Besides, I truly never anticipated just being able to read my written remarks straight off the page. Writing it all out in narrative form did help me gather my thoughts in a way that an outline never seems to do. I totally need to remember that trick for the next time I need to present.
Anyway. Since I went to the effort of writing out the Q&A, thought I'd share. My writing journey is not unique, and is probably similar to lots of other writers, But I've been through ups and downs over the last 10 years of this journey...
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The title of the talk is “The Writers Journey.” They have someone else who’s talking about writing that first novel and the angst and effort that goes into it… So I thought we could share what we’ve gone through as authors.
Short intros as to who we are, what we write and who we write for (publishers)
I’m Katie O’Sullivan, and I’ve live here on Cape Cod year round for the last 10 years. I have 3 sons, the oldest is a junior-year cadet at the Air Force Academy out in Colorado, the middle boy is headed off in September to attend the University of Chicago, and the youngest is a rising junior at Nauset Regional High School in Eastham, down by the National Seashore. The last 10 years have been a whirlwind of soccer games, track meets, band concerts and stage performances. My youngest son is currently in Selkie which opens next Thursday at Cape Cod Theatre Company in Harwich. I’ve worked as the editor in chief of an online magazine, and currently have a full-time technical writing position for a California-based company.
And, oh yeah, I’ve been published 10 times in the last 7 years with 5 different publishers. Well, one of those is a novella, so 9 and a half times?
I write young adult urban fantasy and romantic suspense, most of it set here on Cape Cod.
The Wild Rose Press out of New York publishes my romantic and psychic suspense novels, and I can’t say enough good things about the quality of their editing and the great group of supportive authors. When the publisher of my YA mermaid series went out of business early last year, I was fortunate enough to hook up with Kate Conway, another Cape author who also writes YA urban fantasy, and she took me on at her start-up imprint, so I get the best of both worlds with the rerelease of my series – the flexibility of “self-publishing” with help from a knowledgeable publishing expert.
How did we get to be published authors? How long did it take? What were the frustrations and war stories? Did you ever think of giving up?
I’ve wanted to be an author since middle school, but there was always something else I needed to do. Go to college. Get a “real” job. Get married. Have kids. You know, have a life.
After earning a degree in English literature from Colgate University, I moved to Boston and worked a series of jobs in advertising, public relations and journalism. I started writing a novel on the side, and then another, but never finished any of the manuscripts.
My serious author journey didn’t begin until we moved to the Cape full time and I discovered this wonderful invention called full-day Kindergarten. A friend dragged me to his writing class, and I decided to finally pursue that dream. At the time, moving into our summer home was only supposed to be temporary, so my husband encouraged me to write, saying I could wait to get a real job when we bought a new house off-Cape. Along the way, that plan changed obviously, but he still encouraged me to keep writing.
The class morphed into a weekly writing group, and I read tons of blogs about writing and publishing. When I finished my first manuscript and started submitting it, I started right in on Book number 2 so I could stay involved with the group and have something to read out loud other than the many rejection letters from agents and publishers.
I reminded myself that Agatha Christie went through 5 years of rejection letters. Gone with the Wind was rejected 38 times before someone took a chance. J.K. Rowling’s first book was rejected 12 times before an editor’s daughter demanded to read the rest and her father gave Rowling her first contract.
I’m not saying I’ve got the next Harry Potter up my sleeve. I’m just saying don’t give up. My second book was the first one that sold.
Once the magic of getting that first contract in hand wears off what were the realities of being paid to write… surprises, demands, disappointments, pleasant surprises.
When I started writing, I thought reaching the end of the manuscript was the hard part. Nope. The real work starts after typing “the end” – writing your queries, writing a synopsis, researching agents and publishers…
Write these down:
Writer Beware blog
Preditors and Editors blog
Query Shark blog (hosted by the wonderful Janet Reid)
…and then after the contract there’s even more work, several rounds of edits and setting up promotional tours and coming up with marketing plans. With a small press or if you self-publish, getting your book in front of reviewers and readers is all up to you.
Unless you hire someone as your publicist, you are the one doing the promotion. Writing press releases, calling libraries, stopping in at bookstores. It’s time consuming.
And social media is important too, especially for ebooks. Having a website, a blog, a twitter presence, a Facebook page, maybe an Instagram account, if you’re writing for a teen audience. All these are small things, but they take time. And you can’t beat yourself up for not doing everything. Decide what you have time for in your life, that still leaves you with time to do the most important part – writing the next story.
Now that we’ve all made it to become multi-published authors what does that mean? How do we spend our days and nights?
Really, things haven’t changed too much. Except that after several years now, I finally feel like I know what I’m doing. And I finally have a publisher I trust and feel comfortable with. I can’t stress enough, research is important before you sign any contracts.
I currently blog 3 days a week and help promote other authors all the time. I still read voraciously, and post weekly reviews of my favorite books. I try not to post negative reviews, but if an author makes me smile I feel like I’m giving him or her something back in return. As a published author, you realize how good it feels to know someone read and liked your words.
I try to write every day – whether it’s one of the books I currently have in progress or blogging or writing an article for another venue. But I also do a lot of writing for my day job, so some days I’m too tired to be creative.
And in two years, I’ll send the last son off to college and everything will change again. It’ll be like full-day Kindergarten on steroids.
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How about you? What's your writer journey been like so far? What advice would you give at a writers conference?