Daily Archives: April 22, 2008

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Advice to Myself as a Newbie Author

April 22, 2008 by in category Archives tagged as , ,

by Shauna Roberts

Today’s Guest: Lois Kleinsasser writing as Cait London

Cait London is published in 28 countries and has written more than 60 books—historicals, category and series, paranormal, and romantic suspense—under the pseudonyms Cait London and Cait Logan. Her newest book, published by Avon, is A Stranger’s Touch. It is the second in a trilogy about three sisters who each has a special extra sense that may be a blessing or a curse.

Cait, if you could travel back in time to before you were first published, what advice would you give yourself?

Because it’s best to address issues from experience, I am writing from the POV of a traditionally published mass-market author. Since I started writing, the Internet has made a terrific difference in learning how to write and in gathering necessary business skills. The Web has also broadened the playing field and sharpened the competition. Career writing, the markets, the publishers, and the general ball game have changed drastically, ever evolving. But in the (my own) beginning, I wish I’d known the following, which I offer with huge disclaimers.

1. Writing can be a fulfilling career. Surprise, surprise. Unlike others, who have wanted to write since childhood, I began writing in my thirties. I did not intend to be a full-time writer, yet I have been for many years and am still thrilled. Originally, I just wanted to see my name on a cover—just once.

2. Why her and not me? Another surprise: Writing is a business, perhaps more now than ever. It’s not all about a good book. “Building and the long haul” are facets a publisher may consider, not necessarily the story. Today, a publisher may look at developing one writer over another for their promotability. Sometimes, the writer is chosen because he/she has many stories in them or can write quickly.

3. A rejection may have nothing to do with the quality of the story. It may have more to do with the publisher’s budget or another writer filling that slot already. It may have to do with being “orphaned” or the line dying, etc. The line-up is a huge consideration in publishing.

4. On occasion, I wish I’d used these words: “Thank you for the offer. I’d like to think about it. I’ll get back with you.” (Usually, with business flowing as fast as it does, the time lag is just overnight.) The reason? One wrong agreement can set back or stop your career for years. It’s best to consider each agreement carefully. This advice is especially applicable in the case of agency agreements.

5. Spend more time in editing each individual word, the placement of clauses within sentences, and the structure of a paragraph. The structure of a paragraph is important. I learned to place numbers over each sentence and to rearrange them in order.

6. Don’t compare. A published book has gone through many eyes and has been revised and edited many times. To compare that book with your own unpublished drafts is an apples-and-oranges game.

7. Important: Getting away from the desk and computer is essential to refill the well.

8. It took some time to learn this one: The editor isn’t always right. Admittedly, I have written to editorial calls and have not been happy with the result. However, when you’re starting out and trying to build, they are always right. ☺

9. I am only as good as I can be. Others have more, or less, talent. Others have lucky breaks or are not as fortunate as me. Not everyone will love my stories, and that includes editors and publishers. As for sales and career choices, life situations play a huge part in what a writer does or can do. It took awhile to accept that. Many factors affect a writer’s success.

10. The second book published is even more important than the first. Here’s an age-old theory about a writer’s potential career: The first book—it could be a fluke. The second book has to be better. And almost any writer can write five books. After the success of that fifth book, you just may have a career. We’re looking now at people with more than one hundred books on their list.

11. Do not stay with an agent overlong, past the point at which you are thoroughly disillusioned. After that, the arrangement is not based on trust. Hesitancy in changing agents (or publishers) can also derail a potentially fast-moving career.

12. Don’t waste time promoting when you are trying to establish a career. Instead, use that time to produce copy. Get that contract first, work on getting your material on the stands. This advice is especially true in the case of category and series books. Sales are generally determined by the publisher, and the promotions of the author have little to do with it. However, for that first ego burst, or to establish (to yourself) that you’ve “made it,” a few local signings will do.

13. First sale choices: Publishers are not likely to take a trilogy from an unpublished beginner. Better to build that audience first and to use precious writing time and energy in projects more likely to sell. (There are always exceptions to this.)

14. Keep good records. Learn all you can about taxes as applied to the writer. Date articles and note where they were published.


To learn more about Lois/Cait, please visit her Website at http://www.caitlondon.com or her blog at http://caitlondon.blogspot.com. Her book A Stranger’s Touch is available at all major bookstores and can be ordered online from Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

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