Monday, January 02, 2006

What I *think* I learned in 2005

Every once in awhile I look back on 2005 and feel like a truck ran me over. The morning of Dec. 14, 2004 I was an aspiring author. By that afternoon, I was contracted with Brava. Now, just a smidge over twelve months later, I can't believe how different my life is.

I released 6 stories/books in 2005 with 4 different publishers. A reader forwarded me a post from a loop where another reader had said she enjoyed one of my stories so much she bought my entire backlist. I grinned like an idiot. A backlist of published works. Wow. A year ago, I wouldn't have thought that would be possible now.

In 2005, I hired an agent, fired an agent, hired another agent. I've signed 9 publishing contracts, and rejected three. I've learned to put together a proposal, but can't write a synopsis to save my life. I'm still learning about craft every day, mostly due to the studious patience of my critique partners, without whom I doubt I'd get by.

I'll finish my final contracted work by Jan. 15th and then, unless something happens in the next few weeks, I'll have some time off. I'm going to take that time to figure out what the heck I'm doing. I don't have a career plan yet. I've just been writing whatever I feel like, but pretty much, I need to narrow my focus. (And *pray* I get picked up for more contracts. *grin* )

In 2006, I have 5 trade paperbacks coming out (so far)--three of them are all mine, two are anthologies with other authors. I fully intend to release at least 6 e-books, hopefully I'll manage more than that by fitting in some shorts. Some of the e-titles will come out in trades, usually by the 6-month mark so that will be more books on the shelves in 2006. My third Brava is scheduled for release in 2007.

What have I learned (or at least think I've learned) in my first year as a published author:

  • 1.) Listen to the advice of authors who have been published longer. You don't have to heed that advice, but listen to it and absorb it. They usually know what they're talking about.

  • 2.) What works for one writer will probably not work for another.

  • 3.) Don't torture yourself with deadlines in Dec., Jan., or Feb. This is the second year in a row that I've signed on for deadlines over the holidays. I don't intend to do it again. I've realized that I just can't get into the holiday spirit when I'm not involved in the process of preparing for it.

  • 4.) Take the rose-colored glasses off. (I knew this from the get-go, but I'm sharing it with you) Publishing your book is your dream, not your publisher's. You have to make the extras happen.

  • 5.) Editors only answer the questions they want to and ignore the rest. They learn this in Editor Behavior 101 and they all got "A"s. It's okay. It doesn't mean they don't like you.

  • 6.) Don't be afraid to break the rules or assert yourself.

  • 7.) Don't take a bad deal just because it's a deal. Just like with dating, why buy the cow if you're getting the milk for free? Trust me, the publisher is thinking the same thing.

  • 8.) Writers are afraid to say what their strengths are. They worry that if they don't appear humble, they'll appear vain. Thing is, you've got to be good at something to do with writing, right? You wouldn't try to get published if you truly thought your work was crap. You'll need to have a core of strong confidence in this business or you'll get squashed like a bug. Find something about your work that inspires confidence in you and keep it close to your heart.

  • 9.) Reviews aren't that important. Great ones are awesome to get, but the bad ones won't kill you. I'm still learning this, but at least I'm now able to acknowledge that this is true.

  • 10.) Don't put too much effort into your title choices and don't get attached to your titles. In fact, it's probably best to just write "historical manuscript #3" or "paranormal vamp in space #2" in the header. Your editor is most likely going to make you change the title, whatever it is.

Happy New Year!!! *party* I hope 2006 is the year when some of your really big dreams come true. *hugs*


Allison Brennan said...

ROFLOL on #10 . . . my book had 5 different titles, two of which were given to it by my publisher.

The title for my current WIP? "Option Book."

Sylvia Day said...

When I was aspiring, I spent so much time coming up with the "perfect" titles for my stories.

Now I know. *g*

Alfie said...

You learned #8 in one year??? Wow! I'm impressed. Sure, I know it in my head, but I still haven't learned it in my soul, where it would do me the most good. Great post.

Sylvia Day said...

Thanks, Alfie! I learned #8 from telling so many of my writer friends that it's OKAY to say you're good at something. They'll be complaining about a WIP and say, "I wish I could just make it to the action scene. I'm pretty good at writing action." Then they'll backtrack real fast and say, "I mean I THINK I'm probably pretty good at writing action."

I'm always saying, "Hey!! If that's an area of your writing that inspires confidence in you, be proud of it!"

Bonnie Edwards said...

What a great post, and what a fabulous year for you. # 8 is a great lesson and one I hope I've learned, too.
Thanks for giving me a lot to think about as I begin "option book 1". LOL

Candice Gilmer said...

#8 is where I have problems too, but I'm working on it. The only area of my writing I know is really good is my dialog... (maybe that's a sign I talk to myself too much???)

However, because of this, my characters tend to wander off in their conversations... Like they're real people or something! sheesh! :)

Although #9, being unpublished, is still hard for me to understand... I'm still dealing with getting over the darn rejection letters. :) But I'm working on it. (If I don't, my husband will probably loose his mind... lol)

Allison Brennan said...

Thinking about #8 . . . I ended up asking my agent what I did really well because I honestly wasn't a good judge of my own work. Now I can see where my strengths and weaknesses are a lot better, and I don't have a problem (as much) talking about what I know well and just not talking about what I don't know well! LOL.