Jennifer Lyon always wanted to be a witch. When her witch powers didn’t materialize, she turned to creating magic in her books. Soul Magic (Ballantine Books) debuted in October, the second in an enchanting, passionate supernatural series. Jen also has a super secret alter ego known as Jennifer Apodaca, the author of the award-winning Samantha Shaw Mystery Series.
If you could travel back in time to before you were first published, what advice would you give yourself?
Once when I was a teenager and complaining about something or other, my mother stopped what she was doing and said, “Whoever told you life was fair? Quit whining and work harder.”
Boy, I had no idea back then how much that advice would end up shaping my career. I’ve had my share of setbacks, some which were my mistakes and others that were beyond my control. But each time, I heard my mother’s voice say, ‘Quit whining; work harder.’ And each time, working harder paid off–and sometimes not in the way I expected.
That’s my mom’s advice. Now here’s a few of the things I’ve learned so far, things that I wish I’d known or fully grasped before I published.
1. Write faster and learn to juggle. Everyone says this, but I have to stress it. Like it or not, it takes at least two books a year to really build a strong fan base. And once published, you must juggle other things along with the writing, such as revisions, line edits, copy edits, galleys, and promotion.
2.Build a team. This has two parts. Part one is your professional team, which consists of your editor, agent, research contacts, web designers, or designers for bookmarks, whatever you need. I try to keep a Rolodex of people I can rely on in a professional capacity. Part two is friends and critique partners. I have many, but there are about five core people I critique with and go to for advice or just to talk to. I can trust these people implicitly.
3.Be flexible. Few careers in publishing move in a straight line. There will be changes; editors leave, agents retire, lines close, the economy tanks, a genre suddenly stops selling–it happens. Every day. It’s taken me a while to learn to roll with these things. Canceling a series or rejecting a project is just part of the business. Stay flexible and move on.
4. Be professional, reliable, and self-confident. The first two I did from the start; the self-confident part has been harder. I have learned to project a bit more self-confidence in dealing with editors and agents. It makes everyone feel more secure if the author is reasonably sure she can do something.
Lack of self-confidence caused me to turn down an anthology I probably should have accepted. I wasn’t sure I could make the deadlines, which is really valid. However, it was with a New York Times bestseller, and that exposure may have been worth the risk.
5. Make decisions based on facts and research, not emotion. In the changing face of publishing, it’s a little harder to grasp all the facts. But the old adage still applies: ‘If it’s too good to be true, it’s probably false.’ Do your research, really listen to people with experience, and try to base your decision on facts, not emotion. Before I sold to a traditional publisher, I went with an electronic publisher that was less than reputable because I just wanted to believe and ignored some red flags.
6.Don’t give up. Ever. If one thing isn’t working, then you need to step back and evaluate the project. What’s not working? The idea or the execution? If it’s the idea, consider putting it away and working on something else. If it’s the execution, then roll up your sleeves and get to work. Abandoning a project that isn’t working is not giving up. It’s simply a risk that didn’t work. Take what you learned and then turn the next project into a success.
So that’s it. And for the record, I’ve done okay with the ‘work harder’ portion of my mom’s advice. But I still have a tendency to whine.
Thanks so much to Shauna Roberts for having me as a guest today!