Though I declared I wanted to be a writer when I was three I didn’t start taking formal steps to make it a reality until high school when a friend and fellow aspiring writer gave me a copy of Writer’s Market for Christmas and asked me to go with him to a writer’s conference at Oakland University.
First Perspective. I really owe Eric. When I told him I wanted to be a writer he explained I needed to see myself as one for real and ignore well-meaning souls who acted as if they were humoring me by listening to my dream.
My parents supported my dream fully. From Day One. So did my brother.
My life changed because of Eric’s words.
Next Perspective. Though I loved listening to the authors speak, I felt totally lost and out of place at that conference.
I felt like a fraud – though Eric didn’t and told me I shouldn’t either.
One thing is absolutely true: It launched my journey down the path of gathering the tools and information necessary to make my dream a reality.
Over the years I found the most powerful tools and best information came from fellow writers who were sometimes (happily) unpublished.
I’ve learned some writers prefer to enjoy the attention they get from telling everyone they’re working on their manuscripts – and have zero intention of ever publishing.
- Per the advice of a tech colleague who was able to quit her day job after her first book was published I learned about Writer’s Digest School where I learned valuable information from a mentor.
- Per the advice of another tech colleague who had just landed an agent shopping his manuscript – don’t give up!
- From yet another aspiring writer [tech] colleague who wanted to charge me 25% of my royalties for acting as my agent – even though he had no experience in the industry – I learned that wolves in sheep’s clothing exist.
I did not hire him.
- From yet ANOTHER tech colleague I learned that it might be time to stop relying on tech colleagues who may know little or nothing about being a writer or the writers’ industry for advice.
I made the assumption that since they were intelligent and successful they were good resources but came to realize that in addition to lacking writing industry experience or insight, in some cases they had a different vision (for me) than I did. And had I followed their vision [for me]? I would have been slammed at a proverbial brick wall at hydrogen collider speed. I also came to learn that in some cases, it was done on purpose because it served them (but not me).
That was a tough lesson but a good one to learn.
I learned that even within the writing industry people are motivated differently and may steer you in a bad direction – because it serves them.
In other words there is more to the story so read the fine print and beware of opportunities and situations that seem too good to be true.
Some of the very best advice – the most genuine – has come from the NY Times Best Selling authors who generously give of their time at RWA events.
These women are genuine, gracious, and honest.
I learned – the hard way – that some people have ulterior motives for what they do.
I call this making the carrot in front of the donkey look bigger. The reward may seem bigger but it’s not any closer.
I learned as a result of a negative experience that even well-meaning souls can F you up!
- Asking someone to be a beta reader before learning whether or not they typically read your genre can set you up for trouble.
So can entering contests under same idea…
- Following the advice of someone who was first published thirty plus years ago may not be helpful.
Um – the industry has changed – BIG TIME
- Following advice of someone published in another type of writing altogether may not be helpful.
If they write for textbooks or magazines – very different than novels.
Some lessons truly need to be learned.
They cannot be told.
Not All Success Stories Are Equal. Understandably many authors don’t want to bite the hand they think is feeding them so the information they share may be technically true but not representative of a typical experience.
In other words results may and do vary.
In Perspective. Mark Coker put up an interesting slide at a Writer’s Conference I attended years ago.
RWA. Not just for Romance Writers! Lots of great information on the industry.
His breakout session was standing room only – listeners spilled into the hall – all wanting to better understand the tech enabled direction the industry seemed to be going. He explained he was inspired to action after watching what happened to his aspiring writer wife as she tried to land a traditional contract and was put through the proverbial ringer.
The slide showed an interesting statistic. For those contracting with traditional publishers – royalty to author was 5 – 15%. For those who went with the tech-enabled? 50 – 65%.
You could have heard a pin drop and I watched a familiar higher up in the industry pull out his cell phone and make a run for it.
What to Do? The long and the short answer are the same. Do what works for you!
Yep – same advice I give with my nonfiction!
As to the above statistics? Honestly? A lot of writers and/or aspiring writers don’t care.
Everyone is on their own path.
At that same conference I spoke with a lovely woman in her 80s who ADORED working for Harlequin. She told me they treated her – and always had – very well. Simple Kill Contract – she was more than happy to sign – and was a happy camper.
It pays to talk with and listen to a plethora of individuals while on the road to fulfilling your dream. Each comes with a perspective that can help you.
Even bad advice can teach a lesson.
The key is to recognize that it is a perspective.
Great Advice! I suggest aspiring writers read Stephen King’s On Writing.
It’s also worthwhile to read the notes from Mark Coker on his Smashwords website and check out RWA as a source of valuable industry related information. Just remember to take it all with a grain of salt.
After all – none of it may apply to you.