What New Pros Need to Know
Caren Gussoff – Moderator
Wendy S. Delmater
Note: This is a panel that would have benefitted strongly from the additional perspective of a self-published author. Lots of things brought up are true for both self and trad pubbed authors, but some are different.
- RH: Was with Tor, now self-publishing 4th book in series, becoming hybrid author. Day job as historical.
- LR: short story author first, now writing first novel
- WC: I wrote novels with Angry Robot and Tor. I’m full-time.
- WD: 25% of what we publish is new authors, 43% women. Helped launch many careers.
- WD: You grow your career in stages. You’ve never “made it”. Just keep writing.
- WC: It never gets easier. You think it’s going to be easier once you get your agent, or your first deal. But the pressure just keeps building. Average first-time novelist mades $5,000 in their first year.
- LR: You can master the art of the short story, and sell them, and realize you can’t make a living off short stories. So then you have to learn a whole new set of skills to go long-form.
- RH: On the down side: The publisher doesn’t invest much time into a given book. If it doesn’t sell, they just move on, instead of giving it more time to succeed. On the up side: Poor sales doesn’t mean having to use a new pen name. You can keep writing and submit new books under your same name.
- WC: Let’s talk about what’s in your control.
- RH: Learn coping skills so that the emotional toll doesn’t wear you down and defeat. I might not be bankrolling big financial rewards, but I am getting confidence from good reviews, etc.
- good reviews give you a boost that lasts only 10 minutes.
- bad reviews are downers that last and last.
- CG: Reviews and feedback are a comment on a work, not your value as a person. You need to separate your career from your person.
- WD: It takes a lot of discipline for the first few years, because you have to do two jobs: be a writer and have a day job, and be a parent, etc.
- WC: You work that day job until you just can’t do it anymore. There are some writers who get that first six-figure deal and think that they’re going to quit their day job, and then the stress arrives: they’re writing to eat. And that’s a tough place to be creative.
- LR: Learn when you are creative, and protect that creative bubble. e.g. I do creative work in the morning before the day job, then do a bit of editing after work, which is more routine. But I am too tired at night to do creative work.
- WC: Practice your readings. 90% of writers can’t read for shit. They get up, and bore their fans to death. You will do a reading at some point in your career. Edit your piece ahead of time to take out anything that won’t read well. And then practice and make it a performance.
- Practice in front of mirror
- WD: Practice in front of another person.
- CG: practice and record yourself with your camera.
- RH: Mary Robinette Kowal has tips for doing a reading. http://maryrobinettekowal.com/journal/reading-aloud/
- RH: The commonly held wisdom is not to read reviews of your work. But I do. I can always imagine a worse review than what is actually written.
- CG: Whether you decide to read them or not depends on whether you can be emotionally resilient enough to keep working on the next book.
- WC: You will read the reviews, regardless of the advice. At some point, you will burn out of reading your reviews.
- RH: My perspective is that reviews are a private conversation that, through a quirk of the internet, we can eavesdrop on. If you heard a private conversation through an open door, you wouldn’t bust in and interrupt the conversation. People say all sorts of things, including many that aren’t true, in private conversations, and we don’t get to interrupt and correct those conversations. So just treat reviews like that.
- WC: Author Central on Amazon shows bookscan data, and makes that available to every author. But it can vastly underestimate the real numbers. The bookscan sales data is usually 30% of my actual POS numbers.
- WC: A writer has several revenue streams. I will make the least amount of money from my hardcover sales. Film options, audio, translations. Keep this in mind. Your agent can offer you a lot of ability to tap into these revenue streams.
- CG: Contracts are complicated. If you don’t have an agent, you need at least to have a good IP lawyer.
- WC: Don’t sell your books. Sell yourself. Don’t be an asshole.
- WD: Everybody knows everyone else in this field, so be nice to people.
- CG: Write excellent stuff.
- RH: Play to your strength. If you like being on panels, do that. If you like to be in a bar, do that. If you like to tweet, do that every day.