The take away: notes from an author forum

Yesterday, I participated in the Fall Local Author Forum at our local library. I took away a couple of insights from the other authors that are worth passing along.

You’re never too young or too old to see success as a writer.

One of the authors on the panel is in her teens, and she’s already won at least one award. She has the poise and positive attitude that in my opinion mark her as an author to look out for if she chooses to continue down the path of a writer, which I hope that she will.

On the flipside, a woman came up to me (a 37-year-old) after the forum to tell me that she felt my words during the forum mark me as someone destined to make it as a writer, even though the audience building process has been slow (and many thanks for her encouragement). She went on to tell me about a friend of hers who is in his late 70s, who wrote a novel many years ago, and just recently, he received an offer to turn the novel into a screenplay. So, if you think you’re too young to publish or too old, think again. Just go for it.

Some authors can’t resist pushing people to buy their book, no matter what topic they are asked about.

This is a definite DON’T, no matter what level of author you are. There is no bigger turnoff than hearing a writer say “So, buy my book!” over and over. Even if it’s the best book in the world, you’ll never sell people on it by beating them over the head with it. Take a more casual approach. Trust that if someone likes what you’re saying, they might come by your table later to buy your book.

Writing a book you care about is much more important than writing a book you think will sell.

You’ve heard “Write what you know” before, but what about “Write what you love”? One of the writers at the forum wrote a Christmas-themed children’s book that encourages kids to draw their own versions of Santa Claus, thus asking them to use their imaginations to tell a story all their own. But, as she said, no one is buying a Christmas book in June, so her book buyer window is pretty small. She also wrote an Easter-themed children’s book.

Clearly, her focus is not on capturing a wide market. It’s on creating books she cares about. For that reason, she finds being an author satisfying, regardless of her Amazon sales rank.

There is not enough value placed on stories about characters who live with a disability.

One of the authors has cerebral palsy and wrote a book about a teenage girl like her. She queried many literary agents without any success. Then, she spent six months working off-book with someone who worked at a publishing house and really believed in the book, but ultimately it was rejected by the publisher for publication. Understandably, this author was crushed. She persevered, however, and decided to indie publish her novel instead. I really applaud her fortitude, but I also think her story is an example of how undervalued stories about people with disabilities are in the publishing world.

It’s ok to write just one book.

One of the forum authors has only written one novel, and now, she spends a lot of her time on speaking engagements. She may write another book. She might not. It doesn’t make her any less of an author for having written only one book.

Too many authors devalue their own work.

I’ve talked about this before: selling your book at a cheap price to spur sales. You think you are being generous to the reader for offering your book at a cut rate. The reader thinks it won’t sell (i.e. it’s badly written), so you’ve cut the rate. Thus, you’ve immediately devalued your own work.

If you think your writing is only worth $5, then that’s the price at which you should set your paperback. If you think you put real time and effort into writing, and those things are worth more, sell it for what it’s worth like the A-list authors do.

A.M.