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Advice to Myself as a Newbie Author

May 22, 2009 by in category Advice to Myself as a Newbie Author by Shauna Roberts tagged as ,

by Shauna Roberts

Today’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 Times’ 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 she’s not hula dancing or sitting on the beach, she’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 I’m always in my right place, I tend to live in the moment and don’t look back, so it’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 I’ve seen a whole lot of authors come and go and have noticed that it’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 it’s not broke, don’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 I’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 didn’t slip but they didn’t skyrocket and treading water in the publishing business is not a good thing. Readers want what they have come to expect from you—over and over again. My advice—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, “Leave your first publisher when you are on top. They will never see you as anyone but the little author they found.” Me? I was into loyalty. Isn’t that worth something? Isn’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 “steal” other romance authors from other houses and place them ahead of me. I should have let myself be “stolen” 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 I’ve ever had to make in publishing. If you are thinking it’s time to change, it’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 what’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 you’ve got.

This next piece of advice is something I’ve always tried to remember. This is for the newbies out there reading this blog:

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. They’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: “Be nice to everyone on your way up. You’ll see them again on your way down.”


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.

The Accidental Lawman: Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Borders

Homecoming: Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble

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