Thursday, September 6, 2012

Lessons Learned Along the Way

I want to repost this. I’ve seen a lot of the things lately I mentioned below, and I think it bears repeating just one more time.
Things I’ve learned on my writing journey.

1. The first offer isn’t always the best. Research before you submit and know what you are signing when you receive that contract. Agents are not a bad idea, if you can get one. is a great place to get started. If not, there are books out there that cover contracts and the meanings of the clauses in them. I have The Writer’s Legal Guide, an Authors Guild Desk Reference by  Tad Crawford & Kay Murray, which I refer to often.
2. The money flows toward the author. If a publisher or agent is asking you to pay for publication, or to read your manuscript, run, don’t walk away. Wash and repeat, “The money flows toward the author.” Visit
3. Your work is copyrighted from creation, but to fully protect your rights, file with the U. S Copyright Office. The $35.00 is worth the peace of mind. Even if pirates will try to ignore it, it’s extra ammunition for when you need to go after them. Worse yet, if someone steals your work and puts their name on it, you have proof it was always your work. This has happened to a number of self-published authors on Amazon later. Writer beware, there are predators out there and they are watching you.
4. Pirates are scum-suckers you can’t ignore. If you see your story up on a pirating site, send them a takedown notice. Yes it’s annoying and it seems never-ending, but if you ignore it, it will get worse. Join a group that fights piracy. Educate your friends and family about it. You’d be surprised at how many think the innocent sharing of a song, movie or book doesn’t hurt anyone, but while a paperback passes from hand to hand, an e-book could pass from one person’s hands to thousands, who in turn can copy and send to someone else. Many teenagers don’t realize the implications of sharing one file, and it runs rampant among them. Educate them. It’s a snowball effect. This includes downloading music, movies, computer software, anything that can be pirated. Lead by example, and if you really want to share a story, music, or a movie with a family member or friend, buy them a copy. Watch those blog posts too. Often authors use photos that are copyright protected and are not aware (this issue came to light recently after my initial post). If it isn’t in the public domain, or you didn’t purchase the right to use it, tread carefully or you could be infringing on someone’s intellectual rights. Do you want some special graphics, try Fantasia Frog Designs or Goddess Fish, two I know off the top of my head who are reasonable and reliable. If someone offers to share intellectual media with you, tell them you’ll buy your own copy. It’s the right thing to do. And one last thing... Keep up to date on what is going on with laws being put into effect to combat piracy.  Not all are good for the owner’s of intellectual rights. Know what piracy is. In short—Know thy enemy and the laws that govern what they can and can not do!
5. Read. If you want to be a published author, or you are and want to move your career forward, read. Know your genre. Know what is selling and why. Know what makes a book a good read and what makes a book a not so good read. Go ahead, read those reviews, but form your own opinion. The more popular a book, the more trolls it will draw and frankly, not everyone has the same taste. What one person raves about, another may despise.
6. Ignore the trolls. The comments they make on blogs and forums are there to draw you out, and if you give into the urge to comment, it will backfire on you and you better brace yourself for a lamb-basting. You don’t want to be labeled as “An Author Behaving Badly.” Repeat after me, “I will not respond to trolls.”
7. Fifty percent of being a successful author is about promotion. Your publisher will not do it for you, not unless you’re a NY Times Bestseller and even then, it has to be in the budget. Don’t like blogging, talking, networking? You better get used to it. It’s a necessary evil. Get a website and make it reader friendly, easy to navigate, easy to buy your books, and easy to see what you are working on now. Most of all, keep it up to date and post something new weekly. Changes will bring your visitors back to see what’s new. Neglected blogs fall by the wayside. If you have a cover on your site, please link it to where they can buy it. Think one click sales. Impulse buying is your friend. Use it to your advantage. When you blog or network, don’t make it all about promoting your most recent book. Don’t spam your readers. Talk about your latest project, tips on writing, share amusing stories. Build a relationship with your readers and they will buy your books. Constantly spam them, and they will run.
8. Be accessible. I can't emphasize this enough. I still see many authors who are inaccessable. I have gone to several blogs looking for  an email or way to contact the author, only to meet a dead end. Nothing is worse than reading a book you love and wanting to drop the author an email and tell them how much you adored it, only to find there is no way to reach out to them. What does this mean? Have a contact form on your web page, or an email used exclusively for readers to contact you. Put your website address and links at the bottom of all your emails. A lot of traffic to your blogs and website come from these.  If a publisher or agent has read something of yours and they just have to talk to you, and they meet with a dead end, they will stop there. Every now and then they do come looking. It happened to me. Don’t do yourself a disservice. Be accessible.

9. Be professional. Whenever you post, think about what you’re saying before you hit send, or publish it to your blog. Readers may not remember the nice things you said, but they never will forget the nasty things. Tact at all times. And for God’s sake, ignore the trolls.
10. Critique groups and beta readers are not an option, they are a necessity. You will need them to help polish your manuscript before you submit it anywhere. Many a new writer gets a rude awakening when they discover an editor isn’t there to polish their rough draft. They are there to make a well-written, already polished story, great. Critters will see things you don’t, and offer suggestions that may open up avenues you didn’t think about. They help catch typos and grammar errors, and keep you looking like the professional you are. And when they do you a favor, be kind and return it.

11. When you receive good advice, share it. You were not always a published author, and sometimes you had to learn things the hard way, and at one time someone may have given you good advice that made all the difference in your career. Go ahead, help another writer out. What goes around, comes around and we are all in this together.

12. Publishing credits aren’t necessary to get an agent, but most won’t look at your story if you don’t have them. To get the big contracts you have to have an agent. To get an agent you have to have publishing credits and a well-honed knowledge of how to write a damn good story. Go out and write some shorts and get them published, build your credits, learn your craft, and then go back, wiser, published and seasoned. It will make a difference in the way you are received.
13. It’s not in print. So what. Stop stressing over it already. Just because you can’t sign a physical copy doesn’t mean you can’t sign a t-shirt with the cover of your book on it (which also makes a great walking billboard), trading cards, a postcard, or Kindlegraph. All you need is a sharpie and your imagination. You’re still a published author. So, wear that badge with pride and stop fretting about if it will be in print, or not. E-publishing is the future. Those that adapt, will survive. Be a survivor and don’t let that your novel is an e-book, discourage you. You’re e-published and have the biggest audience out there, don’t restrict your promotion to four walls and a ceiling. Brick and mortar is nice, but the average author sells 4-5 books at a signing—if they are lucky. Readers who shop for e-books buy an average of three books at a time and you are not even sitting in front of them. Direct them to your site and one-click buy links and nifty promotional flash they will love and can collect.

14. Your voice is your own. Unique or subtle, it’s your voice. Don’t try to write with a voice that doesn’t belong to you. Have faith you will tell the story you need to tell and do it the way you were meant to. Embrace who you are and what you love to write and the rest will fall into place. I have a friend who has a unique voice she catches a lot of flack for, but she also has a following because of that voice. You either love or hate her work. I myself, love it. I can pick up a manuscript without her name on it and know instantly it belongs to her, it’s that unique. Her voice is her fingerprint and the more she writes, the bigger the audience she seems to gain. This is the kind of stuff that builds a cult following, ladies and gents. Be yourself. Is she taking a risk? Oh, yeah. But it will pay off, and it starting to. You have some who may not like you for it, but you will have others who will be rabid fans for the same reason. Be yourself.
15. Finish one story before you start another. (This is a lesson I’m still working on.) It’s easy to get distracted by the voices in your head and the dynamic ideas that come to you while you dream, or during a boring business meeting. Write the idea down, save it to an idea file and then get your ass back on task, because your breakout novel will never get written if you keep flitting from partially finished novel to partially finished novel. (I repeat. I’m still working on this. Yes Barbara, I know, I know. Finish what I got!)

16. Romance isn’t any easier to write than any other genre. It is a common misconception that some genres are easier to write than others. This is not true. It is however true, if you write what you’re comfortable with, love and read, that genre comes easier. Don’t try to force a horror story out of your muse if she is an erotic romance girl. It won’t work and you’ll get frustrated.
17. Congratulations, you’re a new author and fair game to the jackals. Thicken your hide. If you can’t take critiques on your manuscript before you publish, you won’t be able to take the flaying your editor gives you when he or she gets a hold of it. I had a manuscript I thought I’d scrubbed clean, that bled red ink by the time my editor went through the first pass. And that’s just the beginning. Once you publish, your work is out there for review. Not everyone is going to love it, and they are going to share what they didn’t like with the world, whether you want them to or not. A great way to blow off steam. Get a rant buddy to privately let it all out to. Keep it between you and let it go.

18. Raise the stakes. Make the situation as unpleasant for your characters as you can and then raise the stakes. Always ask yourself, what will happen if my hero or heroine doesn’t succeed, and then make the consequences worse. High stakes=high tension, and a book your readers won’t be able to put down.
19. Be kind to your agent and editors. They work hard. Don’t email or call them constantly for updates, your book isn’t the only one on their desk. Take the time to thank them for all they do. We all need to hear that once in a while, and editors don’t get nearly enough credit and praise for what they do. I love all my editors and appreciate the hard work and input they give me. *hugs*
20. And the most important of all. Write because you love it. Publish because you want to share that love.


1 comment:

JoAnne Kenrick said...

EXCELLENT post! One I really would have found useful at the beginning of my journey as an author -- I do hope the writers out there that need this sort of information are able to find this, because the pointers you've added here are invaluable!
I'm still working on finishing one story before I begin another, too. But you know, maybe that's part of being a writer -- our creativity is hard to pin down and demand for it to behave.
Sweet post, really enjoyed the read. Thank you!