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Saturday, November 30, 2013

It's All About the Journey

I certainly have a lot to be thankful for this year.

For those of you who don't know, last week I became a St. Martin's author. After the initial shock from this news wore off, I started to become reflective of my writing journey and all of the ups and downs that have brought me to this significant point in my career. Yes, I'm thankful for both the ups AND the downs, because the downs have taught me lessons and have made me a stronger writer. Today, I thought I'd share some of those lessons with you.

Believe it or not, it all started started on the eHarlequin boards. I, like many other writers on those boards, competed in contests and joined discussions on writing. Those contests and discusions helped me hone my craft and perfect my prose. I submitted my completed manuscripts to Harlequin of course, but they were always rejected. Despite this frustration (or maybe because of it), I made a great group of friends. Many of those writers are still my friends today. One day, after a particularly tough rejection from Harlequin, one of these friends gently suggested trying something different. After all, Harlequin, while great, wasn't the only publisher in town.

Lesson #1: When one door closes, another opens.

Looking back, Harlequin wasn't right for me at that time. They should have rejected me, because my stories weren't what they were looking for. My work was too dark and gritty, too sexual. The stories were perfect for Loose Id, however, and over the next few months, I contract my first story. Let's not gloss over this, because it's important. When I saw that something wasn't working for me, I tried something else. The ever-changing publishing landscape can be overwhelming for writers. Quite often we'll try something and it doesn't work out. It's good to keep reminding ourselves that there is more than one pathway to success. If one option isn't getting you where you want to go, adjust your thinking and try something new. It's that simple.

This leads me to my second lesson.

Lesson #2: Writing is HARD.

Most people don't know this, but I rewrote my first published novel, Spyder's Web, twice before it saw the light of day. It was a hard, painful process, filled with headaches and last minute revisions. The story is much stronger for it, however. I'm glad I bit the bullet and did suggested edits. After the book was published, I bought a few online ads, sat back, and waited for the checks to start arriving in my mailbox. (If you're a seasoned author, you're probably laughing right now.) This lead me to my next, hard realization.

Lesson #3: The work doesn't stop after publication. 

I made a lot of mistakes when marketing that first book. I like to think that I've learned from those mistakes, but marketing is constantly changing. What was true six months ago, isn't true today. This makes promoting a book challenging. Unfortunately, if you want to make a living as a writer, you need to sell books. In New York, book sales can dictate whether an author will get a contract for another book. At some epublishers, good sales will dictate whether a book will go into print. In self publishing, the more sales you have, the better positioning you will have at a retailer like Amazon or Barnes and Noble, and the more likely your book will be discovered by readers.

Lesson #4: Writing is a marathon, not a sprint. 

My hard work didn't end with the first book, nor did it end with the second or third. For four years I published over 35 titles (novels, shorts, and everything in between) with varying degrees of success.  While I've learned something new with each book, I can't say that any particular story was a huge success. I do believe I have been laying a foundation for a fan base, book by book. With each new release, I'm increasing my chances of being discovered by readers. Hopefully some of those new readers will become fans. While some people have had huge success right out of the gate, others, like myself, need more time before they attract those coveted fans. This leads me to the final lesson.

Lesson #5: Keep Calm, and Keep Writing. 

Another thing I've learned in this business is that everything can change in a blink of an eye. At the beginning of 2013 I had a frustrating streak of disappointments and was considering giving up. Now I write for both Pocket and St. Martin's Press. Talk about opposite ends of the spectrum!

This business is a constant roller coaster, but one thing always remains constant:  the story. Tell a good story, then do it again. Everything builds on everything else. We are all in this because we love to tell a good story, so focus on telling it, and the rest of it will work itself out. Eventually. ;)

How about you? Are you a writer who is struggling? What are some hard truths you have learned about this profession? Which lesson here really strikes a chord with you?

Perhaps you are a reader and want to show your favorite writer some support. Tell me all about it in the comments section. I'd love to hear from you!

~~Latest News~~

Out this month: Carnal Coeds, Volume One is now in PRINT

Coming soon (tentative release months)...

December - Seduction in the Sun, a vacation anthology by various authors (Dec. 31st), The Great Escape in Audio (Ecstasy Spa)

January - A Little Bit Daring from Ellora's Cave (Book #2 in the Small Town Seduction Series), Conquista (Book #2 in the Jungle Heat Series)

February - Bonded in Hope from Siren Bookstrand (Book #3 in the Warlock Mating Chronicles), Pressure Point in Audio (Ecstasy Spa)

March - A Little Bit Risky from Ellora's Cave (Book #3 in the Small Town Seduction Series),


Tina Donahue said...

Great post and advice, Suzanne. :)

Sandy said...

Yes, I'm one of the struggling authors, Suzanne. I tried Harlequin many times in my early years, but my books didn't fit their lines.

I was lucky when I retired that I found a mentor on Charlotte Hill's group who was willing to work with me. I'm still with her to this day. I have stayed with her, but you may be right and it's time to try a different way in order to get the recognition I want.

It's just hard to cut the umbilical cord. lol

Rose Anderson said...

Useful points all. Thanks for sharing Suzanne.

Suzanne Rock said...

Thanks Tina. I'm so glad you liked the post! Since you have been writing for a while, I'm sure you could related to some of my struggles. :)

Suzanne Rock said...

Oh Sandy - I think finding a support group is so important! I KNOW I never would have survived in this business if it wasn't for my critique group. It's so awesome watching everyone grow as writers, too.

I think a lot of this business isn't just what you know, but who you know. Still connecting with your mentor is good, but I have recently learned that it's important to keep reaching out and making friends in this business. Not just publishing professionals and writers who are very successful, but others who are struggling as well. That writer you gave character development advice to last week could be a NYT best seller next year. Stuff happens that fast.

It's so hard when you feel your writing career has plateaued, but hang in there. Next year/month/week something could 'pop' and everything can change. Just keep at it! :)

Suzanne Rock said...

Thanks Rose! Some of these lessons were tough to learn, and some I tend to forget, lol. One thing I like about this business is that you are constantly learning, growing and evolving. Most of the time, opportunity strikes when things are the darkest and you feel like giving up. You just have to keep your head down and keep writing. The successful writer is one who never gave up. :)

Cara Marsi said...

Suzanne, this is wonderful advice, and I agree on every point. Like all writers I've had great disappointments and some terrific highs too. I'm still trying to find my place and hoping for that one book that will go viral, but I agree it's all about the writing. Long ago I read that writers who quit never publish so I won't quit although writing and promoting is hard work.

Congrats on your sales to Pocket and St. Martin's. You've worked hard for your success. I love your covers.

Suzanne Rock said...

Thanks so much, Cara. You are absolutely right - we need to enjoy the process. And I firmly believe that it will happen if you just don't give up. Thank you so much for stopping by! ((HUGS))

jean hart stewart said...

Great advice...Hard to keep going sometimes, but essential. Thanks for a good column.

Melissa Keir said...

Wonderful post. Congrats on your successes. I'd love to get to the point you are someday, and that's going to take determination. So I'm sitting and writing. I'm sharing my stories and making friends. Nothing is as important as getting to know other authors and readers, as well as learning your craft! I love your list and will keep it in my mind, esp. when I feel discouraged.

Gemma Juliana said...

Thanks for sharing your journey, Suzanne. There are echoes of my own in your words... I'm thrilled for your career success!

Suzanne Rock said...

You are very welcome, Jean. I'm glad you liked it!

Suzanne Rock said...

Thanks Melissa. I think it's important to periodically take a step back and see how far you've come already. I think, as writers, we are always looking forward to that next goal/challenge/whatever. It's just as important, IMHO, to see how much progress you've made over the past month or year. It's stuff like that that helps keep you motivated. Thanks so much for stopping by!

Suzanne Rock said...

Thanks so much, Gemma. I figured a lot of people here would see a part of themselves in my journey. That's why I told it. We're all in this together and sometimes it helps to hear about how other people have overcome struggles to succeed. I personally find it very motivating. Thanks so much for stopping by!

Paris said...

Very interesting post! I'm so glad that when one door closed another opened for you. Wishing you much success with your new publisher(s)!

Suzanne Rock said...

Thanks so much for the kind words, Paris. And Thanks for stopping by! ((HUGS))

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