What I Wish I’d Known…

I was a Debut author last year and I’ve had a long road of publishing already. I am not an overnight star. But I’ve worked in the music and fine art industries long enough to know that the overnight successes are not often the ones who make it past one-hit-wonders. I dig that. We are all building MUSCLE as we climb this publishing mountain and I am so fine with hard work. I love to learn and I’ve started my own list of things I’ve learned and things I wish I’d known earlier. So I posed this little question to my MissDemeanors so we could all glean some intriguing tidbits of wisdom as we are writing, as we are slugging it out, as we are conquering our own self-doubt and mountains that mark our own personal success. Here you go.

Thoughts for Aspiring and Debut Authors

Cate Holahan

I wish I had known that there is a ladder, like in every other career. Getting a book published is step one. 

Michele Dorsey

My advice for debut authors: Relish the experience! You are only a debut author once and it’s easy to get caught up in the frenzy about publicizing your book and all the advice you are getting. But you worked so hard to get to this moment, you deserve to let it wash over you and enjoy. The admonitions about the second book being more challenging than the first are true, so drink in the pleasure and fun of your first book.

My advice for aspiring authors: Persistence with a capital “P” is what you need and the courage to believe in yourself. Do whatever works best for you to fortify your stamina and faith, along with learning both the craft and business of writing. And don’t forget to enjoy the process of writing, which is the real reward.

What I wish I’d known earlier in my career: That rules are made to be broken and that those who can do that artfully rise above the others. But first you have to know what the rules are.

Tracee de Hahn

I think so much focus (years, a lifetime?) goes into ‘getting published’ and it is only the first rung on the ladder. I’d only like to add that getting to know the writing community as early as possible is something that you can’t go back and do…. so get on it. They are supportive (but be nice, as Alexia says, for long memories exist everywhere) and while conferences and other events may feel like a huge investment in time and money there is payoff in the friendships and mentorships made along the way. This is true whether you are making friends with other neophytes or bestselling authors three decades in. After all, the more you know – from all perspectives – the more you know. That can’t be a bad thing.

Susan Breen

Embrace change, because things are going to change. Editors get fired. Imprints close. E-books are great. Or they’re awful. You don’t have control over any of that, so try not to let it get you crazy or bitter. Just…

Focus on the story. People love stories. They need stories. Tell a good one.Read a lot. It’s inspiring and it helps the business. 

Connie Berry

Learning to be an author is at least as hard as learning to be a writer. I’ve been at it for three months now and still feel as if I’m making my way in the dark. There’s lots of advice out there and lots of activities to suck time, energy, and money. In addition to following the advice of your agent, I encourage new authors to find a mentor–someone who has successfully launched a book and is willing to pave the way. No one can do everything, so choose several time-tested methods to get your book and your name out there and go for it.

Alexia Gordon

Book two will be hard. Book two will be so hard, you’ll wonder what ever made you think you could write. Book two will get written and you’ll feel relief on the other side of it and no one will hate it.

L.A. Chandlar. Editing is hard.

Being an author is a job. It may be your side hustle instead of your day job but it’s still a job. You have to work at it–marketing, promotion, social media, conference appearances, blogs, podcasts, newsletters…–as hard as you work at any other job at which you want to succeed. No one owes you fame and fortune and legions of adoring fans. If you want success, you have to work for it.

Write the story you need to write. There’s an audience for it out there, somewhere. It may take you a while to find that audience but it’s out there. Someone needs to hear what you have to say.

Don’t be a jerk. The crime fiction community is a small community and people talk.

If you’re writing a series, keep a character/series bible/notebook/checklist, whatever you want to call it. I don’t care how well you think you know the world you’ve created, by book 3 you’ll have forgotten which character likes pepperoni on their pizza, which one drives a Hyundai, whose cat hates catnip, and whether the barbershop is next to the grocery or the laundromat.

Paula Munier

Be prepared to spend as much time and energy and resources learning to be an author as you did learning to be a writer. Take advantage of the opportunities organizations like ITW offer to learn the ropes of book promotion and marketing. And don’t forget to write Book Two.

Me, L.A. Chandlar

You know, I’ve talked with a lot of new authors lately and I’ve likened the journey to getting your Masters degree then your PhD. It takes time, devotion, energy and it doesn’t happen overnight. Especially the Greats. There are one-hit-wonders in the book world just as there are in the music world. But the Greats and the authors who simply love writing and are therefore dearly loved, are the ones who stick it out the longest and don’t lose their love. I think we hear WAY too often of the ones I call the lottery winners. Instant success stories. And hey, that’s awesome. But we all build muscle along the way. And even the lottery winners will need to build it, otherwise they will most certainly be one-hit-wonders. Remember WHY you write and cultivate that gratefulness and that joy of creating.

And just like when you graduate, you DO get to enjoy your victory lap! I had a Debut concerned that his book signing at Barnes & Noble was kind of selfish sounding – too “look at me!”. I told him to enjoy it! Those first big signings ARE your graduation ceremony and victory lap! You should absolutely enjoy it and soak it in unabashedly:-). Then get back to work.

D.A. Bartley

This question–What do you wish you had known?–always reminds me of a conversation I had with my husband’s grandmother when I was in college. She had just finished reading Anna Karenina, for the third time. She told me when she first read it in college, she saw one story. Then she read it in her forties, and the story resonated on another level. She was in her early seventies when we were discussing it at her dining room table in Rockport, MA. She said that her most recent reading brought her something entirely new and different. This is my longwinded way of saying that what I wish I knew is different now than it was last year and will be next year. I couldn’t agree with all of you more about everything you’ve said. Certain principles are constant: do your best, keep learning, don’t let set backs deter you (unless they’re not setbacks and are messages to change course). Other advice makes sense depending where you are in the journey: Alexia is right about the second book; Paula is right about pretty much everything; and Tracee and Laurie are right about celebrating (something I have a very hard time doing and wish I didn’t). As a member of the ITW Debut Class of 2019, I can only say: Take whatever advice makes sense to you now, and trust that your future self will be as tough and wise as your past self, who got you where you are today. 

THANK YOU for joining us this week of our discussion and our BIG SUMMER GIVEAWAY! Today is our last day of prizes. And we have some GREAT ones! From Susan Breen, Connie Berry and my latest book, not releasing until August 27th, but I’ll get it to you this week:-). Just comment and give us your thoughts on persevering, on writing, on mentor relationships, on being an entrepreneur, on being a fabulous reader…to enter to win! Thanks SO MUCH for connecting with you and Good Luck to you all!


  1. I think when writing, don’t get discouraged and don’t give up. A saying I love is “when life says to give up, hope steps in and says give it one more try.” When I’ve had enough of reality for awhile, I open a book and am transported to a magical place.

  2. I think having a mentor is so important- I’m a teacher and teacher mentors are so important for your skill and sanity! Never give up! If your dream is to publish a book- keep writing and working until it happens! The readers are waiting!

  3. I love to read so I’m grateful to everyone who has ever mentored the writers I read. Thank you so much for every word I read.

  4. I learned to love reading from my mother, and passed that same love to my twin daughters, who will (hopefully) pass it on to their children.

    1. My mother was an ex-elementary school teacher, so when I was born, I became her only student. She thought learning to love reading was the most important part of education and encouraged me to read everything. Those twins of yours will thank you!

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