7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by Elene Sallinger

This is a recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,” where writers (this installment written by Elene Sallinger, author of AWAKENING) at any stage of their career can talk about writing advice and instruction as well as how they possibly got their book agent — by sharing seven things they’ve learned along their writing journey that they wish they knew at the beginning.

GIVEAWAY: Elene is excited to give away a free e-book copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: frj4833 won.)



US-Awakening-novel-cover         Screen Shot 2013-11-11 at 9.37.02 AM

Hailing from Washington, DC, Elene Sallinger first caught the writing bug in
2004 after writing and illustrating several stories for her then four-year-old
daughter. Her writing career has encompassed two award-winning children’s
stories, a stint as a consumer-education advocate, as well as several novels
for Xcite Books, Sourcebooks, and UStar Novels. Her debut novel, AWAKENING
(Chrysalis, Book 1), a work of erotic fiction, won the New Writing Competition
at the Festival of Romance 2011. Find her on Twitter.


1. There is no formula for success. I’ve been writing for ten years. I’ve self-published and I’ve traditionally published. When success finally hit, it was a combination of persistence, timing, and luck. The only thing a writer can do to influence their success is write a good story. The audience will find it. Sometimes that’s overnight and sometimes that’s after several years.

2. Reviews are the best promotion. In my personal experience, the most effective promotion for a book is a review. Even a bad review is beneficial because at least people are talking about your book. As of this writing, Fifty Shades of Grey has 5,875 one-star reviews on Amazon. So what. That’s five thousand people talking about the book. Conversation is crucial to the success of a book. Any conversation is better than silence.

3. Ignore reviews even if they are good. George R.R. Martin, author of the bestselling Song of Ice and Fire series, subscribes to this philosophy as well. I admit I read some, you just can’t help it. But, my general experience with reading reviews is that it can color your perception of your own writing. I’m a firm believer that when you write to please an audience, you stop saying anything interesting. As selfish as it may seem, I write to tell the story inside me, not to please an audience. When I read too many reviews, the audience’s perception of the story begins to linger in my brain. As a result, I avoid reading reviews as much as possible.

4. Manners matter. The Internet has changed how we communicate and it allows hobbyists and other non-professionals a platform to speak from. There are entire forums dedicated to authors behaving badly. Politeness and courtesy are key when interacting with readers and industry professionals. The worst thing an author can do is behave badly in a public forum. It reflects poorly not just on themselves, but on their publishing house as well. It’s critical to remember that the author is not an employee of the publishing house. The author is a contractor providing a “work for hire” service. The important thing is the book, not the author. If you behave badly, and make the publishing house look foolish in the process, you can kiss goodbye your chances of getting your next book published. Please, thank you, and a bit of decorum go a long way in paving the road to regular work.

5. Reputation is everything. Reputation goes hand-in-hand with manners. When you distill the writing industry down to its essence, the writer is only as good as their reputation. This is both in public and behind the scenes. Which author do you think a publishing house wants to deal with: the author who meets deadlines, shows up to promotion events on times, is polite and courteous, and responds in a timely fashion or the author who delays, is haphazard in meeting deadlines, and acts unprofessionally? The relationship between publisher and writer is symbiotic, but there are a lot more writers out there vying to get published than there are publishing houses knocking on their doors. Meet your deadlines, be professional and courteous. It’s a simple thing to do and goes further than you realize.

6. Timing. Publishing on multiple continents has its own unique timing requirements. I started in my current genre with a publishing house in the United Kingdom. The book’s performance exceeded all expectation and it was flying up the charts. Then, my UK publisher sold the North American rights to an American publishing house. My royalties dropped faster than Newton’s apple. Why? Because in order to maximize the sale of the American edition, the UK version was pulled from North America for six months. All momentum was lost. My second book – also with the UK house – was sold as well and the same dip in sales is happening. I am struggling hard for simultaneous release in both parts of the world for my third book in order to maximize royalties worldwide and maintain the momentum generated by the promotion and publicity on both sides of the pond.

7. Depth of catalog is important. If I had it to do it all over again, I’d have my second book complete and my third book in progress before I ever published the first. This might seem counterintuitive, but I learned very quickly into the release of my first book that a following makes all the difference in sales. If a reader enjoys your first book, they’ll immediately look to see what else you have out there. I do it myself. If you don’t have anything else out there, they are on to the next and you’ll be lucky to get those eyes back. When you have a catalog of work, a reader will invest in you and that’s when they start looking for your next release date and are willing to wait for your new work.

GIVEAWAY: Elene is excited to give away a free e-book copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: frj4833 won.)


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22 thoughts on “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by Elene Sallinger

  1. jdmstudios

    Great advice, Elene, thank you. I am not quite at the point where I need to worry about reviews or deadlines etc., but I promise you that when I am, I will conduct myself appropriately 😉

  2. frj4833

    Hi Elene,

    I’m so glad I read this! “Ignore reviews even if they are good.” That is such good advice. I know how I would feel if I read any bad reviews but never thought about the good ones. So often we look at our reflection in other people’s eyes, and I can see how that could affect one’s writing.

    I’ve read writing books for years, and having “depth of catalog” is advice I’ve never come across before. Yet it makes so much sense.

    Thank you so much! And the best of luck to you in the future!

  3. Haypher

    Great tips. Had an experience with an author behaving badly. Wrote a review and gave it 4 stars. BTW, 4 stars is still a good review. I guess since I didn’t give her 5 stars I deserved being responded to and called very nasty names.

    Personally I like to read the ones, twos and three star reviews. Sometimes what someone else doesn’t like about a story is just what I’m looking for in a story.

    1. EleneSallinger

      “Sometimes what someone else doesn’t like about a story is just what I’m looking for in a story.” … that’s exactly why it’s only the fact that people are talking about your book that is truly imortant.

      I’m so sorry you got caught up in someone elses bad manners, even 3-stars still means someone liked but, but even 1-star means they bought it and are deserving of courtesy.

  4. vrundell

    Thanks Elene for your insights and wisdom. Good manners and reliability are two personality characteristics that will never harm a person’s career. I especially like thatnote about having more than one book in the hopper–its’ what we all hear–Send out a manuscript and start working on another–but it’s often hard to do focus. Hearing how the woes of non-simultaneous release and backlogs on new titles affect the career of a new writier should give us all some motivation.
    Best of luck in your sales and keeping your book birthdays aligned.


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