What I’ve Learned in the Trenches

Hello, friends! Me again!

First, let’s get a few business-y things out of the way. ALSO KNOWN AS is $2.99 in the Kindle and Nook stores! As I said on Twitter, I have literally paid more for a can of Diet Coke, so this is a great deal. (It was in a hotel gift shop. It was a desperate time. I don’t like to talk about it.) And if you like sales, there are a lot more great deals on e-books in the Amazon store, so check them out. Go crazy. Buy a few.

Next, if you were following @robinbenway5 on Twitter, you’ll notice that the account has been suspended. That’s because it was AN IMPOSTER! Seriously? Can’t you pretend to be Harry Styles or RuPaul or someone infinitely more interesting than me? Try harder next time, Imposter. I was actually kind of okay with the whole thing until they tweeted, “Had a dream about the Jonas Brothers. Too bad it was only a dream.” I saw that tweet and was like, “Shut it down NOW.” So yes, @robinbenway is my actual account, and if you want to pretend to be me, at least put some effort into it, okay? Make me proud.

Okay, now that my sales pitch and warning are done, let’s discuss writing. I realized last month that it’s been five years since my first book, “Audrey, Wait!”, was published. That? Is crazy. How could it be five years already? If Audrey were a real person, she would be graduating from college! (Victoria probably would have graduated a year early because she would hate school and decide to backpack through Europe instead. Good call, Victoria.)

In related news, I spoke to some MFA students at UC Riverside last week. They were all looking to start their careers as writers and after my talk (which incorporated pictures of Hudson and clips from “My So-Called Life”, naturally), one of the students asked me if I had any advice or encouraging words for them. I sort of stammered and um’d my way through my answer, but I kept thinking about it as I drove home the next day. What would I tell future and current writers? What have I learned from this whole crazy process?

This is what I’ve learned.

*If you’re writing your first book and don’t have a publisher yet, enjoy this time. Never again will you be able to spend so much time with your characters without the stress of expectations.

*The hard part is not writing and selling your first book. It’s writing and selling your second book.

*Sign with an agent that returns your calls and emails promptly, works for a reputable agency, and is interested in repping your next books, not just your current one.

*If you say your agent’s name and everyone averts their eyes, that’s a bad sign.

*When you get your first check from your publisher, celebrate! Then find a good accountant that knows the difference between advance money and royalty money. Put some aside for taxes. Save all your receipts. 13-month file folders save lives.

*Making money doing something you love is amazing, but monetizing something you love can be difficult. Learn to place a value on your work besides its financial worth.

*Never badmouth another author or book in a public forum. If you really hate something, give an example of something you love instead. The publishing world is small. Very small. Itty bitty, in fact, so be professional. You don’t want to bash someone’s book, then find yourself standing next to them a month later at a BEA cocktail party.

*It’s your name on the cover of the book. Not your agent’s name, your editor’s name, your copy editor’s name, or everyone in your workshop group’s names. It’s YOUR name, so make sure you stand behind every word on every page.

*It’s okay to hate writing. Everyone has bad days. Even dream jobs are nightmares sometimes.

*GoodReads is an amazing resource for authors and readers. That being said, do not read your reviews there. Ever.

*When you tell people you write books for a living, be prepared for this question: “Oh, really? Have I read any of them?” Smile and politely explain that you are not a mindreader, so you don’t know if they have or not. Or just pretend to be E.L. James and watch them squirm.

*Receiving fan mail will never not be amazing.

*Say thank you as much as possible. Writing a book is hard, but so is publishing it. A lot of people are making very little money to put your book out into the world, so be gracious. Be kind. Be grateful. And keep writing.

5 Comments

  • Dawn Leach
    Posted 06/18/2013 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    I love this so much! Particularly “It’s okay to hate writing.” Because I do. But, I also love it. Inexperienced though I am, I would also just add “writing is hard!!!” I think everyone thinks I’m just sitting around sipping mochaccinos and suddenly the words just tumble out of me…It’s more like pulling them out of myself with tweezers-painful and slow. :)

  • Posted 06/18/2013 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

    Great advice, Robin! Love it all!

  • bob therieau
    Posted 06/19/2013 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    I’m relieved to finally read some sensible, grounded advice. Thank you.

    Here’s how I handle the question, “Have I read anything of yours?” I simply say, “Yes, probably,” then walk away. It’s fun!

  • Posted 06/19/2013 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

    Great advice Robin! I’m writing because reading fanmail is never not awesome, and your blog has made me a fan. Buying your book next! And love Bob’s idea for “the question” too!

  • Posted 06/26/2013 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    I agree with all of these but one. Most people have enough books to write with no expectations that it becomes a pain.

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