Unusual title, isn’t it? Choosing the negative instead of the positive.
But sometimes we have to hear the “what not” in order to grasp the “how to” in our writing journey.
We all make mistakes as we develop our careers, whether we intend to be full time or not. Mistakes are good. We learn from them.
But some can be costly.
Here are seven actions I think you should strive to avoid.
1. Genre hopping. Or, not deciding on a specific path. Over times, readers come to expect a certain kind of book from their favorite authors. I may be tired of a “Rachel Hauck” book, but my readers are not.
When starting out most of us would write for anything or anyone, and that’s a great way to get started, boost your publishing resume, but be careful you don’t spread yourself too thin.
I was blessed to have an agent in the beginning who kept me steered toward trade romance and chick lit. I also believe the Lord really watched over my steps. Several opportunities I wanted to leap at but the doors closed. Or I felt uneasy about and didn’t pursue.
In the end, I found all of the decision of “no” to be in my best interest. While other authors seemed to be surging ahead, I plodded along.
Early on I made several decisions to help my “brand.” To write stories primarily set in the south and to keep to the romance genre.
Yes, I had interest in other things. But I felt I was best suited to and drawn to chick lit and romance.
I sidestepped for a year and a half to write women’s fiction with Sara Evans but it was a strategic and calculated move.
Some genres are difficult to break into and it can be frustrating to “wait.” So you write in another genre instead.
Be wise about your choices when you do this. If your readers come to love you for sweet romances it might be hard to break into FBI thrillers.
How do you select a genre and working toward a brand? Figure out what you love. What books do you love to read? What movies are “must sees” for you? TV shows? What are you good at, an expert in? Do you have a ministry or platform that would support your fiction career?
Consider these elements as you put on your business hat to steer your career.
So, avoid the mistake of not finding your genre.
2. Flitting here and there and everywhere.
While it’s not always possible to stay with the same publisher or agent, do your best to find a “home” and stay there.
Yes, this can be a double edged sword. Sometimes we have to switch publishers and agents to grow our careers.
I did. But I made a mistake once in switching agents but God had my back. Which I’m grateful.
But I also made all of my switches prayerfully.
I also changed publishers, once, after much prayer, and sorta ended up back where I started. Which I found serendipitous.
But over all, your career and brand grow best when you stay put, so to speak.
Sometimes an agent or publisher will drop you, or situations come up where the relationship cannot progress, but do your best to build deep rather wide.
Watch emotional moves and decisions.
Get counsel. Seek the Lord. Don’t give into fears. Above all, don’t think more highly of yourself than you ought.
3. Indie Publishing too quickly.
Don’t rush. Do your homework and find out the best editors and artist for your genre. Find out where is the best place to sell your books and at what price.
Proof your work. Build your social media. Network with other writers.
Above all, learn the craft. Your critique group, family and best friends aren’t necessarily the best judges of your writing.
Again, pick your genre, strive for the highest level of writing, editing and cover art.
4. Ignoring social media.
I know we want to “just write books” but social media is very much a part of our world and now, our jobs.
Build your Facebook and Twitter presence. Engage in the conversation.
If you’re unpublished, follow other authors. Comment on their Pages or reply to Tweets.
Work on “being social,”on “sharing.” Get a bit of a network going with publishers and agents, and authors who tweet.
I know several authors who are waiting to be published and are keeping a good profile on Facebook and Twitter.
Be careful of what you post. No ranting or raging. You’d be surprised who watches and who sees.
Our community is a small one. Your name is your golden goose. 🙂
5. Not improving your craft.
I’ve been published ten years now and I am still working on my craft. Sometimes I get too frantic about it. But I want to always improve.
If you find you are making a genre change — which is possible, at the right time — sometimes you need a difference tone or voice to your work. A category romance has a different “tone” than a trade romance.
Keep reading, studying and improving.
It’s odd, but once you’ve been published for a few years, I think editors are looking for “more” from your work. They expect improvement.
So work on your voice. Work on your skill. Never settle.
6. Missing Deadlines.
Deadlines are tough. Hard to meet from time to time, but never impossible. Missing deadlines sets everything back. Publishers have more than our books to deal with and when we miss deadlines, we apply pressure to our editor and the editing staff.
Plan your time well. Be disciplined. Set your writing schedule and try to keep it. There will be days your writing falls short or things come up, and you can’t make your word count, but keep a schedule.
Missing a deadline by a few days usually causes no heartache but unless you’re award winning, best selling, big selling author missing deadlines can breed bad blood between author and publisher. Even if you ARE all of those things, missing deadline too many times can cause frustrations.
I missed a deadline this year. Well, actually, I made the deadline but the book had no ending. 😉 A combination of things, mostly a health issue, caused me to struggle with the book. My publisher and I agreed to push the book out two months to give my editor and me time to assess the story.
In the past, I’ve missed by a few days one or twice. Pushing back a Friday deadline until Monday. But I do all I can to meet my deadline.
Be a person of your word. When you sign your contract, you’re committing to those deadlines. If there’s a problem, speak up. If addressed early, deadlines can be moved before sales catalogs are written.
7. Envy, Jealousy and Discouragement
I think at some level these emotional attributes are the biggest career killers. Envy is wanting what others have. Jealousy is being possessive of what you already have. Discouragement is the combination of envy, jealous, insecurity settling in.
There’s nothing like being in the weeds of the work, drowning in words, to find yourself hit with a tidal wave of discouragement.
At that point, everyone and everything is better than you.
I thought I was a pretty good writer when I first started out until I didn’t final in any contest and had terrible sales. YIKES!
I was discouraged. But I determined not to let it beat me.
I also strive to fight any envy or jealousy. For every success another author enjoys, I enjoy my own. Or will. If I stay faithful.
I want, above all, to be Godly. To write for the Lord and please Him.
Paul says where there’s “envy and strife there’s every evil thing.”
Hmmm… so don’t let those negative things slip in. They do you no good.