by Shauna Roberts
Todayâ€™s Guest: Jill Marie Landis
Jill Marie Landis is the author of more than twenty award-winning, best-selling novels. Her books have appeared on the New York Timesâ€™ extended list and the USA Today list. She has been an RWA Rita finalist seven times and has won a Rita, the Golden Heart, and a Golden Medallion among other prestigious industry awards. She lives in Hawaii with her husband, and when sheâ€™s not hula dancing or sitting on the beach, sheâ€™s writing. Her latest release, a single-title Western historical romance, The Accidental Lawman (Steeple Hill), will be released on May 28th.
If you could travel back in time to before you were first published, what advice would you give yourself?
As a firm believer that Iâ€™m always in my right place, I tend to live in the moment and donâ€™t look back, so itâ€™s hard to picture myself giving myself advice on how to do things differently, but hopefully the following will help someone else along the sometimes smooth and sometimes rocky road of publishing.
1. Write faster. Because I was blessed enough to make great advances from the beginning, I was content (notice I say content and not lazy) enough to write only one single-title novel a year. If I had it to do over again, I would write two books a year in two different subgenres (for example, one historical and one contemporary) or one single title and a category, perhaps. After twenty-five years in the business Iâ€™ve seen a whole lot of authors come and go and have noticed that itâ€™s not always quality that promotes staying power, but stamina and quantity. The perfect combination is quality and quantity. Making a name for yourself and keeping it out there in front of readers is what counts.
2. If itâ€™s not broke, donâ€™t fix it. Stick to what is working if your books are selling. I wrote eight Western historical romances and they were making all the best-seller lists. After six of them, I wanted to do something different. My editor wanted two more Westerns. I wrote them and thought Iâ€™d throw up if I had to hang one more gun on one more cowboy. The books did really, really well and the publisher promotion was great. Foolishly, I ventured into other historical settings, New Orleans and the Caribbean, Africa, pioneers in Kentucky. Sales didnâ€™t slip but they didnâ€™t skyrocket and treading water in the publishing business is not a good thing. Readers want what they have come to expect from youâ€”over and over again. My adviceâ€”give it to them. If you get bored, change your name when you try something new.
3. Know when to make the big moves and make them quickly. A very well-known big name author told me very, very early on, â€œLeave your first publisher when you are on top. They will never see you as anyone but the little author they found.â€ Me? I was into loyalty. Isnâ€™t that worth something? Isnâ€™t loyalty an honorable trait? To a point. I stayed at my first publishing house for fifteen years. I was well paid. I was fat and happy but never slotted at the top of their list. I watched them â€œstealâ€ other romance authors from other houses and place them ahead of me. I should have let myself be â€œstolenâ€ and wooed by another house before it was too late.
4. Know when to change agents. For me, changing agents is the most gut-wrenching, hardest decision Iâ€™ve ever had to make in publishing. If you are thinking itâ€™s time to change, itâ€™s probably past time.
5. Learn the business. Face facts. You can do a lot to promote your work, but the bottom line is publisher backing and support. The product is whatâ€™s most important. Write the best book each and every time you can so that when your work is promoted and slotted and out in quantities where readers can find it, be sure you are giving them the best youâ€™ve got.
6. Network, network, network. Make writer friends. Get to know agents and editors, even if they are not ever going to be your agent or editor. The more people you know and who know you personally, the better off you are in the business. Make friends, not enemies. Theyâ€™ll guard your back and help when you need advice, encouragement, and a shoulder to cry on. True friends will celebrate your successes. Be happy for your fellow writers and not jealous of them. We have an old friend who is an actor on a long-running soap opera. His favorite quote is one to live by: â€œBe nice to everyone on your way up. Youâ€™ll see them again on your way down.â€
To learn more about Jill Marie Landis, please visit her Website at http://www.jillmarielandis.com or her blog at http://www.jillmarielandis.com/blog. You can preorder The Accidental Lawman and purchase her July 2008 book, Homecoming (Steeple Hill), at your local bookstore as well as at online bookstores. Click on your favorite bookstore below to go directly to the purchase page.
Thank you all! Sharing knowledge is what OCC and RWA are all about. Take care and keep looking forward.
Great advice. Thanks so much, Jill. I appreciated your comment about not looking back. We need to look ahead and only learn from the past, not regret.
Wow, Jill! This is about the best advice I’ve ever read for authors. Thanks for opening up and sharing your perspective.
I think I owe you a mocha frappuchino something-or-other! 🙂
Jill, this is timely advice for me, thank you!
Great advice, Jill! I especially like #6.
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