In the past six months I have received an increasing number of e-mails and Facebook messages from fans-turned-writers, friends of friends (or family of friends…sometimes friends of family), total strangers (who have never read my books), and people from my distant past. Generally, I try my best to respond to each and every e-mail I get, but the number of people looking for in-depth advice on getting published, or asking me to read their novel, has reached numbers I can’t possibly reply to (in a meaningful way) while still writing and publishing the amount of books I do. So, I decided to put my advice in a quick blog post to which I can refer advice seekers.
Be forewarned, my advice is generally no-holds-barred, blunt truth, and most new writers aren’t going to want to hear it, and most probably won’t listen if they do. See, I’m being blunt already.
Reading a novel is, for many (myself included), a personal experience.
We get lost in a story, experience pain, loss, anger and victory along with characters that we (hopefully) come to care about, as though they were real. And when that experience ends, we miss our new friends and want their fictional lives to continue. Like, now. With the characters and plot still fresh in our minds we *might* tell a friend about it. You know the one. That rare breed who reads novels as voraciously as you do. And then…
The subject might come up again six months later, when your reader friend finally gets around to reading the novel, but your excitement is waning because you’re still waiting for a sequel that may or may not be on the way. A year passes. Then two. What is taking the author so frikkin’ long to write the next book?! It was amazing. How could there not already be a sequel?
Eventually you decide to take matters into your own hands and e-mail that author. He/she probably won’t reply (I will), but maybe your e-mail will spur them into action.
I get these e-mails. A lot. For Jane Harper. For Refuge. For Flood Rising. I even get them for books that were never meant to have sequels. And my response is always something like this: (Insert book title) needs to sell better before I spend a LOT of time and money writing and publishing a sequel. The best way you can make that happen is to post a review on Amazon.
Two weeks ago, I skipped three big cons: Thrillerfest in NYC, San Diego Comic Con, and G-Fest (for Godzilla fans, many of whom are Nemesis fans). And as I watched the photos scroll in on Facebook, I wondered, why didn’t I go to any of those cons? “Because you don’t like flying and you don’t sleep well in hotels,” is the quick response from the surface of my mind, and both are true. I’m not the best traveler, and after a convention, no matter how fun it is, I’m off my A game for a good two weeks afterwards. But I’ve gone to conventions before. I’m not incapable, and I will go to cons in the future, maybe even next year. So why didn’t I go this year?
Because I’ve got my eyes on the prize. I spent that week of missed cons writing 20,000 words and getting ahead of schedule, which is where I like to be. And honestly, I probably had as much fun writing those 20,000 kaiju-filled words as I would have had at a con.
Before we go any further, I’m going to acknowledge that “keeping your eyes on the prize” sounds like motivational speaker talk, but I’m far from a motivational speaker, life coach, or member of the glee squad. Despite how corny it sounds, if you were sitting across from me and we were having a conversation about what I’m about to jump into, I’d be perched forward, elbows on knees, and talking to you with a straight face. Why? Because this stuff is serious. Life changing, even. Excuse me for a moment while I go flagellate myself (in a non-Fifty Shades of Grey way, sicko) for sounding like a motivational speaker again.
Last year I published something like 17 books. I honestly can’t remember the exact number off the top of my head. I think part of my brain is trying to forget the mad rush that was 2011. Out of those books, five were backlist (already written), seven were co-authored (I didn’t do all the work). But five of them were written in 2011. The average author writes one, maybe two novels in a year. When readers and other authors hear that I write more than double that amount, the next thing out of their mouth is, “How do you write so many books?”
Well, today, I’m revealing my secret.
I was recently asked, on Facebook, what advice I had for self-publishers. The answer I gave was unconventional and not at all helpful in the short-run, but I believe it is the best advice I can give. Before I give it here, let me give you some background information.
I first self-published in 2005, which was still during a period I refer to as the dark times—when self-publishing was frowned upon by authors with such passion that some would organize against you, posting phony reviews on Amazon and belittling you on message boards. Despite the vitriol and best efforts of these angry few, I sold a lot of books. Paper books. E-books existed, but they weren’t on anyone’s radar yet. In 2006 and 2007, I published two more novels, each as successful as the first. I formed my own imprint. Writing and publishing became my day job and has remained so ever since.