Ten Things Every New Writer Should Know - And Don't

From the desk of Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy……..
         One of the things I hear most from new and would be writers is what to expect.  And it's crazy because the reality isn't like most of us ever dreamed.  So I thought I'd share some of what I've learned, off the cuff and straight out.

There should be a manual for new writers and authors, one definitive volume loaded with insider secrets and a realistic idea of what to expect.  After all, such books exist for everything from being pregnant to almost any career possible.  Although there are countless books about writing, even more articles, several magazines for writers, and numerous online writing communities, I don’t know of any one source offering everything writers can expect.

            It’s a good thing we’re creative types because most of us end up learning as we go.  So I thought I’d share ten things no one tells writers to expect…things which WILL happen - sooner or later.
1.      So you wrote a novel and someone offered to publish it.  If you’re like me, first time out, you wonder how this will work.  You’ve dreamed about this day but now you’re a clueless publication virgin and most likely no one will tell you what to do NOW.  If you haven’t already, create an online presence.  Facebook, Twitter, Pin Interest, LinkedIn, and more.  Start a blog and do it now because it takes time to grow an audience.  Establish the idea you’re a writer or an author.  By the time your novel releases, you should be recognized as an author but if you don’t work at it, no one else will.

2.       Your first edits may seem like Greek to you.  When edits are an unknown event, most writers dread them with a tight ball of dread in their stomach.  Once the file arrives with instructions about Track Changes and other incomprehensible phrases, 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.

3.       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. 

4.      Promotion is the dirty word you’ll come to hate.  We all do it and most of us hate it, whether we dislike the feeling we’re flaunting ourselves to the world or just because it eats up too much time.  But in a fast changing world of books in all formats, it’s a brave new world and competition is fierce.  If you want readers to find your book, let alone read the thing you have to be as dedicated to promotion as to writing.  And there’s a fine line between promotion and overkill.  You’ll find resistance and even outright opposition in places like the Amazon forums where an ever growing group of people who must have way too much time to kill shred authors who they think are daring to self-promote their work.  Of course the flip side is how are we supposed to spread the word we have a book or books? But they can be nasty so grow a thick skin and don’t violate their rules or they may put you on their “never buy” lists.  And if you use Facebook and Twitter only to promote, you’ll lose followers.

5.      Speaking of a thick skin and growing one – do it.  Now.  When you put your work out to the world at large, some people will love it.  Others will hate it.  Some will hate you for something you put in your story.  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 or violence or anything which could be stretched to be controversial in any fashion, get ready for your community response.  In the small town where I live, some say I write dirty books, others call it smut or trash.  And still yet others applaud my efforts and read my books.  A few are even proud to share the city limits with me.

6.      Be real.  You may use a pen name but your readers still want to know something about you.  Maybe it’s your favorite color or whose work you like to read or what music you prefer.  Authors are more accessible to the public through social networking than ever before and people are curious.  So share what you’re comfortable sharing.  You don’t have to tell them where you live unless you want to or the names of your kids or your dog but open up and be a real person behind the name and face.  By 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, grimy from housecleaning or gardening, I’d suggest you stop – now.  If you don’t, it’ll be the day someone rushes up to you, calls your name and tells you how much they loved your book.  Then they take notes and dish about the author and how grubby you looked.  Yeah, it’s happened…..to me.

7.       Think before you post.  Like everyone else, I have opinions, many of them.  But I don’t post much on any social network about my religious views (or lack thereof) or my political leanings or anything 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.

8.       You aren’t going to get rich anytime soon.  Almost everyone I know assumes I’m very wealthy now, you know, me, Danielle Steele, Stephanie Myers, Stephan King, and the other biggies.  I mean, 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, to sell books.  Oh, and royalties – they’re months behind.  If your work is sold on a third party site (fill in 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.  No one told me this – I learned the hard way. 

9.      After the first book or two, some people who have known you for years either assume you’re somehow working the system and can’t be a “real author” because they know you.  Others become tongue tied in your presence and have no clue what to say.  You’ll bless the people, family, friends, kith and kin, neighbors and strangers who still treat you the way they always have, especially if they read your books too.

10.   One day, when you least expect it, a reader, possibly one you’ve never met, will make your day and touch you on a deep emotional level.  When you manage to reach them with your fiction, 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 also gave him a sense of purpose.  The main character, like him, came from the wrong side of town.  Now he reads a lot of books – because he found out reading could enrich from me.

There are so many other things writers and authors will learn 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: http://leannsontheimermurphyblogspotwriterauthor.blogspot.com
Rebel Writer: Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy: http://leeannsontheimermurphy.blogspot.com
Facebook: Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy

Twitter: @leeannwriter

Facebook: Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy
Twitter: @leeannwriter
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