Writing Success Can Be Yours
Writing success. It’s what every writer who wants to go pro dreams of.
I recently spoke with Shayla Raquel, an expert editor, seasoned writer, and author-centric marketer. Her mission is to help writers like you make their books the best they can be. In this interview, she shares tips that will help you write a better manuscript, engage with readers, and sell more books!
1) When did you first decide you were a writer?
I knew I wanted to be a writer at age 16. However, I knew I was a real writer once I landed a job at a publishing company as a copywriter and had my first article published in their magazine.
2) You’ve edited some awesome books. How did you get started in editing, and what do you like most about it?
I received an email from my supervisor at that same publishing company (age 21) and was asked to apply for the copy editor position. I wrote an email declining it but called my sister beforehand to ask her opinion. She said, “Who cares that you don’t know how to edit yet. Just apply, and figure it out.” I applied and took the test, thinking I had failed. The supervisor, however, offered me the job, to which I replied, “But didn’t I fail the test?” With a smile, she said, “No. Editors who take this test miss an average of fourteen. You missed four.” A few years—and one very bad start-up idea—later, I started my freelance editing company, which has grown in leaps and bounds. What do I like most about my job? That I get to work one-on-one with authors I adore. Nothing beats that.
3) What would you tell someone who is considering becoming an editor?
Don’t let someone tell you that you need a degree to do it, or that you’re less than because you don’t have your degree. I see that often in this industry. I’d be happy to introduce these naysayers to editors who hold their master’s degrees in English . . . and destroy books with their subpar editing skills. To the aspiring editor: either get training from a publisher or find a mentor to shadow you. Although, both is even better.
4) What would you tell a writer to do before submitting a manuscript for editing?
Formatting is the first thing I think of. I can’t give a quote if I’m so distracted by the BOLDED, ITALICIZED ALL CAPS chaos before my squinting eyes. Second, I’d tell them to be prepared for the true cost of editing. When you work with a professional (of any category), it won’t be cheap—and quite frankly, it shouldn’t be. Finally, I’d tell them what I tell all of my clients: I know it’s scary to hand over your book to someone else, but it’s the best thing you can do for your writing.Be prepared for the true cost of editing. Click To Tweet
5) What are the most common mistakes writers make in their work?
Not letting other people critique it before sending it to an editor. Writers could save thousands of dollars by starting with beta readers and critique groups first. Another mistake is pride. If an author comes to me bragging about how great of a writer he is, I most likely will not work with him. I want to work with humble authors. I always know I’ve got a great author when she says, “I’ve done several rewrites, sent it off to beta readers, and made more rewrites. I know it still needs work, though; and I want to learn.”
6) I’ve watched some of your videos, which contain some excellent information, by the way! What part does that play in your marketing?
Videos have the highest engagement rates, so I try to do more videos now. At the end of the day, my goal is to help authors. I can do that by sitting down, turning on Facebook Live, and giving viewers tips and tricks on writing, publishing, and marketing. I’ve booked several clients from my videos.I want to work with humble authors. Click To Tweet
7) What is the biggest challenge writers face in selling their work?
They’re stuck in a world that no longer exists. They want to spend their marketing budget on radio, newspaper, and press releases when they should be on Instagram and Facebook. When they should pay someone to design a drop-dead-gorgeous (mobile-friendly!) website to showcase their writing. When they should be pitching to book bloggers every day. You will not consistently sell your books if you don’t get with the program and learn online marketing.
8) Which is more valuable: an email list or an active social media presence? How can writers maximize these tools?
They’re both incredibly valuable. My issue, however, with email lists (and I have them, of course) is the salesy garbage that winds up in my inbox every day. That is not how you (should) sell books. I know there are tons of people out there who push hard selling on their email lists, but I want my authors to be authentic and to keep loyal readers, not force them to hit the unsubscribe button. If I had to choose one, I’d want my authors to have a larger social media presence.
9) What do writers need to do to build their tribes?
Two words: be authentic. Be authentic when you write a blog post. Be authentic in your photos. Be authentic on your website and in your emails. Everything you put out should be uniquely you. When you are authentic, people want to be around you. They become book ambassadors: loyal readers who fangirl over your books. If you’ve ever watched my videos or read my blog posts, you’ll see slang and humor and plenty of geeking out. Why do I do that? Because that is who I am every single day of my life. Why should I be someone different online?
10) What’s the most effective marketing strategy you’ve seen a writer use?
Building a launch team in a Facebook group. It’s so effective that I offer three different book launch options with the launch team as the main focus.Two words: be authentic. Click To Tweet
11) You’re also a writer. How does that affect what you do as an editor? As a marketer? As a businesswoman?
I don’t know that it affects any of those, because it’s interwoven into everything I do. When I write blog posts, I use them for marketing purposes. When I edit books, I apply new things to my own writing. Writing is at the core of everything I do.
12) You’re in the Tribe Builder’s Network. If you were talking with a friend about it, what would you say?
It’s a compassionate community of writers ready and willing to help you. It’s quickly becoming one of my favorite groups.
13) What is your favorite book of all time?
An expert editor, seasoned writer, and author-centric marketer, Shayla Raquel works one-on-one with authors and business owners every day. Her blog posts have been featured on popular websites like The Book Designer and Positive Writer. She is the author of the Pre-Publishing Checklist and her novel-in-progress, The Suicide Tree. She lives in Oklahoma with her two dogs, Chanel and Wednesday. www.shaylaraquel.com