Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Tom Olbert: Evolving as a Writer

It is my pleasure today to introduce Tom Olbert, a fellow Musa Publishing speculative fiction author. Tom has experience with multiple publishers and has learned a few thing he learned along the way. He's going to share his journey from short-story writer to novelist.

Writing fiction (specifically science fiction and supernatural fiction) is pretty much all I ever fantasized doing as a kid.  I knew all along that was my (calling? Passion?)  Those words always sound a bit lame to me, but you get my point.

And, much to my amazement, I actually started producing stories people were willing to publish, and (more startling still) pay for.  Since then, it’s been an evolutionary journey.

Writing short stories for science fiction magazines was simple enough.  If they liked it, they bought it.  The contract was signed, the check cashed, and my job was done.  But, as I’ve gone from being a short story writer to a writer of novels and novelettes I’ve had to grow as a person, not just a writer.  Because being accepted by book publishers meant entering the strange new world of promotion.  Like all writers, I had to learn that yes, it was the writer’s job not only to write, but to promote the book once it was out.  (“No, dummy; books don’t sell themselves,” I had to tell myself.)

As a guy who’s passed the half-century mark and is still adapting to the modern world of rapidly advancing communication and social media, I had to learn as I went.  Not only was social media a new concept to me, but on a more basic note, so was promotion.  I’ve never been one of those people naturally inclined to come right out and sell themselves.  I’m the type that likes to work and produce, but not sell or market. Now, I had to be both.  If I was going to take a serious stab at writing, I had to grow as a person, technologically and socially.

The first state-of-the-art book publisher to handle one of my titles was Eternal Press.  They took me in hand, showed me the basics of setting up a blog and gave me tips on how to survive in the modern world of fiction.  Since then, I’ve learned to participate in author’s loops and online events, and scrounge and beg for online reviews and guest posts.  It’s been both fun and intimidating. I’ve often felt like a clumsy outsider trying to fit in.  Like anything else, you just have to fit in as yourself and contribute as best you can.   Groups are great (LinkedIn, FB, etc.) because you get to hear from other writers in your genre all the time and get their eye view on a number of issue we all have to deal with, including marketing. Author links and authors friended on FB are also good ways for picking up tips on good review sites.

Musa Publishing, my most recent publisher, has been extremely supportive and helpful, providing a capable and dedicated marketing expert who nudges me in the right direction and hunts for reviewers and bloggers willing to take me on.   It’s always good to feel you have someone in your corner, as long as you know you have to do your part, too.

The tips you get from other writers and bloggers sometimes differ, even to the point of being mutually contradictory.  Some tell you to be controversial in blogging, others say to play it safe.  Some say to go after reviews, others to concentrate on guest posts and interviews.  Everybody has a piece of the larger picture; you just have to find your balance.  Just as you have to budget your time to include promotion (blogging, social media, networks, and anything else you can find), and of course writing.

We all dream of writing the next “Hunger Games.”  And, we all fear that what we want or need to write about may not resonate with the reading public.  The important thing is to get it out there.  You’ll never know until you do.  And, the journey of self-improvement is worth it in itself.

 Thanks, Tom, for guesting on my blog today and giving me some extra writing time. Does any part of Tom's journey sound like yours in your writing career? Has your publisher helped you along as Tom's has? Do you have an example of contradictory advice you're received about blogging or other social media when it comes to promotion?


  1. Budgeting time is a big one. And yeah haha that is the same with just about everything. One person swears you do something one way, another swears you should do it the opposite way.

  2. Glad you could be here, Tom. Thanks for the great post and sharing your thoughts.

  3. Hi, Tom! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  4. Wonderful post, Tom. Your points rang true for me. Writing's definitely an evolutionary process. Best of luck to you.

  5. Thanks for sharing your journey, Tom! I'm struggling with the marketing and promotion part too, but I just keep taking tiny steps and hoping that they will help. )

    I've definitely had some contradictory advice - from "monetize the blog" to "never monetize the blog" and "book blast" vs. "don't over book blast."

    I think, as you said, that we each have to find what works for us.

  6. Having a marketing expert behind you is a good thing and extremely lucky. Not many authors have that. There is a marketing team with my small press that published my work, but they only send requests to select reviews and I have take on the bulk of the promotional work. Plus, they don't talk to me. So a marketing expert who is willing to help you is golden.

  7. Tom, I had no idea when it came to social media when I started, so I know how you felt when you began the journey. It is about balance and finding what works for you.

  8. A great guest post. Marketing is difficult, but it's great that the writing community is so willing to share their experiences. I don't feel so alone anymore!

  9. As someone who is also past the half-century mark and not strong in promotion, it's encouraging to read about someone who's making it happen.