It’s been 12 years since I wrote that first (awful) manuscript. Wow. Looking back, it’s clear I had no clue about publishing, and very little clue about writing. That’s not to say I didn’t >think< I knew a lot! Ugh.
Here’s a mishmash of what I’ve learned. Maybe it will help other writers or writers-to-be. Hopefully it will keep others from making the same mistakes that I’ve made.
Image via despair.com
#1) Overnight success isn’t overnight. Marketing/social media makes it appear like it’s overnight. Rarely is this true. I don’t know if I can claim the robust definition of “success” yet, but I wrote my first book in 2005. My first published book (which was NOT my first book written, BTW), was printed in 2015. That was a goal achieved, even if a small one.
#2) If you’re going to be clueless, at least be pleasant. I didn’t know beans about publishing and etiquette, and thus I kind of Mr. Magoo’d into asking for something. And got it. (Stars and planets had to have aligned that day. No other explanation.) That conversation could have gone either way, and frankly, I got lucky.
image via womensvoicemagazine.com
#3) Always have SOMETHING in the hopper. At this moment in time I have outlines and genealogy for a paranormal medieval series, two additional books for my current series, an idea for a novella to fit with my first series, and the first two books written in an edgy romantic suspense series. I talk a lot about switching gears. Sometimes switching gears means going from 1 revision that is a struggle to brainstorming a totally different project. And when I pitch a novel to an agent? If they ask “what else do you have?” then I can answer that question well.
#4) Take courses, either online or in person. Read craft books. Do not skip this step. Everyone can tell if you skip this step. I initially skipped this step. Everyone could tell.
#5) Think that book is ready to submit? Yeah, it’s not. No way. Not even close. Let it sit for an extra month. Have multiple people (not your mom or best friend, either) read it. Pay for a single professional critique. It’s SO worth it.
#6) Are you really really ready to submit? No you’re not. Trust me. Repeat item #5.
#7) Ok, seriously, you’ve had 4+ people read it and give feedback and you had a professional critique done and you’ve improved the manuscript? All right. Submit. But not to large quantities of agents at the same time. Who has two thumbs and sent out 50 queries within a month? Yup. Writer fail. Semi-pro tip: Send out a batch of 4-6 queries. Wait. See what they say. If they give feedback, take it. This will also give time for the manuscript to sit for another month or so. When you look at it again, you’ll cringe. Promise.
#8) Don’t tell anyone you’re writing a book until you’ve done it and it’s published. Consider whether/when you want to tell anyone at all. Now, this piece of advice is this one woman’s radical opinion and I’m sure others would totally disagree. Because of Day Job, I try hard to keep my writing world and doctoring world separate from each other. Also, I don’t want anyone from my professional world to feel uncomfortable about the subject matter in the writing. With the way business and professional oversight is right now, frankly, it’s safer to remain separate.
#9) Get a website. And pick at least one social media site to use. Do this way early, like a year before you submit a manuscript. I did not do this, and I should have.
#10) Keep writing. Never, ever give up. Ever. If you can’t write a book, write a novella. If you can’t write a novella, work on a short story. If not that, then a blog or an article. A brainstorming session for a book idea. Something. Anything. Just keep writing.
Image via jilltupper.com
#Bonus) Always put the correct agent name on the query letter. Double check it. Twice. Trust me. It's the little things that will hose you. (BTDT) Most recent screw up was when I was doing the query letter at the same time I was answering a phone call about a patient. I hit "send" before double checking. Note to self: do not do work-work at the same time as writing-work. Yeah, I was like >facepalm< "You had one job!" Yup. Author fail.
Author, daydreamer, and practitioner of trying very hard to duct tape folks together and help when I can.
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