How Do You Define Success as a Writer?


How Do You Define Success as a Writer?
 
by N. Bright
 

The Texas High Plains Writers program this past Saturday featured a Q&A panel of authors. Two traditionally published and two Indie Authors answered questions about their writing process and the publishing industry. Jodi Thomas, New York Times Bestselling author of 48 books, moderated. It was a fun morning, and I was honored to be a part of the panel along with Linda Broday who writes a successful series for SourceBooks, and Ryan McSwain who is an Indie Author.

 
“Secrets of Success” was the title of the program, and Jodi pointed out that each writer can define success in totally different ways. For very successful, tradtionally published authors, success might be the number one spot on a national best seller list, or seeing their book on a movie screen. As I juggle two teenagers, a busy day job, and all of the ideas in my head, success for me is holding one of my stories in hand. As an Indie Author, that is the immediate pay off for me personally, and then the book promotion is another faucett of the business that will continue through the long term.
 
The morning discussion included some great tips.
 
Jodi says, “Pick a lane,” which in some cases mean genre. Do you want to write kid lit or mainstream romance? In today’s publishing environment, I take it to mean considering the best publishing option for your work in progress as well. Every project may be different and writers have so many choices today. 

Jodi told us, “Everyone in this room has talent. Are you willing to do what it takes? Pick a lane. Develop your career.”

 
Linda says to include lots of conflict in your stories and use true events and personal stories to add depth to your writing.
 
Ryan keeps a character file, where he puts specifics about his characters as they develop. His ‘supplemental file’ is a list of changes that need to be made in previous chapters as he writes the new chapters. Instead of stopping to make changes, he references the supplemental file and makes the changes to his completed manuscript all at one time.
 
Traditional or Indie involves time and money, but as I told the group, it’s a completely different mindset. If you have a high concept book and you think readers all over the world will read it, then you have to go where the agents and editors are. You need to summarize your book into a one sentence pitch, and you have to practice that pitch. Attend conferences and sign up for appointments with the traditional publishing house professionals who will want your book. Your book must be exceptional in order to rise above the other 500 writers pitching during that same weekend.

As an Indie Author you have to write an exceptional book too, and then you have some aditional decisions to make. Pick a genre. Pick your target market. Pick a writing organization. Pick a cover designer. Pick a professional editor. The work is endless, but the rewards are extremly satisfying.

The secret to success takes hard work, but can be defined according to your terms. Jodi reminded us of one of our favorite local authors who, sadly, is no longer with us. DeWanna Pace always said that her writing goals never involved big dollar signs.
“It’s not the money,” she’d say. “I want people to love my work.”
Do you live in or near the Amarillo area? Texas High Plains Writers meets on the 3rd Saturday of every other month.
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Parts of a Writer’s Brain


Parts of a Writer’s Brain

Reflection and Making Sense of Today’s Publishing Environment

by Natalie Bright

 

A Publisher’s Weekly article announced deluxe hardcover editions for 20 of Marguerite Henry’s novels for middle grade readers beginning this fall. The repackaging will include the original artwork by Wesley Dennis which were missing from some of the paperback editions. I have a treasured first-edition copy of SAN DOMINGO, published 1972. Part of me is jumping for joy that generations of readers will be able to discover these wonderful historicals. I’ll definitely be adding them to my home library, and what a perfect gift for a few horse-loving young people I know.

Business-Minded Part

The practical, business side of my brain completely understands the need to make low risk decisions. Selling books is a profitable business. Marketing professionals generate statistical analysis to determine what consumers will buy, knowing what the marketplace will embrace. As a business owner, I understand first-hand the pressures of having families depend on your ability to be profitable and to make payroll. This side of me also sympathizes with frustrated agents who are out there beating the bushes to tout stories in an industry that sometimes embraces work generated four decades ago. Taking chances on an unknown is risky.

Literary Fan Part

The artsy, fictional part of me will never understand the business side of this game. During the past month, I’ve attended two writer’s conferences where I’ve heard numerous unique and wonderful story ideas. Granted, they involve writers at various stages in their careers, but the point is these folks are working hard at learning their craft and creating original material. The ideas and creativity of today’s writers inspires me. I really want to read their work someday, any yet they’re continually dismissed and denied.

The Writing Part

The creative part feels dark and powerless. I realize how little control we have over our chosen profession. On some days my heart is crushed and my willingness to keep submitting is very much annoyed.

There are other days, rising from the dark side, that are filled with hope. The joy of words transforms me, I disappear into my WIP and I don’t want to come back to the reality of life. The story drives me to keep going. One feisty character in particular will not leave me alone. My super agent likes her too and is working hard to find her a home. I’m BUSTING to tell middle grade schools, book fairs, and cowboy symposiums about Silver Belle’s wild west. Right now. Today.

Patience: a willingness to suppress annoyance

when confronted with delay.

 

The Big Picture Part

In this crazy time of publishing I force myself to take a breath, step back and consider the big picture. In my mind, the big picture continues to be our ability to write a great story. As readers, we can find great stories as well via any medium you choose. Whether it’s indie published or traditional, if you discovered a gem by one of today’s authors, tweet or post a review so that other readers can discover their work too. It only takes a few seconds.

As an author, if you are absolutely committed to the craft and the story that only you can create, put aside your emotional artsy self, find your business cap and consider all of the options available for publishing your work. Best of luck on your journey.

In the meantime, I’ll be anxiously anticipating the re-release of Marguerite Henry’s wonderful books and I’ll keep writing the stories that are occupying the space inside of my head. Writers write.

 Perseverance: steady persistence in a course of action,

especially in spite of discouragement.