How To Raise A Free-Range Urban Author

by Mark McLaughlin

Back when I was a child, my family lived on a farm and there were no potential babysitters living nearby. So, depending on where my mother wanted to shop, she would drop me off at a convenient library or a bookstore for a few hours.

The librarians and bookstore clerks never fully approved of my mother using their facilities as impromptu daycares, but I was friendly and well-behaved, so they always let me stay. I was a precocious reader, so I always picked novels or story collections and would sit reading them for hours at a time.

Like a free-range chicken wandering through a field, looking for something good to eat, I wandered among bookshelves, looking for quality reading. The library I visited the most had several shelves filled with science-fiction and horror story collections and anthologies, so I started reading them and found many authors who would become lifelong favorites, including H.P. Lovecraft, August Derleth, H.G. Wells, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Robert Bloch. I also read a lot of science books, as well as scholarly volumes about past cultures, like ancient Egypt.

In time, all my reading inspired me to start writing. People often ask me if I can suggest writing classes for them. I tell them that I can’t, because the best way to learn how to write well is to read exceptional books.

Of course, simply reading is only the first step. You then have to do a lot of writing, followed by submitting to publications and publishers. If you wish to write nonfiction, it helps to find employment where you are required to write regularly, like at a newspaper or an ad agency, or for a blog or a website.

When you write for online readers, it helps to know what you want to achieve and how to gauge the results. Setting Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound (SMART) goals helps to plan for ways to grow your readership. A lot of the skills I picked up during my career, I learned on the job. I’ve always enjoyed learning by doing, so I can see the results of my efforts.

Regularly reviewing your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) can help you to determine how you are progressing. You might track statistics like your page views or number of social shares. Of course, if you aren’t getting any results from your online content, that’s a major Red Flag right there!

The same goes for book sales. If your books aren’t selling, that means you have to take a look at your work and determine what you need to do to make it more salable. In some cases, the writer and/or his publisher hasn’t pinpointed the right target audience, and what they need to do to reach those readers.

Some writers might say, “I’m not worried about sales! I just want to create art.” They need to realize that art can be popular, if it reaches its audience. Otherwise, the halls of museums worldwide would be empty, and that would be a sad scenario indeed. 


About bmoviemonster

Mark McLaughlin is the author of the novels, HUMAN DOLL, THE HELL NEXT DOOR, and INJECTABLES. His fiction, nonfiction, and poetry have appeared in many magazines, newspapers, websites, and anthologies, including Cemetery Dance, Black Gate, Galaxy, Fangoria, Writer’s Digest, Midnight Premiere, Dark Arts, and two volumes each of The Best of the Rest, The Best of HorrorFind, and The Year’s Best Horror Stories (DAW Books). Mark is the author of many books of horror, so be sure to visit his Amazon Author's Page at
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