There’s nothing more inspiring than debut authors, which is why I’m thrilled to be part of the 2013 Debut Author Bash, organized by YA Reads. Today I’ve got a wonderful guest post by Claire M. Caterer, whose debut book is the middle-grade adventure The Key & the Flame, published by Simon & Schuster imprint Margaret K. McElderry Books.
And Claire’s giving away a signed copy of the hardcover book. Leave a comment and you’ll be entered. One commenter will be randomly selected on Oct. 8.
Here’s the synopsis of The Key & the Flame, which is an American Booksellers for Children New Voices pick:
An ancient key grants three children passage to an amazing world where a ruthless king seeks to obliterate magic forever. If 11-year-old Holly can unlock the magic within herself, she just might find a way to get them all home—unless the king finds her first. The Key & the Flame is the first in a five-part fantasy adventure series for ages 8 and up.
Sounds wonderful! I can’t wait to read it.
Now I’ll turn it over to Claire, who’ll tell us: “What I Learned From My Debut Year.”
It was nearly two years ago that I got that wonderful, heart-stopping Call (“Guess what?! Someone wants to publish your book!”). And I’m nearing the end of the Year in Which I Was Published, when I finally got to hold a hardbound copy of The Key & the Flame in my very own hands (and yes, wept just a little). So what have I learned? Plenty. But I’ll limit it to Seven Very Important Things.
1. Structure Your Writing Time.
In my happy-go-lucky, pre-publication writing days, I wrote whenever I felt like it. I worked at home, so I could structure my own time. I tried to write for the first two hours of the workday, when I was at my most creative. But I thought that being flexible meant that I could chat on the phone instead of write, or do the laundry instead of write, or walk the dog instead of write.
Getting a publication contract meant that other people depended on my keeping a consistent working schedule. That meant—means—that voicemail handles the telephone. The laundry piles up. I walk the dog early in the morning. During my writing time, I write.
2. Make Time for Promotional Stuff.
Another good reason for writing first thing in the morning: It isn’t my only job. Promotional tasks took a lot more time this past year than I thought they would—on average, one to two hours a day. You all know that writers are responsible for that stuff, right? Stuff like:
- blog posts and interviews
- Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads updates
- designing promotional items like bookmarks, stickers, author bookplates, signage
- planning a book launch
- setting up author events and presentations, including school visits
Make time for them. You will need it.
Book publishing is a sloooowww process. Slothlike, in fact. You think it’s not moving, but oh! It just blinked an eyelid. Hang on, it might do something else after a month or two.
The steps toward publication seem to take forever: finalizing the contract (4 months), finishing the cover (4 months), the editorial process (4 months), the production phase of copyediting and proofreading (5 months). Many of them overlap, but still, the time period between the Call and my publication date was 17 months. That timeline is not only reasonable, it’s far longer for some people.
4. Make Friends with Other Writers.
There will come a time when Hubby, Wife, or Special Someone Else tires of listening to the whinings of the neurotic author. Best Friend, Sister, and Mom start to wonder why you’re always complaining when your lifelong dream is coming true. They mutter to each other and turn a deaf ear.
That’s why you have writer friends. They’re super easy to find online—the internet forum was basically invented for socially awkward, introverted people—and you will kiss your mouse every time you virtually chat with them. They get it, as no one else will.
5. Stop Reading About Your Writer Friends.
You’ll love your new writer friends. You’ll rejoice at their successes. You’ll be their number one cheerleader. You’ll be so selfless that you’ll think, Ha! I guess that nasty imp named Envy doesn’t live in my brain. Lucky me!
At some point, the envy imp will rise and attack. You’ll see all the starred reviews and movie deals and fan mail your colleagues are getting, and one day it will start to burn. That’s when you stop reading. Stop comparing. It sounds corny, but yes, everyone’s path is different. Chances are the people you envy are envying someone else—maybe even you. Don’t give that nasty imp any head space, because it will eat you alive from the inside out. If that sounds unpleasant, trust me: It is.
7. Write Down What Works.
If you want Year Two to go more smoothly than Year One, write down what works for you. Keep a journal, notebook, notes on the wall, whatever. Which do-it-yourself bookmark printer is easiest and cheapest? Was the blog tour a huge waste of time or did it result in a lot of good exposure? Who became your champions and fans? (Love them. Cherish them. Shower them with hugs and free stuff.) Which bookstores were enthusiastic and helpful? You’ll want those notes later, so keep them organized.
6. Keep Writing, No Matter What.
It’s the cure for all the angst: The how-many-books-am-I-selling angst; the everyone’s-better-than-I-am angst; the what-if-no-one-comes-to-my-launch angst. Stick to your writing schedule like a barnacle to a barge. Disappear into your head and talk to your imaginary friends. Not only will you get something done (because you want to write another book, right?), you will silence the noise of the insanity around you, and that will be a blessed relief. Writing is what this whole gig is about, anyway. Remember?