I’m delighted that newspaper columnist and author Laura Watts has been able to join me, and she’s sharing some wonderful advice in her great guest post!
5 Lessons I Learned from a New York Times Best-Selling Author
By Laura Watts
My first job out of college was in advertising, as a personal assistant to the president of the Advertising Age ‘Southeast Agency of the Year’. While grateful to get my foot in the door, what I wanted more than anything was to be a copywriter.
One day a new senior copywriter arrived and we became fast friends. This friend was a gifted writer. In fact, she was so gifted that she won the industry’s most prestigious copywriting award. She sold her house, moved to the mountains, and began the very difficult work of writing her first book.
Seven years later, our family moved just a few miles down the road. She was now a published author, with a second book in the works. I was a stay-at-home mom in need of a part-time job, and so I became her assistant.
Several days a week I drove to her house and worked at a very large desk while she sat across the room working on her latest chapter. It was an aspiring writer’s paradise. I made phone calls to her editor. Chatted with her publicist. I answered fan mail. Drove her to speaking engagements. And fronted books at signings.
Over the years I watched her writing life evolve. I was there as she searched for a publisher and negotiated her first contract. And when she hung the framed New York Times Bestseller’s List on the wall after her first novel climbed to #1.
So what did I learn as this bestselling author’s assistant? Here is the short list, my top five. Whether you are seasoned writer or just starting out (or somewhere in between) these five ‘writer’s rules’ can help assure your success:
1) Don’t compromise. When it comes to looking for an agent or publisher, hold out for the right ‘fit’. Rejection just means that that particular agent or editor isn’t right for your work and you’re not right for them. As in any relationship, both parties need to be invested in order for it to succeed.
2) Promote yourself. That looks much different today than it did back in the 90s when there was no Internet, Twitter, or ‘e-Book’ category in the New York Times. With the whole world literally at your fingertips, there’s no excuse. No matter how great your publisher/publicist/agent is or how much they believe in you, you have to do everything possible to get noticed. Set up a website, blog, tweet. You get the idea.
3) Nurture the relationships with your agent and editor. Listen and learn from them, but don’t be afraid to speak up when you disagree. Remember that this is a partnership, and you’re in it to help each other.
4) Value your readers. After all, they are the reason you’re here. My friend and I answered every fan letter that crossed her desk. Today she has an international following and some of the most faithful readers on the planet. That didn’t happen by accident.
5) Finally, remember my friend’s advice to this budding writer: Put your bottom in your chair and write. ‘That’s the only way it will get done.’
So here I am, once again, following her advice.
About Laura Watts
Laura Watts is a newspaper columnist and author of HOW TO PREPARE FOR KINDERGARTEN: A Common Sense Guide to Getting Your Child and Yourself Ready for Day One (a work-in-progress). Follow her personal blog with musings on writing and life at Laura Out of the Blue. Laura also blogs about travel at Essentially Laura. Follow her travels on Twitter.