Actually, the end of 2011 marks my two-year anniversary as being a part of the publishing industry. I’ve been editing for over a year now and I can’t tell anyone how much being “behind the scenes” of a publisher has taught me. I’ve done a couple of experiments with marketing and web-design. And I’ve volunteered time at a romance community loop, and recently I’ve joined another romance community and hope to become a regular there as well.
So, I’m going to share a bit of what I’ve learned this year, starting with…
Last year, I answered this prompt and I've decided that I would do so again. I think it might become a bit of a tradition. This prompt is pretty much a "what I learned this year" and "what I wished I would've known last year."
All right...here goes:
1. There are no absolutes.
When I first entered the publishing industry, I allowed myself to be tricked into thinking the only way to really make it as an author was to: a) find an agent b) publish with a traditional publisher c) publish with a well-known small press. The idea of a self-published author being able to make it in this world was about as foreign to me as driving with my feet. This year I’ve learned that there are no guarantees and that success shouldn’t be measured so shallowly. I learned that every writer is different, and each writer/story has a place. Success isn't so simple as a matter of where or how you're story is published. There's a lot more to it.
2. There is a difference between discipline and talent.
What makes great writers is not talent. Discipline is what makes a good writer. Setting time aside to write every day or do something related to writing is a must. It is easy to get caught up in the frenzy of it all, to just want to be published already. It is hard to bite back jealously when your critique partner or someone you’re similarly acquainted with gets “the call” or sells their book before you, regardless of how happy you truly are for them. That’s normal. The hard part is staying focused on your work, your writing. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither are great/successful writers.
3. Self-doubt is the enemy. Balance is the key.
My biggest problem last year, and one I struggle with till this day, is self-doubt. You have to believe you’re a great writer. You have to believe you have something worth saying. And you have to be willing to accept criticism without crumbling under the weight of sting. I write stuff that is sometimes very hard to take and for the most part tends to run the line of “a bit too realistic” for romance. It has been very difficult for me to stick to my guns and not cave into writing what I know is already being done, what seems to be what publishers will accept without a second look/what sells.
I don’t want to be an author someone reads and then forgets. I want to be an author, who has a unique style. And I don’t want to “sell-out” or sacrifice my creative vision for the sake of a publishing contract. And belief in yourself is the way to do that. Know you’re the shit. Tell yourself you’re brilliant every morning, even if you have to choke yourself to do it. And I promise, everyday it’ll get a little bit easier to say it. And maybe, just maybe, you might end up believing it.
4. Social media marketing or just marketing—period—is, and always should be, secondary to writing.
Too many new and young authors waste too much time trying to be everywhere at once. Pick one, maybe two things to work on as far as building a platform or marketing is concerned. And do just those two things. Don’t get lured into any other marketing whatevers until you’ve completed and sold your first three manuscripts. And even then, don’t let yourself be fooled by all the hype. I recommend Facebook or a blog and perhaps participating in a or two writing loops. That’s it. No more, no less. I wasted a lot of time this last year trying to be everywhere and as a result, I was nowhere. It is all about priorities. I’ve since decided to make a bit of a schedule/routine for myself. And since I’ve started using it, I feel much better. I don’t feel guilty because I’m not writing, nor do I feel like I’m falling behind the “marketing” curve because I’m not “out there” enough.
5. Remember the big picture.
Don’t let yourself get lulled by the “I need to be published” demon. I know a lot of authors think of their first publishing contract as validation. Don’t let yourself be fooled. And don’t let yourself be bullied or pressured by others. Stay focused. Personally, I’ve decided to create a list of goals and have broken them up by month. I have a few major goals and lots of minor ones. Writing isn’t a race. It’s a chess game. Seize opportunity and don’t let the monetary value of anything blind you. Don’t let yourself get desperate. Make decisions based on what you want out of your writing career in the long run. I realize give then way the economy is that for some of us this may be a hard pill to swallow, and I understand that these are increasingly hard times for us all. What I've learned as far as this is concerned, is to take it one manuscript at a time. And I've learned that having a plan helps with the desperation. If you feel like you're working toward something and you're able to check things off a goal list, it is a lot easier to be patient. And this business is all about delayed gratification.
6. Writing is a business.
Earlier in this article, I mentioned my desire to stick to my guns and not compromise on my creative vision (#3). Well, I learned this year, that writing is business. And because it is a business, and therefore emotions do not belong in publishing, rejections cannot be taken personally. And sometimes we have to write what we don’t really want to, so we can build up enough credits to write what we love. It has to be a balance. I think for every story you write simply because you love it, even though it breaks a million “rules,” there’s going to be about two tasks (whether they’re writing a “marketable” manuscript or something else) you’re going to have to do not because you really want to, but because writing is a business. And as adults in this industry, sometimes we have to kiss a little ass until we can stand on our own two feet.
7. Give yourself time and space to grow.
Never say never. Last year, there were publishers I would’ve never dared or bothered to submit to. For some of them, it was because I felt like I wasn’t good enough for them. For others, it was because I felt like they weren’t good enough for me. Don’t do that. There was also a time in my life where I believed I wouldn’t: a) e-publish because I didn’t consider it “real” publishing b) cry over a rejection letter c) write contemporary romance d) writer anything but romance, etc. The list goes on and on, and I know now, that nothing is absolute. And I’ve since done all of the above. And I’ve made it a goal of mine to attempt to self-publish a story. That too, was something I had at one time deemed beneath me.
I’ve learned that to keep in open mind is to keep an open window for opportunity.
8. Courage and patience are the keys.
A lot of people will tell you to write what you want to write. Yeah, if only it was that easy. It’s not. I think a lot of the people who preach to write what you want to write: a) are already published b) write the “norm” c) have forgotten what it’s like to be constantly told “no”
I’m here to tell you right now, it is never that simple. Now, I’m not saying to write what you hate. Nor am I telling you to give up your creative vision. What I am saying is this: it takes courage to go against the brand, and it takes even more patience to see that courage to come to fruit. I will also say: fear is the enemy. Never change direction because you’re afraid of an obstacle. If victory were easy, it wouldn’t be nearly as satisfying. Just pace yourself and find a balance between being true to yourself and being a successful business woman/man.
9. You have to love what you do.
This year I realized, I hate editing. I’m really good at it. But to tell you the truth, I freaking hate doing it. I’ve since decided that this year will be the last one I edit professionally. A part of me is afraid because I know I can “make it” as an editor, where as I have yet to “make it” as an author. Another part of me feels like a huge weight has been lifted. I also realized this year that I enjoy writing general fiction a lot more than I do romance. Now, don’t get me wrong, romance will always have a special place in my heart and I will always write it, but that is not the only kind of fiction I want to write. I’ve even made plans to write a few non-fiction books.
I realized this year: I love writing. I love writing just about anything. Writing is where I find peace. Writing young-adult fiction and military fiction is where I feel most at home. Understanding this about myself has opened up a bunch of doors. So, I guess, I would advise others to think about it too. Do you really enjoy writing erotic romance? Are sex scenes fun for you? Are you just writing this because you just kind of fell into it? If not, I would find ways to rectify that. Loving what you do makes everything just a little brighter.
10. Change is constant.
Nothing is set in stone. I think this year, with all of the changes in the industry; a lot of people have been reminded of that truth. The digital age has finally caught up with the industry and it’s about time. A lot of people predict the fall of traditional publishing and the end of agents as we know it. And still a lot of other people believe some things will never change. Don’t fall prey to either side. Today e-publishing is kicking ass. Tomorrow it could be that audio books are kicking ass. Or maybe we’ll all be forced to scale back and print publishing will be back on top. Access every situation based on the information you have right now.
And remember, tomorrow we could all go blind and reading will be the last thing on anyone’s mind. I guess, this all comes down to: accepting that change is eminent and don’t let yourself get stuck in one gear. Be adaptable. And if you’re a bit lost, just follow the readers.
11. Everyone needs a Jenny.
Everyone needs a friend. And not just any friend, everyone needs a friend who: a) writes at least one of the genres you do, b) will be honest during their critiques, c) will challenge you to be a better author, d) will curse and rant with you when you receive a rejection, but hold you by the collar when you’re getting ready to do something irrational like delete your manuscript or send a nasty e-mail to an editor/agent.
Why? Because writing is a lonely business and sometimes we just can’t bring ourselves to tell ourselves that we are indeed brilliant and we can do this. So sometimes, we need someone to hold us up and share some of those burdens. Speaking of burdens, the reason your “Jenny” needs to at least write the same genre you do, etc. is because writers get writers. Only another writer is going to understand the rage and or sadness you feel when you receive a negative review. Only another writer is going to understand the voices in your head are just characters, no need to panic. And only another writer is going to understand the anguish and self-doubt that comes with a rejection, because only they understand how much work it takes to write a book, and how much discipline it takes to actually finish the damn thing.
12. Editors, agents and all the above depend on writers.
For a long time, I treated the above mentioned (editors, agents, etc.) like they were royalty; the gatekeepers to my happily ever-after. One thing for every author to remember is this: they depend on us. Without us, they wouldn’t have anything to sell. They would be obsolete. We supply them with the content that keeps them in their cushy offices. We provide the raw materials. If you want an editor, agent, etc. that’s up to you, but never think you “need” them. Never forget that they’re people just like you. And I think the recent movements and changes in the industry have reminded everyone of that. I think this year has brought about some humility. (And its about time.) But just in case you’re new to this and you still go pale every time you have a pitch appointment, etc. let me remind you: if you wanted to, you could do the damn thing all by your lonesome. You can do anything you want to. Editors and agents are our partners, not our masters.
13. Imagination, determination, and research will take you a lot farther than the age old “write what you know.”
I can’t count how many times, I’ve heard someone spout: “write what you know.” Um, yeah, because we’re all drop dead gorgeous blondes or hot vampires. Next time someone tells you to “write what you know,” do me a favor and at least think about clocking them upside the head. Imagination is the fuel for creativity. Determination is the will to turn that creativity into something else. And research is how you do it. This year I learned to write. Period. I learned to never give up. I also learned that research will convert any idiot into an expert. And lucky for us, the Internet is an amazing tool.
Learning is a wonderful thing.
So really I've learned that instead of "write what you know," it should be something along the lines of "learn how to write what I want to read."
14. Be kind.
14. Be kind.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: this industry is like Batman's Two-face character. On the one side we're all "warm fuzzy, willing to help one another" and on the other side we're all "cut-throat wenches." This year I learned that sometimes a little bit of kindness and forgiveness goes a long way. We're all human and we all make mistakes. So perhaps instead of joining in on the latest witch hunt for the author/agent behaving badly, perhaps we instead take a step back and put ourselves in their shoes. You never know, your compassion might just save someone's career or it might be someone sees it and you end up with a surprise request for your manuscript, etc.
Hopefully, what I’ve learned will help some of you. I hope so. I’m sure next year; I’ll have a whole other list of things I learned. Happy New Year, everyone. I wish you all the very best.
A lot of people make “to-do lists” for the beginning of a year, and I think it’s time I made some of my own. The last year I was a bit of a jack-of-all-trades. I was an editor, an author, and sometimes a web-designer. This year I’ve decided to just be an author, to focus solely on my writing because come 2013 I will have a different focus. One I’m very excited about, but I’m not ready for just yet. Also, this year, I’d like to resume posting here at Paranormal Passions. Jennifer and I have come to love this blog and I would like to jump back in. I took a bit of a break around October of last year because I just couldn’t do everything I had on my plate. Well, I couldn’t do it well. I was being pulled in too many directions and I think a lot of authors/editors suffer from the same thing, especially when they’re both at the same time.
Anyways, here are my goals for the year:
Manuscripts to Write/Edit/Sell:
- Unwritten: Happy Endings
- No Strings Attached
- Wild Card