One of my twin daughters did a triathlon this summer. It was called Tri-City Kids' Triathlon, and it was for kids ages 6 to 15. There were a LOT of kids who participated in the event, close to 350. But I was surprised that even with such a large turnout the whole morning went quickly and smoothly.
The kids were broken into age-groups. And the older kids had the advantage of starting out on the course first, including my daughter. Each group began with swimming a certain number of laps. Then they hopped on their bikes and rode as fast as they could on the bike course. And finally they ended by running around a track.
Since it was my daughter's first year competing, we didn't really know what to expect or how she would compare with the other athletes her age. So we were pleasantly surprised when she finished 8th in her age group.
As I thought about her triathlon, I realized that writers nowadays have to be a lot like a triathlete in order to make it in today's industry. Whether self-publishing or going the traditional route, if we hope to prepare well and succeed with our books then we'd be wise to take some lessons from the triathlete:
1. We need LOTS and LOTS of training.
My daughter and I started running in April. By July we'd worked our way up to 5K approximately 5-6 days a week. My daughter also does competitive swimming on a swim team every weekday morning of the summer (rather than sleeping in!). She demonstrated a dedication and tenacity to training that impressed me.
Writers, if we hope to compete and be anywhere near the top of the crowd, then we MUST train. We can't make it optional. We can't write only when we feel like it. Or read a writing craft book once in a while.
Instead we need to be dedicated to a daily writing workout and have a tenacity to learning all we possibly can.
2. We need to be familiar with the ins and outs of what we're doing.
The night before the triathlon, my daughter went to the course, got the layout of the race, learned where the transition area was, and figured out the quickest way to move from swimming to biking to running. She gleaned advice for even the little things, like how to put your shoes on quickly while your feet are wet.
As writers we need to be completely familiar with the industry, especially as we near readiness for publication. I talk to many writers who jump into publication without doing their homework on the ins and outs of the publishing industry. But then when those writers have dismal results, they can't understand why.
Having a working knowledge about publication, marketing, book reviewers, etc., doesn't guarantee success, but it can certainly help keep our expectations realistic and the experience less embarrassing and painful.
3. We need to juggle multiple roles.
As I mentioned, my daughter trained really well for the running and swimming parts of the triathlon. Those were her strong events and she actually ended up finishing 5th overall in both. Her weakness was her biking. She'd practiced biking but not enough, and it showed.
Modern writers have to juggle multiple roles too: writer, marketer, and administrator.
• Writer: Obviously writing our stories must take precedence over any other role, unlike the triathlon where it doesn't really matter which event is our strongest. Writers write. Period. Readers care about our stories the most, so we have to make our stories and our writing techniques our strongest asset.
• Marketer: There's no getting around the fact that if we want our books to stand out among the millions out there, we have to make concerted and strategic efforts to get our books onto our readers' radars. I won't go into detail about all the various ways to market, but here are a couple posts that I've done previously: Are Your Efforts Unique or Do You Blend in? or The Birds and the Bees of Marketing
• Administrator: I've realized that there are a hundred and one "little" tasks that need attending on weekly basis: writing up a proposal for future books, responding to emails, setting up signings and speaking events, mailing out books to contest winners, etc.
If we hope to compete with a measure of success, then we would be wise to train well, learn about the industry, and juggle our roles well. If we languish or skimp on something, it's going to be harder for us to stay competitive with all the other writers out there, especially those who are doing everything possible to have a winning edge.
So what about you? What's your training regime look like? Do you feel like you're learning everything you can about the industry? And how well are you juggling the roles writers have to play?