I’ve spent the last year offering agent advice on Writer Unboxed—everything from writing query letters to maintaining an open and productive working relationship with your representative. As I sit down today, I fear I may be fresh out of wisdom of my own, but as I think of some of the best advice I’ve learned during my 15 years in the business, it’s advice I’ve learned from the amazing group of authors I am lucky enough to work with every day. Whether they are on their first or tenth book, these men and women continue to teach me things about both the business and the craft of writing—and as I look at this list below, general tenants in which to live your life–each and every day. So without further ado, advice from my authors:
Slow Down. We are always being told to write faster, publish quicker, tweet more and sleep less. Okay, I added the last bit, but with all the focus on the “noise” authors are asked to make for their books, I sometimes wonder when they are supposed to sleep. I’ve had long conversations about this breakneck speed with several of my authors, who have simply decided that it’s not for them and that they are both happier and more productive when focusing on writing and the rest of their private lives.
Don’t Rush Others. This could fall into a subset of slowing down, but needs repeating. I represent a former editor who told me in the midst of auctioning his book that he wanted me to slow down and give editors time to really consider the book. There is a strategy in having a quick sale but he, rightly so, reminded me that it takes time for an entire house– from editor to publisher to sales and publicity–to make a decision about a book. They need to truly consider not just whether they like it but how they they publish it. And being the fastest to the plate doesn’t necessarily mean you are the best.
Be Nice. I’ve talked about this before, but it’s my genuinely kind and thoughtful authors that remind me again and again, that good people do finish first.
Be Bold. Being nice doesn’t mean you are a pushover. In several instances over the years, I’ve received offers on books that were less enthusiastic than both the author and I had hoped for. A bird in hand is often hard to turn down, but if your gut tells you an offer is not right, be bold and confident and walk away from it. If that publisher wanted you, someone else will too. It’s something I’ve learned time and time again from authors who truly believed in themselves and what they were doing.
Exercise. One of my longest standing authors has a history of calling me from her elliptical…that is until she discovered yoga, and then she would tell me about it ad nauseum until I drank the koolaid and started going myself. She said it was the only way she was able to write. I have found as I age that there’s nothing better for my own work brain than an hour away from my computer, running or playing tennis. In fact, I now schedule exercise just as I would a meeting and find that it makes me that much more effective. And happy.
Watch Less TV. One of my authors manages to write on a really quick schedule and also raises a family of young boys. How does she do it? No TV. I used to thumb my nose at people who didn’t watch TV, but as life got busier for me, with young children, and an enormous amount to read, I realized something had to give and frankly, TV was the least interesting. (Well, with the exception of Breaking Bad.)
Be Thankful. Many of my authors are exceptional gift givers, and I am not talking about fancy overpriced gifts but little tokens that say, I am grateful to you. Now when someone does something nice, like sends a referral my way, I am sure to take them to lunch or if they aren’t in town, send along a little something that let’s them know how much they are appreciated.
I had a few other more specific little gems on this list but I realize that the above list can really be advice for life and not just the writing life. Of course these authors have also given me some of the best parenting advice as well, but that’s for another post. ;)
What advice as writers do you rely on and dole out?