Advice from NYT Bestselling Author Jamie Ford: "Debut novelists should only entertain one-book contracts"

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Jamie Ford is the New York Times bestselling author of Songs of Willow Frost and Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet—which was an IndieBound NEXT List Selection, a Borders Original Voices Selection, a Barnes & Noble Book Club Selection, Pennie’s Pick at Costco, a Target Bookmarked Club Pick, and a National Bestseller. I met Jamie and his lovely wife at the 2015 Annual Pulpwood Queen Book Club Convention in Nacogdoches, TX (where costumes, tiaras and pink feathered boas are de rigueur). You can connect with him on his website, jamieford.com, his FB page: facebook.com/JamieFordAuthor or on Twitter: @JamieFord, but in the meantime, enjoy Jamie's responses to these burning questions.

This guest post is by Kristen Harnisch. Harnisch is the award-winning author of The Vintner's Daughter, the first novel in a series about the changing world of vineyard life at the turn of the twentieth century. Her next novel, The California Wife, will be released in 2016. Harnisch has been a speaker at the Writer's Digest Conference and currently lives in Connecticut with her husband and three children. Connect with Kristen at kristenharnisch.com, on Twitter @KristenHarnisch, and on Facebook facebook.com/kristenharnischauthor.

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#1

Your debut novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, was published in 2009 and there are now more than one million copies in print! In addition to a soulful story and stellar writing, what other factors do you believe have contributed to the novel’s sales success?

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Dumb luck? Fortuitous alignment of the stars? The fact that James McPatterson only published nine books that year instead of his normal 257, thus leaving a little room on the bookstore shelves for the rest of us? I’m not exactly sure (publishing is less science and more alchemy). But…my guess is that Hotel was a story of long-lost love, which everyone can relate to. We never forget our first loves. That’s why people lose twenty pounds before their class reunions.

#2

Your great-grandfather was a miner and labor boss in Nevada in the late 1800s and your father was a hardworking restaurateur. How does their legacy influence your writing and your work ethic?

It means that whenever I hear Blue Collar Man by Styx, I think, “Yeah, that’s me—to the bone.” Also, it’s fun to remember that my Chinese American family has been in the US longer than Donald Trump’s family. ‘MURICA.

#3

You published Songs of Willow Frost in 2013, four years after Hotel. How do you think publishing has changed during that time and what advice would you give a debut novelist today?

When Hotel was published 5% of my sales were ebooks. With Willow Frost that number jumped up (and leveled off) around 40%. That’s a seismic shift and why debut novelists should only entertain one-book contracts. Seriously. The world changes too quickly and you don’t want to be locked into a business model that’s outmoded. Pay attention to the fine print. It might be written in emojis.

[5 Important Tips on How to Pitch a Literary Agent In Person]

#4

You once said that reading your favorite authors while you’re writing is like trying to lose weight while reading Vogue. What do you read/watch/listen to stay inspired when you’re writing?

I usually read something that’s pure escapist enjoyment, like the Game of Thrones books. I’m just a fanboy at heart. It’s less about inspiration and more about––look! Dragons!!

#5

Your writing is featured in the first Asian American superhero graphic novel, Secret Identities, and you’re a big fan of classic superhero comics. If you could possess any superpower, what would you choose and why?

Well, my wife gave me a Green Lantern ring for our engagement, so that would seem like an obvious choice but I’m going with Daredevil. He has this radar-sense because he’s blind. And if I were blind I wouldn’t be able to read bad reviews.

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Brian A. Klems is the editor of this blog, online editor of Writer's Digest and author of the popular gift bookOh Boy, You're Having a Girl: A Dad's Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.

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