Sunday, 25 August 2013

Ten Things I Wish I'd Known by Tamsyn Murray

It's been three years since my first book was published and I like to think I've learned a lot in that time. Things like how royalties work (erm...) and what publishers want (erm...) and the secret of how to make writing pay (erm...). What I really need is a DeLorean with a working flux capacitor and a Sports Almanac, then I wouldn't need to fret about any of those things. But while I wait for Michael J Fox to turn up, here are ten things I wish I'd known before I was published:

  1. Writing your first book is easy compared to writing your second - you will never be so free again. Enjoy that freedom while you can.
  2. Writing will not make you rich. Don't give up the day job - it keeps you in Haribo.
  3. You will never think you are good enough.
  4. There will always be someone more successful than you. Be reassured that they will never think they are good enough.
  5. Don't be afraid of other authors - they are mostly lovely. Except that one person - you know who I mean...
  6. Do not read reviews.
  7. Don't give your work away for free. It doesn't work.
  8. Do your edits sooner rather than later. Don't leave them until the last minute.
  9. Social media is work - allow time for it. Read, make friends and if you follow any links, NEVER read the comments under the articles.
  10. Once your book is published, it is no longer yours. Let it go. And if you work out how to do this, let me know.
So what do you wish you'd known before you were published?


Anonymous said...

Really useful - thanks!!!! :)

aman kesherwani said...
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Richard said...

It is a very useful list, especially for someone like me working towards that first acceptance letter. There's another quote I've put up on Facebook a couple of times because it is so important.

“What nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish someone had told this to me . . . is that all of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, and it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not.

"But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase. They quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story.

"It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”
― Ira Glass

Dee Kirkby said...

Haha, brilliant! Number four is SOO true. I wish I had known number seven before I made the mistake of doing it. Twice.

Erica said...

Great tips. Only one I disagree with: 'do not read reviews'. If you ever want to feel a positive buzz about your book, teen bloggers are the way to go. Forget about looking for reviews if your work in The Guardian. Real readers - kids and teens - don't look there. They follow blogs and use Goodreads. They spread the word via Twitter and can entirely change the direction of an author's career if they get enough hype going.

So send out a few review copies, sit back and feel the love start pouring in. Sure, there'll be the odd reader preference or niggling doubt, but on the whole book bloggers are very fair people. The best ones are totally professional, but even they love getting blog comments from authors, so why not add that to your 'social media' point?

Sue Purkiss said...

A very practical and sensible list - agree with all of it! (Except maybe the reviews a little bit - because a good one is great!)

Tam said...
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Tam said...

Anonymous - my pleasure!

Richard - Yes, be prepared to work hard!

Dee - Yes, that one is key but I think you can only learn it by trying it.

Erica - You have a point, I didn't really mean book bloggers because they do tend to be fair,as you say. There are always exceptions to everything!

Sue - Yes, a good review is great but a bad one really stings. Someone I know got a one star review on Goodreads for a book which isn't even out until October and they claimed to have had a review copy when the author was still editing it!

Sue Bursztynski said...

Yes, that sounds a typical Goodreads thing, the flip side of books that get five star reviews when they aren't out yet and, in sme cases, will never appear. You can't, alas, rely on "the people" any more than you can the Guardian. One thing I might add, as a book blogger in own right, not just a writer: be polite to book bloggers. If you make contact with them, use their names, even if it's inconvenient because you want to contact hundreds. It tells them you've checked out their particular blog. And or goodness sake, don't post comments to ARGUE with them if they didn't unconditionally love your masterpiece. You'd get booted out of Goodreads for such bad manners, and as far as I'm concerned, there are certain writers whose books will never be promoted on my blog again. I am never rude, but sometimes I will mention that something didn't work for me and why. Recently, I was whinged at by a writer whose book I had said I liked very much, but had some issues with. Never again! I don't care if er next book wins the Nobel Prize, it won't be mentioned on my humble blog.