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25 Years: What I’ve Learned

This month, August 24th, marks 25 years since the day I got the phone call telling me that a real publisher wanted to give me real money to publish one of my novels. So I thought I’d write a post sharing the most important things I’ve learned during this long haul.

Friends matter

Nourish your relationships. Find your tribe of creative colleagues. Let them become your friends. Try to offer as much to your tribe as you get back from it. Share the things you learn. Listen to the findings of the others. Celebrate every member’s success as if it was your own, because in a close knit group, we’re all a part of every bit of that.

Feed your friendships. Feed them with your time, your attention, and your appreciation. That’s my number-one tip.

Adapt to survive

  1. Editors will come and go. So will assistants and formatters and web people.

  2. Lines will fold. Publishing houses will close.

  3. Trends and sub-genres will be hot and then not and then hot again.

  4. You’ll have a huge money year, followed by a year of breadcrumbs.

  5. You’ll be the flavor of the month, and then yesterday’s news.

  6. You’ll have books that soar and books that flop.

  7. Your computers will die.

  8. Your favorite word processing software will go extinct. Cough-WordPerfect-cough.

Nothing is permanent. Business, like life, is in a constant state of change. It has to be, otherwise it would stagnate and die.

Take each success with joyous appreciation. Celebrate and relish it. Take each failure–scratch that, there’s no such thing as failure. Take each challenge as an opportunity to grow, and then rise to meet it.

And greet each change the same way. Embrace it, accept it, and see how far you can run with it.

The people who huff and puff and gripe about how ebooks have ruined the industry are hurting no one but themselves. All their complaining won’t stop progress.

Those taking the eBook revolution (e-Volution?) and running with it are the innovators who are excited about learning a new way, exploring a new world, and ultimately, mastering it.

Your backlist is your fortune

Veteran authors: Get every title you can get reverted. Fight hard for them. This is your retirement fund.

Traditional authors: Start asking for reversions now. Don’t wait until your advances get too high and your publisher drops you. Your backlist is solid gold.

New authors: Press for the most liberal reversion clause you can get. If you can, make it time-based, with no loopholes for them to re-release the book with a 5-dollar stock art cover, call it a new edition, and claim that extends their rights for 5 more years. Not that anyone has ever done that to me. (Except they have, and are doing it as we speak.)

Indie authors: In today’s paradigm a book is never old news. Releasing it doesn’t mean you’re done. In the old days you had a week to hit a list, a month to make your sales, and in 3 months, your book had done about all it was going to do. That’s no longer the case. I keep taking books down, re-editing, re-packaging and re-launching them. My backlist far out-earns my frontlist, and as soon as a series starts flagging, I go back to it, freshen it up, change the cover art, and start again.

Every year, millions of new eReader devices are sold. All those purchasers need content! So we need to keep our stories up-to-date, our cover art fresh, and our promotional efforts ever-green.

Nose-to-grindstone isn't the answer

Now, having seen the world from both sides and the middle, I realize I had it all wrong. Life is meant to be lived, to be savored. So write for as long as you’re enjoying the writing. Let the story unfold at its own pace, and do what your innermost self wants to do most.

Taking it easier on ourselves will make us better writers, but more importantly, it makes us happier people.

Making a living, is what we call it. But it’s making a life that counts.

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What’s the point in achieving abundance if your time is all taken up trying to keep it? Abundance is meant to be enjoyed! It’s unfulfilled if it’s never relished.

And the most little known secret—what you don’t appreciate goes away. So be sure to take a break from striving every once in a while to bask in where you are.

Till next time,


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