This is what I know…

May 31, 2009 at 10:34 pm (General)

Nothing about shapeshifters today. Sorry, but I’ve been thinking about the things I’ve learned over the years regarding this fabulous, fickle business called publishing.  I sold my first book in 1993.  I still consider myself a youngling in this business.

It’s interesting to watch the years go by, to celebrate the successes of friends and authors I admire.  To watch some authors shoot to the top; some will stay there, some will disappear without so much as a goodbye.  It’s weird to think back when I was first published (late 90s) and remember some of the big names.  Where are they now?  Some did disappear off the face of the earth.  Others petered out slowly.  Some are still writing, whether quietly putting out a book or two a year, or tossing out a couple bestsellers with a big splash from marketing.

These are some of the things I’ve learned in my sixteen years involved in the fabulous and fickle:

An author should never, and can never, compare themselves to any other author.  Nope, not even the one who writes the same creatures as you in the same paranormal genre for the same publisher.  You two are very different.  Accept that.

Editors come and go.  Treat them well, and never burn bridges.

If you’re in this business long enough, you will be orphaned.  It’s upsetting.  Get over it.  The editors do.  

This is a business.  Your editor is not your best friend (but you can be friends), and she usually knows how to make your good book great.  That’s why it says ‘editor’ on her door.

Don’t gossip or talk trash about any author, editor or reader.  With Twitter and blogging and Facebook and IM’ing, I promise you, the moment it’s left your mouth, or has been imprinted in cyber-space, five minutes later, half a dozen people will know.  You do the math on the rate juicy gossip spreads.

Fall in love with your characters.  Torture them.  Learn what makes them tick.  Cry with them, and share their joys and sorrows.  When your editor tells you to cut a certain loved character from the story…just do it.

Learn the names of the people in the art department, the marketing department, the receptionist who answers the phone at your publisher.  They are all are part of making your book what it is.  Even the mailroom guy is necessary because he hands your masterpiece to your editor.

Read your contracts from word one to the last word.  Yes, even if you have an agent and have been with him/her for a decade.  We’re all human.  Everyone makes mistakes.

Just because you sell one book doesn’t mean you’ll sell another.  It’s good to celebrate every sale, promotion, and reached goal.  But don’t get ahead of yourself.  Keep writing.  That is what a writer does—write.

Know the rules, then break them.

Read in your genre and out of your genre.

Be honest in real life, but it isn’t necessary to be brutal.  (Unless it’s part of your story.  Brutal honesty in fiction is very necessary.)

One closed door may lead to another closed door, and yet another.  Persistence does eventually pay off.  Keep knocking on doors.

Don’t be in a hurry, either when writing or when trying to climb the ladder.  

A bad review never hurt anyone, nor does a bad cover.  Mope about it for half a day, then get over it.  (Same goes for rejections, but you’re allowed a full day of moping for those.)

And lastly, just write.


So, authors, have you any words of wisdom to add to the list?



  1. Lori Devoti said,

    Hey! I looks like we are in similar places. I’ve been rolling all this around in my head recently too, becoming sickeningly Zen about it all. Actually, I’ve been listening to old RWA National sessions that addressed what I call crazy writer syndrome. CWS is frequently brought on by the comparisons which IS crazy because things never look the same on the outside as they do on the inside. You may think someone is at the top, and they may think the opposite or the opposite may in fact be true. And, honestly none of that matters anyway, because their journey isn’t yours and you really just have to concentrate on your own path.
    Personally, I try to maintain bobber status no matter what happens. Something pulls you down, bob back up. Something pushes you up don’t freak when the water settles and you float again. Just write. 🙂

  2. michelehauf said,

    I like that, Lori. Like a bobber in the water. It’s just good to let things skim right off you and stick with your happy place. 🙂

  3. Marcia Colette said,

    These are the best pieces of advice I’ve heard so far…

    1. Believe in yourself. If you don’t, then who else will?
    2. Don’t ever say “I accept that my first draft is going to be dreck.” You’re already setting yourself up for failure. Just accept that your first draft is specifically a “work in progress” and leave it at that. Or as I like to say, “a masterpiece in progress.” 😉

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