Many writers ask me to help them improve and promote their work. However, when their actions contradict what they said they want to do with their writing, challenges arise.
Author A longed to publish a memoir that could become a Hollywood film but refused the suggestion to pare 20 character point of views down to two or three. Author B desired to produce a suspense novel but rejected advice to rework the plot line so the villain wasn’t revealed in Act I.
Author C expected to garner a network cooking show after indie-pubbing his roadkill cookbooks but rejected the fact that the subject matter and four-color before-and-after pics (including maggots and rotten flesh) would be a hard-sell. Author D hoped an agent would pick up her four-book fantasy series but dismissed the proposition to hone prose that read like an army field manual.
Every author is free to pursue their publishing ambitions however they wish.
However, they must also embrace a healthy dose of reality. Not only the reality of today’s publishing environment but also the reality of why they’re writing.
As a firm believer in Radical Honesty, I speak candidly and directly. My goal is not to hurt someone or shatter his or her dreams but to give a sincere opinion so the writer can choose the next action wisely and without clouds of fairy dust blinding his or her viewpoint. Am I a dream killer? Not, I’m a dream realist.
When a client pushes back, there’s usually more to the story than just wanting to be published.
After an in-depth discussion regarding what Author A wanted to with his writing, he finally admitted that he’d written his memoir as a way to explain to others why he’d turned out the way he did. Asking Author A to change how he’d written it suggested that his memories were wrong.
Author B revealed after a heated discussion that she wanted to be the next Agatha Christie. Her mother always said the Queen of Mystery was the greatest writer ever, and Author B wanted/needed her mother to say that about her. After ten years of struggling to write her novel, asking Author B to go back and refine it was unimaginable.
Growing up in rural Appalachian poverty, Author C’s family often hiked to I-64 to harvest roadkill that could be turned into meals for him and his six brothers and sisters. He eventually confessed that sharing what had been instilled in him about survival and family unity would validate how he upbringing. Suggesting that he rethink his presentation and publishing angle slighted his parents’ memory.
Author D left the U.S. Army last year after twenty-years’ service and now wanted to earn enough money with her writing to replace her husband’s salary so he could retire, too. Neither one was getting any younger, so going back to rework four entire books—despite three agents already suggesting that—was time Author D wasn’t willing to spend. She just needed to query more agents and find the one that “got her.”
Surviving today’s publishing environment demands knowing what you want to do with your writing.
Becoming an author is not an easy proposition. Becoming a successful one (however you wish to define that) is even harder.
You must be willing to:
• Believe in your work and focus.
• Be objective and humble.
• Ask for feedback from outside your immediate family and friends.
• Listen and accept criticism of your work.
• Put in the hard work necessary to hone your craft.
• Avoid letting your ambition, creativity, and/or ego sabotage your work.
• Learn everything you can about your market (target audience, genre, and publishing industry at large).
• Own up to your mistakes and • from them.
• Escape the comparison trap.
• Develop a definition of success that doesn’t rely solely on book sales.
• Accept the realities of authorship and the publishing world.
• Recognize and embrace the inner truth of why you’re writing what you’re writing (even if it hurts to admit aloud).
Becoming an author is not an easy proposition. Becoming a successful one is even harder.
Today’s publishing environment is competitive, challenging, and complex. But armed with the truth about yourself, your writing, and your commitment to fulfilling your dream, you’re miles ahead of those slogging their misguided and mistrustful way through the fairy dust.
By the way…
Author A published his memoir after rewriting it with one point of view (his) and is currently negotiating with a film agent to sell his story rights.
Author B signed with an agent after taking vacation and sick days to rework the plot (and develop an entirely different villain).
Author C parlayed his cookbook into a humorous, fictional account of his childhood adventures with roadkill recipes at the end of every chapter that he markets via a popular website and a million-plus-member Facebook group.
Author D took several months to learn how to hone her writing before finally reworking her series and signing with a well-known literary agent. The first book is due out January 2019 with each subsequent book releasing each month after.