7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by Tom Leveen

This is a recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,” where writers (this installment written by Tom Leveen, author of PARTY) 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.

Tom is excited to give away a free copy of his novel to a random commenter. Comment within one week; 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: Marcia won.)



Tom Leveen is the author of Party, a young adult novel published by
Random House Children’s Books,
now available in paperback.
School Library Journal called it “a quick and entertaining read.”
His second YA novel, ZERO, is due in Spring 2012. Tom can be contacted via his
website, www.tomleveen.com, on
Facebook, and at Twitter @tomleveen.


1. Adore booksellers. Most aspiring novelists don’t grasp how instrumental hand-selling at brick and mortar bookstores is to their career. Booksellers, if they like your book, will push it at checkout. They are asked their opinions all day by people coming to the store for one purpose: to buy books. Treat booksellers—from district managers to cashiers—like emissaries of the One True God, because as far as your career goes, they just might be. Don’t kiss up or be a boor (or bore); be yourself, but be your best self. And buy from their stores and urge others to do so.

2. Make appearances. For free. Hand in hand with publishing YA and MG novels are school and library appearances. Accept every opportunity to present your book or teach a class. For free. Many authors disagree with me on this, and they are right to an extent. The argument goes like this: Every hour you spend not writing is potentially lost income. Make an English teacher happy, however, and you’ve earned a lifetime fan, with potential “little” fans coming in each year. Word of mouth may be more valuable than an appearance honorarium. I think getting paid for school visits is something that comes during the middle part of a career. For a first novel, it’s free advertising and PR. Books two, three, or four may be another story.
Local bookstores can arrange school visits, and have a set amount of books the school must purchase; say, 10 to 25 copies. You may not walk away with cash in hand, but you just sold ten or more copies, and many potential fans—who blog and tweet about books and authors—just met you face to face. You can’t top that.

3. Calm down. Nothing moves more slowly than waiting to hear from an agent or editor. I lost many hours my first year in being overwrought, overdramatic, and overwhelmed by the fact that I controlled next to nothing. My advice: Suck it up. Move on to the next project. Sooner or later your agent/editor will get back to you. There is nothing wrong, however, with a polite email to ask how things are going. Underscore polite.

4. Pimp your novel. Wanna sell a million copies of your novel?! Here’s the secret: Tell people it exists. Selling your book often comes down to letting people know it’s available. Be your own best cheerleader. Have postcards and business cards on your person at all times. Be ready with an “elevator pitch” to give at a moment’s notice. Answer the question, “What is your book about?” in thirty seconds or less in an intriguing way.

5. Network. Hey, I’m guest blogging on the GLA blog! Why? I love writing about writing, and maybe a few of you will buy my book. Let us not descend into total fantasy here: one reason to write guest posts (for free!) is because it’s a good way to be seen. Twitter, Facebook, blogs, YouTube … you cannot expect good sales without utilizing these online social networks. Upon publication, you’re not just a writer anymore—you are a small business owner.

6. Write more books. My next novel (Zero, due Spring 2012 with Random House—see, I’m pimping my book!) was first written in 1993, and completely re-written several times. But it wasn’t the only book I was working on, and wasn’t the first one published. Imagine submitting your opus to Dream Agent, who writes back, “Loved your voice, but this story isn’t for me. Let me know if you have anything else.” This is your shot! Except … uh-oh, you don’t have another book to send her? Bummer.
Furthermore, don’t put all your creative eggs in one vampire-urban-fantasy-romance-YA-with-series-potential basket. You are a writer; write. Write novels in other genres. Maybe your first won’t land you an agent, but your second—or fifth—might.

7. Have something to say. We all (hopefully) have something we are passionate about. Have something to say, and be able to say it well in public, like a book signing. Passion is more infectious than a stale reading from your novel, which is like reverse Shakespeare:  it was meant to be read silently, not performed aloud. Consider skipping a reading in favor of talking about something that makes your whole face light up, and tie it to the plot or theme of your novel. More people will pay attention, and the applause may move from polite to thunderous.


Don’t let your submission be rejected for
improper formatting. The third edition of 
Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript
has more than 100 examples of queries,
synopses, proposals, book text, and more.
Buy it online here at a discount.


Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:


Want to build your visibility and sell more books?
Create Your Writer Platform shows you how to
promote yourself and your books through social
media, public speaking, article writing, branding,
and more. 
Order the book from WD at a discount.










You might also like:

  • No Related Posts

19 thoughts on “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by Tom Leveen

  1. Debbie Battaglino

    Your advise was diverse and priceless. As a former bookseller at the largest retail book store I can support your position on adoring booksellers. Many a customer walked out with an armload of books I recommended. And being yourself and talking to your audiences rather than reading at them, I witnessed both types of authors. The personable author who connects with those in attendance has them lining up to purchase the books and get them signed. I am glad to hear about your book. YA is one of my favorite genres and I can’t wait to read it.

  2. Wendy Greenley

    Congratulations again and thank you for sharing your tips. Sounds like it all boils down to passion: passion for the writing, the audience, the booksellers and marketing plan. Suddenly I’m struck with the urge to put down my middle grade manuscript and write a romance (JK!).

  3. Laurie Outlaw

    I like the one about writing in different genres. Not only does it give you more options to be published it keeps it fresh for the writer as well. Why be pigeonholed as just YA or Urban Fantasy..or whatever?

  4. Carol Garvin

    Every item on your list is excellent advice, thanks! If I had to pick just one I’d stress #7. I’ve heard so many writers say they’re introverts (me, too!) and find marketing uncomfortable, and yet if we want to sell books we have to promote them. The best way to generate enthusiasm for anything is to be enthusiastic ourselves. Building relationships online by supporting other writers and readers in their endeavours is important, too. It’s not all about a sales pitch.

  5. Eljay Cohen

    Thanks for the advice, Tom! I especially enjoyed the section about free appearances… awesome. I look forward to utilizing what I’ve gleaned. Best of luck with your 2nd release!

  6. LindaS-W

    Super advice, especially #1, because not only are you keeping booksellers in business, you are keeping your fellow writers in business. And yes, keep writing, writing, writing… Peace…

  7. Sara Flower

    Great advice! I love hearing tips from published writers. I especially like what you said about not focusing all your energy into one piece of work. It is important to have more than one book up your sleeve.

  8. Tonya

    Very solid advice, especially about not putting all your stock in one genre. Trends are fickle, but good writing isn’t. BTW, probably one of the best book covers I’ve seen in a while

  9. Margaret

    As someone who is a young writer, I can’t help but emphasize how important #5 is. And not just because of the relationships you build. In the last few months that I’ve been reading other writer’s blogs I have learned almost as much about writing and the publishing industry as I learned in the last five or six. And it’s encouraging to see what other published writer’s have had to go through to become authors.

  10. Kristan

    Great advice, all. And I think I’m with you on #2; it’s not about the money. It’s about drawing readers to your story and making them fall in love with it (which should, in the long run, bring in money anyway).

    I’ve heard good things about your book, btw!

    (And psst, Chuck, you’ve got the standard intro for "How I Got My Agent" instead of "7 Things" up there.)


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.