Tuesday, January 16, 2018


This week our members share their Reflections of 2017.

One undeniable truth about the publishing industry is that it has changed radically in the last five years. Some changes are good, opening the market to writers who wouldn’t have been able to publish otherwise, giving readers to access to stories they might not have seen otherwise, giving writers room to experiment with new genres and new ideas. Some changes are frustrating, like publishers and bookstores closing, changes at Amazon, the popularity of some romance subgenres waxing and waning.

Odds are good that 2018 will bring more change. Odds are also good that we as authors will undergo changes in our careers. We’ll have to adjust even more and adapt to the changing market. We’ll face adversity and hit setbacks.

We as authors also put pressure on ourselves, be it financial or competitive or anything along those lines. I talk to other writers frequently, and many of my friends and colleagues have expressed similar anxieties. Many of us think we should write more, put out books more frequently to stay competitive in an overcrowded market. We worry about marketing strategies, covers, alienating readers with one too many tweets about the current political climate, building readership, losing sales, and so on. We worry about Amazon scammers, about deadlines, about other authors being more prolific than we are, about the mysteries of the various bestseller lists, about our publishers dropping us, about nobody buying the sub-genre we love, and so many other things.

Stop. Take a deep breath.

I don’t have all the answers. I worry about all these things, too. But I do have some faith. Maybe it’s Pollyannish of me, but I truly feel that a good mix of talent, perseverance, and elbow grease are the ingredients of success. Many things that happen in the industry that make us gnash our teeth are flash-in-the-pan, really. Sometimes it’s hard to see past the latest hullabaloo, but I think there’s a difference between long-term career planning and doing what works right now. There’s a difference between doing something to make a quick buck and putting together a sustainable writing career.

It means we must be smart businesspeople in addition to good writers.

But here’s something else I think is true: good books will rise to the top.

No, really. The books readers talk about, the ones that get recommended by reviewers and trade publications, the ones you put on your keeper shelf, they’re good. What I love about romance is that there really is an abundance of talent, and great books are being written every day. It’s hard to get heard over the din of other authors clamoring for attention, that’s for sure, but if you write a good book and are smart about how you market it? There’s a whole world of readers out there anxious to get their hands on it.

So, my advice is this:

Push aside all the noise, all the pressure, all the conventional wisdom and focus on writing the best book you can. Write like no one’s watching, like there’s no pending contract. Learn your craft, get into the heads of those characters, write the book of your heart.

Get feedback. Revise. Make that book even better.

Find the right path for you, be it indie or traditional or some mix of both. Don’t do what’s easy, do what’s best for your career. There’s no right or wrong path to follow, but think big and think long term.

Learn the market. Read in the genre. Read reviews, look at bestseller lists. Pay attention to what’s happening in publishing. Subscribe to the Publisher’s Lunch daily email or to a trade magazine like Publisher’s Weekly. Follow industry experts on Twitter. Make friends with other authors and exchange tidbits and advice. Be armed with as much information as you can to help you make informed decisions.

Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. The worst thing that will happen is that someone will say, “No.” A “no” is not the end of the world, it’s a chance to assess, adjust, and try again. And you won’t get a “yes!” if you don’t try.

Network. Meet people. Here in New York City, the heart of the publishing industry, there are many opportunities to get to know industry professionals, from editors and agents to publicists to cover designers and ebook formatters. Even if the people you meet don’t help you directly, you can benefit from their knowledge of the industry and their connections.

Think long term. Think multi-book series and building a fan base. Think about where you want your career to be in 2020. In 2030. Don’t think in terms of If. Think you can do it and you will get to where you want, and it’s only a matter of strategizing how to get there.

It’s a lot of work, yes, but our favorite authors make it look easy.

And finally, remember why you do this: for the love of writing and storytelling. At the end of the day, that’s the most important thing. We write because we love the romance genre, because we’re compelled to, because we get so much joy and satisfaction from writing a story we’re proud of. The market is the market; it will ebb and flow and break and correct itself. But the constant is that we love to write and we’re passionate about our books, and I believe that will rule the day.♥

Kate McMurray is an award-winning author of gay romance and an unabashed romance fan. When she’s not writing, she works as a nonfiction editor, dabbles in various crafts, and is maybe a tiny bit obsessed with baseball. She has served as President of Rainbow Romance Writers, the LGBT romance chapter of Romance Writers of America; and as Vice President of RWA/NYC. She lives in Brooklyn, NY. Visit her at www.katemcmurray.com.


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