Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Ten things I've learned from writing ten books (part 2)

Yesterday I wrote about five basic truths I've learned from more than a decade in the publishing industry. Here are another five.

Keep your eyes open. Regular gigs fall through. Publishers tighten their belts and cancel series. Even if you’re comfortable for the moment, look at the job boards regularly. Make sure your network knows you’re on the lookout. Then they’ll be looking out for you.

Write what you love. You’re signing up for a life of underpaid work and uncertainty? Then at least do it because you love it! A few years back a business magazine offered me some articles. I said no. Business writing bores me. I wrote some history articles for another magazine instead. I had fun and advanced my career. Focusing on your passions will get you further than writing about any subject available.

Keep an eye on your editors. Just because they’re paid to polish your work doesn’t mean they know what they’re doing. I’ve had great editors and I’ve had lousy ones. Once an editor even introduced errors of fact! Good thing I was paying attention to the page proofs and caught the potential disaster before it went to press.

Be available, but don’t let people waste your time. Once you begin to get known, people will email you. Interacting with your readership is rewarding and fun. A large percentage of correspondence involves the same questions, however, and can be dealt with by the glorious invention of cut-and-paste. Plus there’s nothing wrong with setting boundaries. I’ll give you tips on how to pitch my publishers, but I won’t read your manuscript. I don’t have the time.

Persistence pays off. You’ve heard it before and it really is true. Keep at it every day, stay realistic, research your genre and market, and don’t give up. If you do that, you’ll succeed in the end.

For advice from other professional writers, see my article The Midlisters: Backbone of the Publishing Industry.

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Looking for more from Sean McLachlan? He also hangs out on the Civil War Horror blog, where he focuses on Civil War and Wild West history.

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