Thursday, January 28, 2010

Advice to aspiring writers

My own advice to writers who are on the brink of a writing career is to rely on a mixture of old-fashioned good manners, personal integrity, and modern cyber-street wisdom.

In other words, follow your dream with your eyes open.

Friends and Buddies
Know that your best friends are authors a rung or two above you on the career ladder. Follow them, don't try to clamber over them or knock them out of your way. Look to the example of NASCAR and aerodynamics: leader and follower both go faster when they work together.

For 25 ways to be a good friend to another author, see my "Buzz" list on my website.

Check out Linnea Sinclair's post on "mentoring" on ... in fact check out all the articles on this long running teaching blog which I started with 6 colleagues long before expert-author-group blogs were popular.

Other great sources of advice from PR experts would be the free newsletter from Penny Sansevieri found at, also the weekly articles posted by authors, radio hosts, publishers and more on

If you belong to, follow me, and join all the groups to which I belong, especially Romance Authors Helping Romance Authors (you don't have to write Romance, but you do have to write, and you may not post self promo). If you are published in any kind of speculative fiction, join It's free, reciprocal, and great promo. There's an iwofa group on LinkedIn too.

If you are a member, check out the groups. "Tips for Self Promotion, Sales, and Advertising" is a great group of authors in all genres who help one another.

You'll notice the same names cropping up again and again. Jacqueline Lichtenberg, Jacquie Rogers, Charlee Boyett-Compo, Brenna Lyons, Deborah Macgillivray, Linnea Sinclair, Margaret L Carter, Lillian Cauldwell, Todd Fonseca, Pauline Baird Jones, Lynn Crain, Cindy Spencer Pape, Sandy Lender (and many more) are among authors who help others.

Be aware that contracts are written to favor whoever wrote that contract (Publisher, Printer, Online Bookseller, website designer etc). Read every word. Understand what the contract says before you sign it. Get help from EPIC or SFWA or Authors Guild, or Preditors-and-Editors if you don't.

Act on the assumption that most contracts can be negotiated. No one will think less of you for asking, as long as you are polite and professional about it. Moreover, know your limitations and be upfront about them. An editor may ask you to write a book every six weeks, but if that is not realistic for you, say so. Most editors would much rather schedule you for one book a year and have you deliver (top quality writing) on time.

Be honest with your agent, your editor, your reader, and anyone else with whom you do business. Including the IRS! (And... beware of those interview questions that might cause the unwary to declare the hours they work and the other uses they make of their home office.)

At the same time, be aware that others won't be honest with you. Once you register a copyright or trademark or domain name, you will receive all sorts of documents that look like invoices. You will also be offered awards and listings in catalogues of "distinguished" or "famous" people… but you will only be included if you purchase your listing.

Whatever you spend on your writing (and it will add up to much more than you imagine!) keep records of all your expenses, all your contracts, all your promises, all your sales, all the prizes you promised to give away. Follow through.

If you absolutely must give away an ebook as a prize, number it. Personalize it... that way, if it turns up on a pirate site, you and your publisher's legal department will know who "shared it" in violation of your trust and your copyright.

Never defame anyone, no matter the provocation. Never write a bad review. Never write a good review of a book you did not enjoy. Never infringe on anyone else's copyright (artist's, model's, photographer's etc).

Never "cheat" your reader or potential reader. Never assume that someone will want to read your book simply because "you" wrote it, or because "you" say they will enjoy you.

Secure your domain name before you become published. If you wait, a spammer might squat on it in hopes to either profit from your good name, or to extort money from you if you are desperate to buy it back. You don't want your website to be:

Keep doing what you love for as long as it makes you happy, and as long as your pursuit doesn't hurt or cause you to neglect those you love.

Do the very best you can, every day. And, say "thank you" often. Thank you for reading this.

Rowena Cherry

1 comment:

Pauline B Jones said...

Wise words from a wise author, Rowena! Wow, wish I'd had someone tell me these things years ago. :-)