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Advice to Myself as a Newbie Author

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

by Shauna Roberts

Today’s Guest: Shauna Roberts

No author wanted to be featured this month, so I am in the odd position of interviewing myself, in the third person no less.

Shauna Roberts has been a professional nonfiction writer for more than twenty years and has won several awards for her magazine columns. Her first novel, Like Mayflies in a Stream (Hadley Rille Books)—a historical novel with romantic elements—was released earlier this month. She has lived all over the country and currently resides in Riverside, California.

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

I was in the fortunate position of having another writer, an RWA member, to advise me when I first started thinking about writing a novel. She told me to join RWA, and I did, before I wrote a word. As a result, I have no advice to give my past self; instead, I’ll list five pieces of excellent advice I received as a result of my RWA membership.

1. Network. I’m an introvert, and it took some time to make friends with my fellow RWA chapter members—years in some cases. But doing so paid off in big ways. I made friends for life, people who enjoy reading and talking about books as much as I do. I was invited to join a critique group that has helped my writing, and my career, immensely. And by the time I finally got a book offer, I knew well-respected authors who were willing to blurb my book.

2. Volunteer. I volunteered at my RWA chapter for special projects and as an officer. Working together was a great way to get to know my fellow writers better.

3. Attend the annual RWA meeting. I’ve met some RWA members who don’t want to attend an RWA national meeting until they have sold a book. They believe, incorrectly, that meeting attendance benefits published authors most. My experience, though, has been that the annual meeting benefits newbie writers more. The pubbed writers go to see their friends and have meeting with their editor and agent. The newbie and PRO writers go to learn basic fiction techniques and conventions—nearly everything I know about writing fiction I learned at RWA national meetings—as well as get practical information such as how to query, how to write a synopsis, and how to brand oneself. The newbies and PROs also get to meet others at the same career level and be charged by their enthusiasm.

4. Work on marketing from the beginning. It may seem premature to study marketing when you haven’t finished a book. But I did, and I’m glad. By the time I needed to find an agent, and then later when I needed to market a novel, I knew how to present myself and my book. I learned how other people marketed their just-published novels, and when I got a novel contract, I already had ideas for finding an audience for that novel.

5. Establish an Internet presence early. Your friends and family will buy your book, but who else will? Strangers. Strangers who, in all likelihood, prefer to buy books by people they’ve heard of. It’s up to you to make your name familiar, and the earlier you start, the more people you’ll reach. Some good ways of doing so involve the Internet: Join some RWA online chapters and the PRO loop, and post; set up a Website; start a blog; visit other people’s blogs and post thoughtful comments; put your Website and blog addresses in your email signature file. You’ll repeatedly get your name in front of lots of people and establish a reputation (good or bad, preferably the former) based on what you write and how you write it.


To learn more about Shauna Roberts, please visit her Web page at http://www.ShaunaRoberts.com or her blog at http://ShaunaRoberts.blogspot.com. You can find Like Mayflies in a Stream online at Amazon.com (hardcover, trade paperback) and at Barnes & Noble (hardcover, trade paperback).

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