Saturday, January 8, 2011

The #1 Thing That Can Damage An Author's Career

  I hope everyone has been enjoying The Novel Road Interview series. Doing these interviews has reminded me of a valuable lesson, one I'd like to share with you:

  Be reliable! Be a person who lives up to commitments you make.
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Mr. Reliable

  I can't say enough about the kindness and professionalism of my guests. The people you have been able to read about are passionate about their work and are completely committed to the effort to bring us incredible storys. They know what it takes to be a part of marketing their work as well.

  My guests have choices to make regarding how to allocate their time. Some have other careers, as well as families that take precedence over their author alter-egos. They make sacrifices, as do the parts of their personal realities.

  A successful author knows this when they step across the line from writer to published author. They accept the challenge or they go no further. When a budding author gets "The Call" from a prospective agent, part of that wonderous first conversation will have something to do with how serious the author is about their future. It may not be a direct question. Each agent has their own way of getting a feel for a new client. Agents want to know if the author is a "one and out". Resources are scarce to develope a new author. The time and money dedicated to building the persona of a debut author is a gamble at best.

   Many authors don't meet their literary agent till a book release or even beyond. One guest I have has yet to meet her agent in person, yet the agent knew enough to believe the author would be there when called upon to help spread the word of their book. Say what you want about electronic media, but word of mouth is by far the most powerful and cost effective means of selling a book.

  People learn about books from reviews and friends. They learn about authors through book signings, articles, writer conferences and INTERVIEWS.

  What happens when an author doesn't show up for a book signing? Store owners get mad and possibly pull the book from prime sales locations. The publisher hears about it from publicist hired to set up and advertise the appearance. Fans become less fan like, and may even reach for the book of a similar bent because they have heard that author actually shows up when they say they will. Agents get the calls they never want to receive from publishers: "Where the %$*# is your guy!" and then they slowly slide book two into a drawer, because publishers have long memories. The next book may still be published, but the commitment of marketing resources will be cut or at least threatened. Then comes the call to the author from their agent, who is privately hoping their client is down at least two quarts of blood and limping badly will be part of the reason for their no show. The author that responds with, "I just didn't feel like it", better have a last name that rhymes with "bowling" or "string", if not they will be shown the door.
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Ms. Reliable

  All this is to say: Do what you say you will do. An author is given the opportunity to say yes or no to anyone wanting their valuable time. Be smart enough to know what you can and can't do. And NEVER, Ever say you will do something and not do it. If you have a deadline, meet it. If you say you will do something, do it. At the very least contact those you have made commitments to at the earliest opportunity to let them know. Don't leave them holding the proverbial bag.

  Look, things happen and everyone knows problems arise that can't be overcome. It doesn't excuse you from common courtesy. Be professional, be honorable. If you are someone the people involved in your writing career can count on to be reliable, you will go far.

  If you are thinking this post has been inspired by a potential guest of mine not honoring their commitment, you'd be right. I won't release the author's name. It will remain between me and the author. The Novel Road isn't as powerful as The New York Times or USA Today. Maybe the author just decided my site wasn't worthy of their prosaic insights.

  The Novel Road has earned high marks from my many guests. Even if my site weren't as successful as it is, simple courtesy should be extended to anyone.

  If you have been blessed with the art of the written word, show the world how much you cherish those that would raise you up as an example. Be the greatest character in the book you write about yourself everyday.