7 Things I’ve Learned Since Getting Published

author Jill Williamson

Posted by Michelle Griep for JILL WILLIAMSON

1. I need time to write a great book. 

I’m a pleaser, so when I got my first chance to sell books off a proposal, I agreed to tight deadlines, wanting to make my publisher happy. I had to write faster to meet those deadlines, and I believe the books suffered for it. I now know that it’s okay to ask for the time I need to write a book. And it’s also okay to say no to selling off proposals. Some authors thrive by selling off proposals. But I’d rather write the book first, then sell it. I need a certain amount of time to do my best work.

2. I’m not the next J.K. Rowling. 

When I started writing, I wanted so badly to be the next J.K. Rowling. But after years of rejections, then years of mid-list authoring, I’ve learned that I’m not her. (Duh.) I’ve also learned that there is already one J.K. Rowling. The world does not need two. There is also only one Jill Williamson. And I have lived a pretty cool life, thus far. If I spend all my efforts trying to be someone else, who will be me? No one. And I will be leaving a void in God’s creation. I have a purpose that only I can achieve. So I must stay true to me, my life, and the stories I have to tell. I must be the best me I can be.

3. Word-of-mouth is what sells books. 

I can pour all my effort and money into marketing and promotion, but in the end, my bestselling books are the ones people talk about. They’re the ones that “avid” readers read, “sometimes” readers read, and the “I never read” readers read. People often say that controversy sells. But that hasn’t been true for my books. I’ve learned that there is no formula to get people talking about my books except to write the very best book I can write.

4. I’ve got a slow start. 

These days, readers are easily bored. They want instant entertainment. And if you spend too much time setting up your story, you might lose readers. I’m guilty of this in my books. I’ve always liked the “zoom in” beginning, where the “camera” shows my character living his life before the inciting incident upsets everything. But I’ve learned this isn’t the best way to grip readers, especially if they decide not to hang around long enough to get to the good part or give me a second chance. So I’m working on trying new things to hook readers. It’s important to always be learning.

5. I need to get better at pitching books. 

 When people ask me about my books, I tend to stumble my way through the answer. I’m never prepared. And I always feel like I’m bragging and want to change the subject. And if they ask more questions, I end up babbling through my old story pitch that was never the greatest. This is no way to sell books! I have been working on developing a simple way to explain what I write and a short high concept statement/logline for each of my books/series. I’m an introvert and pitching doesn’t come easy, but if I’m prepared, I can do my best.

6. Don’t read reviews. 

This is different for every author, but because of my personality, reading my book reviews does one of two things. 1) I either become happy because the review was good, or I 2) become depressed because the review was negative. This is a pride issue for me. I want everyone to love me and my books. I’m happiest when I am liked by others. And I have a difficult time separating my books from who I am as a person. So a negative review feels personal, even though it isn’t. It’s better for me to focus on writing and ignore reviews. I can learn my weaknesses in other ways—from beta readers, editors, and my agent. I don’t need to walk into trouble on purpose. It’s best to steer clear.

7. Things will go wrong, but that’s okay. 

I’ve had typos in final books (some that were my fault, some that were made in typesetting). I’ve had wrong covers. I’ve had edits done on the wrong versions of my books. I’ve had spoilers posted in online store descriptions. And I’ve had books printed with the wrong stories inside. In the beginning I panicked. I felt as if these things would ruin my career. I now know better. Mistakes happen. Always. I’ve never had a book go perfectly from start to bookstore sale. Yet people keep buying my books and leaving positive reviews. Readers continue to email me kind messages. All is well, even with a mistake here and there. So when mistakes happen, I try to stay calm and remind myself that it will get fixed and forgotten.
Bonus: Here’s Michelle Griep’s review of Jill’s latest, REBELS . . .

Ahhh. Hear that? It’s a satisfied sigh. Rebels ties up all the loose ends into a tidy little bow on a gift of a story. There are a few plot twists and turns I didn’t see coming, but thankfully no characters that I adored were killed in the process. If you know of a teen or young adult who loves dystopian, I recommend this trilogy.