Friday, September 3, 2010

Top Ten Ways to Bomb Your Budding Novel Career

Patti (and all you insightful readers) gave us wonderful ideas on how to achieve success as a novelist.

Now I must share with you some ways to torpedo your career. I must admit I haven’t tried all these things (thank goodness) but will lean heavily on the warnings of my agent Janet Grant (from her online blog) and other industry professionals.

Here in no particular order are some likely career crashers for novelists who write from a Christian worldview:

1. Get into it for fame, money and/or the desire to bare your soul. If the first two are your motives, you are statistically unlikely to succeed. (Think of the market as grading on the curve, except almost everyone gets an F, a few get Ds and Cs, fewer get a B and you can count the As in the hundreds, not in the thousands or millions.) And take the long view: God isn’t much interested in blessing – you know, supernaturally helping and ennobling – people who do things in His name who don’t have His interests at heart.

Want to bare your soul? Unless you have a compelling story and/or can tell it exceptionally well, best to keep that soul modestly covered for now. Maybe later….

2. Approach your writings and publishing decisions from a business point of view instead of after prayer and fasting.

3. Trash-talk an agent, editor, fellow author or other industry professional in public. Don't give credence to what people say about Christian publishing as a very small world where many professionals have worked for several publishers and talk to one another, (even to their competitors).

4. Bank on Christian values such as graciousness and forgiveness from industry professionals. They owe you that because they're fellow believers, even when you don't follow their submission guidelines or other requirements.

5. Jump around from genre to genre. I admit I have done this: Thirteen non-fiction books (several co-written or largely interview-based), one children’s fiction, and now onto novels. I say I did this because I have written what I believed God wanted me to write. It hasn’t killed my career but I’m hardly a household word for any of those genres. (Well, I may be a household word with some Mormons but it wouldn’t be a very nice word.)

6. Listen to and take to heart only opinions about your writing that are offered by people who love you and/or are not industry professionals. (You’ll have that warm glow with you always as you get to sell four dozen copies of your self-published books to them.)

7. Don’t study and absorb your Bible. Consider its stories and counsels as outdated and inferior to more modern works.

8. Refuse to take the time and offer the vulnerability of letting other authors critique your work. (They might steal your ideas and write them faster and better than you and beat you to a publisher. Right.)

9. Lament the lack of quality in Christian publishing but do not read the books that have won awards recently. If you do read them, borrow them so that you don’t directly contribute to the financial wellbeing of the publishing companies nor the authors.

Like Patti, I’ll leave #10 to you. What would you add?


Wendy Paine Miller said...

I haven't been sleeping all that well, but here are some that pop into my head: Be impatient, have high expectations at every turn, demonstrate little humility, dislike learning, mock others, be demanding, have strong sense of entitlement, don't do your research...

Must. Get. Sleep.
Great list.
~ Wendy

Teri Dawn Smith said...

Another way to bomb: don't spend any time learning the craft because after all, God gave you the book.

Jan Cline said...

Today's devotional in "My Utmost for His Highest" (Oswald Chambers)talked about pouring out your blessings/gifts before the Lord. "If you are always taking blessings to yourself and never learn to pour out anything unto the Lord, other people do not get their horizon enlarged through you." I recently received a wonderful word of encouragment from a well known editor and had the opportunity to use his words to me to encourage another writer. When we hold too tightly to our gift of writing, it will squish the blessing. Make sense?
Great post, as usual.

PatriciaW said...

Great post. Another way to bomb is to close yourself off to new horizons, i.e. new ideas, new technologies, new publishers, etc. After all, there's nothing new under the sun.

Love those words that Jan shared. Sharing/pouring out always results in an increase to ourselves, never less than what we started with.

Carla Gade said...

I agree with Teri, don't learn the craft of writing because you want to have a "fresh" voice. Oh, and be sure to send your query in on pretty colored paper so it will stand out! (Be sure it will.)

Latayne C Scott said...

Wendy, if being as succinct and to the point is the result of sleep deprivation, i'll stay up late. Well put!

Teri, what you said reminded me of what I've heard so many agents and editors say: One of the best ways to get them to run the other way is to confront them with this statement: "God told me you need to publish my book.:

Jan, I loved your insights. Oswald Chambers has been a favorite of mine and my daughter for years.

Patricia and Carla -- you pointed up an underlying theme in almost all the ways to bomb your career: Self-focus instead of ministry. Thank you!!

Carla Gade said...

So true, Latayne. It's so important to remember that the talent isn't our own, its from Him. We are simply the vessel. We need to remember that every step of the way.

Marti Pieper said...

(slightly related to 6) Career Killer #10: Refuse to take the advice of editors, agents, and other industry professionals. None of them understand your story and intentions as well as you do, so why heed what they have to say? It's all a matter of divine drop-kicking anyway.

This way, when others reach publication and you don't, you'll have the honor of telling family and friends all about the injustices of the industry. If only those agents and editors had eyes to see the brilliance of your work. If only.