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 at any stage of their career can talk about seven things they’ve learned along their writing journey that they wish they knew at the beginning. This installment is from writer Tom Leveen. Tom Leveen is the author of Party, a young adult novel published by Random House Children’s Books, now available in paperback. His second YA novel, ZERO, is due in Spring 2012.
Author:
Publish date:

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.)

Image placeholder title
Image placeholder title

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.

Image placeholder title

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:

Image placeholder title

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.

From Our Readers

Describe the First Time a Book Transported You to Another/Magical World: From Our Readers (Comment for a Chance at Publication)

This post announces our latest From Our Readers ask: Describe the First Time a Book Transported You to Another/Magical World. Comment for a chance at publication in a future issue of Writer's Digest.

About Us: How to Handle Your Story That Involves Other People

About Us: How to Handle Your Story That Involves Other People

Your story belongs to you but will involve other people. Where do your rights end and theirs begin?

Identifying Your Book's Target Audience

Identifying Your Book's Target Audience

Editor-in-chief Amy Jones navigates how to know your target audience, and how knowing will make your writing stronger.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 575

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a safe poem.

ryoji-iwata-QKHmi6ENAmk-unsplash

I Spy

Every writer needs a little inspiration once and a while. For today's prompt, someone is watching your narrator ... but there's a twist.

Brian Freeman: On "Rebooting" Another Writer's Legacy

Brian Freeman: On "Rebooting" Another Writer's Legacy

In this article, Brian Freeman, author of Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Treachery, discusses how he took up the mantle of a great series and made it his own.

Sole vs. Soul (Grammar Rules)

Sole vs. Soul (Grammar Rules)

Learn how to distinguish the sole from the soul with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

How to Make the Most of a Virtual Writing Workshop or Conference

How to Make the Most of a Virtual Writing Workshop or Conference

In this brave new world of virtual learning and social distance, Kristy Stevenson helps us make the most of the virtual conference.

When Is Historical Accuracy Inaccurate?

When Is Historical Accuracy Inaccurate?

Writers of historical fiction must always ride the line between factual and fictitious. Here, author Terry Roberts discusses how to navigate that line.