Okay…fellow author Carole Gill tagged me for this on Facebook. I do very few of them, and this time I’m not doing it on Facebook or passing it on, because the people I’d pass it to wouldn’t do it anyway. Normally, I wouldn’t do it. But when asked to reveal seven things about writing, well, it was just too good to pass up, so here goes….
1. There are two species of authors. Seriously. There are those who will support each other, knowing there’s no need to compete, because when one of us finds success, it’s good for all of us. When readers find good books, they start looking for more good books. Often, they look to their favorite authors for recommendations. See where this is going?
And then there are others, those who’d sell their own mothers to beat their peers onto the bestseller lists. I’ve encountered both species in my years in conventional publishing and later in self-publishing. I knew one, years ago–she writes under a pseudonym, so I’m really not naming names here–who was dubbed I-leen (emphasis on “I”) by a group of writers who’d been on the receiving end of her selfishness.
2. Getting published is not solely about talent. It’s part talent, part connections, part timing. When I queried my agent with my first book, she had been a former editor who’d set up her literary agency in the spare room in her apartment. Her office was about the size of a closet, and that’s not much of an exaggeration. She had just had her first New York Times bestseller, and as it happened, the novel was in the same genre as mine. She was looking for her next big “star.” I happened to be in the right place at the right time with the right project.
3. Burning bridges is not a good idea. As my agent warned me early on, if I were to piss off an editor and leave that publisher, it was entirely possible said pissed-off editor would end up at my next publisher. (My agent once described publishing as “an incestuous business.”) But I had a nasty temper, and I made a few enemies–I’m surprised it was only a few, now that I think about it. Not fun. I’m not so quick to shoot off my mouth these days, but I still have my moments. I almost lost it the other day. Someone on Facebook was feeding me a huge line of BS, and I called her on it. When she saw I wasn’t buying what she was selling, did she back off? Nope. She kept pushing, determined to have the last word. I counted to ten more than once before finally deciding the best way to go would be to distance myself from her as much as possible. So far, so good.
4. Be flexible. When rewriting that first novel for the publisher, the editor-in-chief came up with an idea for a subplot. I knew it wouldn’t work, but I also knew if I didn’t at least try it her way, she might lose her enthusiasm for me and my career. I gave it my best shot. It didn’t work, she saw it didn’t work, and we went back to my original plan. (I’m still trying to figure out why, then, the published novel bears almost no resemblance to my original plan….)
5. Never throw anything away. And by that I mean anything you’ve written. I’m not advocating hoarding here! I keep a file in one of my cloud accounts for the projects that just didn’t work, because I’ve found I can often mine at least a few nuggets from those failed projects for the ones that will eventually work.
6. Networking is essential. When I started out, I didn’t know any other writers, not even in my hometown. I had never been to a writers conference. I’d read a few books and writers’ magazines, which is how I found my agent. It was my agent who put me in touch with the president of a local writers group and explained why this was so important to my career. You never know what one of those contacts might lead to. Besides, the moral support is necessary.
7. Don’t count on other authors for your sales. Yes, writers are also readers–but the writers you know may not be readers of your particular genre. Though my first writers group was a branch of the Romance Writers of America, there were several authors in the local chapter and the national organization who were writing the same type of mainstream novels I wrote. My current group, on Facebook, is, as far as I can tell, mostly authors of paranormal fiction (it’s a very large group and I don’t know everyone). I don’t expect to make a lot of sales there. I do post notices when I have a new book out or a special promotion, but that’s as far as my sales pitches go. I make more sales through posting comments on pages of movies, TV shows and other things that interest me. Other commenters see my posts, and if they find them entertaining, will go to my page, and that’s how they find out I’m an author. This might surprise you, but it works.
I did say seven things, didn’t I? There’s more, but they can wait.