Lessons Learned from Authors


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Painting by Theodoor Rombouts

Recently during the awesome weekend that was filled with the Salt Lake City Comic Con, Jei and I took the time to go to a panel that was labeled Breaking in as a Writer: NY Times Bestselling Authors & the Years it Takes to be an Overnight Success. It had David Farland, Jody Lynn Nye, James A. Owen, Kathryn Purdie, V.E. Schwabb and Michael A. Stackpole on the panel. The wide range of experience and knowledge between them allowed for a very rich conversation and exchange of thoughts. Of course, as I am prone to do, I scribbled down a multitude of notes as they laid out their wonderful nuggets of advice.

While I would love to outline word for word the great and wonderful experience that was listening to these authors divulge their trials and tribulations, I can only share with you the most profound tidbits of advice that I have taken away from it.

The first and foremost comment was given by David Farland as he opened up and began to explain to the audience the true reality of what an overnight success truly means in the world of literature. On average it takes an author seven years to become published and another seven to find themselves on the New York Times Best Seller list. James A. Owen then went on to compare it to the bardic way of mastering an art, with the seven years of learning, seven years of practice and seven years of performing to become a true master. This stuck with me. If these bestselling authors can be so patient and understand the constraints of their own career than I can be understanding and patient with my own writing.

Another portion of the panel brought out another few gems of advice that I think every potential author needs to hear. Do not put too much pressure on one project, one book or one manuscript. Let yourself learn, never be afraid of criticism and growth. And last but not least, don’t put a limit of time on when you will be published. So much luck and timing come into play when it comes to being published or being successful at selling your self-published book that attempting to set an unattainable out of your control limit will only lead to disappointment that may discourage you from your next project.

The last and one of the most important sections of the panel focused in on the behavior and environment that exists within the community and workplace of authors, editors and publishers alike. The most profound statement was given when Jody Lynn Nye said: “Treat it like a job before anyone pays you for it.” Which is so important when it comes to the behavior and interaction of the others in the community that are there to help or work with you directly. It was stressed to be professional, be reliable and to always come through to keep those relationships in good standing.

It was interesting to see how different all of their backgrounds and beginnings were. From a technical writer gone author to a game developer looking to contribute to the stories being made into interactive games, no two were the same. It was great to hear about their beginnings and challenges along the way. Overall it taught me that the perception of an overnight success as an author is a farce and that patience, hard work and dedication to perfecting the art of writing are what all of these wonderful authors had in common. I am grateful that we got to hear their wisdom, jokes and learn from them.

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