"Ten Things I Had to Learn Before I Could Sell a Book."
That was the title of the keynote address by Brandon Sanderson at the Book Academy conference last week. I got there early enough to grab a seat right up front. The speech was probably the highlight of my day. Here's a recap of his ten things:
1. Everyone is different. Learn what works for you and what doesn't.
2. Writing can be learned. Fill your writing toolbox with all you learn and then use the tools that work best for you.
3. Write what's in your heart. A lot of people can tell you what kind of book is or isn't selling at the moment, but what's always selling is a good book.
4. Pay attention to the market. You don't have to chase the market, but a part of you has to be a business person that thinks about how to exploit the art that the creative part of you is busy creating.
5. To begin is human. To finish is divine. You have to finish stuff before you can sell it. You have to practice finishing. You need to develop good habits, and if something's not working, try a new habit. Shake things up, offer yourself a reward, try something different.
6. To begin is human. To finish is divine. To revise is hell. But you have to do it. Great writers are even better revisers.
7. Nobody starts off perfect. It's okay to suck.
8. Keep at it. Be a little arrogant. Believe you are going to make it.
9. Luck happens.
10.You can improve your chances drastically. Just by doing something as simple as following the submission guidelines, you can get ahead of 50% of the manuscripts submitted. Learn to write well, to revise well, and you get ahead of 75%. It can be tough, but it can happen!
To conclude he said, "You can get published. Everyone in this room. I did it. If I did it, you can do it . . . You will make it. Go learn and write!"
I found it so inspirational and helpful after my awful feelings of discouragement and doubt. Since I had a seat up front, I plucked up my courage and went up to him after the speech and told him how much I appreciated it. This is so not like me, but I really wanted to talk to him again. You see, I had just met him in person at church. His in-laws live in my ward (and are some of my favorite people). I was so nervous at church, that I felt like I must have come off as a total dork. I'm not sure I came off any better at the conference, but it doesn't really matter. He's a super nice, approachable person, not to mention a terrific writer, and I really enjoyed hearing him speak. If you haven't read any Brandon Sanderson, you really should!