Shannon Dauphin is a writer who has been in the publishing business for more than a decade. She writes romance novels under her real name and erotic novels and short stories under her Gwen Masters pseudonym. Her newest books are Carolina Hurricane (Black Lyon Publishing) and One Breath at a Time by Gwen Masters (Virgin Black Lace). When she’s not writing a book, she’s at the helm of a booming freelance business. Shannon resides with her journalist husband and their spoiled children in a historic home near Nashville, Tennessee.
If you could travel back in time to before you were first published, what advice would you give yourself?
When I was a newbie author, I often felt as though I were swimming in uncharted waters, with no idea of what was ahead or how to get there. I’ve learned quite a bit over this past decade or so, and if I could go back and offer myself a few words of wisdom, these would be at the top of the list.
1. Never Stop Writing! So you’ve finished that fantastic novel, and you’re sure it’s going to be a hit! You send out those query letters. And then â€¦ you wait. Right? Wrong! You get moving on the next novel. Take a day off to celebrateâ€”God knows you deserve itâ€”and then get right back to work on your follow-up. Before those query letters work their way through the postal service, you should be done with the first chapter of your next book.
2. Write What You Want. Have you heard that a certain publisher is looking for more of a certain genre? Greatâ€”but is it what you want to write? If you choose to write something you don’t like in the hopes that it will lead to a publishing deal, you’re writing the wrong thing. In the long run, it just won’t work. Write what you want, write what you love, and in the end, you will be happier.
3. Research Like Mad. Is it time for an agent? Which publishers are best suited for you? What can you expect from the writing and publishing process? If you’re serious about getting your words out there on the shelves, do your research every step of the way. Network with other authors, pay attention to the latest publishing news, and get to know all the players. By the time you’re ready for publication, your publishing savvy will hold you in good stead.
4. Follow Your Instincts. You’ve done the research, you’ve networked like mad, and you’ve narrowed down lists of agents and publishers. Now it is time for the final vetting process, and that comes from your gut feeling about what you’ve learned. Don’t go with what seems to be the best deal because that’s what everyone else tells you is the perfect route! Pay attention to your instincts and you will not go wrong.
5. Ignore the Trends. The trends are great for those who were writing them two or three years ago. But consider that whatever you write today won’t be published for at least a year, and maybe even longer than that. By then, the trends will have shifted, and youâ€™ll be left scrambling for something new. Just write what you like, write what you’re good at, and rest assured that one day, the market will catch up with you.
6. Rejections Are Lessons. When you get a rejection, take a moment to pout. Take a moment to whine and cry and throw something. And then take a deep breath, and consider the lesson learned. The best rejections are those that offer a bit of advice along with them, such as “too melancholy” or “didn’t like the voice.” Now you have something to use! If the rejection is simply a “not for me” form letter, look back over your query. Look at the agent’s Website. Where did you go wrong? The answers may not be clear, but it’s worth a shotâ€”and sometimes, you find that golden key that leads to a revision of that query. And that leads to a big fat YES.
7. Choosing a Pseudonym? Make it Easy to Live With! If you choose to write under a pseudonym, choose your alter ego wisely. Do an in-depth Internet search on the name you want to use. Ask your friends for their opinion. Test it out on your tongue, over and over. If your novel is a hit, and the next one is too, and soon you find yourself on the bestseller lists, your pseudonym will become your constant companion.
8. Surround Yourself with Positive People. The last thing you need is someone asking when you’re going to get a “real” job. You don’t want to deal with those who constantly bring you down. Focus on the positive and surround yourself with people who believe in you without reservation.
9. Writing is a Passionâ€”Publishing is a Business. The rush of pouring your heart and soul into the written word is heady and can be downright addictive! But the world of publishing is a business, and it is important to be prepared for the moment when your passion is translated into cold, hard numbers. When you learn to navigate both worlds and travel between them with ease, you have earned the title of “seasoned author.”
10. Celebrate! When you finish a novel, sign that contract, complete that revision, or see your book on the shelves for the first time, you’ve just done something huge! Something grand! It deserves an honest-to-God celebration. Go out to dinner and toast your good fortune. Open that special bottle of wine and share it with the person who has encouraged you all along. Give yourself the credit you deserve â€¦ tomorrow is another day for writing, but no one is going to begrudge you this moment of happiness and success. Here’s to many of them in your future!