Saturday, September 29, 2012

Some things about being an author that surprised me.

You know what surprised me about being an author? Well, a lot of things. The main thing is that I always thought, if you just write really, really well, you don’t have to think about anything else.

Like things would magically happen for you. Like in Disney movies where fairies fly around you and weave you a gown out of magic and a take you to a ball. Yes, I once thought that if only I could write really really well, a kind of Cinderella thing would happen for me.

I’m still working on the part about writing really, really well, but I can see that the Cinderella thing won’t be happening even if I did get so be this stunningly brilliant writer. There are so many other things you have to do well as an author. You have to make your own damn gown!

Skills I never thought I’d need as an author but apparently do:

1. Knowing the future.
Every time I contemplate signing a contract I’m petrified with fear, like OMG will I regret this? What is the future of publishing? Where is my crystal ball? What eggs do I put in what basket?

2. Photoshop and layout programs.
I remember how annoyed the graphic designer at the old ad agency I used to work at was for me wanting to learn design skills. I wanted to know so I could mock up my own ads to get my ideas across. These days, every time I update my website or tweak a book cover, I just thank her for teaching me those things, and wonder how other authors who don’t have money to pay designers even survive.

3. Extemporaneous speaking.
I am the worst off the cuff speaker on the planet, yet as an author, who knew I’d need those skills at conferences! I fake my way through by over preparing.  

4. People skills.
Hey, author gods, we authors were never supposed to have people skills! I so suck at the public thing, forgetting peoples names, getting flustered and acting weird and scaring people with my smile of frightened intensity because I am overly self-aware.

5. Smart, bold, clever opinions on recent events.
Okay, this isn't a need, more a want. I so envy writers who have it together on twitter and have smart, bold opinions on things. It takes me a long time to form an opinion on lots to things, and then I’m never really sure. I mean, the biggies, politics, women’s issues, animal rights, I know where I stand. But, I really have to ponder all the minor issues that flow around.

6. Financial and accounting skills.
How are these self pubbers doing all these charts and graphs and spreadsheets? Amazon and these places send me spreadsheets, and it’s so hard for me to understand them, no less make my own. 

Other things that surprised me:

No matter how much author experience you rack up, you can still write a terrible, self-indulgent chapter or two and think it’s good. Thank goodness for critique partners who push back and tell you NO! I thought I was beyond that by now, with a passel of books out and all, but noooo.

The generosity of other authors.
This is one of the greatest, unexpected gifts, how other authors have reached out and helped me, and something I never expected.

The generosity of readers and bloggers.
For all my complaining of no people skills, readers and bloggers have still been so warm and kind in person—and online, too!  I think actually most of us aren’t amazingly people-skilled, so we all work well together. We love books! Anyway, I never imagined in my wildest dreams that being an author would lead to meeting so many people I really enjoy.  


  1. Great post! I was once naive enough to think writing well would be enough, too. Worse, I had no idea how much I had to learn about the craft of writing and the business of publishing.

    I learn something new all the time and I'm thankful for the generosity and kindness of my critique partners and the community of online writers I've been lucky enough to get to know.

    1. Thanks, Roxanne! Yes, where would we be without CPs and our online pals? And thanks so much for stopping by!

  2. One thing you didn't mention that surprised me was how long the process takes. You write and revise a novel and then you have to get an agent. If you're lucky, you get one and then usually have to revise it for them. Again, if you're lucky, your agent sells it to a publisher. Finally, you revise it again for them, then wait another year or two for them to publish it. Most people never know how many years a writer invents in one project.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Stacey--OMG, I know!! it's positively glacial, isn't it?? Even as an author, it's weird to think books being pubbed by NY houses this month were probably written 2-3 years ago.

  3. This is such a lovely post - and so true in every way!

    Plus - the O.M.G. thank you for crit partners. Yes. Yes. Yes.

  4. Great post, Carolyn. "...if you just write really, really well..." Yeah, I thought that as long as I did that, everything else would take care of itself. Derp. I want to poke that earlier version of myself in the eye.