Today, I’m delighted to bring you some tips from New York Times Bestselling Author, Susan Mallery. If you haven’t read her Fool’s Gold series, you are missing out!
Click here to download one of her books really quick so you have something wonderful to dive into when you’re done being inspired by her sage advice.
It’s OK, we’ll wait… *whistling*
Groovy. Do you have a nice cup of something you love? Then settle in to dream a little.
I warn you, Susan makes the world of publishing seem very accessible. When she’s done with you, I’ll bet you go leaping toward your current project. I know I did.
All of us met Susan at OCC/RWA’s 30th Birthday Bash last October. Those birthday meetings are always special, but this last year we turned the Big 3-0 and the day was magic.
We had Mary-Theresa Hussey, senior editor at Harlequin and long-time chapter friend, in the morning. Susan, a long-time honorary member of OCC, spoke in the afternoon. She shared the “4 Lessons She Learned From OCC” with us; now I’m going to share them with you. (My comments are in blue.)
1. Never Give Up
The only way to give up your dream of being a published author is to stop writing. The reality is that only one manuscript in a thousand is picked up by the publishing houses and less than 50% of those authors will sell another book.
So what? Getting published isn’t magic. It’s about showing up and doing the work.
No matter what you do, don’t give up. Getting published results directly from your willingness to sit down, do the work, and reach out to help other writing friends along the way.
OCC’s motto is “One hand reaching forward, one hand reaching back, in a continuous chain.” I thought of this during Susan’s talk, especially as I glanced around the room at some of the women who have been her friends for almost 20 years.
2. Visualize Your Goals
You aren’t going to achieve your goal if you don’t know what it is.
Susan recommends that you buy a whiteboard and create what she calls a “vision board.” This is where she does things like taking an existing check and Photoshopping it until it reads the amount of her dream advance. She puts this board in her office where she sees these visual pictures of her goals every day.
Susan stressed that you must be focused on what you want. Set a goal and plot a course and stick to it. It’s very easy to say yes to things that have nothing to do with your goal. You need to resist.
3. Never Stop Learning
She had so many gems here, I’m going to sum them up in a bulleted list. Plus, I’ve divided her advice into two sections because, according to Susan, when it comes to the craft and business of writing, you can never learn too much.
- Susan recommended that you master as much craft as you can so you don’t disappoint your readers.
- Figure out what you’re good at and what you’re bad at. Focus on your strengths and shore up your weaknesses.
- If you bring your passion and enthusiasm to a project, it will show up on the page.
The Business of Writing
- You MUST know what’s going on in the publishing world so you can make good decisions. She highly recommends subscribing to Publisher’s Lunch so you know what deals are being made.
- Her successful self-published author friends spend an hour and a half for every hour of writing time, handling the business of self-publishing. Consider this before you dive into self-publishing with no preparation.
- Susan doesn’t believe publishing is going anywhere, though the business will have to continue to adapt.
- Her personal stance is that you must first meet your page count. Then you write the next book. After THAT you do social media. (She does admit that she is in the position to hire an assistant to help her manage some of the social media tasks.)
Take it from someone who loves Twitter enough to throw parties there, social media is a wiggly, rambunctious puppy that must be disciplined or he’ll get completely out of control. Here's a great post from August McLaughlin on the subject: The Truth About the Social Media Time Suck.
4. Be A Good Friend
When Susan first started writing, she didn’t have people she could call to talk to about the worries and woes associated with living the writing life. At OCC, she found a published author network that included her in their fold, and she found writing friends.
Susan describes writing friends as:
- People who will hold your hand through all stages of a book.
- Friends who will share their chocolate and their wine with you.
- Writers who cheer you on and celebrate your success.
She warns that “not every friendship will survive you being published so ‘make a LOT of friends.’”
One last piece of advice
After her keynote speech, Susan answered questions that ranged from her writing day to how she plots. Someone asked her about writer’s block and, just like Nora Roberts, she doesn’t believe in it. Both of them believe you just keep writing and push through it.
The statement below was my most favorite, in a long list of wonderful nuggets for the day. I believe she actually credited this remark to Nora Roberts while explaining her views on writer’s block:
If your toilet is stopped up and you call a plumber, you don’t want to hear that he’s not in the mood. By golly, if your plumber comes to work, he’s there to work.
While it’s true that writing is potentially more creative than plumbing, there’s a lot to be said for just showing up.
So, Tip #5 is: Show up to the page and do the work.
Susan will tell you that she’s taken a modicum of talent and a whole lot of drive (and focus) to get to where she is today. I’m here to tell you she’s loaded with a whole lot more than “a modicum” of talent. She was modest and witty and wise – a “writer’s writer” who was a pleasure to meet.
What are your “bestselling tips” for a writer inching down the path toward success? These can be from a person you met, a book you read or a speech you heard. Regardless of the source, we'd love to hear about it!
About Jenny Hansen
Jenny fills her nights with humor: writing memoir, women’s fiction, chick lit, short stories (and chasing after her toddler Baby Girl). By day, she provides training and social media marketing for an accounting firm. After 15 years as a corporate software trainer, she’s digging this sit down and write thing.
When she’s not at her blog, More Cowbell, Jenny can be found on Twitter at jhansenwrites and here at Writers In The Storm. Every Saturday, she writes the Risky Baby Business posts at More Cowbell, a series that focuses on babies, new parents and high-risk pregnancy.