It's hard to believe that it's been 5 years this month since I got "The Call." I'll always remember exactly how it happened. I was sick. Like Dog Sick with the Flu and utterly miserable. My agent had sent out my chick lit romantic comedy (then titled The Church of Bunco) to editors in NY back in October and at first, the buzz had been very exciting. But eventually, editors who were initially interested weren't so interested anymore and then the holidays came and everything got very quiet.
So here we were in the 3rd week of January, me with a raging fever, laid out on my couch with a box of Kleenex at my feet, watching An Officer and A Gentleman (yep, the Kleenex was doing double duty!) and then my cell phone rang. And because I have teenagers my cell phone never leaves my side. I glanced at the caller ID and my heart began to thump wildly. It was my agent and somehow, in that moment, I just knew this was THE CALL.
Sure enough, Wendy McCurdy at Berkley wanted to buy my book! And so it began. That was 5 years ago. Since then I've published 4 books with Berkley and I'd like to think that I'm just a bit wiser than that girl who was lying on the couch, one second miserable with the flu, and the next second jumping around the living room gleefully screaming her sore throat out.
I could probably write a book with everything I didn't know 5 years ago, but that I do know now. That's not the kind of book I want to write, however. So I'll sum it all up into what I think are 3 of the most important things I've learned. Bullet point style.
1. No matter how you get into this business (traditional publishing, self-publishing, etc...) if you want to become a professional writer, you have to consider yourself a small business. Boy, was I a hot mess with that first book. I didn't want to be "bothered" with the stuff I didn't like (promo, publicity, numbers, etc...) After all, I have an agent, my publisher has a PR person. I'm the writer. We all have our hats to wear. Right? Wrong. No one cares about your career as much as you do. Your agent cares a lot too, but she/he has other clients. Your publisher's PR person is overworked. You might be a very small fish in a very big pond. As a result of really not knowing what I was doing, I threw away a lot of money on promotion that didn't pay itself back. I wish I had taken the time to do more research. Talk to other authors and really listen. It's up to you to take the time to map out a career plan, a marketing strategy, a business plan. Take one hour a day to read up on the business. Be open to new ideas, but don't jump on every bandwagon that rolls by. And for God's sake: Save all your receipts! Get tax help if you need it (I certainly did).
2. Your fans are your number one asset. A few years before I received the call, I listened to NY Times best selling author Eloisa James speak at an RWA conference about the power of her mailing list. She was absolutely right, of course. An author's greatest power comes from those loyal fans who seek out your books time and time again. Answer your emails promptly. Engage with your fans in whatever social media you feel comfortable with. Create a website that is fan friendly, with lots of information about your books (and where to buy them.) And don't forget reviewers. They are an integral part of getting the buzz out on your books. Treat them with the courtesy and respect you want to be treated with.
3. You can't please everyone, so you need to please yourself. Yep, that old adage is really one of the best pieces of advice I could give to any writer. Write your books for your most important reader-- YOU. If you don't love what you write, then no one else will either.
And last but not least, in the immortal words of Dorie (Finding Nemo) Just keep swimmin'! Or rather, Just keep Writin'! Everything else will fall into place.
How about you? What valuable piece of advice have you learned since your own "Call"?
Maria Geraci was born in Havana, Cuba, and raised on Florida’s Space Coast. Her love of books started with the classic, Little Women (a book she read so often growing up, she could probably quote). She writes contemporary romance and women’s fiction with a happy ending. Her fourth novel, A Girl Like You, was released last August by Berkley, Penguin, USA. You can connect with Maria by visiting her website, www.mariageraci.com