Author Richard Carlson and his 1996 book Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff encouraged a generation to put priorities in order and prevent someone from missing the forest for the trees.
I am afraid many aspiring authors are doing just the opposite by not worrying about the big stuff either.
Everything we write in this agency blog does not carry the same level of importance to everyone, but very often, things which truly could be described as important to authors, critical to their future success and at the very least potential traps, resulting in wasted time if not avoided or understood, are treated with less importance than a discussion of the creative craft.
Craft is fun. Metadata is boring. But you could write a great book and torpedo it with bad metadata.
When we deal with craft issues, a lot of people enjoy reading and engaging. When we deal with professional industry issues, there is less engagement.
I hope this anecdotal observation isn’t an indication of readers avoiding bigger issues, because it is those bigger issues which, if avoided, will cost you time, money, and emotional energy.
If you write for entertainment or diversion only, then go ahead and have fun, ignore the big stuff. But if you seek to publish successfully, don’t ignore any of it.
Since agents look to represent those who desire a career in writing or at least are committed to it long-term, we view just about everything related to books as having an influence, for better or worse.
If you want to work in the medical field and don’t like computers or keeping meticulous records, and avoid information about medical insurance, you are ignoring the big stuff.
If you own a car and never check your tires, oil or brakes, you are ignoring really big stuff.
If you work in education and have no interest in the socio-political implications of everything from textbook selection to classroom management, good luck to you.
For authors, the point is this, make certain you are not so focused on the details of writing you ignore those issues which are really driving book sales in the twenty-first century.
Here’s a list of big issues affecting your life as an author, traditional or self-published: (Listed in alphabetic order to avoid an argument which is most important)
Metadata/Key Words/Bisac codes
You should know some basic information about each and know how changes in the book world might affect one or more of them and more important, how they are affecting the book world.
Whether you spend time learning about these or not, each item listed above has substantial implications for your writing career. It would make sense to know something about each.
Assignment – pick one of the above topics each week and spend fifteen minutes reading about it.
You don’t need to be a world-renowned expert on these things, but it might give you a better perspective when you know the truth about reading habits, competition in the book marketplace and copyright.
Yes, they are boring. But so is your car radiator, until the point you ignore it for so long you find yourself stalled on a deserted highway surrounded by a motorcycle gang fleeing the police and looking for a hostage.
(Anyone who wants to use the preceding in their book, go ahead. I didn’t copyright it.)