A few weeks back, I served on a writer panel in Dallas with three wonderful and smart authors — Kristy Cambron, Katherine Reay, and Mary Weber. All fresh off our first year in the traditional publishing industry, we shared our thoughts about the whirlwind that’s been the last 12 months … in the hopes the information and discussion would be of help to other aspiring authors!
Today, I thought it might be fun to share portions of our talk. Here are some of the questions that our moderator asked….
Tell us what’s the TOP THING you wish you’d known before you became an author?
Definitely that being a successful author is a marathon, not a sprint. Sure, there are overnight successes who take the New York Times bestseller list by storm, but for the rest of us, it takes hard work and often years to write, revise, and polish that first manuscript. It’s tough to get an agent, and takes time to find a good one. A publishing house, if you decide to go the traditional route, has to be a good fit as well. Think about it like a marriage that you want to last.
For me, it was being careful about reading reviews. Not everyone is going to like your novel, it’s just a fact. I always welcome positive, constructive feedback, reviews, and emails that offer suggestions that could make my novels stronger or more compelling! That said, I’ve had readers lead scathing reviews that are pretty cruel, and there is no good that comes from that. Engaging with negative people also gets you nowhere. My advice is to focus on your writing, focus on the positive, and do the best work you can.
I work full-time, attend graduate school, and write novels in addition to taking spending time with my family. For me, it’s all about making time for the writing. I am very protective of my writing time and set goals for myself to write a certain number of words a day. I sometimes map my writing schedule out on a calendar, so that I can “see” the end of the tunnel … and I’ve gone as far as sending myself daily reminders on my cell phone! As life throws up roadblocks and challenges, some days, the writing doesn’t get done, but I can always get myself back on track. The key, for me, is figuring out what is most important in my life, setting goals, and being organized.
It’s a challenge to balance it all! I write in the mornings when it is quiet, around 5:30 am, and I don’t check email or social media before I begin writing. Social media is reserved for after my writing time, at lunchtime, or if I’m waiting at an appointment. It is so important to connect with readers and other authors on social media, but that time has to be limited. After all, if you are only Tweeting and posting on Instagram, it’s time you could spend writing! As for marketing, I have done a mix of handling most of the marketing myself (for my Lauren Clark books) to hiring a company to handle my online blog tours, writing posts for magazines and websites, attending conferences as a speaker, giving talks on writing to aspiring authors, meeting with book clubs, and working with an outside publicist to set up book signings and handle media inquiries. As with many things in life, it depends on how much time you have and if you are willing and able to hire outside assistance.
Other suggestions for handling your first year as an author …
Do: Turn off your phone/computer/notifications before school, after dinner, and on dates.
Do: Schedule family game nights and outings.
Do: Communicate to your family, spouse, and work, where you’re are … emotionally and schedule-wise.
Do: Listen to your family and boss as they communicate their needs/desires/expectations.
Do: Set aside time for yourself (not for your writing but for your soul) to refresh (shut down the iPhone and FB and take a drive, sit at the beach, etc).
Do: Make a schedule, as much as you can, for your writing, and stick to it!
Don’t: Let your world or family revolve around your career.
I’ll share more on MARKETING for first year authors next Wednesday.