As I mentioned last week, I had the good fortune to win one of two Kobo scholarships to a writing conference held in Colorado Springs: Superstars Writing Seminars. This turned out to be a fascinating experience. First, it was a business-focused three days, something that’s normally covered in a panel or workshop or two, but not for three intensive days. It was also geared toward the aspiring-to-get-published crowd, and there were a lot of motivational talks as well as the ‘how-to” variety. And, lastly, it was attended and led by authors who write in the realm of fantasy and science fiction, with the related sub-genres. Not the world I’m used to.
As someone coming from mystery and romance based conferences, it was a quick reality check. The speakers were all renowned, multi-published authors, but our business is so compartmentalized that I hadn’t heard of any of them. Nor had they heard of me. They did invite one “outsider” to speak. Romance author Joan Johnston, whose sales probably surpass the combined total of all the panelists, spoke about her experiences as a traditionally published romance writer. Her advice holds for anyone wanting to get published, regardless of genre, and I’ll share some of the points she made.
Read like a crazy person. Before she wrote her first book, she read every single title in the imprint she was targeting. (If you’re a writer, movies are research–think tax deduction–because they’re stories.)
Go to Craft Conferences – buy the tapes. Listen to them—many times.
She also stressed NOT pitching to editors or agents while networking. Make yourself memorable as a person, and then when you’re going to submit, you can say, “We met at such and such a conference and we talked about raising poodles”—anything to remind them of you, but they’ll never remember you from the other hundreds of people trying to pitch their own book. Just talk.
Join a critique group (you can ignore what they say, but it forces you to write )
Stay in touch with other authors.
Make it your business to understand the business of writing. Learn to say ‘no’. An agent is in business for himself, not you.
Write, write, write & work hard.
Write the best book you can. 1 page a day = 1 book/year
Be a nice person. Never burn bridges. Publishing is a small community, and the person you piss off today might be working at another house later.
Set goals, work toward them.
Don’t expect it to be easy. Luck does play a part.
Be determined and don’t give up.
Balance your life.
Enjoy your success—big or small—along the way.
Causes Terry Odell Supports
Pro Literacy Worldwide, The Nature Conservancy, The Adult Literacy League, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society