I’ve been doing this for a long time, a really long time like back when typewriter keys roamed over bond paper and White Out was my best friend. Before online groups, Social Media or algorithms. Back when a wannabe got info from the library and had never met an author in person, let alone a group of them. I wrote because I couldn’t not write. I submitted because I didn’t know how impossible the odds of publication were until I got a call from an editor in New York . . . wanting to buy my book and to see anything else I’d written. That was in 1985, 69 titles and 20 reissues ago. I’ve come a long way, baby, and oh, the things I’ve seen.
Back in the beginning, there were eight NY publishers and I worked with most of them. I published in romance when it was HUGE in the ‘80s. I couldn’t write fast enough, and at one time was contracted for eleven books in one year for three different NY houses. Revisions for my third book were due on the same day as my second child—both were early. For two decades, writing was my occupation and it paid well.
Who knew a crash in the publishing market could be as devastating as one on Wall Street? Mid-list died a sudden death (not once, but twice in my career) and authors like me were homeless. Many never sold another. So, taking my cue from Sean Connery’s famous quote in The Untouchables, I asked myself, “What are you prepared to do?” My answer, whatever it took. Learn, research, adapt, survive. It meant stepping back from the whirlwind of bus tours and big promo budgets, stepping down from the big leagues to recover in the minors—those wonderful small presses who were just getting noticed.
Rebuilding a career took more than writing that good book. It meant learning how to manage all the behind the scenes things that a big house’s publicist had done for me, things like getting reviews, making graphics, learning to manage my limited budget as a new animal – a hybrid author. I discovered I wasn’t without resources. I had a back list to reissue through non-traditional avenues, and . . . I could publish them myself! It was hard and time consuming, but my name got out there, my books were reviewed, readers found me again and my love for what I was doing returned, thanks to those new skills.
But not all hard work iss done at the keyboard. A lot of it happens in the psyche. It’s tough to be a writer: Isolated, vulnerable, at the mercy of things out of your control, with no paycheck or insurance, and often no at home emotional or practical support. You’re alone with the voices in your head and sometimes that self-talk isn’t pretty. You struggle to justify time spent out of the work force, away from the family with no reward in sight. That’s when you have to step out, like Indiana Jones, on faith. If you want it, believe it, and make it happen. Do what you gotta do and don’t make excuses to others or, especially, yourself. Find support (like here at IWSG!). Join a critique group, a writers’ chapter, a word count challenge—anything that makes you accountable and applauds your efforts.
Work hard but smart. If I could go back and reason with my ‘80s self, I’d have foregone that truck for the now-ex and hot tub in favor of deposits into an account for my future. Save it while you got it!
I’m OCD/ADD. I live by lists to realize my dreams. Here’s one I’ve followed:
- Embrace your dream. Own it and live it.
- Share your dream with those who’ll support and cheer you on.
- Update your dream. Like hairstyles and hemlines, dreams change. Don’t throw anything out – it’ll come back into style!
- Go with the flow. Be willing to try something (or someplace) new if the old isn’t work or selling.
- Persevere! There’s no giving up in writing! Power through those rejections and disappointments.
- Never stop learning! If this old dog can text, you can handle technology (or hire someone who can!).
- Pursue your dream. Dream it AND do it! No one else wants your career as much as you do. Go after it.
- Realize your dream . . . then dream BIGGER!
I’ve had three mantras for my career that are still true today.
“Be Prepared” from years in Scouting
“Suck it up” from author pal, Thea Devine
“It’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock ’n roll” from AC/DC
They’ve been around longer than I have, so who am I to argue?
Nancy Gideon is the award-winning bestseller of over 69 romances ranging from historical, Regency, contemporary and series suspense to dark paranormal and horror, with a couple of produced screenplays and non-fiction writing books tossed into the mix. Newly retired from 20 years as a legal assistant, she feeds a Netflix addiction along with all things fur, fin and fowl, and dotes on her grandguy. She’s also written under pseudonyms Dana Ransom, Rosalyn West and Lauren Giddings.
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