my attention and others that bored me to tears. What of it? You don’t have to like his fiction to learn something from his methods.
By the same token, some of the Youtube stars are entertaining and occasionally their advice is sound. I’m not saying you shouldn’t watch them, and I’m not saying they should be silenced until they’ve proven themselves. I would never condone censorship. Free speech is what makes good fiction possible. (I would condone the execution of sensitivity readers and the publishing company execs who employ them, but that’s another topic.) What I am saying is that it’s up to you, the viewer, to weigh the advice you are getting on YouTube against the facts. Is your writing role model a Warren buffet superstar investor, or Crazy Uncle Horace?
Some of my go-to resources for writing instruction and marketing advice.
Literary Rebel, Crafting Fiction Vol. 1 Hard-Boiled Outlines
You don’t have to follow my advice, but you should vet the authors you are taking advice from. Go to Amazon. Check out their sales ranks. Find out if they really know what they are talking about or if they are blowing hot air.
Know of another successful writer who gives great advice that I missed? Add them in the comment section below!