Monday, July 21, 2014

A Swan Song for Anonymity: Five Secret Advantages of the Unpublished Author

Hey y'all!  Things are heating up around here, in all the best ways.  Two quick things on the book front:

1.  I was monstrously mistaken in what I said previously: the US release date is and has always been July 29th.  Eurasia has always been at war with Eastasia.  And Amazon has always been a shameless two-timing prevaricator.

2.  The UK launch date has been pushed back a couple weeks, date TBA.  There was a printing error that necessitates re-printing and re-shipping the book, and believe me - it is TOTALLY worth the do-over.  (Many thanks to our benevolent Thompson clan patriarch for the catch - I owe you big, Uncle S!)

Anyway, tomorrow begins the Twelve Days of Launchmas, which is to say, the countdown to the book release party on August 2nd.  I'm excited about that - got a lot of cool stuff lined up - but before we get into that, I kinda wanted to do something to close out this past year I've spent in "pre-publication" mode.  Suffice to say, it's been full of ups and downs (more ups than downs!), and I have learned one hell of a lot. I don't think I have the time or clarity to talk about that yet, but here in the meantime is a re-post of one of my favorite articles - one I originally wrote for the DFWcon blog last year.  Basically, it's called

Five Secret Advantages of the Unpublished Author

because while I was out trail-blazing and socializing over the past year, I asked a few authorial celebrities a question:  “What is special and wonderful about being an unknown?  What do you miss about being new and unpublished?”

Here is what I found out!

1.  You can write whatever you like.  Nobody has any expectations of you.  This was the gem of wisdom that dropped so suddenly from Deborah Crombie at her DFWcon 2013 keynote address that I almost missed it.  How true it is, though!  When you are new, you have perfect freedom to carve out your own niche – the blend of genre and style that is uniquely yours.  Nobody is going to refuse to pick up your steamy fantasy romance because your name is John Grisham and all anyone wants from you are murders and lawyers and sometimes murdered lawyers.  You will never again have this golden opportunity to shape your voice, your brand, and your identity!

2.  You can attend conferences and conventions solely for your own enjoyment.  I had a new appreciation for this one after chatting with J.K. Cheney, who had no sooner staggered in the door from her eleventeen-hour drive from Oklahoma to San Antonio than was due at a panel, and then a meeting, with a dinner date lined up afterwards, and… you get the idea.  When nobody knows who you are, you can be whoever you want – go to the events you like, hang out with the people you enjoy, and quit when you get tired.  That’s pretty liberating.

3.  You can write at your own pace.  This is one of many pearls of truth that Gini Koch bequeathed to me.  Actually, her full thesis was closer to, “Write your ideas – all of them.  Write as fast and as much as you can, for any story you’ve ever wanted to tell – get them down on paper.  Because once you sell, contracts and deadlines pile up, and who knows when you’ll ever have that freedom again?”  I’ll be honest – this one scares the dickens out of me.  Writing because you love it is quite a different thing than writing because it’s due on Friday.


4.  Social media is a hobby, not a job requirement or a chore.  This one I got from Rosemary Clement-Moore, with an “amen!” from several other authors.  Granted, even unpublished writers are expected to be building that all-important platform these days, so this one can feel like a weight around your neck before anyone ever reads a word of your writing.  But how wonderful it is to friend and follow just the people who bring joy to your life, post only when you have something to say, and do it all without hundreds of strangers watching and waiting to dissect your every virtual twitch!

5.  You can own your own opinions.  Well, let me clarify.  You always have a right to your opinions, but the more visible you are, the more carefully you need to consider how you express them.  This is something I learned from the great Candace Havens.  Maybe you think Twilight is the biggest load of glitter-crusted horse-apples ever to see print.  All right.  But once you publish, regardless of your genre or audience, Stephenie Meyer becomes your peer – and after you’ve been seated at the grown-ups’ table, it’s rarely a good idea to be seen flinging food at the other guests.   (Actually, it’s best to do your kicking under the table, even when you’re still an unknown.  The Internet is forever, and those caustic blog rants and gif-laden one-star book reviews have a depressingly long half-life.)  For now, enjoy the freedom to read what you like and say what you feel (offline!), without having to worry about who you might be seated next to on a panel, or which backs you need to be scratching in order to get a blurb or a guest post or an ARC review.

And you know what - looking back at this post, I wish I had tried harder to talk to people outside my own advertising demographic (I gather there's a lot of "woulda-coulda-shoulda" in this industry generally).  But I am SO GRATEFUL to these amazing authors for clueing me in to the challenges of the next phase, and helping me appreciate the joys of this one.  I've really enjoyed my year of impending authorhood, and am looking forward to seeing what happens next.

Have no mean hours, but be grateful for every hour, and accept what it brings.


  1. So very true, all of it! (Especially what Candace said.)

    (Also, will Solaris let them sell copies at ArmadilloCon?)

    1. I know, right - it's like y'all are some kind of sick geniuses!

      (And yes! Acquiring copies TO sell is a stickier widget, but I got a modest stack of author copies left that I can stump with. Will see what happens!)

  2. #1 and #4 have really struck home to me, Tex. No, I'm not published but I do love having the freedom of writing what I love and want to read. And it does include three different genres at my last reckoning. It's kind of scary. I was going to add a Twitter account just for writing but with adding so many and being added it became a moot point. :)

    Marvelous post!

    1. It IS scary, is it not? I've always believed that one of the great things about writing is that there really is no career-ending injury, no permanent "game-over screen" - but it's intimidating all the same, this feeling that you have to Decide Forever (and pick just one thing, and get it perfect on the very first try.) Let's hear it for playing it cool and enjoying the ride!

  3. Don't be afraid of #3 LOL. I'm still writing what I love -- but now I don't have time to write all the OTHER things that I ALSO love, because I have contracts and deadlines (and huzzah for both) and my "free writing time" is very limited to close to nonexistent. So write it all now, not only because you want to write it all but because you also have no idea what's going to sell when.

    1. Haha, you know, Gini, the more I listen to you, the more I realize that I have been Doing It Wrong this whole entire time. And yet that's not as depressing as I would have thought - because if you've made it that far down the road and are still enjoying the ride, I have high hopes for the rest of us! (Thanks for the hot tip, though - I will preach that to the masses every chance I get.)

    2. LOL, there is no "right way", babe, other than the fact that money should always flow TO the author. Everything else is truly what works best for you. Getting to do what you love, even with (and many times in desperate need of) deadlines, is so much better than anything else. I loved my career prior to this one, but the best day at Corporate America is still not as good as the worst day writing. :-D BTW, when you get big enough, you'll get invited into anthologies, and then you get to write new stuff you love, with the additional deadlines, and it's almost the same as getting to write whatever you want, with the huge bonus of your being paid for the work and getting to be in anthos with other authors you love. So never give up, never surrender!