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Advice to Myself as a Newbie Author

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

by Shauna Roberts

Today’s Guest: Linda Wisdom

Linda Wisdom is a born and bred Californian who was first published in 1980 and has gone on to write more than 70 romance novels. She is presently writing a paranormal series; 50 Ways to Hex Your Lover is out now, and Hex Appeal will come out in November 2008. She and her husband share their house with a spoiled Yorkie/Chihuahua, an Amazon parrot, and a tortoise, all who’ve been in her books.

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

What did I know about writing and the business of writing when I first started out? Nothing. Did I have anyone to ask? Nope. Did I survive? Considering I sold my first two books in 1979 and I’m still doing it, I must be doing something right. Or I’m just plain lucky.

If I had the knowledge I have today and could go back in time, what would I tell myself?

1. Keep the enthusiasm in your heart and soul even if you wonder why you keep on doing it when you’re hitting a brick wall. Remember that a brick wall is made up of pieces and those pieces can be broken down. Sure, it may take time, it may hurt your head from batting it against it, but the end result will be worth it.

2. I would tell myself that to always look ahead. Look at what you’re doing now and what you want to do down the line. I started out with category romance and then slid into romantic suspense, paranormal, and humorous romance. But paranormal was always my first love. I wrote several category books with paranormal elements, but I knew I wanted to write stronger paranormal and now I’m doing it. Along the way, I honed my craft, didn’t rush it, and made sure it was everything it was supposed to be.

3. Always remember this is a business. A rejection only means that one editor didn’t like it. It’s not personal, and what she/he didn’t like, another can love. Look at what’s said in a rejection, take the suggestions, and use them. Consider it all a learning experience that will make you all the better in the long run. It doesn’t mean you have to agree with all you hear, but keep your listening ears on, as Judge Judy says.

4. One phrase I keep in mind is roll with the punches. There are cycles in writing. Be prepared to roll with them. Know that changing publishers can mean you might be starting all over again. Park your ego at the door and just plain work. There are a lot of examples out there why it’s necessary. But I’ll be nice and just give you one. Years ago I knew an author who had her career mapped out to the nth degree. She planned when she would sell her first book, which would naturally make the top of all the bestseller lists, and when she’d win awards for the book. You name it. When the book was released, she sent out letters to bookstores that pretty much said, “I wrote the absolute best book you will ever read and I know you will love it.” The book didn’t sell well and she never sold another one. Maybe it was because her ego got in the way. And it could also have to do with her writing not catching on with readers.

Writing is a career and a way of life for us.

Of course, I could go back in time and tell myself all of this and I might not believe a word I said. I’d have to learn it all by myself.

So listen to those who’ve paved the way for you. We don’t expect you to agree with all we say, but just remember something: Who better to believe than someone who’s been there?


Visit Linda Wisdom’ MySpace page at www.myspace.com/lindawisdombooks and her blog at http://witchychicks.blogspot.com. Her book 50 Ways to Hex Your Lover (Source Books) can be ordered online from Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

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Advice to Myself as a Newbie Author

February 22, 2008 by in category Archives tagged as ,

by Shauna Roberts

Today’s Guest: Debra Mullins

Debra Mullins is the author of ten historical romances from Avon Books, including her new release, The Night Before the Wedding, which involves a Scottish curse. For excerpts, check out her Website at http://www.debramullins.com or friend her at http://www.myspace.com/debramullins.

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

Ever wish you could turn back the clock? Do the whole “If I knew then what I know now” deal? Some people wish they could go back to high school with the body of an 18-year-old and the knowledge of a woman twice that age. Me, I sometimes wish I could go back to the days before I got published.

What’s that? I want to turn in my secret handshake? Not at all, dear readers. But there are things I had as a writer struggling to get her work in front of an editor that I don’t have now that I have published ten books. Enthusiasm. Opportunities. Time!

Enthusiasm. Whoever said ignorance is bliss had to be talking about the unpublished writer. Before I got published, all I could see in front of me was that golden finish line—publication. I did the networking. I did the conferences. I did the critique group thing. I spent every minute I could between kids and husband and household chores, working on my latest opus. I wasn’t writing for the market. I wasn’t worried about the cover conference or if the editor would like my hero’s name. I didn’t worry about whether my heroine kicked butt. I was writing the story that burned inside me, the one that demanded to be told. I could feel the power of it coursing through my veins. I just wrote what I saw in my head. Joyfully. Enthusiastically. Passionately.

1. It’s easy to lose sight of that joy once you get published. So the first piece of advice I would give myself is to hang on to that passion, that zeal, with both hands. It’s what brings your work to life. And it’s darned hard to get back once it’s managed to slip away from you.

2. The second piece of advice I would give myself is to prepare for the changes publication will bring. It’s a whole new world. The opportunities I was used to are no longer there. For instance, I can’t enter most chapter contests, even in a completely different genre in which I am not published, which means I can’t get that great anonymous critique of my work for just $25. I have to find different ways of getting feedback, and most of them will not result in my work getting in front of an editor as a finalist. Also, time becomes an issue. I have to make time to write the book, to do revisions, to handle copyedits, to go through page proofs. I have to find time for promotion and Website updates and judging contests. Somewhere in there I have to find time to be inspired again, to do things outside of writing to feed my muse, so the train of success can keep on rolling down the tracks.

Publication does change your life as a writer. Be prepared for that. Have a plan.

Every time I sit down in front of that blank page, I worry about a hundred things I never did before. The editor, the marketing, the cover conference—and does my heroine really, really kick butt?

3. So the last piece of advice I would give to myself, then and now, is to believe in your talent. Trust that when you reach for it, the writing will be there. Then close your eyes and jump into your story. Enjoy the ride.


Visit Debra Mullins’ Website at http://www.debramullins.com. Her book The Night Before the Wedding is available at all major bookstores and can be ordered online from Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

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Advice to Myself as a Newbie Author

January 22, 2008 by in category Archives tagged as ,

by Shauna Roberts

Today’s Guest: Jennifer Blake

Since publishing her first book at the age of twenty-seven, New York Times bestselling and award-winning author Jennifer Blake has gone on to pen more than sixty historical and contemporary romances. She brings the seductive passion of the South to her stories, reflecting her seventh-generation Louisiana heritage. Jennifer lives with her husband in northern Louisiana.

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

1. Accept that the type of book sold to your first editor is what she will expect to see from you for subsequent contracts. Don’t change to a different time period, setting, or genre without prior consultation. Case in point: My first two book sales were to Fawcett Gold Medal for their Gothic romance program, and both had historical settings. Then a friend who had researched Hurricane Camille and written a portion of a contemporary mystery-suspense story around it asked that I collaborate with her and publish the book under my name with a 50/50 split of the proceeds. I rewrote her manuscript and submitted it. (This, sad to say, was before query letters and partial submissions.) It was rejected out of hand. A contemporary Gothic was not what Fawcett wanted or expected from me.

The story was published later by Ace Books as Storm at Midnight under the pen name of Elizabeth Trehearne and now sells for $99.99 as a collector’s item due to its low print run. Still, it was a lesson learned the hard way.

2. Don’t assume that being a New York agent or editor automatically confers insight into what’s happening in the marketplace. A couple of years after I published my first book, Kathleen Woodiwiss came out with The Flame and the Flower. On reading it, I was enthralled. I immediately contacted my former agent suggesting that my next book be a historical romance. He replied, “Don’t waste your time. The historical romance is as dead as the dodo.”

What I should have done was send him a copy of Woodiwiss’s book as an example of what I meant. Instead, I assumed he had some kind of inside information indicating there was no market for another such story. The fact was, he didn’t know a new genre was being born, one radically different from the older, male-oriented historical sagas he had in mind. As an avid reader scanning the shelves in the depths of country, I had a better idea of what was going on than he did while ensconced in his New York office. He—and much of the rest of the NY publishing community—didn’t catch up until early 1975 when I was suddenly asked to do a proposal for a historical romance after all.

3. Watch the market, read in the genre, and pay attention to your gut instinct concerning where it’s headed. In the early 1990s, I did in-depth research on a major Civil War campaign in Louisiana for a dramatic historical romance with that setting. When I sent the proposal to my editor, she asked to see something else, saying Civil War romances were a hard sell. Reluctantly, I gave her another story idea. If I’d insisted on doing my Civil War epic, it would have hit the shelves at the same time as Scarlett—and just as Kathryn Falk of Romantic Times Magazine was very kindly telling everyone that I should have been chosen to write this sequel to Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind.

4. Establish a story idea file and capture in it every single idea that comes your way. Stories are like spirits: They fade away if ignored, and you can never depend on them to drift back into your mind again.

5. Don’t be intimidated by editors and agents because you think they operate on a higher, more sophisticated plane. They are just people who have worries and fears, hopes and dreams, wardrobe issues and bad hair days like the rest of us. Offer them the appreciation and cooperation that will make their lives easier, and they’ll do the same in return.

6. Never send an editor more than one book proposal at the time unless you’re prepared to write any story she chooses. Invariably, you’ll be stuck writing the story you liked least.

7. Invest in quality stationery and take the time to send thank you notes for any special consideration shown to you as a writer—for interviews, speaking gigs, book signings, appearances arranged for jobber events, an especially beautiful cover done by the art department, a great blurb written for your book, and so on. The art of the handwritten thank you note is so nearly dead that the novelty of the gesture will make it memorable.

8. Don’t let any of the irritations or disasters that come your way in publishing become personal. It’s a business and you should be professional about it. Though it may be highly satisfying to fire off a hot email or letter in response to some mangling of your work, blow to your career or meddling in your non-writing life, you will always regret it.

9. Nothing you write will ever be perfect; it’s an impossible goal. Do the best you can during the moment at hand, and that will be good enough.

10. Writing is an art for which you must have talent. It’s also a craft that’s learned by studying and endless, endless practice. Nothing you write is ever wasted; it always adds to your knowledge of how to draw people into the heart of your story, how to persuade them to turn the pages of your books. Don’t write just to sell, then, or because you think it’s an easy career. Write for the music of the words slipping through your mind. Write for the magic of being able to invite readers into the story world you’ve created, for the wonder of making them see what you see, hear what you hear, feel what you feel. Write for the joy.


Visit Jennifer Blake’s Website at http://www.jenniferblake.com/ and her blog at http://jenniferblake.com/journal/. Her book Guarded Heart will be available February 1 at all major bookstores and can be ordered online from Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

Interested in learning more about Jennifer? An interview with her appears today at my blog, Shauna Roberts’ For Love of Words.

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October 27, 2007 by in category Archives tagged as

I’m a go-for-it, goal-setting kind of person so I had to really think hard about the advice I’d give myself if I were just starting out. My mind drew a complete blank, because I never look back with regrets. Every day I learn something new about writing, the craft, the business and the interactions between authors and friends.

When I first started out, I was forewarned not to sell to a flat-rate publisher, but my gut instincts told me, this would be a good move. I wrote 3 books for the Kensington Precious Gems line and still keep in contact with those authors today. As it turned out, my next sale was with Harlequin Historicals and having those Precious Gems books in print, meant something. It provided me with credibility as a published author, got me a very decent advance and established me as a sell-on-proposal author. Nothing but good came from that controversial decision. I trust my instincts and always have.

There’s no doubt that there’s a lot of self-doubt in the publishing world. Writers are always second-guessing themselves, so if you have good instincts, you’re halfway there. Ultimately you have to go with what your heart tells you – I’m a big believer in that. If you fail, you can only point your finger at yourself and say, “Next time, I’ll try harder,” or “Okay, I learned from that, now I’ll do it differently.”

I really believe events in life happen for a reason and that eventually everything will fall into place. With a positive outlook, the glass half full philosophy – lemonade really can be produced when you’re handed a bagful of lemons.

So what would I have done differently?

I could say, nothing.

But that’s not entirely true. I’ve learned a good deal about promotion these past few years. I see newbie published authors struggle with this all the time. They ask themselves how much promotion should I do when I can barely meet my next deadline? What avenues do I tap into that best suit my needs? Your first book might have taken years to write; honing, polishing and revising so when you finally have to deliver a book on deadline, you’re stumped and can barely get the words on the page, much less promote it.

So my advice to myself would be to have learned the ins and outs of promotion a little bit earlier on. As a category author, what kind of promotion works and what doesn’t? How do I best reach my readers and garner new ones? How much do I spend? Are there easier and less expensive ways to do what I’m doing now? And the big one, how do I know it’s working? How do I gauge my own personal success?

I find that now, I’m spending half my time working on promoting my books and half my time writing them. It’s truly 50/50. I’ve sought advice from professionals, read everything I could on promotion, taken workshops and trusted my own instincts when it came to decision-making.

The second piece of advice I might give myself, would be to write for one line, solely. There are definite advantages in doing that, but there are disadvantages as well.

The advantage is that you build a readership more rapidly. If you’re a prolific writer and can produce several books in one year, the readers recognize you and you tend to do better in that one line. Establishing yourself as a writer of hot, sizzling love stories, or fun, light-hearted romps or military thrillers will bring you readers who will love what you write, eagerly await your next story and always buy your books. Every author wants to be an “auto-buy.”

I write for two lines, Harlequin Historical and Silhouette Desires. I’ve split them down the middle, writing equally for both.

I feel writing in two time periods keeps my writing fresh and compelling. When I’ve had my fill of urban alpha males in the corporate world, I mosey on over to my western writing roots and delve into my cowboy stories. And when I tire of no indoor plumbing, I head back to the contemporary settings. It’s ideal for me in a craft sense. I love writing both.

Having been involved in various lines folding, I feel it’s a little safer writing for two lines. It’s the “cover-your-butt” philosophy that seems to work for me. But is it wise to have two very diverse readerships? Honestly, I don’t know. There comes a time when you have to distinguish between what’s right for you business-wise and what’s right for you as an author? What’s most important is that you write what you love and you love what you write.

Then everything else falls into place and you take that tall drink of homemade lemonade.

Charlene Sands
Winner 2006 National Readers’ Choice Award
Bodine’s Bounty – November 2007
The Corporate Raider’s Revenge – January 2008
Taming the Texan – March 2008

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Advice to Myself as a Newbie Author

September 5, 2007 by in category Archives tagged as

by Rebecca Forster

Here’s the truth: every book you write will feel like the first one, every day you face a blank computer screen you will feel like an amateur, every minute you spend waiting to hear from an editor or agent will leave you second guessing your experience, your talent, your purpose and your creativity.

If this doesnt scare you, then congratulations and welcome to the writer’s club. You are doing what almost everyone in the world dreams of and you’re doing it despite naysayers and, sometimes, your own self doubt. The first step is a heady, marvelous, challenging moment – one you’re destined to take many times over in the course of your creative career.

As I write this, I am sitting in my favorite writing spot – a coffee shop overflowing with Salvation Army furniture, an eclectic clientèle, and spotty Internet access – hoping to I will hear good news from my agent. While I wait, my brain is pinging between the project that is finished but not sold, another one that is in the proposal stage, the zygote of a new idea, housework undone, bills that need to be paid, kids in college and a weekend away with my husband. Nothing is really getting done and it’s time for me to ground myself yet again.

I have published twenty books in three genres and even enjoyed a flash-bang moment of bestseller status. I have taught writing at university extension programs and been engaged for hundreds of speaking engagements. Most days, though, I feel as green as Al Gore. In analyzing myself and my work I find I am a creative schizophrenic. I have a short attention span but can work for twelve hours editing a manuscript without lifting my head, I am instantly energized and just as quickly disheartened, I am impatient yet can wait like a loyal dog to hear from an editor, I am creative but have to work hard to sustain that creativity.

In the final analysis, I am like every other new or experienced author. We are all newbies because of the nature of the beast we are trying to tame. Publishing and reading fashion are ever changing, editors are in constant flux, new media competes for a consumer’s disposable dollars and booksellers struggle. Knowing all this I must remind myself to relentlessly reengage as a writer, businesswoman, promoter and thoughtful craftsperson. Daily I search for that focused place that will allow me to write effectively. I walk the fine line between taking comfort in past success and worrying about future rejection.

And so, I give counsel myself. Usually this advice is predicated by a swift kick to my emotional rear: self-pity is equally as dangerous as blind faith in my own brilliance. For what it’s worth, my advice to myself as a newbie is the same advice I give to myself as a published author. It works for me, perhaps one or two suggestions will work for you.

1. Write with abandon; edit with discipline and objectivity

2. Acknowledge your talent and develop your writing intelligence. Talent will get you started; intelligence will move you forward.

3. Find one person with an honest, consistent voice who will tell you the truth about your work. Often this is a reader, not a writer.

4. Listen to your critique group but go with your gut. Logic beats emotion. You can’t please everyone. Give weight to #3.

5. Rejection letters are the Mother Lode. Mine them for every bit of of actionable information.

6. Never, ever get angry with an editor. They want you to succeed. They have neither the time nor inclination to reject you just for fun.

7. When you are completely blocked go play tennis or golf or garden or quilt. Do something physical and forget about writing for a day, a month, a year. The spark will come back.

8. Learn the business. All of it. Publishing, bookselling, public relations, public speaking, contracts and finances. Relate all information to your creative effort.

9. Celebrate a contract with your family first then with your writing buddies.

10. Thank people who help you and ask for help when you need it.

Best wishes for good writing and successful selling.

Rebecca Forster

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