Tip #5 Don’t Hound Other Authors
Let me preface this with the following caveat: I’m not posting this as a snub to aspiring authors, I’m posting this because this is what I’ve done to get where I am. Some of it is good, some of it is bad. I’m trying to keep you from doing the bad. Read on…
Good: When I penned my first novel, Brotherly Love & Betrayal, I was so excited and wanted everyone to know I’d written a book. The first thing I did was register for an upcoming local writers’ workshop and a conference that was to happen later that year. I figured who else but other writers could appreciate the frustration, hard work and countless hours it takes to write an entire book? I was green, eager and ready to absorb everything I could.
How could I be sure I was on the right track if I didn’t educate myself and connect with other authors who had “arrived?” The writers’ workshop was awesome. It was small and intimate, and I was able to ask questions to the workshop host, LaTonya Mason, who at the time had just published her first Christian fiction book by a major publisher. I also met Cheris Hodges, a well-known romance writer who has published several novels. I was like a sponge absorbing all the knowledge I could that day. LaTonya and Cheris gave me ideas to make my novel even better. I was so excited and armed with loads of information when I returned home. I couldn’t wait to sit down at the computer to make some changes and additions to my manuscript.
Cheris was also a newspaper reporter and later gave me one of my first interviews once BLB was published. LaTonya and I later went on to create Charlotte Inspirational Writers’ Group.
In this case, networking worked.
Bad: Wanting to find an editor to edit my work, I did one of the stupidest things I’ve done regarding writing. I sent my manuscript to someone I didn’t know, had never met, had never even spoken to. I don’t know what came over me, but I knew of this professor at a local college and figured since she was an English professor and I was a writer…
I never heard from her.
Um, not a good idea. I still cringe when I think about that. Hopefully, she didn’t even open it since she didn’t know me from Adam. How dare I send a large attachment like that to some unknown person, right? I practically gave my baby to a complete stranger. What kind of manuscript parent am I?
I must say I have had this happen to me many times since I’ve been published, and I smile to myself as I delete the email and its attachments. How could someone I don’t know expect me to read an entire manuscript they’ve written when they can’t even take the time to get to know me or know if I even read what they’re writing? (I’m laughing at myself as I type this.) Whew, thank God for deliverance from stupidity.
Bone-Headed Move Number Two
Bad: For Sisters Only (FSO) is a big event in major cities around the US featuring workshops, seminars and products for women of color. They also have an area called the Author’s Lounge where you can meet and purchase books written by African-Americans. I went the year before I was published, vowing to meet some authors and get my “network on.”
I walked over to the area where the authors were and heard angels singing and harps playing. Oh my goodness, there were authors everywhere. I walked up to the first author I saw and before I could say anything, he put a book in my hand. (He was working like he was on a street corner hustling Folex watches.) I looked at his book, not my flavor, but proceeded to ask him how he got published. He kindly took his book from my hand and literally pushed me to the side to talk to others who were walking in his direction. He actually took me by the arm and pushed me aside. Hmm. His tactics were tasteless to me, but I guess mine were, too. He was there to make money, not talk to some newbie/wannabe who didn’t want to buy his book. Besides, no author wants to leave an event with boxes of books. I cringe when I see him at events now. I hope he doesn’t remember that incident. I’m trying to forget it myself.
I understand now because I’ve had people write the name of their working titles on napkins or the back of MY BUSINESS CARD at events, and then ask me if I can help them get published. Sigh. I hope I’m helping someone here.
Good: At the same FSO event, I moved through the Author’s Lounge and stopped at the table of a gentleman who was selling poetry books. I approached his table with apprehension, not knowing how to approach him or if he was going to try to push his poetry and spoken word CD down my throat. Ironically, we made small talk and the door was opened for me to ask him a few questions. He answered my questions with a smile, we engaged in small talk and I ended up purchasing his book. I was so moved by his realness that the next week I went to his website and purchased another book and his CD. That author is Mark Lacy who I call my mentor because he “represents” for us Indie authors. I call him a real colleague and we’ve met several times since then on the tour circuit. Lesson learned: support an author, then ask them some questions.
Good: I’ve always been a reader. One of my favorite authors when I was writing my first book was Kimberla Lawson Roby. If she had a book out, I had it the week it was released. I reached out to her with a few short questions via email and surprisingly, she responded. Imagine my excitement when my favorite author emailed me back. Of course once a question is answered, you want to follow up with more. Resist the urge to bombard.
I would venture to say that most authors don’t mind answering a few short questions. It’s the aspiring author who wants to have their hands held through the entire process that are a pain. They’re the ones who post on Facebook that we don’t want to give back or “help a brotha/sista get ahead.” That’s not the case at all. The Internet has a lot of good information available on practically any topic you can think of. Those of us who are published started there or a library. I’m a research-a-holic. Ask my friends or family. You can’t be a writer and not do your reasearch.
Good: I mentioned above that I attended a workshop and a conference. Attending the conference was what I call a faith move. It was in Dallas, Texas and I live in North Carolina. I registered for the conference, purchased an airline ticket and went alone. The first night they held a reception and I met loads of authors I’d seen online and whose books I’d seen in the library or on Amazon.com. I couldn’t believe it. I was in my element. I mingled through the crowds of people who were all talking about their books, their publishers and their book deals. There were several authors being featured and had tables set up to sell books. There was a lot of buzz around one author who I’d heard about but had never read any of her work. I went to her table and purchased two books. (Of course I was dying to ask her some questions.) We chatted and as people came to purchase her books, I stepped to the side and then we’d continue our conversation. When her time was up, she asked me if I could carry some of her things as she went to set up for a session she was hosting shortly thereafter. The most important piece of advice she told me that day was to NOT put myself or my work in a box. She encouraged me to not be a victim of a label. (I was struggling with the whole Christian fiction genre thing back then.) That author was ReShonda Tate Billingsley. (I helped carry ReShonda’s box of books. LOL She’ll probably get a kick out of this.)
Point is, talk our language and we’ll talk yours.
Good Move/Bad Move/Final Move
So, there you have it. It wasn’t a preachy or fussy post, just a few pointers I’ve learned along the way. Consider it my way of giving back. If you see an author at a bookstore in mall, purchase their book. Take some of their giveaway material. Make a note of their website or blog and visit it. Follow them on social media. But don’t hound, hound, hound. Build a relationship, ask a few questions, and then keep it moving.
Wanna know what we really like? We like it when you have read our book(s) and can say something about it before going in for the kill.
Don’t forget the archives Tips for Aspiring Authors #1-4.
I have 13 in all, so come back after the holidays for more.