Monday, May 7, 2012

A Glimpse into the World of the Superstars

What aspiring author hasn't dreamed of becoming a superstar? National book signing tours, six-figure incomes, television interviews, people asking for cover quotes... doesn't it all sound fun?

That's the part that the public sees. But what does a superstar author really spend most of his or her time doing?

Writing. Duh.

Just like you and me. But not exactly. One of my favorite quotes I heard at the Superstars Writing Seminar last week in Las Vegas, and I'm sorry I forgot who said it, is, "When you're self-employed you only have to work half days. And you get to decide which twelve hours it's going to be."

The Superstars Writing Seminar delivers a big dose of reality. Seven major authors got together to tell us what their world is really like. Although breaking in and making a living as a writer is not as impossible as we've been led to believe, it does take a certain mindset and a lot of hard work. It is a job and a lifestyle. It takes hours of practice, years of preparation, and a good business sense. As the sole proprietor of a small business, you must divide your brain into two parts. The artist and the marketing department. Feed them both. Many wildly talented people never make it because they only want to be artists and starve in a garret and all of those romantic notions.

Write hard. Get good. Then go out and sell it. Even Charles Dickens pounded the pavement, shook hands, and signed books for adoring fans.

The truth is, new authors are practically invisible. Publishing companies loose money on first books, an average of $20,000. Is your manuscript worth betting $20,000 on? That's what you're asking for when you send a submission to a publisher.

Sorta makes you want to get all the punctuation right in your cover letter.

So how do we survive in this brutal world where the giant corporate publishers will throw your book at the wall and see if it sticks? Dump you if you're not selling, even through no fault of your own?

First, network. We writers are each other's secret weapon. Make a lot of friends. Help each other. Whether you publish indie or traditional, a network in the writing and reading community will bring you far more opportunities than you could ever find on your own.

Second, produce a lot of work. One of our presenters said it was like making popcorn. Does anyone put one kernel in the pan and wait for it to pop before tossing in another? No. Lots of kernels. Lots of stories out on submission. Write it, finish it, send it out, keep it on the market until it sells, and immediately start a new project. Something will eventually pop. And you can't know what that something is going to be.

Third, you can always go indie. But if you upload it, who will come? See First and Second points. It's your network and your volume that will get you noticed. Even with the cataclysmic changes in publishing right now, these two principles will hold true. In fact, this might be the best time in the history of the printed word to get on board.

So how did the Superstars Writing Seminar change me? I'm no longer going to sit around and wait for someone to tell me I'm good enough to do this. If I really want it, I can go out and get it.

See you at the top.


  1. Last year at WIFYR, my awesome instructor, Martine Leavitt, asked me what the happily-ever-after for my characters would look like. I was in the early stages of writing my story, and thought I knew where it was going. But a few deep questions threw it into another dimension and gave me a clearer picture of what the reality of that would be.

    Your Superstar Writing Seminar sounds just like that - only for the writers, in their real lives. And it's not terribly pretty in one sense. We'll have to be more diligent, and dedicated, and wear several more hats. But the flip side - that's sooo worth it - is we'll be able to share our stories, and hopefully readers will love them, and maybe we'll get paid a bit (or a lot, thank you, J.K. Rowling and Suzanne Collins!).

    Anyway, it's good to know what we're facing, and what the writer's reality of a happily-ever-after looks like. It's dressed in overalls and looks like work. But that's okay. We LOVE writing, right?

    Thanks for a fabulous post and for sharing what it looks like on the other side, Rebecca!

    1. Thanks, Jonene. It's amazing what spending a little time with these writers did for me. It was motivational, eye-opening, and a whole lot of fun.

  2. AWESOME! And yes, that required ALL CAPS.

    And I've got a ring-side seat to watch you on your way. :)

    1. And now I know enough to be really SUPER excited about what you've accomplished, Sue. You're doing everything they told us to do and more.

  3. That sounds like it was an awesome conference. Thanks for sharing some of it with us. :)

  4. WIFYR is still my favorite, but I am so glad I went to Superstars.

    Amber read me some of the manuscripts submitted by the upcoming WIFYR fantasy class attendees while we were driving to town yesterday. You people have some great stuff to work with this year!

  5. Sounds like a great workshop! I've always been amused at what people think the life of a professional artist of any kind is like. It's like they think of their favorite hobby and imagine we just spend all day playing around, and the superstars just play around and make tons of money.

  6. The authors at the seminar did say that what they did was a lot of fun. But also, as James Owen said, "I wanted to be awesome, and awesome takes a lot of work."


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