Recently, I was chatting with a friend who has only be published about 18 months and who wasn’t around in the earlier years of digital publishing. I was explaining that every time you turned around, there would be someone deemed the “New Lora Leigh” or “New Angela Knight” and so on and so forth. I was never labeled as such, lol. I was seen as vanilla, someone who didn’t really have a huge audience, and well, would never make it to a big publisher because I wasn’t dark enough, or sexy enough, or well, I don’t know what the hell enough. I watched as people I knew did not sell as well as I did get offered contracts from bigger NY publishers. And I tried that route for awhile, but that is for another blog later this year. Disaster is too nice of a word for what I went through.
But, I digress…as usual. See, what happened the last few years was that many of those people who were considered top dog, or made it to NY, didn’t always pan out. Some of them aren’t even published anymore. I don’t say this to be mean. Really. I am pointing out that I have been published for 6.5 years. Other than a few slip ups here and there, I have been regularly published. And, this year, I am happy to say, I know I will earn more than my husband. He is over the moon about that by the way.
I get asked a lot of time what I did to get here and how I have had longevity(which cracks me up because 6 years really isn’t a long time). Well, not a lot because there are still people who see me as a light weight, someone who can’t make it NY so there is no reason to pay attention. But, here are a few things you can do in this next year that might help. Not all of it will work for you. We are all individuals, but I hope you can use some of my advice. Oh, and I really don’t care if you don’t agree or think I am mean. I never said I was nice handing out advice.
1. Start treating your writing as a business.
Please, spare me the I am a creative being who cannot deal with business or saying that makes what I do crass. Listen, if you want to write for the sake of writing, do it. Just don’t come whining to me about not making any money. What I mean by this is make sure you put writing above play time. Does that mean ignore your family? No. But it does mean giving things up. Not every writer’s group meeting is important, especially if they are covering stuff that has nothing to do with your writing. Learn to gauge your time, to make sure that you use it wisely. Sure, going to a three hour lunch with the girls every Friday seems like the therapy you need. But that book isn’t going to write itself. Pick and choose how you spend your free time.
2. Publishers are not your BFFS.
I am sure I will get a lot of comments or email saying but I am friends with my publishers. I talk regularly with two of the owners of my companies, so I do see them as friends. And, I love my publishers. I do. But, they are businesses and they need to be run as such. I do not trust publishers who make decisions based on personal feelings. I am not saying that I agree with every decision my publishers make. But, I have to accept them because at the end of the day, it is their business to run. They need to make decisions that is best for the company on a whole. If you accept that their decisions are not about trying to ruin your career, you will have a much happier life.
3. Stop ignoring reader, reviewers and bloggers.
Really. I mean, WTF? You want to be a published author but you don’t want to promote or spend that much time with readers. Unless it is all about you. Great. So, when readers stop kissing your ass, you sit there pouting? Good Lord. I have never understood this behavior from authors. Now, I am not saying that authors are all like this, but I am hearing it more and more from newly published authors. They seem to think they are a tier above those of us who made it in ebooks early and just feel they need to write their books. They can’t be bothered with crass promoting. Okay, so you won’t be bothered when you don’t sell that much? There is nothing wrong with taking a step back, I do it all the time. But, please, do not go to a READER’S CONVENTION and spend only a little time with readers. If you don’t think they notice, you’re kidding yourself. They tell me all the time which authors ignore readers. One author I know well was described as a mean hearted cold bitch. Yep. Did I tell her? Nope. One because she wouldn’t understand and two because I don’t think she would care. Some authors seem to get above themselves, show up at the alloted time, and then disappear. They have deadlines, you see. Here is a hint authors: No one will read those books if you piss off readers. Guess what, EVERYONE has deadlines.
Do I piss off readers? Probably a lot because I can NEVER remember to send out prizes. I don’t do it on purpose and most my readers have learned to nudge me three or four times. But, I do not do it on purpose and I do try to correct it. Most readers are just normal every day folks who love what you write and want to spend a little time with you. And, from my experience, it is lots of fun getting to know readers. Without them, you don’t have a job.
4. Set Goals.
Yes, the Cappy is coming out in me right now. But, even if it is just to finish one piece of writing in the whole year, it is still a goal. You cannot succeed if you don’t have something you are going for. I write on a regular basis, almost every day. So, my goal this year is to diversify my releases, and I am trying some new things, which includes self publishing:) Pick a goal, stick to it, and see where you end up. 1000 words a week is not that much but at the end of the year, you will have a category legnth book:)
5. Do something for your writing every day.
It doesn’t mean you write, although that is not a bad idea. But, it can include Writer Org meetings, editing, blogging, or just spending the day reading(which will be covered next). I know it is hard. People forget that when I started writing, before I was published up until about three years into my published career, I had kids at home. At first, I had a baby and a 3rd grader I was homeschooling. I wrote after everyone went to bed and I gave up watching TV. It was hard because it was one of my favorite addictions, outside of reading. But, I did it because I wanted to be published. Don’t let it rule your life, but in this kind of career, you always need to carve out time. It is easier to get the people in your life to understand that this is a regular thing if you treat it that way.
The first bit of advice my creative writing instructor James Hoggard gave us was READ. The good, the bad, and the very ugly.
I am always appalled when I hear people tell me they don’t read a genre they write in. Or they rarely read. I have had more than one writer come to me and say they were writing erotic romance but they had never picked up a book. They didn’t read THAT STUFF, but they knew it made money.
7. Take what you can from critique and screw the rest.
Seriously. I had a woman complain once that I had too much plot in a book. Yes. She. Did. And, I think that 90% of reviews are just people’s opinions and they are not trying to hurt your feelings. Are there some horrible people out there? Yes. Just ignore them. I know, easier said than done. I know it feels as if they are attacking you. And, hell, maybe they are. Don’t waste energy wishing they liked you. Not everyone can love you. Granted, you can learn from reviewers, readers, and other people, just be sure not to let it screw with your creativity. I have talked to authors who get lackluster reviews, not even nasty ones, and they spiral into a depression. DON’T DO THIS. Take what you can from it, and then ignore the rest.
8. SUCK IT UP BUTTERCUP
Ya knew it was coming. If you didn’t, you don’t know me that well. More than once I have said this to people. Of course, my other favorite is Nut up or Shut up ( I LOVE ZOMBIELAND). But, I cannot take the whining. Yeah, I said it. Sorry.
Listen, I am going to go all Tom Hanks from A League of Their Own here. I had a publisher tell me that one of my series had run its course after only two releases. That readers were not interested in something like what I was writing because it was boring, vanilla and just well, not selling well. When a publisher tells you that, you do have doubts. And yeah, it did hurt my pride. You know what I liked better? When one of those books made it on the top 100 Nookbooks out of the year this year. AND, all four of the other books have been doing VERY well. I had an editor, one of MY editors, tell me she didn’t understand why people bought my books. I still have the email she sent it in. Yeah, I am a bit of masochist. But, I kept it to remind myself that people are not always right, and that proving them wrong is so very much fun.
It isn’t an easy business. Egos get bruised. Tough. Yeah, you can cry, eat some chocolate, or do like I do: spend a fortune on books and soak in the tub reading. But, in the end, if you do not have a tough skin, don’t get in the business. It’s not fun all the time. Would I do anything else? I don’t think I could. And, if you think reviewers, editors and agents are tough, try having friends discount your credibility, lie to you by omitting certain facts, or start ignoring you just because they signed with a big publisher. It’s crap, I agree, but it is all part of writing. Suck it up, and dig in for the long haul. Mainly because, I know, that if you keep writing, you will make it. And when you do, it is fun. There is always going to be shit, let’s be honest. But, even with all that, it’s worth it. In my opinion, it is the best job in the world.
9. Be brave enough to try something new and don’t be afraid to reassess your writing.
This is a hard one. Believe me, I understand. We get comfortable. We understand how to construct a certain kind of story and stepping out of the comfort zone is really, well, uncomfortable. And, let’s be truthful, you might fail. I have, A LOT. But, it can also give you a break and stir some creativity. You want to make sure you’re writing doesn’t become stale. Even if it isn’t something you plan on submitting, do it. The second part of this is tied to the first. Be ready to sit back and look at your writing objectively. It’s hard, and it is one I have problems with. But you need to know your weaknesses if you are going to become a stronger writer. NO writer is perfect and you should be willing to grow all through your career.
10. Don’t take advice as gospel truth.
Bwahahaha, but this is true. Take what you can and move on. I am sure I will get a lot of people emailing me bitching about this blog. But, part of this advice comes from my experiences on trying to gain a NY publisher. I had several friends at the time who knew “just what I was doing wrong” and “why I had not made it to NY.” I took their advice on my writing. I became a plotter, I talked proposals, I wrote for the market. You know what?
Okay, so the writing was wonderful, if I do say so myself, but it wasn’t what NY was looking for. Ever. In the end, you have to be true to yourself as a writer. Don’t allow someone else’s insecurities or experiences color your work. This is FUN, dammit. Make sure you keep writing fun to allow the creativity to flow. If you need to plot the whole book, do it. If you have to fly by the seat of your pants, DO IT. If you have to write naked, do it, just don’t tell me about and please don’t send me pics. Do the thing that makes you happy when you write, and it will work. It doesn’t mean you don’t explore the other ways of writing, but remember, whether or not you plot, what works for you, is what you should do.
Okay, so that is it. I hope I haven’t offended everyone. If you take one thing away from this list, then I feel happy. I am not saying I am great at these all the time. But, I try to remind myself daily that shit happens. Bad reviews can bite you in the ass. That critique partner you had for years can start trashing your work publicly on a publisher reader group (true story). And, you can deal with editors, agents or publishers who don’t value you. All you can do is try your best to be consistent and professional. Remember, It is YOUR WORK.
And one more thing.
CELEBRATE! You may think this is silly and I am not including this in my ten. But, celebrate everything. Finishing a manuscript, a good review, a request from an agent or publisher, a revise and resubmit, everything. Do it in a way that makes you happy. I celebrate every release, every great thing I get. I might just be a booty dance in my chair, for the little things. When I made the top 100 of Nook Books this year, I made Les take me to the Sumo Japanese Steakhouse. Sometimes, I celebrate with a book by one of my favorite authors, or my own personal fav, PEDICURE! We have a career that most people outside of it can’t understand. I have been published for six and a half years and my husband is just now getting the hang of it. And he doesn’t know all of it. He may respect what I do, even before I was making the big bucks, but he could not understand what it was like to get five rejections in three days. Only other writers can understand that. So, remind yourself every now and then that you are NOT a failure. As long as you continue to write, you have things to celebrate. Remembering those little and big moments makes the low points easier to deal with.