Keep your day job (as long as it doesn’t involve writing). Have you ever longed to dispense that advice to a would-be novelist but were too kind or cowardly to do so? The self-publishing phenomenon coupled with the democratic ideal that ANYONE can write a novel present an ethical dilemma to many of us. Technology allows those with tenacity and funding to produce a book whether or not it is worth reading. Skills such as talent, imagination and ability may be cast to the winds without a publishing gatekeeper to provide input. Some writers refuse to accept the mildest suggestions, even ones that can help to point them in the right direction. They regard criticism as a foreign substance whose poison must be immediately expelled from their body. As a result, the literary world is awash with detritus. For every hidden gem one finds a nest of ill conceived, poorly written tomes that should immediately be consigned to the remainder bin. For those who yearn to write, listen to your peers as well as your own inner voice. Good writers are few and far between. So consider this advice: keep your day job.
Enjoy every day, even your most mundane activities. A friend and former colleague was walking his little dog in DC, when a car jumped the sidewalk and ended his life. Personal tragedies are often a wakeup call to the rest of us, the survivors, to appreciate every gift large and small that we’ve been given. It’s easy to bemoan what we DON”T have, rather than celebrate our blessings. Foremost among them are our friends, those patient souls who commiserate, congratulate, and animate us. I used my late friend as the model for a major character in my novel INTRUSION. It was easy to depict his persona, dialogue, and sense of humor to readers. His character Rand Lohan, was the one most readers truly loved.
Funny, how fiction imitates life.
How far would you go to promote your book? Would you sacrifice your own (& your family’s ) privacy to guest on “60 minutes”?Arnold did and it worked! Naturally, his life story is far more compelling than my mundane exploits and he is a public figure, but, honesty compels me to admit that book sales being what they are, I’d jump at the chance to appear. I’d have to fabricate torrid affairs with prominent figures (check), embellish my accomplishments(why not?), and endure the prattle of idiots like Leslie Stahl.(ugh!). Despite the hardships, when my quarterly royalty check rolled around, I’d laugh all the way to the ATM. What about you?
Should writers read the online reviews of their novels that appear on Amazon, Goodreads etc.? I’m ambivalent about it. Like most people, I enjoy reading reviews that praise my books, and I force myself to scan (but not obsess over), less commendatory comments. Reviews are a key ingredient in any writer’s sales strategy. That doesn’t take away the sting of truly snarky, or blatantly unfair statements. Several well known authors have told me that they never read their reviews. Maybe it’s better to delegate that task.
Must all romance novels have a happy ending? That’s a basic tenet of the genre. The HEA (happily ever after ending), is a prerequisite for getting published and a guarantee for all readers. Ambiguity is never countenanced in Romance fiction, although in reality it is often the rule. Mystery readers, on the other hand, are realists who focus more on unmasking the villain than uncovering the alpha hunk.That divergence explains why writing Romantic Suspense/mystery is a tricky proposition. The author must satisfy the conventions of Romance writing, while still adhering to the needs of mystery readers for a taut, tantalizing crime story. It’s a challenge, but for those with the talent and tenacity the rewards are enormous! …
Serial blurbing like philandering can become a destructive habit. Not a problem when you honestly like a novel but a tricky proposition when the reverse is true. I hover between flattered and frantic whenever someone asks for a blurb. Credibility not to mention precious time hangs in the balance.
Do public presentations at bookstores and libraries make a difference? Perhaps it depends on the venue. Big cities draw respectable crowds; small towns–not so much. Does increased author visibility lead to greater book sales? Maybe.
Name recognition feeds the ego but not necessarily the bank balance.
Some thoughts about critique groups: writers (and other professionals), need reasoned, focused feedback in order to progress. Writing Groups are designed to provide that. They are not coffee klaches, group therapy sessions, or political forums. Participants must understand and accept their responsibilities in order to claim the benefits. Bottom line: if your WG hasn’t made you a more proficient writer, it’s time to reassess your options.
What purpose is served by writing conferences and other professional gatherings? Admittedly,some knowledge is imparted, talent showcased, and the usual bromides dispensed. As a veteran of too many business and literary confabs, I’ve given this considerable thought. My conclusion is simple: Reinforcement and motivation are the most compelling reasons for and biggest benefit derived from these sessions. If I return from a meeting motivated to write or otherwise excel in my profession, then my time and money was well spent.
How much does use of social media impact on book sales? I’ve heard many experts extol use of Twitter, FB, etc, but as a
slightly jaundiced manager, I say—where’s the hard data?
(Notice I refrained from using that dreadful cliche “Show me the money”)