You know, when I first started writing, it was a hobby. I was serious about it, because I don’t seem to be able to do something half-ass that I care about, but I really didn’t expect much to come of it. In the beginning–before God created computers and editing was a pain in the rear end–before you could move paragraphs and add and delete by hitting a button–I wrote short stories and writing was about having fun. Writing is STILL fun for me. Yes, it’s work. Yes, it takes commitment. But doggone, it’s fun to get inside other peoples’ heads and make their stories come to life.
I still love writing and writers. But as soon as you go to your first writers’ conference, the rules change. You don’t just think of a story you want to write, but now, you think about markets. What are the odds that my story will sell to X market? What are editors looking for? I was horrible at marketing for a LONG time, because I wanted to write…what I wanted to write. And guess what? No one was buying it. Did I care? Not really. Not until I got serious about getting a book in front of readers.
That’s when I got serious about what was selling. And that’s when I learned that when I tried to write for the market, I was always a few years behind. By the time I decided to switch from cozy mysteries to serial killers, that market was glutted. I have to say, though, writing two books with really creepy villains was one heck of a lot of fun…and it taught me a lot. Next, I tried a couple of mixed genre books, and that’s when I learned that those don’t have a prayer in the publishing world. Publishers like books that can be stuck in an easily definable slot. When they have to ask, “How would I market this–as mystery, supernatural, horror?”–kiss your sales goodbye.
About that time is when I met Anna Genoese at Tor, and she asked me for an urban fantasy novel. It’s risky to write something when you’re not sure what it is. But yes, you guessed it, it’s pretty damned much fun! By the time I figured out what the market was, it was already glutted. Windows of opportunity don’t stay open very long. But FABRIC OF LIFE, my “sort of” urban fantasy, got me my agent–the wonderful Lauren Abramo. And when we realized that writing urban fantasy was beating a dead horse, she suggested I try romance. As you can tell, I’ve never shied away from trying something new, so the Mill Pond romances came into being.
There HAVE to be smarter, quicker ways to reach your goals, but I don’t know what they are. I didn’t try them. A lot of my friends didn’t either. I belong to a writers’ club, and it pains me how much talent so many of our members have. We’re so diverse, and so GOOD. But publishing is no easier than taking a bus to Hollywood and expecting to be a star. It takes work and perseverance. And you suffer lots of disappointment. It’s HARD. But if you’re doing what you love to do, it’s WORTH it!
I used to attend workshops where the SELLING writers would say, “If your work’s good enough, it will find a home.” Bull pucky! The odds are against you. Know that. Know the markets. And you’ll do better if you know how to promote yourself. Crappy writers can become bestsellers. Great writers can be ignored. So realize that writing is a business. The inventor of the hula hoop probably made more money than a lot of his fellow inventors. Part of selling is luck. Part is providing what people want. There are no guarantees. So, if nothing else, enjoy yourself! Love what you do. And happy writing!