Six Important Lessons to Learn to Survive as an Author

Tomorrow, it will be one year since I got The Call offering me a two-book contract with Harlequin. It’s still surreal to think about. (Honestly though, it’s surreal to live). My life has changed a lot since that call. I’m now working full time as an author. I’m busy with revisions for Book 4, and halfway through writing Book 5. I’m trying to keep up with the industry, and hope to use what I’ve learnt so far to lay a strong foundation for what will hopefully be a long-term career. But again, if I’m being honest, most of what I’ve learnt this past year are basics to survive a rather difficult industry.

I’m sharing these lessons with you in hopes that they will help you on your own journey. Whether you’re just starting out or need a reminder, they’ll hopefully help you not only to survive, but to stay sane, too.

1. Relish the excitement about getting a publishing contract for as long as you can

I often tell my friends who get engaged something similar. Enjoy being engaged. Because the thrill of spending your life with your fiancé can quickly become eclipsed by the reality of planning a wedding. The same goes for signing that publishing contract. Before you know it, you’ll be juggling deadlines and trying to figure out how to market not only your book, but yourself. You’ll soon realise how little you know about the publishing industry. The reality of being a published author becomes real fast, so ENJOY THE NEWS when you get that call.

For those who need encouragement to do so, I’ll happily give it to you.  You did it. Your dream has come true. Celebrate!

2. Be okay with being a beginner

This was (and is) really hard for me to accept. I wanted to know everything, and I wanted to excel. This wasn’t uncommon since I was (*she says optimistically*) a perfectionist. But just like with most careers, you won’t know everything when you get started. You can research as much as you’d like to, but some things only come with experience.

And sadly, you are probably as inexperienced as they come.

But that’s okay. Again, it’s okay. No-one (except, if you’re like me, yourself) expects you to know everything. And the wonderful thing about being a beginner is the wealth of knowledge you stand to gain throughout your career. While you can listen to others, you’re in charge of dictating your experience and learning. That’s more powerful than you know.

3. Learn how to deal with author anxiety

I think this deserves an entire post (soon!), but in short, I’ll say this: there is such a thing as author anxiety. I may have made up the term, but as an author who also has friends who are authors, this is very real. It’s the anxiety you feel about all things author-related.

You’ll feel anxious about whether your writing is any good. About whether your next book will be as good as (or perhaps, better than) the last. You’ll worry about how long your editor takes to respond to your mails. About whether she likes you or not. You’ll think about all the nasty things people might say – or have said – about your book. About the number of words you’re writing each day. About whether your publisher will give you another contract.

Author anxiety is real, and you might need to find some coping mechanisms to survive it. But survive it you will.

4. Learn how to deal with the unpleasant parts of being published

I’ve spoken about getting bad reviews before, and that’s certainly one unpleasant thing about being published. But there are more. I’ve heard many authors complain about the amount of time they have to spend on social media. Moreover, they have to market themselves just as much as they market their books. This can be very difficult for an introvert or someone who values their privacy.

But it’s a necessary part of being an author.

Every job has its negatives, and thinking of it like that may help you distance yourself from something that can feel intensely personal. Just as I said in number three, you’ll learn how to navigate this. And you’ll be okay.

5. Reach out to other authors – but don’t compare your journeys

This takes courage, especially if you’re a new author, but you should contact other authors. Find them on social media and connect. Being an author can feel incredibly solitary, and you’ll need support. Moreover, you’ll need that support from someone who understands what you’re going through.

But don’t compare yourself to them.

Remember that your journey is your own. It doesn’t matter what your author friends are doing, or how well they’re doing it. When you look at things like that, you’re sure to feel insecure and inadequate. So, take a step back. Realise that your journey is just as dependant on you as a person as it on your writing. And that’s okay. Support is collective, but your journey is individual. Remind yourself of this often.

6. Most importantly, know that it’s going to be okay

It’s going to feel overwhelming. Most things do, especially at the beginning. But I’m here to tell you that you’re going to be okay. Whether you’ve been writing for years, or you’ve only just begun, you are going to be okay. No matter how much you know or don’t know, you are going to be okay.

Besides, you are not alone. Whenever you feel that way, come back to this blog. Everything I write here comes from experience. We’re most definitely in this together.

You can share your thoughts on this post in the comments or on Facebook and Twitter!

2 thoughts on “Six Important Lessons to Learn to Survive as an Author

  1. Juliet says:

    I’m so happy I found your blog on twitter today. My release day was pretty much ruined by author anxiety and I’m still struggling to come to terms with some of the things I’ve read in reviews. But this helps. Thank you.

    • ThereseBeharrie says:

      Thank you for reading! And you’re so welcome. The response to my first book wasn’t entirely positive. It was hard at the beginning, but I’ve gained perspective since and it taught me to be selfish with my second release. So, be selfish. Focus on the positive feedback. Remember that having a release day at all is an achievement. And know that you’re not alone!

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