When Mike asked me to blog today here at Killer Book Marketing, I was in a reflective mood. You see, I’m about to reach a milestone. It’s been ten years since I was offered my first publishing contract (“Ancient Pleasures” Jess Michaels in SECRETS, Volume 11). Ten years of being a published author. That concept still blows my mind. I still feel like a newbie, despite having nearly 50 books either published or contracted.
But the more I thought about it, the more I thought that maybe I could share my tips for authors about getting by in the publishing world. So here they are. Ten Tips for Surviving the First Ten Years of Publishing:
- Keep Learning Your Craft – The thing about writing is that you can’t do it “wrong” when it comes to your process and you can always learn more. I still go to craft workshops when I go to conferences and while they aren’t always winners, more often than not I get something out of them and am able to improve something in my process or craft. I also check out craft books from the library or buy them. There’s never anything wrong with making yourself a better writer. So keep doing it!
- Know Your Goals – A lot of authors just want to write a book. Then they just want to publish it. They never think beyond that. But publishing a book is really just the beginning. Really think about where you want to go. Do you just want to see one book published or are you looking for a long-term, multiple book career? Are you hoping to hit the New York Times or write any kind of book you want, whenever you want to write it? Trust that there are no wrong answers to the question, “Where do you want to go with your writing?” but the answers will change how you handle your career.
- Decide Your Career Path – Once you know your goals, THAT is when you need to start thinking about your career path. You can just throw a book out there as an indie release, but that isn’t going to make a career or sell many copies. A career author needs to build their platform, they need to continue writing and working on their path of publication of books. Your career path will determine where you publish, how you publish, when you publish. It will determine whether you have one pen name or more. If will determine if you write every shiny idea that pops into your head or focus on one genre in order to build a strong fan base. Make those decisions (and use the Killer Book Marketing techniques to meet your desires) and you will be building toward a career.
- Treat This As a Business – I’ve met a lot of authors over the years with the attitude that they are the “talent” and above the minutia of a career life. They believed their publishers that all they had to do was write a good book. I see writers today who think they can just throw a book up on Amazon and collect their millions. Yes, writing is a creative endeavor, but publishing is a business. And you have to be an active partner in your business or else you will not move forward the way you want to. This means building a platform and spending at least some of your time getting your book in front of who it needs to be in front of (readers, reviewers, bloggers and more) to make it successful.
- Take Control of What You Can – Along the same lines as above. There is a lot in this business that we can’t control, no matter how we publish. But that doesn’t mean that everything is out of our control. Write the best books you can and get them out there on a regular basis to build your audience. Build that platform. Keep the information that you control updated and fresh. Don’t just let everything fall by the wayside, even if you are with a publisher who promises you the moon. If they don’t deliver (and sometimes they don’t), you can depend on you.
- You Will Suffer – This is the hard one to tell you, but it’s true. This profession is hard. Books will flop, reviewers will be harsh, publishers will drop you… there are a hundred things that can go wrong and many of us have the personality that you can have ten good things said, but the one bad thing sticks with us and hurts for a long time. Now I don’t advocate waiting for every shoe to drop, but you can be prepared and have strategies in place to support you and help you get through those tough moments.
- Take Care of Yourself Personally – Sitting all day writing is hard on your body. So is writing after working full time. Try to eat well. Try to exercise. Try to make time for outside interests and people you love. Take breaks. Take vacations. Have a day every week where you don’t do writing stuff or career stuff.
- Take Care of Yourself Professionally – Don’t forget that the person who cares most about your success is you. This isn’t bashing anyone else you may deal with (agents, editors, etc), but the person who has to pay your bills is you. You will work harder than anyone else to get where you want to go. So don’t depend too much on others to do that for you. Be ready to take the ball and carry it for yourself. That way you always know you gave all you could.
- Find A Support System – If your family doesn’t get it or your friends don’t understand, reach out to local writers groups. Whatever you do, have a support system that is there for you for both the celebration of the good and help with the bad. You need it.
- Enjoy the Ride – Being a published author is like a roller coaster. You will rise high and drop low. You will laugh and cry and touch readers and be amazed at what happens and want to quit. Take every moment and hold it close. It’s the best job in the world and you should savor it!
So those are my tips. And as I enter my second decade as a published author, I’m sure I’ll collect more of them, and more experiences, along the way. Here’s to ten more years!
Nice post, Jess. Thanks for sharing those insights. I’ve been in this for 2 years now, so it’s safe to say you’ve seen more than me, but I agree with everything you’ve outlined here (especially #9 & #10!)
Love the tips, Jess and they are very realistic as well. I’m not a writer myself but I totally understand how building your brand is very hard to do. Good luck Jess, keep writing and happy 10 year anniversary!
Thanks everyone! It’s all a learning process and the nice thing is that you can learn from other people if you want. LOL I’m sure I’ll have new things to add at 20 years.