I’ve had the great fortune to have some incredible authors as both friends and mentors, from the start of my fledgling writing career as a goofy kid from the tundra who knew nothing about writing or the publishing world to a goofy professor who seems to know even less about the former or the latter (this sentence as a case in point).
Even with all that luck and all that great advice there are still a few things that my fancy author friends never told me. Perhaps they knew I had to learn some stuff on my own, or just maybe there is a secret society of writers who refuse to share that very information that makes them so darn fancy.
So, in the long-standing tradition of Alaskans who go rogue, I am now officially sharing the five most important top secret writing and publishing tips that all writers need and until today no one was willing to share.
So here, without further ado here are the things my fancy author friends should have told me:
1. Find a US publisher. Sure it’s really cool to have your book translated into Canadian, but this confuses people. At first your friends will point out they can’t get your book on Amazon.com, as if you weren’t aware of this, or they will call the local book store and ask for your book and then the local bookstore will call and ask why they can’t get your book in the US. (Then there is the whole problem of “color” being spelled “colour” and your friends think you don’t know how to spell colour!)
2. Change your name. This seems obvious right? You should have a cool writerly name that looks good on book covers and in reviews. A name that is easy to say, easy to spell, and is sexy. For starters, try not to have a name that also has a body part in it, as in “ass” or “rear.” If your name is chronically misspelled, perhaps just change it to the misspelling.
3. Learn how to sign your changed name. For whatever reason, some people want you to deface their new book with your chicken scratch signature. Consider actually holding a pen or pencil in your hand and relearning how to write. Or if you never really did properly learn how to write your name with a pen or pencil, consider hacking off your writing arm with a Swiss Army knife. Then write a book and movie about that experience and people will be excited about the little scrawl you’ve dashed out inside their book.
4. Write something fun and cheery. Unless you cut your arm off with a dull pocket knife, or you’re some kind of Tiger Mom, or are dead with a collection of novels in your dresser titled The Girl With… you’ll definitely want to write happy fun stuff. You don’t want to be in an interview with a reporter and have to tell her you’ve killed off most of Alaska, but it’s just metaphor and it really is a novel about hope and love.
5. Never Ever Ever Ever check your Amazon Rating. Even if you didn’t follow my advice for step one, and you landed a Canadian publisher, and you also didn’t change your name, learn how to sign it with your one good arm, or write something fun and cheery --- then promise me you’ll never ever, ever, ever, check your Amazon rating. Ever. Even Amazon Canada. I have warned you. This magical meaningless number will consume your waking hours. The numbers will go up and down like your blood pressure after the whole Swiss Army knife thing. You might even break into the top 100 for days on end if you’re lucky and your book is fun and cheery enough or you’ve changed your name to Snookie. Whatever the number, whatever the temptation to see where your book sits in the mysterious Amazon list, don’t do it. Don’t check. This is the crystal meth of the writing world. One hit from the Amazon pipe, and one moment you’re at 30,005 and then 23, higher than a Kite Runner (9,735), and then you’re falling going completely rogue and at 57,386.
Follow those bits of sage wisdom and you’re sure to find success in whatever you choose to write, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll become one of those fancy authors you’ve always dreamed of becoming --- the kind who doesn’t need advice like the rest of us.
Don Rearden Reardon author of The Raven’s Gift has both arms and a Swiss Army knife. He checked his Amazon Canada ranking twenty-eight times while writing this and at press time his novel was at 6,754, sailing above Kite Runner and Going Rogue, but beneath The Belly Fat Cure.
[Tip from a writer who is body-part challenged (see #2, above): Check out Don's recent post "How I Got My Agent" on The Guide to Literary Agents Blog.]