October 8, 2012

Every story has a writer and every writer has a story

Yesterday ranked very high on my personal brush with "fame and fortune". I spent the afternoon with a friend of mine who has cracked the New York Times Bestseller list with her debut novel, written two more novels and has a contract for another two. It's been incredible to have a front row seat to her success and I want to share some of the things I learned in our afternoon together.

In case you wonder who I am referring to, it's a writing colleague, Taylor Stevens. I first introduced her in February 2011, about a month before her first novel hit the book stands. In the year and a half since, her debut novel has received accolades and awards from literary groups and fans alike.

After attending the Bouchercon 2012 with authors and fans in Cleveland, Ohio, we had an opportunity to catch up with Taylor at an intimate Meet & Greet. It was an impressive afternoon for all who attended as we simultaneously marveled in her gracious hospitality and gratitude for her fans. After spending 4 days surrounded by discussion panels, industry insiders, and throngs of fans, Taylor personally scheduled time to meet with her fans one on one to just visit and talk.

The intimate gathering for about 15 fans was truly appreciated by all who attended as we were able to see and touch her Barry Award, for best first novel.

We asked questions and learned more about the craft and business of writing a novel. A few notes I would like to share.

Taylor is incredibly open about anything and everything relating to her education. It was endearing when she described how difficult math is for her compared to writing, which she needed to and successfully mastered.

If you are a fan who wants to see a favorite author continue a career? Here is advice for us, the fans.

  • If you love an author? PRE ORDER the next book to be released. Publicity is largely a numbers game. It's not necessarily fair, but a lot of sales decisions are based on how well a book is initially received. Case in point? If you are a Taylor Stevens fan who loved The Informationist and The Innocent? Please pre-order The Doll. Her career depends on it. Which in turn means our reading pleasure also depends on it. 
  • If you're choosing a pen name, pick one that starts with A, to position your book near the top of the shelf. Or find a fan who is willing to rearrange books at every bookstore. Not that it's been done, but rumor has it... 
  • Tell people about the book. Tell them repeatedly. The best publicity a book can get is word of mouth, as evidenced by the Barry Award, voted on by the fans. Take a moment to tell your friends about a book you love, suggest it to a book club, ask your book store or library to carry it. Like it? Talk about it. 

The publishing business is a brutal one. As the business side of writing is in a seemingly constant flux, the best way a fan can make an impact is to follow the steps we shared. If you don't think it matters, I only want to remind you that in this case? It did and does.

To illuminate my point without taking anything away from Taylor's personal drive and success, I was one of the first people in the world to read her first novel, in a Word Document. I was so enthralled that I took the book to a copy shop and printed it out on paper so I could mark/note/react to the words I saw. I am not so arrogant to believe the book wouldn't have succeeded without me, but I do believe that I have helped bring hundreds of fans and readers in this direction. You can, too. If you love something you read, involve yourself. It makes a difference.

Be part of the process. Don't be a passive reader. If you love it, shout it. Make it happen.

Congratulations, Taylor and many wishes for continued success! 

Taylor Stevens, The Informationist

Taylor Stevens, The Innocent


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