Professionalism (It’s not what you think it is)

by | Oct 14, 2010 | The Writing Life | 80 comments

By: Hannah Moskowitz

This post has nothing to do with writing and absolutely everything to do with being a writer.

The stereotype of a writer–the middle-aged man pounding feverishly at a typewriter, cigarette in his mouth, sending hard-copy manuscripts to his agent and protesting the change of every word–has yet to catch up with the reality of what being a writer entails today.

We are not locked in our attics alone. We are not even the romantic writers of the ’20s, drinking coffee and discussing literature. We are a legion of overworked, underwashed normals, pounding away at our laptops and shooing the kids to the next room.

And more importantly, we are not alone.

If you are reading this blog, you have obviously already met at least one other writer (hello there.) Chances are, I’m not the only one. Agent, editor, and writer blogs, facebook, forums like Verla Kay and Absolute Write, and God, above all Twitter, mean that, at the very least, most writers are at least a friend of a friend of yours. The term ‘networking’ is so appropriate here, because, in actuality, we–writers, publishing professionals, book bloggers–are a net. A web of interconnected people.

We know the same people. The truth is, this world feels very big sometimes, and God knows everyone is talking about writing a novel, but when it comes down to it–the people who are really out there, querying, editing, submitting, representing, accepting, rejecting, publishing, copyediting, waiting…well, the truth is, there aren’t that many of us after all.

Which is why the act of being a professional writer has come to mean much more than it used to. Fifty years ago, all most writers had to do was avoid getting arrested and not respond to bad reviews.

You have a much bigger job to undertake. And it’s stressful, and it’s scary, but it can also be one of the most rewarding parts of this job. Somedays, my writing is absolutely shitty, and the house is a mess, and I’m crying because I can’t find my socks, but I have 557 blog followers and I said something funny on Twitter today, so at least this day isn’t totally for the birds.

You may think that I am the worst possible person ever to talk about how to be a professional. I’m loud and I’m obnoxious and I had to edit about ten cuss words out of this post so I didn’t offend Nathan’s sensibilities.

Yep. That’s me.

But I’m hoping all that will make me easier to listen to, because when people think ‘professional,’ they a lot of the time think boring, sanitized, safe. And that’s not who you have to be. I’m living proof over here. And I knew from the start that I was taking a big risk, but I hoped that people would find me interesting and remember me.

It’s worked pretty well so far. And that, kittens, is the real reason you want to get out there and put on your professional face. So that people will remember you.

Now that I’m done babbling, here are some guidelines. How to be a successful professional writer, by yours truly. And these are not big, life-changing rules. These are just tricks. Tricky little tricks.

Get on Twitter

I don’t care what your objections are. I objected too. But it is hands-down the best way to connect with people you would never have the balls to approach any other way. You can follow someone, which causes them no pain or trouble whatsoever, and you can talk to them in a completely neutral, undemanding way.

Read about books

What do Hunger Games, Twilight, Lord of the Rings, The Da Vinci Code, and a hell of a lot of other books have in common? Answer: I haven’t read them.

I’m not proud. But I know I don’t have nearly enough time to read as much as I should, so I make a point of reading *about* books I wish I had time to read. Know enough about popular books to be able to fake your way through a conversation. I can discuss Twilight with the best of ’em.

Remember names

I can’t stress enough how important this is. You might have never read a book by this author most people haven’t heard of, but you better be able to connect the book to the name in a second flat. You need to be able to talk about other writers like you went to high school with them. Memorize authors, titles, editors, agent. Know who goes with whom.

Don’t alienate

Or if you have to, choose one book or author to singularly alienate. People ask me a lot what my least favorite book is. Obviously I’ve read a lot of stuff I don’t like, but I have one that I use so I’m not spreading the hate around too badly (and trust me, the author of said book is way too famous to give a shit what a plebe like me thinks).

You never know who you will need.

Don’t blog to sell books

It doesn’t work. People who read your blog won’t run out and buy your book if it isn’t their thing. Accept that your blog and your book will have separate readers, embrace it, enjoy it. And if you can’t, move on and don’t blog, or you’re going to bore everyone to tears with pages and pages of advertisements for your own stuff. Speaking of which:

Don’t talk about yourself all the time

God, I get bored of author blogs that are all me me me look where my book got reviewed look what I’m working on blaaaah. If your blog could read the exact same as someone else’s if you switched your titles around, you’re doing it wrong.

If you don’t feel qualified to give advice (through trust me, if I’m qualified, so are you) find articles and other blog posts you find interesting, post your thoughts, and open your comments up for discussion. You’ll find a lot more followers and a lot more interesting discussion than you will by posting boring crap about yourself every day. And if you respectfully start dialogues with other writers (and link to their blogs!) they will appreciate and remember you.

Don’t be boring

Unsurprisingly, this is one of my main points.

Don’t be boring. If someone else is saying what you’re saying, people are only going to listen to one of you. Do you want a fifty/fifty chance of being drowned out?

Do you want people to wonder if your books are as generic as your personality? I

I know you have it in you. You can be sparkly and crazy and noisy and everything else in the whole world. You are interesting. No one–seriously, no one–wants you to dilute yourself. So swallow your fear. I’m scared every day. I do this anyway. Because I love it. And because I don’t want you to forget me.

Because I only have books coming out every so often. And I’m a professional, and if you forget me between books, I’m not doing a very good job.

And I mean, really. No one wants to be forgotten. Which pretty much leads me to the most important thing:

Remember that you are a human connecting with other humans

You don’t need to pretend to be Superman. It’s boring. I told you. It’s GOOD to show that you care about people, that you care about what you’re doing, and that you care about your readers. Stop pretending that the ride is easy. You’re not earning any respect that way. Show some of your vulnerability and maybe you’ll do more than sell your product. You’ll meet some very cool people.

You’ll maybe even help them.

Hannah Moskowitz is the author of several Young Adult and Middle Grade novels, including BREAK (2009), and INVINCIBLE SUMMER and ZOMBIE TAG (2011). She blogs at

Need help with your book? I’m available for manuscript edits, query critiques, and coaching!

For my best advice, check out my guide to writing a novel (now available in audio) and my guide to publishing a book.

And if you like this post: subscribe to my newsletter!


  1. Remus Shepherd

    I don't want to be a social human being. It's not natural to me.

    All I want is to tell stories.

  2. androidblues

    Funny how many authors write teen bad dialogue yet they think that because they were teenagers they think the dialogue is good. Being social and actually listening to teens talk every once in a while would be good for them.

  3. Shari

    Great Post! I agree. The mysterious and elusive writer is soon to be extinct. There are too many normal writers out here and I'm so fine with that!

  4. Anonymous

    Fantastic advice I love it. I'll make sure that next time I wont be superwoman nor always the subject of my blogs. I will add too many characters in my novel making them feel great and maybe put them on high pedestal and on the wall, portray them as gods and godesses for the mere fact that they are very interesting people not boring even if they are all are such a bored..which is the truth. There is nothing good in this world but to know the truth. If its all lying? I don't think the earth will ever exist. Let's have a flat planet.

  5. Anonymous

    Your writing style is really weird. Punchy almost. Fast. I felt tongue-tied and like I was on crack reading that. Very interesting phenom….

  6. Perry

    Wow, your post grabbed my attention right away.

    I was surprised to find a vibrant community of writers in my area (Metro Vancouver BC) and found that there is great inspiration in the community.

    What shocked me is the vast gap between the talent of writers and their ability to be professional. It's not about age, it's about attitude. And about persistence.

    So many authors seem to give up after a few rounds of revision. They love the fire of the first draft but lack the discipline to go to publishing quality.

    Your post hits it right on the button. For people who just want to write, it's fine to do that. If you hope to get published, it's critical to find your professional side.

  7. D.G. Hudson

    Good advice, Hannah, about not alienating too many people in comments made on one's own blog or other blogs.

    It's important to also remember that we don't have to be connected 100% of the time to the media/social network grid. Creativity needs room to expand and grow, and IMO, that means shutting out some of the external noise existing in today's world.

    Enjoyed your post.

  8. T. Anne

    Well done Hannah! You have such a great voice in your posts. (Yes, I've read more than one.) I agree, let your light shine through as a writer. Find the unique you and let it out into your blog, not just into your writing.

  9. Carol Riggs

    Great post! Wonderful stuff to ponder. I can so relate to the boring blogging bit; I was boring MYSELF last year, til I changed my blog focus.

    But still, I refuse to Twitter. I have better things to do–like write on my novel. I love connecting with people, but on Twitter everyone (even supposed professionals) sounds like gushy teens–it's like, OMG! woot, squeeeee! Plus, it's too restricting to be limited to a certain # of characters.

  10. Susan Kaye Quinn

    I love your blog, Hannah! And I can see how you may have had to clean up for this post! LOL

    I especially love the part about remembering we're connecting with other human beings. So easy to forget behind the firewall of Blogger, etc.

  11. SWK

    A fun, smart post. I should probably go Tweet about it 🙂 – Stasia

  12. Sierra McConnell

    I've noticed a lot of people talking about networking.

    There's a problem.

    I'm not interesting. There's a reason I wrote a fantasy novel with people not based on myself. Because they are interesting. I am not. I love other people, and making other people, and dreaming up other people who can do things I can't, like gardening (too sick), and building airships (honestly, now).

    So unless there are people out there who would follow the blog of a person who gets a thrill because "this nosebleed I didn't get a single drop of aspiration or chunk of rotting tissue on my shirt" I doubt there's much use in me starting one.

    Though I am known for random insight, it's usually floaty bits of, "OMG, after six months I finally understand what that Lowe's commerical was on about with all those T shaped items…"

    (And yes, it took me that long to figure out they were spelling a word… No, I'm not blonde, just slow with certain things.)

  13. Vazymolo

    Excellent post, funny and full of energy. It would almost convince me to tweet this instant. But if I did, I’d spend even less time writing, and even less time with my family too.

    Besides, although I understand the importance of being connected with other writers/readers, I get the impression that all this networking business is really for extrovert people. The type of persons who can speak for hours about the weather. It’s not me.

    In RL I am about as pleasant as a prison’s door, as my mother used to say. Which can be handy to fend off people you don’t want to speak to, by the way.

  14. hannah

    Thanks guys!

    The fact is, the writer needs to do more now than just tell stories. Is it still POSSIBLE to hang out be and be a total hermit? Yes. People do it.

    Is it a strategy to bank on? Absolutely not.

    A huge benefit of getting out there and getting to know people and circulating your name, beyond a possible bump in book sales and the amazing people you'll meet: your publisher will be very, very happy with you.

    Anon 10:38: It's my natural voice. It's not the one I use when I'm writing. It's the one I use when I'm being a human. But thank you. 🙂

  15. hannah

    And D.G. Hudson–excellent point, and I have another post on my blog about networking fatigue (but Nathan linked to it in a This Week in Publishing a while back, and I didn't want to submit something seen.)

  16. Anonymous

    I don't think I like this post. That's not a bad thing. It is an interesting post, and I applaud you for putting your real self out there, which I definitely get the sense you did.

    You share some good advice that both those who are naturally extroverted, and those who would rather keep their heads in their shell can benefit from.

    I actually do agree with most of your points (and the don't alienate, or just singularly alienate is hilarious). But there is a sense that you're trying to push us into being more like, well, you.

    I understand that this is a post on being a writer, not on writing, but your idea of being professional isn't for everyone. Yes, these days, being professional for a writer means putting oneself out there and networking, sure. But there is a calm professional way to do this. If being loud and obnoxious (your words, I don't think you're obnoxious, maybe young and rash) works for you, then by all means.

    But this won't apply to everyone. Especially the tips under "Don't Be Boring." These are really off-putting remarks. Sure we shouldn't just parrot what people around us say, but why should we be contrary or "sparkly and crazy and noisy" either? You can get people's attention without being loud and noisy or even sparkly. Sometimes being quiet, reflective, and thoughtful work just as well.

    Sorry for the long comment, I just had to say something because I think some writers get turned off or defensive if they think someone is trying to turn them into an extrovert.

    Thanks for writing this post. It's given me some things to think about and I'm glad to have been introduced to your blog.

    -Tina K.

  17. hannah

    Tina–you're absolutely right. Quiet and reflective work too.

    You're right. Anything that isn't boring works. And quiet and reflective can absolutely be unboring.

    Great point.

  18. D.R. Chisholm

    Thank you for this post. I'm so grateful for blogs and Twitter, because there is a surprisingly small pond of writers where I live and the majority of them are ethnocentric, considering local and pidgin-based fiction the paragon of craft. Nice people, just exclusive. I should say I have a penchant for loud, foul-mouthed women – so rock forth with thy bad self!

  19. Remus Shepherd

    The fact is, the writer needs to do more now than just tell stories

    So is that it, then? We — the human race — have collectively decided that there shall never be another J.D. Salinger, Thomas Pynchon, Bill Watterson or Emily Dickinson? From this point on in history, only extroverts will be allowed to contribute?

    I Do Not Believe That.

    If personality becomes more important than skill when judging writers, then literature as a craft is doomed. I refuse to believe that we've slipped so far down that slope already.

  20. hannah

    Remus, I really didn't say that. You should probably read the sentence after the one you quoted.

    And I definitely did not say that personality was more important than skill in judging writers. No one is signing writers because of how well they network, and I don't believe I implied otherwise.

    But is it important? Can it make an impact in sales? Can it enrich your writing life? Absolutely.

  21. Marilyn Peake


    I thoroughly enjoyed your Blog post and am glad yours was selected. You paint a very clear portrait of what it’s like to be a writer on the Internet today. In so many ways, it’s a wonderful world for writers. The Internet allows writers to connect, but according to their own schedules – we can just pop onto the Internet and chat whenever we have free time.

    I also resisted Twitter for a long time. A few days after trying it, however, I was hooked. After the protesters in Iran communicated in tweets and photos days before traditional media even mentioned their uprising and, for days afterwards, TV news only reported Twitter messages coming out of Iran, I realized the real value of Twitter. Not only do I follow writers on Twitter, I also follow The New York Times, Huffington Post, NASA, several astronauts who tweet incredible messages and photos from outer space, Theoretical Physicist Michio Kaku, even the Dalai Lama, Stephen Colbert (who is hilarious), and many more fascinating people and organizations.

    I’m also happy that writers are able to choose different degrees of connectivity on the Internet because some days I’m too busy to chat online and sometimes I need a greater degree of quiet to write. Some of the most incredible writers aren’t on the Internet very much at all – J.K. Rowling, Barbara Kingsolver and Jonathan Franzen, to name just a few. That tells me that we can take the path that works best for each of us as individual people and writers.

  22. hannah

    Marilyn–Absolutely! I've thought a lot about how there are so many famous (and famous NOW, not famous back before internet networking was commonplace) authors who aren't on the internet. I'm sure there are a lot of factors that go into it, but I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that publicity is generated for them, and that they have bigger avenues than blogging/tweeting/whatever. Who needs twitter followers when you're on Oprah, right? Though I imagine it could get lonely.

  23. Kristy Colley

    I can appreciate the disagreements in the comments. I, on the other hand, saw Hannah's post as a writer giving other writers encouragement to be themselves, glorious and loud or quiet and introspective as we are.

    Also, I saw her tips as simply that–tips she's learned that have helped her in her career. Take them or leave them, but I'm grateful for the suggestions.

    Thanks for the post, Hannah.

    (And Hannah's writing is like crack, y'all. Read her stuff.)

  24. The Red Angel

    I respect your thoughts and think you point out some great tips that are helpful for every writer, but I'm not in line with everything you mentioned.

    Different people have different opinions about what exactly defines something as "boring." All we can do is do our best at putting our whole hearts into what we write and give it our 100%. Writing isn't just about pleasing your readers, but also about pleasing yourself and enjoying the process. Even if something may seem boring to some people, if you enjoy it and don't think it's boring, then it's not.

    I personally think Twitter is a waste of time.

    In regards to blogging and professionalism, you're right in that people shouldnt always talk about themselves in their posts. They should give constructive advice and criticism; however, readers do like to get on a more personal level with the bloggers they're following and sometimes talking about daily life and accomplishments/failures is a good way for readers to feel like they identify with you.


  25. hannah

    TRA–great point. There's definitely a difference between talking about your real self and talking about your writing. One of them reads as honesty and openness, the other as advertisement.

  26. Jennifer

    I love this post and the voice and I'd probably read the author's blog based on it.

    But my favorite author blog is Alexander Chee's. (Edinburgh, Picador 2002) It's quiet, he doesn't post a lot, he doesn't generate a ton of comments, but he has the whole speak softly and so insanely brilliant thing down pat. (He is the author of the widely linked to essay on studying with Annie Dillard). I feel like I do see his personality in spades in his blog, and it feels real and thought-provoking and part of a conversation I want to hear.

    So I don't think Hannah is saying "be like me" but if you are like her, don't be afraid. But don't be afraid to be all the other ways you are yourself either. Authentic goes a long way.

  27. hannah

    Jennifer–thanks! And, oh, yeah, if you can be brilliant in a few words, be brilliant in a few words. God knows I would if I could…

  28. abc

    I enjoy Hannah's blog and her tweets (and Break, of course)so it was uber fun to read her here. Lots of great, diverse topics this week!

  29. Mira

    Cool post, Hannah – like your voice. 🙂

    I like your take on this. Not everyone may decide to do the social networking thing – which is cool, not every tool works for everyone – but if they do, I like your approach to it.

    What I especially like is your focus on building relationships with other writers. I've tried lots of things on-line over the years, and what I've found both feels and works the best is just to be myself. I'm just making friends, really, supporting other writers, learning from them and sharing who I am. Those relationships tend to be nuturing.

    I think it is definitely possible to do all of this without social networking – writing a good book is hard enough, and a good book will sell itself – but there are some nice side benefits to social networking – it can be fun and supportive, and brings some perks.

    Thanks, Hannah. I imagine it might sort of suck to be stirring up some controversy, but I think it's generating an interesting and very timely discussion – so I appreciate it. 🙂

  30. hannah

    I always love your comments, Mira. (and it's kind of stressful, yeah, but I'm used to it by now…I create drama wherever I go, haha. It's only been a year and a half since high school. Still trying to shake it off.)

  31. Valerie Kemp

    I was hoping this one would get picked! Great post and a good reminder to someone like me who is not naturally social.

  32. Maria Kenney

    Thank god – I was hoping someone would spell it all out like this.

    What's given me the most encouragement, however, is reading the comments. It seems like people are really caught up seeing themselves as introverts, or else Artists, or whatever else has them stay away from social media and obtaining a larger audience.

    I get it. You're not saying: this is the one and only way to sell books/get published/be awesome like you. But for those of us out there who are currently unpublished, or who even have a book out there, these are some things we can do to make people give a crap about what we have to say.

    I'm going to print this post out. Thanks Hannah!

  33. hannah

    So glad you found it helpful, Maria!

  34. Julia Rachel Barrett

    Ms. Moskowitz – this may be the best thing Nathan has ever posted! Sorry, Nathan. Invaluable post. I'm going to send people in your direction – I'm already headed there. Thanks!

  35. hannah


    (and I'm at least twenty years away from "Ms. Moskowitz!" Please, hannah. :))

  36. Alex

    Hannah, you're wise beyond your years. Great post.

  37. Anonymous

    Great Post.

    I get bored of author blogs that only talk about me me me, too :))

  38. Anne R. Allen

    Vital information. This is one every aspiring writer should bookmark. Publishing is in a state of rapid change, and what you've outlined is what publishers expect of writers now. We may wish it otherwise, but them's the facts. Very well put facts, too. Thank you!

  39. ryan field

    Linking to your great post. I think it's helpful for all authors to read.

  40. Widow_Lady302

    We aren't locked in our attics? Since when? I never got the memo…Now I have to go pour out my my coffee, and stop talking to people about The notes on Nabokov…Great post I have a lot to change 😉 lol

  41. Steppe

    I like your style and the article conveys that effectively. The advice to separate your blog self from your writing self registers deeply. I am about to start a blog on a subject I have good and original knowledge of whilst realizing I shall be talking to myself at least early on for a while. You remind me of my grandmother or this bossy lady I like who keeps things running ship shape in the nearby diner; the one who knows the customers expect their breakfast fast fast fast.
    My favorite stereotype mask is OCD Nicholson in "AS GOOD AS IT GETS"

    Carol Connelly: OK, we all have these terrible stories to get over, and you-…
    Melvin Udall: It's not true. Some have great stories, pretty stories that take place at lakes with boats and friends and noodle salad. Just; NO ONE in this car. But, a lot of people, that's their story. Good times, noodle salad. What makes it so hard is not that you had it bad, but that you're that pissed that so many others had it good.

    Two thumbs from the middle age coffee drinking cigar smoking writers who fantasizes about writing a great work but makes money doing other stuff.

    Good work.

  42. Jeff

    I definitely have to link this around. This was a great article and I couldn't agree with it anymore than recite it at a public forum.

    hrmm. Not a bad idea. But I'm not the best at public speaking.

  43. Mira

    Thanks, Hannah – I like your comments and your blog. 🙂

    And as someone considerably older than you, I can tell you one of the advantages of age is you get even better at creating drama! If you so choose, of course. After all, a fine sense of the dramatic bodes well for an author, I think. 🙂

    But I don't think you actually created drama with this. I think you were right on the nerve of an on-going blog conversation – which is good. It's always good to talk things out – I think, anyway.

    Good post, and good topic – thank you.

  44. hannah

    Thank you so much, everyone.

  45. erica and christy

    I maybe (maybe) didn't read the whole post. But I will. And I agree with the thing I read about the socks. Where in the hell are they hiding?? I could barely make it to work today (I'm a teacher. Kids demand socks on their teachers. Weird.)

  46. Rebecca

    Woah, great post!

  47. Anonymous

    None of this means a damn if you're not writing books that people want to read. All this talk about the necessity of being hyperconnected comes with no proof of efficacy. Prove to me that Twitter increases sales. That a blog about writing or dogs or Winger tribute bands is gonna sell more of your YA or fantasy novels.

    Seems to me the only people talking out there (and the only people listening) are writers, not readers.

    Write a great book, join professional writer's associations, write more great books.

    Instead of toiling away for hours on that blog entry about that killer shrimp-wrap I had this afternoon, or a review of Hannah's latest blog entry, shouldn't I stretch myself with a short story, a magazine article, or something else … you know … professional?

  48. hannah

    Anon: I don't think anyone's disagreeing with that. Like I said in the post–"this isn't about writing." Is writing more important than what I wrote about? Absolutely.

    It's also a topic we discuss to death.

    There is no proof that twitter increases sales. But there is more than enough proof, I believe, that who you know can get you several legs up along the way, and networking is a way to do that. It's also a way to keep you sane in what can be a very isolating career.

    Of course none of this is important if you're not writing.

    Very little is, really.

    (And for the record, I have yet to see any evidence that a professional writer's association is more useful that Absolute Write–which is free and sure as hell counts as networking.)

    Let's be honest. We're here commenting on this post. We're not writing. And that's FINE. You can't write all the time. And the idea that you should is so restrictive and guilt-inducing.

    Going out and playing can be good for you, good for others, and good for your psyche.

  49. Eileen Andrews

    I can't agree with you more about Twitter. I've met some really great people through that particular social medium. I've made connections and even had a request for my manuscript.
    Just Tweet! LOL

  50. Pei Hua

    I don't think there's one good writer who says: I don't have time to read.

  51. hannah

    Pei Hua–

    I don't think there's one honest person who can say, "I have time to read everything."

    I absolutely have time to read, but I definitely don't have unlimited time to read. I read what I want to read, which isn't always the book of the moment, but that doesn't mean I can pretend the book of the moment doesn't exist. People are going to talk about it and it's going to have an effect, so I need to know what's going on.

    But I have my own likes and dislikes that go into what book I'm actually going to pick up. I'm in college and yeah, I don't have as much time to read as I like, so I have to be choosy. But everyone's reading list has holes.

  52. Chris Phillips

    Great post. I don't like to social network because I'm pretty much cooler than everyone else.

    I do keep a blog, but I'm pretty sure twitter is the devil. I will not use it. It added nothing to what facebook already did except it made status updates harder to read and more full of stupid. No one needs to know I'm nearly out of nutella.

  53. swampfox

    I hate to admit this, but I have no clue as to how to Twitter.

  54. JD

    Best thing I read all day. Thanks.

  55. Janiel Miller

    @Chris Phillips – Bwa hahahaha! I needed to know you were almost out of nutella. (your comment made me laugh out loud.)

    @Hanna: I think you are an old soul. There's a lot of insight in your writing. Great common sense in this post; cracked-out voice or not. (Not, in my opinion. Your voice reaches right out of the screen and grabs me. And I'm clearly not the only one.)

    You said specific things that can be generalized, I think, and stretched to fit any personality type. Of course we should be considerate, interesting, selfless, and willing to get out there for our writing–whatever way we are comfortable doing it. But we should do it. Even if our blogs and tweets and stati are only being read by other writers – we are all colleagues. We need to know each other. It's a support system. At some point, if you do the things outlined in this post, I think your readers will show up too. We're all people. Connecting in a positive way is, you know, positive.

    Yay you. Good post.

  56. hannah

    Eee, Janiel, yay you back.

  57. Jill Thomas

    Link it. Check. Like it. Check. Share it. Check. Print it off so I can refer back to it countless times. Check. This is some of the best advice for writers I've ever heard. Thanks for sharing!

  58. Laura Pauling

    It's so true. I've stopped reading some blogs b/c once the writer got published that's all they talked about or 90% percent of the time. I don't mind a little but after a while it does get a little…boring.

  59. jamiemason

    Good stuff, Hannah. I particularly enjoyed the blogging advice. I simply won't read any more daily blogs (or Tweets or FaceBook status updates) about how many words you wrote today or how you worked on your outline or drew up character sketches this week. Bully for you, but I also don't want to hear anyone outside of Dave Barry or Dave Sedaris describing getting their socks on in the morning. Daily routine is not the stuff of blogging interest and it seems antisocial and narcissistic to insist on writing it down in any place other than a private journal.

    Frickin' painful, I tell you.

    The occasional success (or failure) update is fine, but the relentless self-promotion and play-by-play is hack. And boring.

    Thanks for speaking plainly.

  60. Layla Fiske

    Akkkk! Hannah Moskowitz has created controversy on an otherwise very homogenous blog!! OMG! Is that possible? Can this really be true?

    Yes, it is. And…THAT, my friends, is the sign of a good writer.

    One who causes people to think… to speak out… to communicate!!

    I don't think Hannah is telling all the shy writers out there not to be true to themselves, she's saying that we should not be afraid to embrace who we are, and to be true to ourselves.

    She's also given us a whole list of ideas on the not so obvious, up and coming, "how-to's" of being a writer in today's electronic age of communication.

    My hat's off to you, Hannah. Thank you for your post!!

  61. Jewel Fern

    I'm going to a writers' conference this weekend. Your blog reminded me that I need to open up and meet people–not just focus on classes/workshops. Thank you!

  62. Anna

    I'm still nervous about Twitter, but your other advice was so dang good, I might have to change my mind. Thanks for the insightful post!

  63. Renee Miller

    I love this post, Hanna. Thank you. I'm not surprised by the different opinions on this. If you wish to write and remain anonymous and hermit-like and act like you don't care if your books sell because it's all about the writing and nothing else, if you moan about not being social (or wanting to be), or feel your writing should sell your books not your Twitter page, etc: I wish you luck. You'll need it.

    You don't have to be everywhere or be crazy outgoing or even very likable. You do have to make sure people know who you are. It's called marketing and it doesn't matter what you're selling, if you want sales, you have to do it.

    I'm not comfortable in social situations where I'm around people I don't know, and I avoid these situations like the plague. But I've learned to push myself a little. I blog, I freelance, I tweet and I moderate online writing groups. I even worked as a reporter for a local newspaper for a while. If you knew how shy I used to be, you'd see what a huge deal this is. I used to cry when strangers spoke to me.

    By forcing myself to get over that, not only have I made a great network of friends, I've met really interesting people and learned things I wouldn't have otherwise. And my writing improved immensely because of this.

    I'm not always exciting. I have no filter that says "Don't say that" and I am really opinionated. Hell, I'm not even likable some days. But, I have hundreds of people who know who I am. That's the point. When I have a book to offer these people, more than half will probably say "no thanks, I don't like you" but the rest might buy. If not for my 'networking' I wouldn't have even that small group of people buying. I'd have my mother and her friends. Sadly, my mother doesn't have very many friends.

    I wish it were as simple as telling stories, but none of us are Rowling or Salinger and no one knows or cares who we are. Once we've gotten their attention and they've read our work, then possibly we can slip quietly away and never speak to another human being again and still sell books. But how do we get them to read that first book?

  64. Liz Fichera

    You had me at "I haven't read TWILIGHT." Nice to meet you. 🙂

  65. hannah

    Thanks everyone! (and a special 🙂 to Layla).

    Renee–proving your point: I totally know who are you.

  66. Renee Miller

    You do? Awesome. I apologize for spelling your name wrong. I just realized that. My bad.

  67. hannah

    Renee–it's no big.

    It's weird when people are like "I'm reading this book by Hanna Moskowitz," though. My name's right there on the cover…

  68. Renee Miller

    Ha! Yeah, and it was right there in front of me too.

    My daughter just slapped me for not connecting you to the book that is currently on her nightstand. I'm not a very cool mom apparently. Or not very observant. I have to agree with a couple of comments made earlier; you have a very 'unique' voice that is nice to read.

    And networking does work, to get back on topic. See how it works? Hannah knows 'of' me, and I know 'of' her and now I'm going to buy my daughter a certain book to make up for being such a dork.

  69. hannah

    Yesss! That is so awesome. Tell your daughter thanks 🙂

  70. Renee Miller

    She says "No, thank you". New books are her favorite thing.

  71. lotusgirl

    I've been learning all the things you mentioned since I started blogging. It's an interesting world out here for bloggers. It's such a great way to interact with others in the business.

  72. Erika Robuck


    The simple, bottom line. Pretend you're at a cocktail party. Don't pitch, just chat. The rest flows…

  73. J. T. Shea

    There really are other writers? Wow! I thought you guys were all figments of my imagination.

    Now, back to my attic, typewriter, cigarettes and coffee…

  74. Kate

    Great advice! Fun writing style. Thanks for the post!

  75. Edie Ramer

    Terrific advice. I'm forcing myself to tweet and do FB. It's not normal for me. Maybe some day it will get easier.

  76. sooper

    Blogging would take SO MUCH time out of my actual writing time. And I have nothing interesting to say! It seems like a fake and useless way to "get out there."

    Plus, so many of the writers I admire (especially YA authors) dont have twitters or blogs and they're doing just fine. This new phenom that all YA authors have to be friend online and have to give good reiews on goodreads and have to follow each other is jus so tedius to me.

    I just want to write a good book!

  77. hannah

    Blogging is definitely not a requirement. If you have nothing to say, don't have one. But *don't* get one just to use as a promotional tool, because, like I said, blogs don't sell books. They just get your name out there.

    Twitter is easy and not time-consuming, so saying you don't have time for it doesn't really fly for me. And it's a very, very easy way for writers (published or not) to connect with agents/editors/other writers, which can be both useful and therapeutic.

    The YA writing world is completely incestuous, and I've blogged about that.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Hi, I’m Nathan. I’m the author of How to Write a Novel and the Jacob Wonderbar series, which was published by Penguin. I used to be a literary agent at Curtis Brown Ltd. and I’m dedicated to helping authors chase their dreams. Let me help you with your book!

My blog has everything you need to know to write, edit, and publish a book. Can’t find what you need or want personalized help? Reach out.


I’m available for consultations, edits, query critiques, brainstorming, and more.



Need help with your query? Want to talk books? Check out the Nathan Bransford Forums!