I recently read a great article titled “14 Lessons From Benjamin Franklin About Getting What You Want In Life” on Business Insider. It was written by freelance writer, Thea Easterly, for a BI blog called DumbLittleMan.com. Most know that Benjamin Franklin was not only an inventor but also an avid reader and writer. Certainly he is known as one of the founders of our country but he was also a founder of the written word, even establishing the first public library. In addition, he was a printer, setting up his own printing shop in 1727, and a publisher, starting a German-language newspaper and one of America’s first magazines, The General Magazine and Historical Chronicle.
As I read the article, which was aimed at helping anyone to find success, it struck me that some of his advice was particularly appropriate for writers and especially those who are considering self-publishing. I’ve pulled out a few of his lessons from the article that I thought were relevant to writer’s today:
- “When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.” So true. After all, isn’t change what self-publishing is all about? The fact that the traditional world of publishing has been forced to change has been a boon to readers and writers. It is the industry’s slowness to accept that change that may be part of the problem. So be open to change. Just because that’s the way “it’s always been done”, doesn’t mean it’s the only way.
- “To succeed, jump as quickly at opportunities as you do at conclusions.” Hesitation will not get a writer published. If an agent wants to sign you up and you like the deal, then take it. However, if you are tired of waiting for responses to query letters, then take action. Get published.
- “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Once you’ve decided to self-publish, you absolutely MUST do it in the most professional way possible. You are responsible for not only your writing, but how it’s edited (hire someone!), how it’s packaged, and how it’s marketed. This means self-publishing is not an easy business but nothing worth doing ever is. Be a boy scout and be prepared.
- “Never confuse motion with action.” This is not a quote I was familiar with but I believe it applies to all writers and how they spend their writing time. We need to look at whether the time we spend on “writing-related” projects is productive. For example, is the hour spent on Facebook helping you? Is it necessary to post daily blogs when two might do? Are you increasing your following or taking time away from your manuscript? As for myself, I spend way too much time dealing with e-mail and other distractions. I may be busy but…
- “Life’s tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late.” Yes, we can all agree life speeds by way too fast. This is one of the many reasons I decided to self-publish. I’m tired of the slow and exhausting process that is querying and submitting manuscripts. It is nothing short of discouraging. Have a little faith in yourself and take your writing destiny into your own hands.
Of course, the truth is that deciding whether or not to self-publish is a personal decision and every writer’s reasons are not the same. Some established writers just want more control over their work. Others write for small niche markets that large publishers are wary of investing in. And still others just want to forge their own path. Whatever your reason, and whatever your decision, Mr. Franklin’s advice is good for all.