Let me start out by saying I only know what I know, however, my knowledge isn’t based on my experiences alone. I know many writers (and behind closed doors, in “safe” environments, writers talk) and have been at this writing thing for about 13 years now, so my decision making is based on what’s happened to me personally but also what I’ve witnessed my friends going through. Like hell. And high water.

Lately, it feels like there’s been an unusually large influx of new writers into the romance writing community. Another surge brought about by the gold rush of self publishing? I don’t know. But being involved in RWA and running an online writers community like Romance Divas means I notice this stuff.

These new writers seem to have a lot of the same concerns. Namely, how do I do this right? Questions about social media (which one? how soon? how often?), questions about agents and editors, about publishing houses, about self pub vs traditional, about genre, about taglines and websites and business cards and branding and…you get the picture.

And I understand all the questions, because I’m pretty sure I asked all of them too, way back when I was using my phone to get calls not check my Amazon numbers.

So here are some answers:

You do this right by writing the book. And finishing the book. And then writing the next one. A website and a twitter account won’t get you to The End. You have to do that. And honestly, you’re just wasting your time with that piddling stuff when it’s all going to change anyway once your first book is out.

Yes, it’s hard. You can also learn almost everything you need to know about the business by befriending other authors and then sitting beside them and listening. Here’s a little networking tip, too. Don’t go with your hand out, go with your ears open. Authors are bombarded with requests. Ask your favorites what you can do for them instead. (Read their books! Leave them reviews!)

Yes, commas are important but story telling comes first.

In the history of taglines, no matter how clever, I don’t think they’ve ever been responsible for selling a book. Neither have author photos, FB covers, premium foil-embossed 100 lb weight stock business cards or websites with moving parts. Some of those things might actually turn readers off.

And now, some advice:

Read. Read. Read. In the genre you want to write and in all the genres you don’t. Great books are the best teachers. Crappy books aren’t bad teachers either. Find books that speak to you then figure out why. Don’t feel guilty about the time spent reading either. Once you get published, a lot of that reading time goes away. Sadly.

Contest your work. RWA offers tons of chapter-run contest. Enter them. Look for patterns in the feedback. If you don’t understand something, ask your writer friends.

Speaking of writer friends, find a community and cultivate friendships. An RWA chapter, a group that meets at the library, an online community…just find some people who are doing the same thing you’re doing and around the same level.

If you think you don’t need an editor, you’re not ready to publish. Read that until it sinks in.

It’s great your mom likes your book, but she liked that popsicle-stick picture frame you made in third grade too. Liking your creative efforts is her job. Find someone with no skin in the game and ask them what they think. If you’ve been following along, one of those authors you befriended might even ask to see a chapter of what you’re working on. ONLY GIVE THEM THAT ONE CHAPTER. Not the whole book. You want to stay friends, right?

Lastly, don’t pay anyone to doctor your book before you submit it. Many of those people are going to leave you poorer in both book and wallet. I’m not talking about hiring an editor before you self publish, I’m talking about Joe Book Doctor who claims his course can turn you into the next bestseller for just four easy payments of $299. He can’t or he’d be writing best sellers too.

Writing is a glorious, awful profession. If you think differently, you might not be doing it right…

Questions? Comments? Additional advice? Have at it.

  1. Diana St. Gabriel

    I love this, Kristen, thanks! It’s easy to get caught up in the extraneous stuff, but there’s nothing more important than writing the book and making it damn good. That trumps everything else.

  2. Kristen – it’s true – new writers (and many experiences ones, too) get caught up in the social media part of this industry and forget that the most important part, the part only they can do, is to write the book…and the next etc. Good post!

  3. “If you think you don’t need an editor, you’re not ready to publish. Read that until it sinks in.” My favorite part of a wonderful post. I edit other people’s writing all the time at my day job. But my own work? No way!
    Thanks, Kristen! This is great advice.

  4. All true. 🙂 The other thing is that suddenly deciding to write a book to make a million bucks and then weeping when that doesn’t happen overnight? It’s a marathon not a sprint. Most good writers have to write a lot of words to get better at their craft and sell more books. There are always exceptions, but the writers I’ve met in the last 10 years who are still around? They kept writing and producing and made their money that way. 🙂

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