Industry News: One not-really newbie’s opinions
I’m not available this week to keep my finger on the pulse of the industry–and somehow the industry will find a way to go on without me. Instead, I’m trying to sum up some of the things we’ve written here about the industry in one super cool opinion piece. I hope it’s useful.
If you’re a member of the Florida Writers Association, you recently received this quarter’s edition of The Florida Writer. If you aren’t an FWA member, what the hell? (You should consider joining. It’s the best $55 you’ll spend on writing stuff this year.)
In this exciting issue, Mary Ann de Stefano (a contributor here) interviewed Julie Compton (a former contributor here) about the business. Julie’s done a lot of business-side work lately, including getting back the rights to all her published books and starting her own publishing company, Fresh Fork Publishing, to publish them.
I’ve had a couple discussions with Julie over the past couple months and they’ve opened my eyes to things I didn’t know about the industry as a relative outsider. If you want to know all of it, you gotta be a member.
But one line from her interview stuck out for me: The best marketing plan is writing more books. That idea interacted with a blog post by JT Ellison, much of which revolved around the fact that there are no shortcuts. As someone who’s progressed beyond newbie, but doesn’t have a lot of experienced as a published author (yet), I writing this week’s industry news as an opinion piece about how to move forward from absolutely newbie status.
1. As JT Ellison said, there are no shortcuts. The only shortcut is to realize this and embrace it. There was a time when I decided I was going to go straight to writing novels and bypass short stories. They’re not as challenging and I can’t build in the complexity of character I want. In the words of Kevin Spacey’s version of Lex Luthor, “Wrong!” (Seriously, you have to click the link to get an idea just how wrong I was.)
In my case, I probably stunted my development as a writer and my resume by years by thinking the rules didn’t apply to me. But by writing short stories, I’ve developed my abilities in short, bite-sized pieces. I’ve also started to develop a track record. I’m in the FWA collection for the first time and I’m a finalist in the RPLA competition. And I did all this without spending the tons of time required for a novel that probably wouldn’t be quite as sharp (yet). You can win all that stuff and still not wow an agent or publisher, but any victory is better than none.
The key point is if you think the rules don’t apply to you, you’re the first person they apply to.
2. Write your ass off. Sorry for the vulgarity, but it’s about the most appropriate way to make the point. If you aren’t sitting down at a keyboard or notebook several days a week and putting out words, either stop wasting your time or stop playing games. The best marketing plan is to write more books. And if you aren’t writing more books, write more short stories. And if you aren’t doing that, write poetry or a synopsis or a query letter.
If you don’t sit your butt down and write, you cannot succeed.
Art is work. Anyone who says otherwise is not interested in your success.
3. Pay attention to the business and industry stuff. The problem with the writing industry is that JA Konrath is undeniably right. Or undeniably wrong. Or partially write. Or stupid. Or brilliant. And so are dozens of others. In other words, there’s no single oracle of truth in this industry. You have to pay at least some attention to what’s happening. Most Saturdays, this blog helps in that regard. Beyond that, there’s Publisher’s Weekly, GalleyCat, any number of writer and agent blogs, Konrath’s blog, and Google News Alerts–and that’s the short list. You don’t have to read them all every day, but you should try to keep up.
Is Amazon the evil empire or the savior of authors everywhere? Should a new writer try for a Big
Six Five contract or a smaller press? Or self-publish? Does Stephen King need a publisher? If you self-publish, do you need an agent? What’s the agency model and how is that different than the wholesale model?
You should be able to discuss at least some of the questions with more than “Huh. Beats me.”
4. Never forget. You are an artist and successful artistry is a business. If you want people to read what you write, it’s not enough to be an artist and leave it at that. The world is filled with starving artists. Successful artists are small businesses. They understand what to do and have an idea why to do it. If you’re from the 80s, you probably remember Madonna. You may not remember Taylor Dayne.
Taylor Dayne had seven top ten hits. I don’t remember any of them. Madonna had a gazillion top ten hits. I remember many of them. They didn’t sound that different.
Among the main differences between Madonna and Taylor Dayne is that Madonna understood the business quite well.
5. All the rest of it. Go to conferences. Don’t be a presumptuous pain in the neck. Say thank you. Realize you’ll be told no a lot. Be nice to other writers. Read a lot. Read about your craft a lot. Say thank you again. Write a lot. Write some more. You know the rest.
Correction: This blog entry incorrectly stated that Julie bought back her rights from her publisher. Although she did receive them back, she did not purchase them back. The research staff has been sentenced to watch the entire series of Punky Brewster as punishment for this. Seriously, we strive to get things right, but periodically screw up. Apologies to all.