What to Expect When You’re Expecting – Advice for New Authors

If you snoop through my medical chart (and you are skilled at reading a doctor’s handwriting) you’ll see the words “unexplained infertility.” It’s basically a bullshit term that means “Um, I dunno.”

So I never got to read this book:

ExpectYou know the one. It appears at every baby shower (and almost every yard sale). I’m glad this wasn’t the cover when I was in my twenties and thirties, because I don’t think I could have handled the model’s cocked head and smile that suggest she’s thinking, “Aw, how sad that you’ll never have a baby bump like mine.”

For the woman going through her first pregnancy, this is THE BIBLE, and I’m glad it’s there for them. I only wish I’d had something similar to help me through the birth of my own child. Oh yes, I had a baby. My brain gave birth to it on February 11, 2015, after years of intense labor. I named it SCENT OF THE SOUL and presented it to the world. I really could have used a book called WHAT TO EXPECT at that moment. It was a terrifying time.

Will people buy it? Will people like it? What do I do now? Oh, no, there’s a review. THERE’S A REVIEW! I can’t look, I just can’t.

The reality is that life presents us with the unexpected no matter how many how-to books we devour. My parents always said raising children requires “on-the-job training.” It’s the same with publishing books, really. You just sort of learn what works—and what doesn’t—and by the time your third child (or book) arrives, things aren’t as scary. Of course, society changes, rules change, and (oh, dear God) the market changes . . . and you’re left frantically trying to keep up with trends and learn the latest new thing. All while continuing to hold your day job and write, of course.

Welcome to parenthood. Say goodbye to sleep. Isn’t it wonderful?

There’s a popular game played at baby showers in which attendees write their best advice on a large piece of paper. I always felt awkward when that paper landed on my lap (Hellooooooo, broken tubes!), but everyone expected me to take part in it, and I did, because they fed me potato salad, and I’ll do just about anything for potato salad. Besides, my participation was justified by my having been a child. Once. A million years ago. Anyway, the comments framing my horrendous contributions (don’t let the baby mow) were always sound and encouraging, stuff you’d never find in any book.

So I was thinking. Why don’t we use this post to offer advice for new authors. Not the stuff written a billion times in the how-to books, but things we’ve personally learned along the way. Let’s be grannies and sage, old aunties.

I’m no expert, but I’m willing to go first. Picture me, passing the paper around. I’ve just written:

Include a bit of yourself in your promotion. We’ll read it, because . . . well, basically, we’re all nosy, aren’t we? I scored my highest number of blog hits on the day I posted a picture of myself with my high school prom date on This Page. As the cat says: “Think outside the box. I shit in there.”

What would you write on the paper?

Fiction That's Plaid to the Bone

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29 comments on “What to Expect When You’re Expecting – Advice for New Authors
  1. Larry Miller and Karla Browwn says:

    Writing is in my blood. It’s what I was born to do. My wife is a writer who is borderline crazy – thank God. Together, we’re magic. We just signed with Soul Mate Publishing to publish our first romance novel. Authors – we’re a species unto ourselves.

    • Welcome, Larry. How wonderful that writing is your shared passion. My favorite people are always borderline crazy, and yes, we are a unique breed. Good luck with your debut release.

  2. Hmmm . . . I would advise all new authors to get a website and social media accounts that are linked. Make sure you start a blog and offer to host other authors. Don’t forget to update your Amazon Author Central page. Create a book trailer and join writer’s groups, local chapters if possible. If you are able to do so, attending conferences will give new authors a chance to forge face-to-face connections and perhaps get a new contract! I’m sure there is more that I’m missing, but these ideas will get the ball rolling . ..
    Kim Hotzon
    Author of Hands Full of Ashes
    Contemporary romance

  3. summersrye says:

    What a great post, Julie. Imaginative and personal but professional. Okay, here is me, scribbling my offering of sage advise: Rethink everything you ever thought you knew about publishing. Open yourself up to creative suggestions from those who have walked before you. Never be afraid to ask questions, even the dumbest one had to be asked by someone somewhere. Or else there would never be an answer. And most of all, always be true to yourself. Write for you first, all others second. You cannot be who others want you to be and you can’t sell yourself if you don’t like who you are. And have fun– this being published thing is a dream so many other deserving individuals will never get to experience, like childbirth, so treasure every good and bad experience/ edit/review/ signing/ etc.. that comes your way. okay, next?

    • Very good advice. I can’t be the only one whose fantasy of “life as a published author” isn’t anywhere close to reality. We are very fortunate that fellow authors are willing to give advice. You don’t find that much in other art arenas. Your advice to be true to yourself is spot on, as well. It gets me in trouble at times–because I swear a lot–but hey, I gotta be me. Thanks for participating.

  4. Great post, Julie! My best advice would be to plan ahead, but take it one day at a time. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is a writer’s career.

    • Truth. It is the rare novel that is a breakout success. Was it Dr. Seuss who said, “Slow and steady, steady and slow. That’s the way we like to go.” Or was that Disney?

  5. bonniegill says:

    Hi Julie,
    My advise is if you’re writing romance join RWA. Also, I highly recommend taking Margie Lawson’s workshops.

  6. I’m having as hard a time here as you do at those baby showers! LOL I just signed with my ninth publisher for what will be my 20th published novel, and it’s hard to look back over the years and give solid advice to people who are embarking on the journey in a much different world than it was when I started.

    I think, though, that of all thing possibilities roiling around in my head, I’d say…go easy on yourself.

    Education is prime. Absorb as much as possible so you can make the best possible decisions, knowing the pros and cons, the potential benefits and consequences. But it can’t help you prepare for *everything*. There will be times something hits you hard–pressure to promote, to sell, to get great reviews, to write faster or better or more or different, to engage and be friends with the whole world and make money or it’s not worth it and on and on… It’s hard not to beat ourselves up sometimes for not being or doing more.

    So that’s my advice. Don’t do it. Whenever you start to feel that way, tell yourself to stop. That you’ve done a great job, and no one could ask for more. 🙂

    Oh! Also, celebrate every little thing that makes you feel good about being a writer. One tiny good thing can counter a boatload of not-so-good.

    (Sorry. I always try to be brief but never ever manage it…)

    • Never be brief, Miss Natalie. You are wonderful as you are, and you’re one of the reasons I stay a member of CPRW. You are always so friendly and helpful. Each of us would be wise to take your advice. Giving myself credit is difficult. I’m harder on myself than anyone ever could be. My drive to succeed sometimes causes me to feel like I should be a bit farther along in my writing career. It can feel hopeless, at times. Any author will tell you that. But there are moments to celebrate, as you suggest, like being able to walk into a library and know that your work is sitting there nestled amongst the other books on those shelves.

  7. Beth Carter says:

    What an insightful, heartfelt post. LOVE it. I agree about letting readers get to know
    you. Don’t constantly “sell.” You must market but I wouldn’t do it daily (or twice a day–horrors) like some. Also, have launch parties (cyber or not) to give back to readers and involve them in the process by having contests and giveaways. Also have traditional book signings if you have a print book. It’s fun to meet readers!

    • Agreed. It’s hard to strike a balance, isn’t it? We’re supposed to promote, but how does one do that without becoming ANNOYING? Almost every readers/writers group I’ve joined on Facebook has led to disappointment, because they become nothing more than a place for self-promotion. After a while, I think most FB’rs slowly back away from those groups. I’ve made many sales by merely participating in FB conversations in non-reading/writing groups, and it’s not because I’m in there waving my book around, but because people get curious enough about me to click.

  8. AmesGrace says:

    Hi I’m pretty new to the Soul Mate family myself. My first book, Angel in the Shadows, comes out in July 2015 so I’m not sure what advice I gave other than if u want to be a writer, then do it. Work hard, get in touch with your characters and their story, and have faith in yourself.
    Amy Deason

    • You may be new, but you’re already wise. Believing in yourself is hugely important. If you don’t believe in you, why should anyone else? Welcome to Soul Mate. Best wishes for a great release. If you want a spot on my blog, just say the word. I’d love to help you out (and anyone else out there reading this).

  9. reggielutz says:

    I would tell new authors to be prepared to spend more time marketing than you think you will. Also, you need to stock up on two things: coffee and chocolate.

    • Yes to both! I’m chewing a dark Hershey’s kiss as I type.

      The marketing thing surprised the heck out of me. What a time suck. But completely necessary if you ever want to get anywhere.

  10. S.P.Bowers says:

    I don’t know what I’d write on a paper at a publishing shower but as a fellow sufferer of unexplained infertility I really understood this post. 🙂

    • Ugh, it’s horrible, isn’t it? You’re torn between celebrating Mother’s Day and . . . not. Big hugs to you. I am happy to say I’ve made peace with my infertility, and I’ve even written some of my angst into my third novel (in progress). Tough, emotionally.

  11. If you’re planning on making this your career, then set goals and track your progress. Create a mission and vision statement and align your goals with your overall career strategy.

    • Very good advice. I fail at this. I’m so disorganized! Creating a plan ahead of time and tracking progress is an excellent idea. That way, when the brain is boggled, we can just look at our plans and remember what we’re supposed to be doing. Have you heard of AuthoRise? I just signed up and am feeling my way around. It looks like it might be useful for lost causes like me.

  12. Rebecca says:

    Hi Julie- Great post! I recently blogged about “I don’t know what I don’t know” on the Soul Mate Publishing blog. It was about all the stuff I recently learned about marketing – I know how you feel, believe me 🙂 And I agree with all of the sage advice that’s been offered up to this point. It’s great to be a part of the SMP group. I hope this helps – here’s the link! http://tinyurl.com/ppvz9oq

  13. L.D. Rose says:

    I really love this post! Not that I’m an old pro here, as my debut releases at the end of July, but I have a few words of advice. 🙂 Not sure if it’s good or bad, but hey, take it with a grain of salt.

    1. Be yourself. On social media, on your website, everywhere. Let your personality shine through. People need something/someone to relate to and if they can relate to you (like Julie here in regards to her infertility) then they’d be more likely to pick up your book rather than if you bombard them with monotonous promotion.

    2. Write what you love. Seriously. Who cares about the latest trend? Your passion for a story you adore will attract far more readers than a half-hearted story you wrote for a market that’s already shifted.

    3. Keep writing. Make the time for it. Guard that time with your life!

    *tips fedora and vanishes into thin air*

    • You are an inspiration. I don’t know HOW you fit writing into your days/nights. You make me feel like a total slacker.

      All very good points. I think I’ve gotten a few “unlikes” because of being myself. “Myself” tends to be a bit unprofessional, at times. Bad, I know.

      • L.D. Rose says:

        Aw, Julie, you’re making me blush! I’m sure you’re not a slacker at all. And hey, if people can’t deal with your personality, then you’re better off without them. 😛

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