With increasing frequency, I'm receiving e-mails asking for advice from new authors. What's strange is that I'm a new author myself. But maybe other authors are just looking for a steady hand in the instant quagmire that results once you receive your first contract offer. Suddenly with no warning at all, you're faced with tons of decisions and options.
So I've devised my own list of Thou shalts and Thou shalt nots for authors. The most successful authors probably have their own lists. For fellow authors, feel free to adopt what you find useful and ignore the rest. This is MY list...the one that I live by.
1) Don't be a pain in the ass. Or as my grandma used to say, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. I couldn't ever figure out why I would want to catch flies, but that's another story. The truth is simple. Be nice. Be polite. Be patient. All those things your mama taught you about being a lady or gentleman are more true now than they ever have been.
2) There is no privacy anywhere in the world except in your bathroom--if you're alone. Every where else in the world you're in public. Don't say anything that you don't want to hear on the six o'clock news. I'm serious here. Nothing is sacred. Nothing is secret. If you share information with another person expect it to spread like the plague.
3) Having said that, DO NOT be that plague carrier. Never, ever share anything anyone has told you unless you have their express permission. Gossips get a reputation very quickly and then when they really, really need to know something, they don't because no one will talk to them.
4) The reason you have editors and critique partners is so they can tell you what you need to improve and work on. If you refuse to listen to them, refuse to learn from them, you will never be any better writer than you are right now. Listen. Rewrite. Learn.
5) No one can promote your book with as much zeal and enthusiasm as you can. Yes, you have to take time to do so. What you're selling is your name. If no one knows your name, they won't buy your book. Set aside time to take part in chats, do a blog, set up a web site... the list of possibilities is endless. Take time to investigate. It is possible to do most of your promo with very little money.
6) Choose your excerpts carefully. Ask a friend to read them. Make sure they're interesting without giving away your story resolution. Not too long.
7) If you participate in a chat, don't be a post-and-runner. Hello! What part of chat is difficult to understand? The readers want to CHAT with the writer. If you post and run, you cheat the reader. And you lose an opportunity to answer questions or add little tidbits about your book.
8) Always remember that you are in public. Always. Act like you're at a booksigning when you attend a chat. You wouldn't go to a book signing in your underwear. Don't "verbally" strip down at a chat. Be professional. Friendly, but professional.
9) If you have a bone to pick with another individual, discuss it privately. That's what e-mail is for. And never forward an e-mail without express permission from the originator. Never.
10) Always offer a helping hand when possible. Always encourage the next guy. Always give the gift of friendship and experience. Remember that you were once brand new too.