7 Things I've Learned So Far: Kami Kinard

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 kids writer Kami Kinard. GIVEAWAY: Kami 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: Ardent Muse won.)
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This is a recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,”where writers (this installment written by Kami Kinard, author of THE BOY PROJECT) 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: Kami 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: Ardent Muse won.)

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Kami Kinard is the author of THE BOY PROJECT: NOTES AND
OBSERVATIONS OF KARA MCALLISTER (Scholastic, Jan. 2012).
Her poetry, stories, articles, and essays have appeared in periodicals
for children and adults. Kami also works as a teaching artist for SC
schools, and teaches writing courses for continuing education programs.
She lives with her family in balmy, buggy, and beautiful Beaufort, SC.
Connect with her through her blog, Facebook, Twitter, or see her book trailer here.

1. Recognize that you have a lot to learn. There is a stage in every writer’s life when they think everything they write is great. There is a name for this stage: beginner. Often when we start writing we are so excited about what we produce that we fail to see how much we have to learn. My writing improved dramatically after I realized that it needed to do just that.

2. Get feedback on your work. The only way to see things clearly is through lenses other than your own. I learned so much when I finally joined a critique group. Specifically, I learned how to improve my craft. When not actively involved in a group, I have a writing partner who reads everything I write. If a critique group doesn’t appeal to you, you can pay for critiques at conferences, or hire a freelance editor. Others will be able to see problems you are blind to. Trust me.

(How to collaborate with a freelance editor.)

3. Invest in your career. If you chose to be a doctor, a lawyer, or an architect, you wouldn’t be able to open shop without an education. While no one requires this of authors, if your career is important to you, make an investment in it. Travel to conferences where writers you admire will be speaking or teaching. Take classes and go to workshops. If you are willing to keep improving and keep learning, you will eventually get an agent and a publisher. I spent the first few years of my career “saving money” by not attending events. That was a very expensive mistake.

4. You need an agent, even if you think you don’t. It is still possible to sell a book without an agent, but what happens next? Contracts are complicated these days with audio rights, e-book rights, and foreign rights and more. Unless you have experience with contract negotiations, allow an agent to help you. You will most likely get a better advance, and an agent will be able act as a liaison between you and your publisher if anything goes wrong. I have sold books with and without an agent, so I speak from experience. Which of my books do you see in bookstores across the country today? The one my agent sold.

5. Don’t be afraid to outsource. You’ve heard the phrase “life happens,” right? Sometimes life happens in ways that can impede our careers. Four months before my book debuted, I ended up spending most of my time in a hospital room with a family member. I needed to be planning for my book’s release, but I didn’t have a minute. My self-designed website needed upgrading. A book trailer needed to be produced. A blog tour needed to be scheduled. I finally realized that if I wanted these things done, I was going to have to pay someone else to do them. A friend found a web designer for me, my editor gave met the name of a film student who made trailers, and I found another writer willing to research the market and target blogs for a potential tour. I also asked her to find out what other things I should be doing to promote my book. She named a price. I paid her twice that. It was worth every penny.

(Do agents Google writers after reading a query?)

 6. There is strength in numbers… join a group. I am a member of The Apocalypsies, a group of 2012 debut children’s authors. Because we are a large group, bloggers and other book lovers contact us as a unit. I’ve had many more opportunities to promote my book through the Apocalypsies than I would have had on my own. I didn’t know about this type of group until the writer I hired to do research found it for me. I was one of the last members to join. I love being part of it! But I missed a number of opportunities because I joined late.

7. Make friends. A lot of people will tell you to go to conferences to make connections, but friends I’ve made through these events are far more valuable. It is wonderful to have friends who have similar career goals and who understand the challenges authors face. I am thankful to have shared my journey as an author with awesome friends!

GIVEAWAY: Kami 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: Ardent Muse won.)

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Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:

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