Recently an older, much more successful author called me up, "to check in." I'm not going to say who it was, because it's not fair to blab out things about other people. They can do that themselves if they want to.
He asked (not for the first time) if I was going to ALA in New Orleans and I said no. He then proceeded to give me one of the most inspiring, life-changing talks I've ever received -- actually, I've probably received plenty of good advice over the years but maybe now it's life-changing because I act on it.
First, he said that if I want to sell my work, I can't just stay here all the time, "writing alone." I have to get out there and see what other people, other publishers are doing so I knew who to submit to. I said that I had an agent.
"You can't count on that," he said.
He said it was important to meet people, talk to people, create opportunities (he talked about this eloquently). I said that I wasn't good at selling myself (yes, all my responses sound like what my mother called "feeble excuses").
"It's not about striking a gold mine!" he said. "It's about laying groundwork."
I hope you agree that merits its own color and bold.
I think it's the most profound comment on how to work in this business I've ever heard. The romantic view is that you write the book (alone, inspired), send it in, and it becomes a bestseller. But in fact lasting success is usually achieved with steady, day-after-day plodding -- for the writing, one page at a time, hour after hour, day after day. (Or in the immortal words of Jane Yolen,
"Jarret, this is how it's done. BIC. Butt in chair.") For the selling, no matter where you are in your career it's the same thing -- steady effort, laying groundwork. In both, it's about getting better, through your own efforts.
When I go to the conference (and I AM going, who wouldn't, after that?) I'll go with the spirit that I'm there to:
* look and see who's doing books I like
* listen and learn
* introduce myself (following the rules Alvina posted here awhile ago)
* HAVE FUN
It's the only way. Despite my best efforts, my mss. may never get published, let alone ever be bestsellers. So I better enjoy the process -- ALL of it -- or quit the business.
And after all, how hard can it be to be in New Orleans, rooming with one of my best friends in the world, eating delicious food, looking at books, and (as Alvina said) talking to other people who love them?