Yesterday’s list of things I’ve learned as a new author seemed to go over quite nicely, but I saved the more controversial things I’ve learned for today’s post, Part 2. You can love it or leave it or mull it over for a bit before giving up entirely on me…
- No one wants to hear about your book…unless they’ve asked you about your book.
Now I know, for the most part, we’re in charge of pitching and (later) much of our marketing/advertising for our new book. That said, the only person who’s totally interested in your book is you until you’ve a reader base, and for most authors, that certainly doesn’t happen overnight. Even if you’ve readers for your work though, the book isn’t as important as you are as a human being. Connect with people as people do. Stop making it all about your work. No one gives a shit about it until they do…on their own time…out of their own interest for it.
Again, I’m not trying to say don’t advertise your work, but I’ve seen authors who’ve done nothing but plug their work over and over again and DO NOTHING ELSE. In fact, mere minutes ago, I received a friend request from an author, and his Facebook page is nothing but posts about his book. Guess who’s declining his friend request? I mean, he doesn’t really want to be friends with me, and if he thinks I’m buying his book when I’ve 50 or so books in my TBR pile (I don’t read for pleasure much during a regular school term), he’s nuts.
No, baby, no.
- You are never too young or too old to start a writing career.
I started this journey officially, as a published novelist, at 46. I’ll be frank, it’s been hard for me to feel absolutely at ease in the horror writing community as a middle aged woman. It’s totally an internal thing caused by no one but my own insecurities. I’m getting there though. Everyone—and I mean everyone—has been gracious and kind, warm and welcoming. I’ve had an iffy moment or two with a couple of authors (see yesterday’s post, #3), but they weren’t the norm whatsoever.
So if I can jumpstart a career like this in my late 40s, think about what YOU can do, too!
- Know your limits. Say “yes” only to the opportunities that you know you’ll be able to do.
I’m often in awe of the authors who take on a lot more than I could ever possibly imagine doing myself. Project after project after project, followed by another project and a small one on the side. I have come to accept the fact that I simply cannot handle multiple major projects, especially during a busy semester (I teach freshman composition at a community college, in case you were curious). By the end of the semester, I’m so mentally exhausted, I have to have a week where I don’t read or write much of anything just to decompress. Then instead of plunging into one of my big projects/WIPs, whatever it is I’m working on, I start small. This blog entry, for example, is a nice bridge that gets me into the practice once again, easing me into it. It works for me. Do whatever works for you.
However, don’t ever assume you’re obligated to do everything that comes your way. If you can’t, you can’t, and that’s okay! Remember, don’t compare yourself to your peers. Know. Your. Limits.
- Adapt or die.
Here we go. The controversial bit. It’s not really as bad as it sounds, but I had to get your attention somehow with this one…
Your job as a writer who wants a readership is to write for those readers. Yeah, okay, you’re writing for yourself, you’re writing what YOU want to read… yadda yadda…but let’s be real. You want readers. That’s why you’re in this business. But here’s the thing…you’d better be cognizant of what is acceptable and what isn’t in the 21st century. We are not living in a Mad Men universe where things like sexual harassment and racism are (insidious) sociocultural norms. If you can’t stand the thought of contemporary norms infringing on your right to be a disgusting piece of shit, and you want to flaunt your defiance, be prepared to watch your career die.
Don’t believe me?
I’ve been a part of the horror community for only two years, maybe a bit less, and in that time, I’ve already seen several people in the community utterly self-destruct their careers due to their dirtbag behavior. One went on a frothing racist tirade and the others were revealed to be sexual harassers. I don’t know why they thought they were going to get away with any of it since this is also the age of screenshots. A part of me thinks they wanted to be caught, like it was some sort of weird masochistic pull or something.
I don’t get it. Some of my students do that sort of thing where they think they’re not going to get caught plagiarizing, but they can’t possibly think that because we’ve technology that catches it instantly. They quickly learn though it’s an automatic zero, and then they have take the course again. Again, it has to be some sort of masochism. They cannot possibly be that dense to think no one will catch them.
But I digress. The point is, you have to be a better human than that. Adapt to the modern world or watch your career go down in flames.
- Always be gracious and credit everyone involved.
I had to be reminded of this one, and I was ashamed of myself for my lack of courtesy. I’ve learned though. Unless you really did everything yourself, your book, your baby, is an overall community creation. You did the bulk of the work in writing it, and it’s your original story/premise, but if you’re working with a traditional publisher—OR you’re commissioning editors, cover artists, formatters, etc., as a self-publisher—you’ve a team that’s working with you to make the book into something truly special. Thank all of them and acknowledge them. Even better, point others in their direction, helping them with their business, too.
That’s all I wanted to share with you, my fellow new authors, for now anyway. In time, I’m sure I’ll have many more to add to this list. Until then, keep at it…
Always keep at it.