Thursday, July 16, 2009

Career-Minded: What Does it really mean?

I might ruffle a few feathers, but that's okay. I'm a rebel at heart. "Career-minded" If you haven't been under a rock for the past eight months you've read this term in the RWR's Letter from the President. You've seen or heard a few authors head explode when it's mentioned. The President has her own definition for this that I won't get into. I'd rather give it my own spin, because I need to watch my blood pressure.

Overall, the meaning, for me, is that there are two kinds of authors:

1. An author who wants to make writing a career. They make a goal each year to complete a certain number of manuscripts. (Could just be one. Could be 18 months to finish one, but the goal is there.) They study the market. They study the craft. They network. They are in this business for the long-run. They know that once they are published none of the above stops. It only gets harder. It only makes the next level more important. Be it, writing more books a year. Teaching classes. Enrolling in more workshops dedicated to the industry or craft. Getting a support group to help through those tough times.

2. An author who enjoys writing just because it allows them to express themselves creatively.

Note: One type of author isn't better than the other.

The important point is to know which one you are. If you are not falling under the one you prefer then you need to re-evaluate what you can change. I have to admit even after my first book sold, I was still number two. I didn't think past the first sell. I'm a craft junkie so signing up for workshops or being a part of a craft-based forum wasn't a hardship.

But, you had to put a gun to my head to read about the industry. For me, writing was a creative activity and I didn't want to dirty the experience by learning too much about the industry. But then I started to look at the successful authors around me. I came up with five things...

I'm going to break this post up into two parts. I'll be back tomorrow. Tell me what you think so far. What are five things you believe every successful authors has? Do you think of qualities? Do you think it's a mindset? Or do you think it's something they do?


  1. Hi Melissa!

    What a thought provoing post!

    I wish there was a formula or lightening in bottle that could be obtained to spell out each step of the road to a successful career. Shoot, I'd be there asking if it came in super-big-gulp size! LOL

    But the reality is that every author's rise into the realm of publishing won't be the same. What I've been able to discern from interviewing authors is that getting published takes:
    1) Ambition
    2) Hard work
    3) Networking
    4) Willingness to venture outside comfort zones
    5) Luck

    Being talented, networking and a heavy dose of perseverence will get your foot in many doors, but it also takes a small amount of luck, too. What do you think puts your MS in the right hands at the right time?! LOL

    Thanks, Melissa! I'm looking forward to part two!

  2. "What do you think puts your MS in the right hands at the right time?!"

    Jessica Faust recently said something that I believed to be true. She's had several posts talking about why an agent should be passionate about the book they are about to take on. Recently she added another side, passion isn't enough. The authors writing has to be up to snuff. I agree with this.

    You can have a stellar idea, but if you don't have the chops to write it, it probably won't sell. Yes, there are still editors or agents willing to invest in you as an author, but you can't count on that. You (mostly) only get one time to make a first impression i.e. to submit your novel. Why not put your best foot forward?

    The rest of course is luck and/or an opportunity opens up.

  3. Great thread, Melissa and Sarah!

    Sarah, in your networking, are you including promotion? You definitely need that somewhere on the list - especially if you end up with a publisher that doesn't that much of it for you. Thank heavens for the internet nowadays. Can you imagine like it was way back when without it?

    And I also agree about the luck. Your mss has to be on the right desk at the right time with the right person. That doesn't always happen. Timing is everything.

  4. "Your mss has to be on the right desk at the right time with the right person. That doesn't always happen. Timing is everything."

    So much of this business is subjective it's scary. Angela James, head editor at Samhain, had a blog post where she read a submission, it sounded familiar, but she kept reading. She decided to revise and resubmit. She checked a spreadsheet or something and saw that she had in fact read the submission before. And it had been marked to reject the submission.

    I think the only that had changed between the first and second read was mood. Maybe patience too, to craft the R and R letter.