Writers In The Storm is delighted to welcome Romance and Women's Fiction author Jane Porter in the first of a two-part blog on success and survival.
I first sold in January 2000 after nearly 14 years, having written 13 different novels which never sold. Since then I’ve written 43 more books, with 43 coming out this September from Berkley. All of my publishing to date has been with ‘traditional’ publishing -- print first, e-second, for Harlequin, Berkley, and Grand Central.
Many things have changed over the years, but my first 5 keys, or tips, to success and survival in this business haven’t. In fact, the first five tips are more important than ever.
Let me warn you, I am going to be brutally candid. But remember, whatever I say is my opinion, and that can change, too, just as our industry continues to evolve and change.
So let’s dive in. Let’s talk about getting published. Let’s talk about selling.
What is the secret to selling?
I used to think the secret to selling was luck, timing, networking…used to think I had the craft down, and yes, much of writing and connecting with a reader is subjective, but that’s what writing is about. Connecting with a reader. And if you can’t connect with a reader, whether its an acquiring editor, agent, or the person that is browsing online or picks your book up at the bookstore, then you’re not going to sell…or continue to sell.
- The Secret to Selling is Craft
You have to know your craft. Craft isn’t optional, and just because you’ve sold a book, or twenty, doesn’t mean you can ever get lazy about learning your craft, developing the creative muscle, honing your editing ability. In fact, selling that first book or two means upping your standards. Increasing your appeal. Growing that readership and you did it by continually pushing yourself, seeking to expand your knowledge base and having very high standards.
So if you’re going to work on craft, what’s essential?
Plot is important, but a great plot with weak characters goes nowhere. I think characters are key but even more important is character motivation. What happens and why…
Pacing is also vital. Good ideas, great ideas, aren’t enough if the reader puts your book down mid way through chapter 4 or 7 or before they reach the happy ending. Pacing is what drives the story forward. And pacing is about smart decision making while writing and especially while revising.
Whether you’re trying to get your first book sold, or your tenth, continue your education. Read craft oriented books. Attend workshops on topics that focus on craft. Work with a trusted writer friend in a brainstorming/critiquing/or goal setting session and see how you can help each other grow as a writer.
2. The Secret to Survival is Getting Real
What do I mean by getting real? First and foremost, I’m referring to Attitude
I put Attitude near the top of the Survival list because attitude is everything.
Your attitude will make or break you. Your attitude is what will set you apart from other authors. Attitude is what will get you to the finish line—will define how successful you’ll be. And attitude doesn’t just happen. You make attitude happen. You choose your outlook, the way you cope with rejection. You choose your friends. You choose when and if you’re going to keep writing.
Attitude at work: Be proactive.
I’ve learned to surround myself with only the most positive, supportive friends. My writer friends are all very real, very giving, but also very tough. They understand what it takes to make it in this business, they know we’ll all have highs and lows, that our careers won’t be equal, that life isn’t fair—and because we understand the inequities, we get on with it.
And that’s what I’m here to say to you. Get your head together, get your attitude in the right place, and get on with it. You have to write and write and write. And then write some more.
3. Success & Survival Depend on Goal Setting
Know what you want. It’s that simple. It’s that hard. Know what you want. Identify your goals. Define your idea of success. Be clear. Be specific. Be realistic. And be prepared to work hard.
In terms of goals, think personally and professionally.
Have short term goals, and long term goals.
When I set professional goals, I differentiate between business/marketing goals and craft goals. I write my goals down. I pin them up or put them in a place I can see them—some people suggest your wallet—but refer to them at least once a month. Think about them. Goal setting works.
4. Success/Survival Require Perseverance & Mental Strength
I’ve written several articles on this—including Getting Game which was published in the Nov issue of RWR several years ago. Mental strength goes hand in hand with attitude but takes it one step further. You’re not just choosing to be positive, you’re going to push yourself, challenge your capacity to learn and grow, and stop limiting yourself with real or perceived roadblocks.
Roadblocks to success?
–Fear of Failure
–Fear of Success
–Sense of Unworthiness
–Lack of confidence
–Lack of ambition
–Fear of Risk
–Inability to Commit
Okay. Two bits of advice here—first, confront your fears.
Second: deal with them.
Stop pretending they don’t exist. Everybody struggles with insecurity. Everybody has self-doubts. And you know, these things aren’t horrible, or embarrassing. There’s no reason to feel shame. The important thing is to acknowledge your fears, and then address them.
We have to stop thinking in terms of what we can’t do, but of what we can.
We can learn. We can grow. We can improve. We can master new skills. We can be great. We can be brilliant. We can sell. We can be bestsellers.
You know, its okay to cry. Its okay to hurt. Its okay to be disappointed. But what you do with the disappointment is key.
5. To Succeed Act, Don’t Just React
Be careful not to be a trend follower. If you begin chasing trends, you’re going to end up reacting to the industry, instead of acting and owning your voice, your vision, your themes, and your goals.
If what you write happens to fit today’s market, that’s awesome. Take advantage of every opportunity to succeed, but don’t let the tail wag the dog.
You’re a writer. An artist. But also a businesswoman (or man). Find the balance between creativity and industry, muse and bills. This is where personal goal setting is really helpful.
Make sure you know what you want.
Define success for yourself. (Is it a pay check? Is it being in print, in a particular store? Is it freedom? Is it challenge?)
Once you know yourself, and what is most important to you, you’ll be able to respond to industry change with strength as well as confidence. Because you don’t want to merely survive, you want to thrive. But to do that, you have to be willing to take risks and honor your dream and vision for your books, your voice, and your career.
See you Friday for the next five keys to success and survival!
Bestselling author of the Jane Porter has been a finalist for the prestigious RITA award four times, has over 12 million copies in print. Jane's novel, Flirting With Forty, picked by Redbook as its Red Hot Summer Read, went back for seven printings in six weeks before being made into a Lifetime movie starring Heather Locklear. September 2012 brought the release of The Good Woman, the first of her Brennan Sisters trilogy, followed in February 2013 by The Good Daughter, and book three in the series, The Good Wife, is slotted for release in September. A mother of three sons, Jane holds an MA in Writing from the University of San Francisco and makes her home in sunny San Clemente, CA with her surfer husband.