Five Lessons from Fifteen Years of Publishing
Time has a strange way of sneaking up on you. So often you’ll see someone exclaiming on social media, “What? It’s July already? What happened to June, or May, or April for that matter?”
For me a similar thing happened except even more extreme. I suddenly realized that it’s 2019 and my first book was published fifteen (15!) years ago—in January of 2004, to be exact. My second book was published on June 1st of that same year.
Fifteen years! I’ve been working, writing and publishing for a long time!
Yes, there are some who’ve been at this a lot longer than I have, but it’s still pretty shocking to see how long it’s been. (Just for fun, I looked to see when one of my favorite authors, Mary Jo Putney, started publishing. Her first book was published in 1987! A bow to your longevity and dedication, Mary Jo!)
So, the obvious question is: what have I learned in the past fifteen years of publishing?
- I’ve learned how to write better. That’s not surprising. I should hope that at the very least that’s what one would learn. I’m sure I’ve said it before, but writing, like medicine and law, is a practice. We keep working at it, learning more and getting better as we go.
- I’ve learn how to write faster. It’s also a muscle. The more we practice, the faster we get—generally. I do qualify that because there are some people who just write really slowly. It’s just how it happens for them. There are others who write really fast and always have. I started out pretty slow and recently have really picked up my pace. It’s partially practice and partially preparedness (yes, my plotting).
- Another thing I’ve learned is actually two things and they frequently contradict each other: I’ve learned to write what I love, no matter how weird or unusual that may be;
- and I’ve learned how to write to market. It is possible to write what you love and have that be something that sells really well and I do work on doing that as well. But I also love really strange combinations—like Regency-set fantasy novels. I can tell you, they don’t sell very much, but they were so much fun to write!
On the other hand, writing to the market, writing what you know will sell, doesn’t have to be painful. We always make our stories our own, so when I write a particular trope, it’s nothing like how anyone else might approach the same trope. But the fact that I’m using a trope at all, is the part that I have come to accept and even embrace—and yes, I will be writing a blog on tropes very soon because I’m finding them so interesting!
So, I would definitely say that I’ve learned the lesson that one should love what they write and make whatever they write their own, whether it is something strange like a mash-up of Regency romance and fantasy or a Cinderella story.
- Take criticism and reviews with a grain of salt is the last and perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned in the past fifteen years. Does that mean that a bad review doesn’t upset me? Nope! But I don’t let it affect me as much as it used to. I know that not everyone is going to like what I write. That’s okay. I know that some people are going to write reviews just to be mean because they can. But my skin is now closer to an elephant’s hide than what the thin piece of tracing paper it used to be.
So, yeah, those fifteen years kind of snuck up on me, but I’m happy to have them under my belt. I’m happy to have the experience I do and to be the mature writer I am. But most of all, I’m happy telling stories.
To celebrate my fifteen years, I’m going to be putting my first series–The Merry Men Quartet–on sale for the month of August. Look out for it!