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Get a mix of hope and instruction

December 23, 2022
Posted by:
Ron Seybold

The life of an author always points toward publishing. You’re making a book, which is what makes you more than a writer. Publishing always looks to the future, even when the book’s subject is historical. We estimate how much we will sell, plan for when the book is ready, take a measure of the calendar, and set goals for creativity.

Consulting advice on how to manage these futures is a specialty of mine. I started planning for publishing in the 1980s, where the deadlines were first weekly, then monthly, and finally across a season for books. We headed to conferences to learn about how to publish better. The consultants taught us how to hit our estimates for pages, sales, and position the work for favorable review.

Five or ten years ago, though, the advice took a warning tone. You were likely to sit at a conference with agents and hear the worst query practices. The long odds on winning a publishing contract floated to the top of every talk. Of late, the bad news is about long supply chain times, rising costs to print, and the whisker-thin attention span of influencers, and yes, even readers.

It’s enough to make a new author raise their hand after a conference talk and ask, “Why should I even bother?”

Get your rocket fuel, too

The problem with knowing all of the problems is there’s no fuel for the rocket in those warnings. All of the calibration and preparation won’t lift your energy into a creative and hopeful space when you revisit your work. You sit down and know what to avoid, but you’re likely to lose the inspiration to move forward with nothing but the cautions on your mind.

Shannon Thompson wrote about this recently on Jane Friedman’s website. “Hope is a powerful thing,” said Thompson, [ ] who’s author-published and doing it professionally.

“I don’t want the world to miss out on fantastic art because a writer left a conference program wondering why they are even trying. To make that happen, we need more encouragement. More dreaming. More, “Yes, you can! I believe in you. Here’s how you can succeed, too.”

When I consult with authors, I deliver a mix of know-how along with you-can. I’m just as likely to write “I believe in you” as I am to text an author about the deadline they don’t want to miss. We often talk about how to make more from a single sitting of creativity. You might want to know that shipping containers carry your books printed in Asia, so you can have full-color interiors that cost less but take weeks to arrive.

The everyday author also wants to know more about which character traits can bring people to life for readers (here’s a hint: it’s not the height and weight of people in your story). What we’re after is the telling detail, where the description offered reminds the reader why the details matter. “This could mean a big break for her career” is a worthy addition to “she turned the business card over and over as she talked.”

If you’re ready for consulting that delivers inspiration and education, along with new opportunities for us all, get in touch. I’m also offering Finishing School, where we’ll meet weekly to share our creative goals and inspire one another with an outpouring of honesty. Being transparent about your dreams is one way to let your inner light shine, so it illuminates your projects.

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