This February marks fifteen months since my first novel was accepted by a publisher. Oh my, how much I have learned between then and now! Since A Place to Call Home was released last August, I have been asked countless times what advice could I give to aspiring writers. I love how so many of the bestselling authors say things like “write every day,” or “just keep typing away and submitting,” or “you can do it if you work hard.” Sure, all of those things are great, but here’s the reality: I could write a whole new book just on my experiences over the past fifteen months and what I have learned. And believe me, I’m still learning. Every day I read or hear something new that I think, I should do that, or remember that, or look into that. So here are some things that I have learned that I hope will help others. Feel free to comment below to open a dialogue on what YOU have learned.
- Don’t rely on anyone else’s word that your final copy is without editing flaws, even your editor’s. People make mistakes, and so do computers. Read every word before you give the okay to print, or, better yet, have a professional proofreader read every word. I really learned this the hard way.
- Marketing your book is up to you and you alone. Your agent or publicist may have some good ideas or point you in a certain direction, but you will need to set aside an entire day once a week to market your book. And marketing means everything from writing a blog to contacting booksellers to entering contests. Some weeks, one day isn’t enough, and some weeks, that day might be spent in your car driving from one bookstore to another.
- Never stop looking for ways to promote your book whether it has been out for a week, a month, or six months. Until the next book hits the shelf, that book is your livelihood. Even when you’re at the point where you secretly hate that book because it won’t go away and you want to move on, keep promoting it. Later in life, you may look back and realize it was the best relationship you ever had, a stepping stone to greater things to come.
- Learn to self-promote. For some, including myself, that’s so very hard to do. At first, my parents sold more of my books than I did. And why should that surprise anyone? Parents brag about their children their entire lives. Writers need to learn to brag a little about themselves, too. I’ll admit that I’m still working on that one….
- Choose book signings wisely. Yes, every public appearance you make gets your name and face out there, but is every public appearance worth doing? I’ve done signings where I am speaking to people and signing books constantly, and I’ve done ones where I’ve sat and stared into space all day without seeing a single soul. While you can never predict what will work and what won’t, do some research, talk to other authors, figure out when and where the successful signings take place and take advantage of those. But don’t overlook a great opportunity to network. The last signing I did was at a local library. We had a few dozen people wander in and out, and each of us sold two or three books, but I made some wonderful new contacts who have given me invaluable advice.
- Network, network, network. Oh, yeah, and don’t forget to network. There is so much to be learned from other authors and people in the industry. Reach out to them, follow them on Twitter, talk to them at conferences (GO to conferences). You will always come away with something useful as well as a contact you can go to when you need advice.
- Never dismiss anything as not being something worth writing about. I keep notes of anything and everything that comes to mind that might be useful in a book. Very often, while writing, something that I jotted down comes back to me and fits perfectly into whatever scenario I’m working on at that moment.
- And yes, write every day. Dean Koontz says he writes 12 hours a day! I’ve read that Sandra Brown writes at least an hour, seven days a week. James Patterson puts in a full eight hour day every week. Perhaps you aren’t able to do that at this point in your life (I know I’m not, but I’m getting there), but whatever time you can take to write, take it. The biggest thing I have learned is that the more I write, the better my writing is.
What can you add?
Amy Schisler is an author of mystery and suspense novels. Her first book, A Place to Call Home may be purchased in stores, online, and through ibooks. Her previously published children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.
http://amyschislerauthor.com/amyschislerauthor.com/Books.html You may follow Amy at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com