Returning guest blogger Sunny Frazier, whose first novel in the Christy Bristol Astrology Mysteries, Fools Rush In, received the Best Novel Award from Public Safety Writers Association, shares some advice with a student who wants to be in the book business.
Once a year I go to the Mt. San Antonio community college in Walnut, CA, to speak at the Writers’ Weekend. I encourage the students to keep in contact with me via email and Face Book. I want them to know they can interact with authors at any level. We’re pretty approachable people.
Recently, a young woman sent me an email. “My father has given me one year to get a career in publishing. Do you have any advice?”
Holy cow. Talk about parental pressure! It’s hard to get established in any job right out of college and publishing isn’t the same as becoming a teacher or a corporate entity. In fact, the publishing industry doesn’t seem to have many guidelines to speak of. Seems to me it’s rather hit-or-miss and people stumble into it from different directions.
I racked my brain and could only come up with tactics that worked for me. Start early—high school was my first foray. Write for any publication you can, be it freelancing or an in-house newsletter. I freelanced while in the Navy, then wrote for in-house law enforcement magazines. Get writing credits behind your name. Volunteer. Your first job in publishing, the foot in the door, might be as an intern. I volunteered to do acquisitions with a small publishing house and my career grew in leaps and bounds.
Make yourself a valuable asset. Think outside the box and come up with ideas that make you stand out from the crowd. Early on I created a column called “Coming Attractions” to announce new mysteries coming on the market. First it ran in the local Sisters-in-Crime newsletter, then in an online ezine. It got my name circulating among the mystery community. I’ve revived the column in another ezine, but now I bring a large fan base with me.
This student is lucky that she lives in Southern California. Lots of opportunities in that neck of the woods. I live in the Central Valley of California (think Fresno) and outlets are much fewer. Still, with the Internet and the right attitude, anything is possible.
However, what I can’t change for this young woman is her father’s attitude. It seems clear that he doesn’t think publishing is a lucrative career choice or even a viable one. Blackmailing her by threatening to withhold support, whether monetary or emotional, is going to be damaging for both of them.
The hardest part about being a writer or in the industry is getting family support. You would think they would be your strongest cheerleaders, but that’s often not the case. Maybe they are afraid you’ll fail and they want to spare you the disappointment. Maybe they’re disappointed when you don’t make the bestseller list with the first novel. Perhaps they’re embarrassed by your career choice.
My parents thought my writing was a passing fancy. They wanted me to get a REAL JOB. Okay, I got one in law enforcement. I always knew I wasn’t cut out for it, but I managed to work long enough to retire. But, I never stopped writing. Dreams don’t die even under pressure.
And that’s what I really want to tell this coed. Don’t look for or expect support. You have to earn it. Take the “day job” to please your dad, but keep pushing your way into the career you want. Those of us who love the written word don’t go down easily. If we did, literature would have died out long ago.