I've been a bit reflective (no, I'm not shiny) lately. Almost exactly a year ago, I had just signed my third book contract. That made me stop and think ... in the summer of 2006 I had no book published and not a hope of having any published.
Here we are, a year+ later, and I have three out, one coming soon, and three more next year.
What little Gems of Wisdom have I learned?
Lots. Let's list them:
1. There is no magic bullet. You still have to write the best book you can. This doesn't mean you have to write Your Absolutely Best Book and put your soul into it. I've discovered that I can write a good book and know it's not my breakout book. There is a difference between the two. I can feel it. I just am not to the point where I want to write that Big Book ... yet. Or maybe I'm fooling myself and all I can write are Good Books. I'll figure that out later. For now, I'm going to continue writing what I enjoy and worry about best-sellerdom some other day.
2. Just because you've sold X number of books to a publisher, doesn't mean you'll continue to sell to that publisher. You can change editors and the new one doesn't love your work, the publisher can change what they're looking for, etc. Case in point: I had an editor at Publisher A who loved my work and was happy that my books were all similar (small town themes, older heroes and heroines, quirky plot lines). That editor is now no longer my editor and I have a new one. She only bought one of the three offered books "because they were too much alike".
You will always be looking for publisher even when you're happy with your publisher. It's just the nature of the beast.
3. There are good reviews and bad reviews. One key to sanity is to evaluate the reviewers. If you tend to agree with their assessments on other books, then consider what they say. I've read some reviews that made me cringe not because they were bad reviews -- they weren't, they were very positive. But the reviewer was inarticulate, or had terrible grammatical mistakes or spelling mistakes, or mis-used words. Yikes. A good review from that person is a mixed blessing at best. So take it ALL with a big grain of salt.
4. Just because you have a contract it doesn't mean you'll necessarily be treated fairly. Witness the whole Trisk debacle and authors who had their rights returned to them long before the bankruptcy was filed. Those authors STILL appeared on court papers.
5. As in all businesses, there are good people, there are snarky people, there are 'who let that person in here?' people. There are those authors who have had some modest success and are bitter because their success hasn't been greater. There are those who are generous and willing to share. And there are those who are simply clueless. Learn from them all because there's something to be learned from everyone.
More than anything, though, this has been an enlightening experience for me to find out about myself. I occasionally feel the inevitable jealousy when a friend or critique partner attracts positive interest and I think 'why not me?' There are times when I think I deserve more recognition than I've gotten, until I step back and realize I'm not actively promoting myself the way others do. I'm getting a sense of where writing fits into my life and who I am.
Check back with me in a year. I suspect there'll be even more learning experiences and changes down the road.