Hi Charlotte and friends! I’m so happy to be blogging with you today to share my best advice to new and aspiring authors. For those of you who don’t know me, I write medical romance for Harlequin Mills and Boon. And this past June marked my one year anniversary as a published author. In short, after winning a Harlequin contest in March 2010, followed by six long months of revisions under the watchful eye of my current editor, I received ‘The Call’ in October 2010 and my first book, When One Night Isn’t Enough, was officially released in June 2011.
As of today I have three books published, two accepted (to be released in early 2013), and I’m working on my sixth contracted book. While that may seem productive, I’ve also spent hundreds of hours on my computer, away from my family, doing ‘author stuff’ that had nothing to do with adding words to my WIP – work in progress. So I’d like to share a few things I’ve learned in the hopes your transition to published author will be easier than mine.
1) A love of reading will not make you a good writer/author. You need to learn and practice and grow. After you’ve taken some classes and studied craft guides, find a critique partner/group who will give you an honest opinion of your work and enter contests judged by published authors/agents/editors to get professional feedback.
2) Set daily, weekly and monthly goals for yourself. They can be for word count, submissions, or contest entries. Whatever you need to keep you focused on writing. Even if you don’t have publisher dictated deadlines, this focus and discipline will help you when you become a published author.
3) If you’re easily distracted by the Internet (like me!), consider a program such as Freedom – Internet Blocking Productivity Software. http://macfreedom.com/ It works with Mac and PC.
4) While maintaining an online presence is important, nothing is more important than your writing. Meet your daily word count goals BEFORE you go onto the Internet.
5) There is no better marketing device than putting out a quality next book as soon as possible. (I say this after pushing myself to the point of burnout marketing my first book with a 35 stop blog tour.)
6) Checking your e-mail every ten minutes will not make an e-mail appear. Your time would be better spent writing.
7) Checking your sales rankings every hour will not increase your sales. Your time would be better spent writing. (Of note, once you have a book up for sale on Amazon you can open an Author Central account. This will enable you to get a snapshot of your sales ranking over time. It will also allow you to update and change information on your book page including uploading your covers and fixing errors. To find out more do a Google search for Amazon Author Central or Amazon UK Author Central.)
8) Your body has limits. Eye strain, neck/back strain, and hand/wrist, forearm strain, are very real (and bothersome) conditions affecting people who spend hours a day on the computer. Make sure you have a quality ergonomic chair and maintain good posture while you are working. Get up and move around often. Work at a steady pace so you’re not put in a position where you have to work round the clock to meet a deadline.
9) Maintain a positive online presence. An agent once told me that she’d received a submission from a very talented writer and was thinking of offering to represent her. But when she visited the writer’s blog she saw very negative posts so she passed.
10) For published authors, don’t focus on reviews. The good ones will make you feel better than you are, the bad ones will make you question your abilities. The same goes for sales rankings. When your books are selling well it is euphoric! When sales slow – and they will – it can be depressing, ruining your creativity for the day.
11) Maintain a system for backing up your work. Sometimes I use a flash drive. The problem with this is making sure you are always working on the most up to date copy of your work in progress. I also have an external hard drive. Except a few weeks ago my house was struck by lightning which fried my external hard drive. For reasons I cannot explain – but am very thankful for – my computer was not affected. That night, at the recommendation of other authors, I downloaded Carbonite ( http://www.carbonite.com/en/# ) an online continuous backup software. I’ve also heard good things about Drop Box (https://www.dropbox.com/) which allows you to save and share your work between your computers, but I’ve never used it.
12) Learn that it’s okay to say no. Guest blogging and group blogging and volunteering for groups and loops are great ways to increase your online presence and meet people. But they also take time away from your writing. If you want to be a successful published author, your writing must always come first.
13) Your time is your greatest resource. Don’t waste it!
So what do you think? Anything up there you haven’t heard before? Anything you’d like to add? One lucky commenter will win a paperback copy of my third book, The Nurse’s Not-So-Secret Scandal.
To learn more about me and my books, please visit my website: http://WendySMarcus.com
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