7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by Elizabeth Richards

This is a recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,” where writers (this installment written by Elizabeth Richards, author of the young adult debut, BLACK CITY) 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: Elizabeth is excited to give away a free 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: Rebecca Harwell won.)




 Elizabeth Richards is an award-winning journalist, who spent her
early career reviewing videogames before making the bold (or crazy)
move into travel writing, despite suffering from terrible travel sickness.
In her spare time, she ran a successful lifestyle website aimed at teenage
girls, where she got to interview many of her favourite bands, go to gigs
and basically blag loads of free swag all in the name of ‘research’.
Elizabeth lives in Buckinghamshire, England, with her husband. Her
debut novel is BLACK CITY (Putnam Juvenile, Nov. 2012), a story about
pair of star-crossed youths set against a dystopian backdrop. Connect
with Elizabeth on Facebook, Twitter, or Goodreads.

1. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Like any new job, it takes a while to learn the ropes, so don’t be scared to ask questions! Your agent, editor, publicist and writer friends are all there to help you through your debut year, and nobody expects you to know everything straight away, so just ask.

2. Join a writers’ group. Immediately after signing with Putnam, my editor suggested I join the Apocalypsies – a writers’ group for YA authors whose debut novels were coming out in 2012 (members include Leigh Bardugo, Marissa Meyer, Gennifer Albin, Kiera Cass, and Veronica Rossi, to name just a few). I ummed and ahhhed about it for a few days, as I wasn’t sure I had time for it. However, it was the best decision I ever made. Their friendship, support and advice have been invaluable, and got me through my debut year. Plus, when it comes to marketing, it doesn’t hurt having 100+ authors at the ready to RT your tweets.

(How successful should a blog be before agents/editors will take notice?)

3. Be selective. You only get a limited supply of ARCs, so it’s best to hold them back for competitions, blog tours, or to give to bloggers that you’ve formed a close working relationship with. It’s also a good idea to have one or two copies put aside, in case you get approached by journalists closer to publication date. I leant all this the hard way! Obviously, you want to make sure as many bloggers as possible get to read your book prior to publication, so find out from your publisher what their general marketing email address is, and direct people to that, so they can request a review copy directly from them.

4. Buy lots of swag. You’re going to need it! Bloggers, readers, bookstores, other authors, book groups, librarians and schools will all want some, so you better make sure you’ve got plenty to go around. If you want to keep costs low (and I do!), I highly recommend you just order bookmarks, as they’re cheap to produce, they look awesome, and they don’t cost an arm and a leg to mail (and trust me, it all adds up, especially if you’re posting internationally).

5. Get online! In this day and age, it’s pretty much inexcusable not to have some sort of online presence, especially if you’re writing for young adults. Not only is it a good way to promote your book and generate buzz, but the relationships you form online can open up a world of opportunities for you—it’s how I got my film rights optioned for BLACK CITY (a blogger I’d been emailing sent her ARC of Black City to a studio executive she knew, and they contacted my agent shortly after!). So get on Twitter and Facebook, make sure you have a blog / website, sign up to Goodreads, and if you write YA fiction and have time for it, get on Tumblr, Instagram, and Pinterest too. Basically, make yourself accessible, network, find fun ways to engage with bloggers and readers, and promote yourself!

(Looking to attend a writers’ conference? Start here.)

6. Get offline! I know this is contradicting the last point, but don’t forget you’re actually a writer, so occasionally you have to use your laptop for things other than checking your Twitter feed. However, the internet is always trying to lure you away from work, so invest in some software like Freedom, which blocks your internet connection for a set period of time, or Write Or Die, which isn’t for the fainthearted but you will get a lot of words on the page. Then once you’ve completed your set period of writing, reward yourself with some time on the Internet.

7. Give yourself a pat on the back. It’s easy to get bogged down with deadlines, marketing, sales, rankings, reviews, and all too often you’re so busy comparing yourself to other authors that you forget you’ve done this amazing thing: you’ve got a book published! So take a moment to congratulate yourself. You deserve it.

GIVEAWAY: Elizabeth is excited to give away a free 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: Rebecca Harwell won.)


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Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:


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22 thoughts on “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by Elizabeth Richards

  1. alazydaisy

    Great Advice! I can see where #5 and #6 are true for writers. Networking seems to really help in establishing relations with readers and spreading word-of-month. Though stories are forever waiting to be told, so one can’t get too caught up in that social world. I guess balance is diffinitely key.


  2. vrundell

    Thanks for all the advice. I just wish I could write more hours into the day to allow for the necessary social media-izing.
    Perhaps that would make a good story…the writer who has the ability to write the rules of her world such that each day is now 27 hours long…
    Cheers, and good luck on the second novel!

  3. NeedNewSpace

    Okay, so, I had no idea that there was software to force you to stop procrastinating! How great is that? Even now as I read and comment on this post, I am procrastinating. Maybe I should look into getting it? I wonder if they have a version for my BlackBerry Z10?
    I wish I could find a writing group. I could really use the creative collaboration and critique. I’m not in a large city and really would rather not place an ad on Craigslist. 😉
    I’m looking forward to reading Black City, I’ve heard nothing but great things! Congratulations!
    Cheers, Teresa

  4. StaceyONeale

    Tehehehe…I’m the blogger she’s talking about in #5. Too bad she didn’t mention my name. It would’ve been cool to get a shout-out in Writer’s Digest. But, hey, I did pat myself on the back in the comments section. ;-p

    Elizabeth is so awesome. After the movie rights were sold, she sent me this awesome Pandora bracelet as a thank you. So not necessary, but way cool! Everyone should buy her book. I loved it! She sent me the ARC of PHOENIX (Book 2) and I’m reading it now. It’s just as good.

  5. Christine Kohler

    Congratulations on your debut novel! Great advice. I just signed a contract with Jacquelyn Mitchard with Merit Press/F+W Media for my debut novel. I know I’m going to need to crank up the marketing machine and it can be overwhelming knowing that we’ve only got about 2 yrs. max to make a splash or drown. Your advice gives me some directions on who to get started. Thanks and best wishes on continued success!

  6. BLV_Word82

    I found the article interesting and had a question about #3. What is an ARC. I am a starting writer and learning the language of writing. I found the rest of the points very appropriate and I have managed to get through most of those roadblocks. Thank you for listing the items you have.
    Bruce Nakasone

  7. noelglizotte

    Thanks for the good advice. I especially appreciate the reminder to ask questions. It seems like we so often get involved in our projects and the sense that “we know what to do”, forgetting that we’re all in a big parade and the people ahead of us can make our march easier!

  8. Natalie Aguirre

    I love the Apocalypsies! It’s how I found many of the debut authors I interviewed at Literary Rambles last year. All of your advice is so awesome. I already won an ARC of BLACK CITY and just read it. I loved it and can’t wait for book 2. You can give your copy away to someone who hasn’t read it. I’m planning to share BLACK CITY on my blog and do a giveaway.

  9. Lina Moder

    I absolutely love the Apocalypsies! It’s an awesome group, and that’s how I found out about all these wonderful books:) She’s so right to connect with other writers because that’s how readers then connect:)

    Lovely post:)

    linamoder at gmail dot com


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