Monday, July 14, 2008

11 tips for the debut novelist (Why 11? Because it goes to 11.)

"History has demonstrated that the most notable winners usually encountered heart-breaking obstacles before they triumphed. They won because they refused to become discouraged by their defeats."
-- B.C. Forbes

Where ever you are in your writing career, you have probably lived this quote. I’ve just been through my first 90-days as a published author and I can tell you this: I’m still living it. Maybe this first three months is like any new job. It’s a probationary period to see if you have the moxie to keep going. So I thought I’d tally a few things I’ve learned. Turns out, there are 11 key things I've learned that I do not want to forget.

1. Have courage. If you think you have enough courage from previously sending out query letters just to get published, think again.

2. Get bookmarks. This is your business card. ‘Nuff said.

3. Recognize that you are now a member of the great club called ‘published authors.” Many want to join. Few actually do. Remembering this along your debut journey will help support those days when your confidence wanes. (See #1)

4. Network on MySpace, the king of all social networks.

5. Be nice to EVERYONE especially bookstore managers. They are a tighter circle than you might think.

6. Ask your BFF to read your printed masterpiece for all the typos and errors you and your editors did not catch. Having your BFF do this job for you has three important purposes. One, you won’t have to go through the pain right now. Two, you’ll need that list should your masterpiece go to paperback later. Three, reviewing these errors in the harsh light of public humiliation will make you a human, seek-and-destroy missile of typos and errors.

7. Figure out how to flex your pitch to men and women. Men and women respond to different ideas. (Who knew?) And your book is no different. Take my debut, JANEOLOGY, for instance. Its initial incident involves a young, ill mother who snaps and drowns her toddler son. The question the novel asks is: What would cause a woman to kill her child? Following this question, the reader is instantly teamed with Jane’s grieving husband, Tom, as he finds himself on trial for failing to protect his children from his own wife. He and his lawyer look for answers in Jane’s family history so that they might use faulty genetic inheritance to raise reasonable doubt – a gamble for sure.

What I've discovered:

Women are turned off by the inciting incident. So then, the pitch becomes one emphasizing the family saga and exploring the cause and effect of nature and nurture.

Men are engaged by the legal ideas so then the pitch becomes one comparing this story to other legal thrillers with a unique emphasis on genetic inheritance.

8. Set guidelines about ‘TitleZ clicking’ else you become an addict of meaninglessness. I recommend twice daily visits. (If you don’t know what this refers to, you still have your sanity in check and I envy you.)

9. Learn to be a fearless asker. Ask for reviews from friends. Blog opportunities from strangers. Appearances at bookclubs. Just ask.

10. Have a sense of humor.

11. Heed the wisdom of my writing professor who once told me, “Many writers have talent, but few have the temperament to make a career of it.” (See 1-10)

For all you seasoned writers out there, what say you? What were your most important lessons learned as a debut author?


Karen Harrington is the author of JANEOLOGY (Kunati, April 2008) a novel BookList calls "Fascinating and much a character study as a legal thriller."
Stop by my daily blog and say hello or visit to read an excerpt and view the stunning book trailer for JANEOLOGY.


Chelle Cordero said...

Hi Karen, You've done a fantastic job (beyond the writing of Janeology) of promoting your book. You mentioned networking on MySpace... that is a terrific opportunity.

Another suggestion I would make is to include a counter on your main website and engage a system which will not only let you know how many hits you receive, but also what network sites are driving those hits to you. I use the (free) StatCounter.

Karen Harrington said...

Hi Chelle,

Thanks for those tips. They are wonderful.

Your new book comes out soon, right? Yay!

Beth Fehlbaum, Author said...

Thanks, Karen. Courage in Patience debuts in About Six Weeks + 2 Days. I've been busy setting up book signings and have Sept. & October Saturdays locked up, starting on November...
oh, and I remember to BREATHE about 3 times a day, when I notice my hands turning blue....

Beth Fehlbaum, author
Courage in Patience, a story of hope for those who have endured abuse
Chapter 1 is online!

Karen Harrington said...

Congrats, Beth! This is such an exciting time. Enjoy!

AstonWest said...

Very good tips!

Karen Harrington said...

Thanks, Aston!

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