making books personal: harvest of fire Twenty Palaces words
by Harry Connolly
On her blog, novelist Ally Carter wrote a letter she wished she could send to herself back when she was just starting out. I thought it was funny and interesting enough that I stole the idea. Being me, this particular letter might not have the wide applicability that Ms. Carter’s does but I’ll share it anyway: a letter to myself in 2008.
First of all, old self, today isn’t the day your agent sent your first book on submission. That was back in mid-January some time. So yeah, this is late. Then again, you’re the guy who received a birthday card that his sister had bought for his birthday the year before then never got around to sending. You’re a Connolly; you’re used to it.
Second of all, Twenty Palaces was not rejected because of the story. It was the writing. You haven’t realized this yet, but you’d be better off not sending it to your agent or editor. The truth is, you made a big leap in your understanding of the language while you were revising Harvest of Fire, and you haven’t realized yet how rough that earlier book is. Seriously. Keep it to yourself until after you have a chance to revise it.
Third, don’t bother scrounging for reviews. Interviews are great. Definitely do that Big Idea piece for John Scalzi. Guest blogging is also cool (in fact, ask around if anyone would like you to guest blog).
But that thing where you spend hours and hours looking for reviewers, working out what sort of books they review, try to judge their readership, contact them and mail off books? Just don’t even bother. You’d be better off spending that time working on new books or being funny online.
In fact, being funny and/or interesting online is really the best marketing you can do. Have fun with that and skip the reviewers. The ones that find and review your work on their own will be good enough, but beyond that it’s too big a time sink.
Fourth, you aren’t really going to find yourself joining a new community of writers and genre fans, the way so many others seem to. Don’t worry about it.
Fifth, and last, I’m not going to spill the beans about how well your books are going to do, but I will say this: Write the books the way you think they should be written, and don’t agonize about it too much. Whether you succeed or fail, you’ll at least be doing it on your own terms.
Okay, that wasn’t the last. Here’s the last: You’ve worked pretty hard to get to this spot, but you’re going to have to work even harder to stay there.