July 2014 was a big year for me. It was the culmination of a childhood dream, hard work, putting myself way out of my comfort zone and a passion ignited by finding my true purpose. On the first day of that month, my first book came out.
I've talked before about how writing changed my life. It truly did. I stepped into a new world, having no idea what the next few years held for me. Having no idea if I had what it took to sustain a publishing career (because unless you're Harper Lee, one book does not a make a publishing career.) Having no idea if this job would burn me out, like so many others had. But I wanted to try. And the second I put a big fat red checkmark against the goal of becoming a published author, a bunch more goals took its place.
In four years I've done things I hadn't even dreamed of. I've written over twenty books (though not all of them have released yet), I hit the USA Today bestseller list, I've given workshops and participated in signings. I've mentored other writers and cried over reviews - both good and bad. I've cried over my characters. I've shared vulnerable things about my journey on the internet.
I haven't stopped learning...that's probably the one thing I knew would happen.
So I wanted to share some of the things I've learned about being a published author and having a career in publishing.
1. More books doesn't mean it gets easier. Any skill is like a muscle, and the more you work it the stronger it gets right? True. But that doesn't make it easier. If you're continually pushing yourself to be better and to aim higher, it's actually going to feel bloody hard most of the time.
2. Dealing with criticism doesn’t become easier, either. I wish I could say the opposite. However, in searching for the silver lining I did come to this conclusion: I am now better at distinguishing the criticism that helps me to improve and the criticism which is simply noise. So I know what to listen to, and what to ignore.
3. The joy of typing ‘the end’ doesn’t go away. Twenty books in and I STILL get a rush every time I reach the end of a story. That's a unique feeling I haven't experienced in any other job I've had.
4. Being an author means you’re running a business. Yep. This was a hard learning, because I never thought about it until I was in pretty deep. There's A LOT more that goes on behind the scenes, aside from getting words down on the page.
5. People within the community/industry will criticize you for the way you run your business. But the awesome thing is, you don't have to care! My approach is always that I run my business in accordance with my personal values. Not everyone will agree with my values, and that's perfectly fine.
6. Each book is a different beast. I've had a few books pour out of me with fully formed characters and a sparkling romance than barely needed any revisions. I've had other books which were like a carving a stone statue with a toothbrush. Most fall somewhere in the middle and time doesn't seem to play a role. It's a mystery!
7. Seeing a new cover never gets old. It is STILL my favourite part of the process.
8. Writing the black moment sucks (for me). It's still the part of the book I have to heavily revise almost every damn time. But knowing where you struggle as a writer is as important as knowing where you excel, so you can make sure to include the strong stuff and work really hard on the weak stuff.
9. The community is full of every type of person, some you’ll love and others not so much. I think I've always had a "people pleasing" kind of personality and I like harmony. But in this job you will encounter so many different types of people. Not all of them will get along. In fact, you won't like all of them and not all of them will like you. That's totally fine! You don't have to be friends with everyone and you don't have to constantly try to make other people happy. Understand and set boundaries, make friends and acquaintances, and don't take responsibility for how others behave.
10. Helping a new author without any expectation of a return is a wonderful thing. I've always loved teaching and coaching. Passing on knowledge is something that makes me happy, because I feel like I can give back to the community. It's part of the reason why I redesigned my website, so I could have a proper For Writers section and events page where I list the workshops I'm running. Eventually the plan is to host training courses and have downloadable learning materials here as well. It's my way of paying it forward for all the help I received when I was starting out.