Ten Things No One Tells New Writers to Expect
Ten Things No One Tells New Writers to Expect
Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy
In a perfect world, every new writer would receive one, definitive manual loaded with insider secrets designed to give writers a realistic idea of what to expect when they write their first novel. After all, such books exist for every topic, including how to handle pregnancy and how to land your dream job. Although there are countless books and articles about writing, several magazines for writers, and numerous online writing communities, I don’t know of any one source that offers everything writers can expect.
So you wrote a novel and someone offered to publish it. If you were like me as a first-time author, you’re wondering how this will work. You’ve dreamed about this day, but now you’re a clueless publication virgin and with no one to tell you what to do next. Luckily, writers are creative, and we’re more often than not able to learn as we go. With that in mind, I thought I’d share a few words of advice that I’ve learned from my own experience. Here are ten things no one tells writers to expect—things that will happen sooner or later:
- If you’re serious about writing as a career, you’re going to work harder than you ever have in your life. Whether you still have a day job or not, you’re going to be pounding the computer keys at odd hours, on weekends, even on holidays. No one will understand why you need to work so hard or long. They won’t understand deadlines or edits. But if you want to succeed, the investment of time is vital.
- Your first edits will seem like Greek. Most writers approach new edits with a tight ball of dread in their stomach. Once the file arrives with the tracked changes and other incomprehensible edits, it’s easy to panic. I know I looked over mine, freaked out, figured I’d never be able to do this, and all but decided my career as author would crash before it began. But it’s really not at all hard to learn. I did and so can you.
- If you haven’t already, create an online presence. Facebook, Twitter, Pin Interest, and LinkedIn are good places to start. Start a blog immediately, since it takes time to grow an audience. Establish yourself as a credible writer. By the time your novel is released, you’ll already have a wide audience.
- Promotion is the dirty word you’ll come to hate. Some hate feeling like they’re flaunting themselves to the world, and others think that it eats up too much time. But in a fast changing world of eBooks and more, competition is fierce. If you want readers to find your book, let alone read the thing, you have to be as dedicated to promoting it as you are to writing it. There’s also a fine line between promotion and overkill. You’ll find resistance and even outright opposition in places like the Amazon forums where people may shred authors who dare to self-promote their work. Be aware that the internet is full of all types of nasty characters, so grow a thick skin, and don’t violate their rules or they may put you on their “never buy” lists. Also, if you use Facebook and Twitter only to promote, you’ll lose followers.
- Speaking of a thick skin and growing one – do it. Now. When you put your work out to the world, some people will love it. Others will hate it. You’ll get reviews so glowing you blush and others so bad they send you for your favorite stress reliever. If you write anything with sex, violence or anything controversial, get ready for your community response. In the small town where I live, some say I write dirty books, and others call it smut or trash. Still yet, others applaud my efforts and read my books. Be ready for a myriad of opinions.
- Be real. You may use a pen name, but your readers still want to know something about you. Tell them simple things like your favorite color, your favorite author, or your favorite music. Through social networking tools, authors are more accessible to the public than ever before, and people are curious. So share what you’re comfortable sharing. You don’t have to tell them where you live or the names of your kids or your dog, but open up and be a real person behind the back blurb. On the same token, if you used to dash out to the grocery store wearing your oldest, stretched out T-shirt with those pedal pushers your Aunt Susie gave you ten years ago, I’d suggest you stop now. If you don’t, it’ll be the one day someone rushes up to you, calls your name, and tells you how much they loved your book.
- Think before you post. Like everyone else, I have opinions, and many of them. But I don’t post much on any social network about my religious views (or lack thereof) or my political affiliations or anything that’s sure to anger someone. I learned the hard way, but after a few simple comments went viral and started a firestorm, I stopped. You don’t want to lose readers because you support a different presidential candidate or are on opposite sides of an issue. It’s just simpler to keep your views out of the broad public spectrum.
- You aren’t going to get rich anytime soon. Almost everyone I know assumes I’m very wealthy now just like Danielle Steele, Stephenie Meyer, Stephen King, and the other biggies. I have multiple novels out there in both eBook and paperback, so of course I’m rich, right? Well, no. Actually I’m a long damn way from it, but I am making a little money. It takes a lot of time to build an audience and to sell books consistently. Oh, and royalties, they’re months behind. If your work is sold on a third party site (Amazon, Barnes and Noble, any online or other retailer), the royalties don’t show up for another quarter. This means your first quarter (Jan, Feb, March) may reach you sometime around the end of summer – or beyond.
- After the first book or two, some people who have known you for years will assume you’re somehow working the system and can’t be a “real author” because they know you. Others will become tongue-tied in your presence and will have no clue what to say. You’ll be most comforted by the family, friends, neighbors, and others who still treat you the way they always have, especially if they read your books too.
- One day, when you least expect it, a reader, possibly one you’ve never met before, will make your day and touch you on a deep emotional level. When you manage to reach someone with your work, it’s a humbling and beautiful emotion. I tend to write about everyday people, and some of my novels are set where I live. I used to teach school in my spare time as a substitute teacher. A young man who never cracked a book in school and didn’t even finish high school called me one day to tell me he read one of my novels and it gave him a sense of purpose. He could connect to the main character who, like him, came from the wrong side of town. Now he can’t get his nose out of books.
On the road to publishing, there are so many other things you will learn the hard way, but at least now you won’t be as blindsided by a few of them.
Here are a few places where you can find me:
A Page in the Life blog: http://leannsontheimermurphyblogspotwriterauthor.blogspot.com
Rebel Writer blog: http://leeannsontheimermurphy.blogspot.com
Facebook: Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy