Friday, March 27, 2009

Five Things I've Learned About Being An Author

My first full-length novel came out in will have been out three years come next month. My second full-length novel is due to be released sometime soon (no ETA on it yet, but sooner rather than later, I hope). I have been writing professionally for almost thirteen years, and I've learned a handful of things about being both a writer and an author that I think I might share.

1. Writer is not the same as Author. A writer...writes. An author...writes, submits, promotes, hobnobs, performs PR, provides artistic feedback for cover artists to use, carefully chooses a pen name (or carefully chooses not to use one) for maximum benefit, brainstorms things like "taglines" and "personal branding." Writer is still over in the corner hunched over a keyboard or notebook and taking random showers to inspire plot.

2. Selling one book is not the gateway. To anything, really, except having sold one book. Oh sure, you can gain some membership in some clubs that might give you some extra tidbits of information maybe five minutes before the whole rest of the internet knows about it, or you can wear a special ribbon on your nametag at a conference or convention, and when you write in books, they're usually expected to be copies of the one you wrote. But selling one book does not make the second book come any easier. Nor does it guarantee the second book will sell any easier.

3. No matter how much you do, it won't be enough. Best thing you can do with live with it. There will always be someone with more bookmarks, better pens, something cuter and cleverer in baskets to hand out, or a book trailer/myspace/facebook/blog tour/more twitterati than you. Find a promo groove that suits you, and go with it. You'll be happier that way.

4. Publicity is a crapshoot. I hear more fellow authors bemoaning the fact that the books they've spent the most effort/time/money promoting are the ones that have the lowest numbers. Building name recognition takes time and consistency, and the payoffs are indistinct at best.

5. There's always still more to learn. Achieving publication is a milestone, of that we can all be sure. But it's not the only milestone, nor is it the last one. There's always something else to learn, and the minute you forget that as an author, that's the minute your career will start to roll downhill. This one is easy to forget or ignore, and therein lies the pitfalls of arrogance. It is, however, one of those lessons you can keep revisiting, and you can relearn it at any time. Sometimes it's just the thing you need to help you remember why you started doing this in the first place.