Thursday, August 18, 2011

I Wish I Knew Then

By Deborah Sharp

I've been racking my brain for something new to say when I start doing events for my fourth book, the upcoming MAMA SEES STARS. By now, I'm a bit fatigued with rehashing my same ol' story of becoming an author: Former USA Today reporter, left the sad stories of the news biz behind at age 50, became a writer of funny, Southern-fried fiction . . .

Yada, yada, yada ...

Sometimes I feel like the dolphins at SeaWorld, performing the same tricks over and over and over again just to see if anyone is going to toss me a fish.

I'm thinking this time out I'll shake things up. I'm going to try some honesty, reveal what being an author is really all about. Okay, I'm always honest ... this is UNVARNISHED honesty; the real, tell-it-like-it-is scoop.

So, here it is:
The Top 5 Things I Wish I'd Known Back Then About Being an Author

1. When authors say they're going on a book tour, it doesn't mean their Daddy Warbucks publishers are tossing money at them so they can fly first class, sleep in fancy hotels, and eat in five-star restaurants. If they're like me, it means they're packing the pickup truck with books, driving somewhere like Okeechobee, Fla., and setting up shop in front of the cattle chute at the rodeo on a day so hot that the Hershey's kisses that were supposed to be reader giveaways melted to resemble tiny dollops of cow manure. (Pictured, the author reading to her ''cowptive'' audience)

2. An author has better odds of getting killed by fireworks (1 in 340,733) than of making enough money off royalties to quit his or her day job. Thank goodness my TV reporter husband earns enough dough that I don't have to sleep in my 1992 Miata.

3. Snagging a signing at one of the chain stores is no guarantee an author will move lots of books at said signing. I've learned that when you stand, smiling hopefully, at a table stacked with books, lots of people ask directions to the bathroom. (It's in the back, down that little hallway. Can't miss it.)

4. At every author signing, someone will ask you how many hours you write every day. Nobody wants to hear the real answer: ''I haven't written a word in weeks. I'm too busy updating my Facebook status and checking my Amazon ranking.''

5. And the Top Thing I Wish I'd Known Way Back in 2006, When I Signed A Contract For My First Book? That I'd still be plugging away today. Yep, I'm working on Book 5, buoyed every so often by a sweet review or a reader who says she loves my mysteries.

Lord knows it's not the money keeping this author afloat!

How about you? What keeps you going?


Alan Orloff said...

You crack me up, Deb! Here's what keeps me going: all the great authors I've met, in person and on-line. You know, people to share the promotion event horror stories with.

Lisa Bork said...

Funny, Deb, love the picture! It's the positive feedback now and then.

Vicki Doudera said...

I second Alan's comment -- the camaraderie is terrific -- but what keeps me going is the ability to kill off clients from my day job who are driving me bonkers! It's very cathartic...

Robin Allen said...

Fun post, Deb, and congrats on publishing #4!

I've got a novel's worth of wish-I'd-knowns. I figured out pretty quickly that hardly anyone attends book signings for unknown authors, but that's okay because it gives me time to speak with readers.

Like you, I'm lifted up when someone "gets" my book and says something nice about it.

Lee Ann Ropes said...

Love your honesty, Deb! What keeps me going is the misery and the vow to finish this book before I die!

We love you, Mama! Keep on keeping on!

Deborah said...

I love your list and agree with Vicki- the pleasure of creating your own "script" in which justice triumphs is very satisfying. As an aside, this clip from Jon Stewart's Wednesday show is a hoot (includes some truths bookstore signings):

Lois Winston said...

I heard a story a few years ago from a woman who went to a book signing for Nora Roberts at one of the chain stores. 2 people showed up. For Nora-freaking-bestseller-of-a-gazillion-books-Roberts! So none of us should feel bad when we get a small turnout at signings or have most of the people in the store ask us where the bathroom is. Apparently, bestseller status doesn't always draw crowds.

Julie Compton said...

Love this, Deb. Like the others, I treasure those emails from readers. They somehow have a way of arriving just when I'm feeling down about the biz. But most of all, I remind myself why I started writing in the first place - I love, LOVE, the fun of going into my characters' world each day.

Sebastian Stuart said...

What a charming post. We've all been there. I do make my living as a writer (though not from my mysteries) so $$ keeps me going. And I love the creativity.

Check out this HILARIOUS bit from the Onion re: author readings.:,19985/

G.M. Malliet said...

Sebastian - that Onion article is a hoot.

Deb - A single good review keeps me aloft for days.

Jess Lourey said...

You list is spot-on, Deb. We must all be internally driven to write because lord knows the external motivators are few and far between. I really, really like to tell stories.

Beth Groundwater said...

Like Alan, I love meeting and hanging out with my fellow mystery authors, especially those who write for Midnight Ink. I couldn't ask for a finer group of friends.

One thing I could never have predicted is how much fun I'd have doing research for my books. Of course, I choose to write about whitewater rafting, skiing, horseback riding, etc. so I could do all those things! Next month I'll be taking a 5-day, 4-night trip on the Colorado River through Cataract Canyon to research my third river ranger Mandy Tanner book. I never thought I'd be willing to bed down on the ground again after giving up camping at the age of 45!

Deborah Sharp said...

Hey, y'all ... thanks for the great comments. YOU keep me going!
Alan: let's lift a glass at the next conference, see who can top who (or is that whom?)
Lisa: I love that pix, too (so much so I think it's recycled from an earlier blog)
Vicki: Ha! So you've learned the trick about killing obnoxious people in your novels. Good one!
Robin, you're so right... but I think even well-known authors are having trouble pulling in readers these days, like our LOIS says: ''Nora-freaking-bestseller-of-a-gazillion-books-Roberts'' got 2 people!
Awww, Lee Ann: thanks! PS: Misery loves company, no?
Deborah: I saw that Jon Stewart clip. Hilarious (sadly so)
Lois: Ha! See above.
Julie, you're one of the best! Keep plugging away, girl.
Seb: Creativity, schmeativity. Give me $$$! ;-)
Gin: Lucky for you, you get so many good reviews!
Jess ...and you tell REALLY good stories.
Beth: I so agree about all our Midnight Ink authors. Nicest bunch in the world (and camping on the ground? don't agree!)

Darrell James said...

Too funny, Deb! But, oh, so true! Still it beats shoveling the melted cow patties.

Dru said...

Love your post Deb!

::Clapping hands:: and giving ::standing ovation:: because the more you guys keep going, the more this reader will read your books.

Deborah Sharp said...

Hiya, Darrell ... writing absolutely beats shoveling sh ... , uhm melted Hershey kisses.
Dru: Awww, you're too kind! We love YOU for reading.

Keith Raffel said...

Deb, I think you've got it figured out: Writing well is the best revenge.

Tammy Lynn said...

Deb, as always, you have wonderful insight. I'm sharing this link with a bunch of my writer friends. The concept holds true across all genres. I think mystery and romance authors have an advantage because there are national organizations (Sinc, MWA, RWA, etc.) that hold great conferences to help educate writers on what to expect. It never holds as much weight until you hear it from an honest-to-goodness published author.

Deborah Sharp said...

Keith: Thanks for reading!
Tammy: It is true, novice writers learn so much from those who have trod the path before ... and so many mystery and romance writers are generous about teaching, too. I've been so lucky to learn a lot. (Still, you never really believe some of this stuff about signings 'til you experience it yourself!)