Rosanne Dingli

Rosanne Dingli

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


One needs skills to be an author. Everyone knows more or less what they are. Few deny that without some skills, success is limited.

There is no denying one also needs virtues. In today's world, youngsters are not instructed directly about virtue. They have no real idea what the concept entails. Which means they have no idea how useful virtues can be.

A sport coach or two might put virtues in their training terminology, and Sunday School might give them a mention, but writing manuals? Literary consultants? I don't think so. Let's define a few, and see how far we get. We are told there are seven identifiable virtues: abstract concepts that can be hard to grasp or apply to the crackpot world of publishing or the stretchy occupation of authoring books. It's worth an attempt to those who are disciplined enough to have written a few books to define what they feel are the character traits or habits that help rather than hinder their career. They must understand that they have a few qualities with merit without which they would not have been able to put together that last book.


Here they are!

I have tinkered with the four cardinal virtues, the three theological virtues and the seven heavenly virtues to come up with five of my own, which I think as an author, I cannot afford to ignore. They all seem to be self-explanatory, and all who read this might be able to see how they are applicable to authors and the life they lead, the habits they form and the principles to which they would like to adhere.
Image from
I am patient to a fault: that one's the easiest virtue I find to follow, but diligence and love? Hm - some work needed there. I certainly do not always love what I do, and do not always work as hard at it as I'd like to be able to. 

What about other writers? What about you - do you find your list shorter or longer than mine? Are you good at waiting? Do you feel a pang of envy or humility every time a colleague publishes something fantastic that sells the instant it's out?

Perhaps all authors should make a list they think they should adopt, and without which they might feel at a disadvantage compared to those who have chalked up some sort of success. Or written about a topic they have longed to treat. Or changed genres to one they really always wanted to work in.

Ha! Perhaps this is what all writers should be doing instead of finding more means of exposure on the social media!

Tell me which virtue you feel has recently contributed to some of your success.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Will they come if you build it?

Anyone who has ever written a whole book will tell you it's tantamount to erecting a baseball or football stadium. Planning, summoning the courage, gathering resources, funding, finding time, seeking like-minded individuals for support, all the figuring out of markets, and then ... publicity and promotions.

And that's where the similarity ends! People flock to stadiums because it's where sport enthusiasts, athletes and participants must meet. I have yet to hear of a sports stadium that never hosted a match, perhaps some sort of stellar event, weekly games, or even a few humble training sessions. I do not think there's such a thing as a stadium that got ignored. It was built, and they came.

Wembley Stadium, London EnglandImage via WikipediaBooks are different, and so are writing careers. One can build all one likes, but one can never rely on there being an audience. It's a spooky fact that no one might come. The books can very well remain unread, unrecognized, unnoticed. There is no career with books that are unread.

A lot of advice about publicity and promotions for authors is very strange. It all seems to start with Step Two. There are behests to "Send people to your landing page", or "Direct people to your books on Amazon", or "Your blog should invite people to read: have a call to action". All these things require people to address. It's not possible to send people anywhere, or get them to do anything, without having their attention first. Many have asked me about this. And I have asked myself a number of times: where does one find that initial knot of people willing to try a new author out; willing to take an action; willing to read a blog; willing to try out a first chapter?

Unlike a huge stadium, a book has a mountain of competing books among which it is completely hidden. Buried. Overwhelmed. Placing a book on Amazon, starting a blog, setting up a website or ordering a box of paperbacks are all great steps, but they take place in pitch darkness. No 'people' can see them. There are only a few people to tell, but they are not nearly enough to fill your 'stadium'. You might have built it, metaphorically speaking, but who will come? How can they come if they don't know about it? How do you tell the crowd out there? Putting a new book on an unknown blog is like never having done a thing.

They say that all one needs is a thousand true and loyal fans. That makes it easy, because each will tell seven friends, and your books will become popular through word of mouth. Until one tries, one has no idea how difficult it is to gather a thousand readers. If you are reading this and nodding, agreeing that even two dozen sales was a phenomenal result, after a superhuman effort you don't think you could summon again, you are not alone. All the world's new authors are nodding with you.

It is monumentally hard, for most new writers, to gather any interest at all for their work. The hardest thing ever attempted, they start to understand, is to get anyone to read anything you have written. There are many, many books on Amazon that have no ranking - which means no one has ever bought a single copy from the Amazon site. The author might hold a roaring sale at every writers' club meeting or shop signing, or university workshop, but Amazon registered no sales. There are millions, literally millions, of Amazon titles with a ranking over 2,000,000. This means very infrequent sales.

Why does this happen? Where are the people? Why is having a title on an online shop not enough? It's not enough, because new books by new authors are virtually invisible. Someone must tell people they exist. But who can the author tell? How does one address a market? Where are the readers of your book? They are strangers, almost impossible to reach.

It doesn't matter how fancy your blog is - if no one sees it, it matters little what's on it, or whether you promote your books or not. All those clever instructions you keep reading require an audience you cannot understand how to obtain in the first place.

Here are a few suggestions to create that knot of people who might become your first readers.I hope you find a thousand!

- Join an online discussion group concerned with your genre
- Join a number of interactive social media sites
- Comment regularly on a set number of relevant blogs: don't be random
- Seek authors who successfully formed a fan base, and observe what they do
- Be prepared to offer advice and interesting commentary
- Seek out avid readers in your genre
- Start small, but start

These activities will befriend you with a number of like-minded authors, readers, and curious people. If you have enough to offer and you are interesting enough, acquaintances might very well grow into friendships, which you must nurture. Generate a list of email addresses you can use (with permission), and formulate a method of keeping in touch infrequently, with interesting observations or news. Those who do not like this kind of contact will soon let you know. The list will evolve into a fan base.

You might start with five, which might grow to fifty-five in about a year. Remember we dreamed about a thousand? Yes - it takes years, and there's no time to start like the present. It's a new year, the industry is becoming more and more amazing. Go out there and instead of building a stadium, start a game of marbles in the dust, and see who will come out to play.

Are you creating a fan base? A knot of loyal readers? Tell me what you do.

Are you a loyal reader? What do you like about the activities and work of new authors you find?

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