I thought I'd share some of what I've learned since then, listed in no particular order:
1. Getting a book published is only a step. If you want to make a career of writing, you have to make plans, work hard, lose sleep, get indigestion, and keep going.
2. Authors have little or no control over the following:
- Type size and layout inside the book
- Back blurbs
- Book size (hardback, trade, or mass market)
- Print runs
- Bookseller orders
- Bookstore placement
- Book reorders and restocking
3. What made some of my books sell well:
- Good cover
- Catchy title
- Catchy premise
- Part of a series
- Books published close together
- Publisher marketing to booksellers
- Popularity of previous books
4. What had little to do with book sales:
- Reviews (good or bad)
- Online rankings (Amazon; B&N)
- Some of my own marketing efforts
5. It's hard to believe you can get published when NY just isn't buying, when bookstores report declining sales, when everyone around you says it can't be done unless you sleep with two agents, an editor, and a sales director. THEY'RE WRONG. Keep trying.
6. What's in your heart and what publishers are buying may not be the same thing. The trick is to combine the two. (If what's in your heart is what's selling, then you've saved a step.)
7. Bad reviews don't mean bad sales. What drove the reviewer nuts might be the exact element that readers glom like there's no tomorrow.
8. Good reviews and nice awards don't necessarily mean good sales, either.
9. Patience is a must!! Things will not always happen to your time-table. Keep a relative time-table, but learn to be flexible.
10. You're not always in the spotlight. When you are, enjoy it, bow graciously, move back to the wings, and plan your next foray into the spotlight.
11. An agent is essential to moving beyond small press. You can get into a few NY houses without one, but you need one to move beyond their midlist.
12. Agents do much more than sell your book to a publisher. They do a bazillion things you never thought of to keep you happily published, paid, and have a chance at that spotlight.
13. Writers can make gobs of money or they can make next to nothing. Just a year can make a big difference either way.
14. The key to success is persistence and consistency. Keep writing, keep submitting, keep writing, keep submitting.
15. The publishing world is "not fair." Other authors will get the things you want (more publicity, a better contract, more money--or they'll get published and you won't). Likewise, you will get things that other authors want. New authors can explode into bestsellerdom while authors who have worked patiently for ten years still haven't reached it. That is the way of things.
16. Other authors will become some of the best friends you will ever have.
17. You will pick up strange enemies who think that if they can shoot you down, you'll fail and they'll step into your shoes. Ha ha ha ha ha. It doesn't work that way. (See the "not fair" point).
18. Making a bestseller list is more about mathematics than about the book itself. You not only need a great book but 1. large print run; 2. terrific distribution; 3. quickly filled orders and re-orders; and 4. good placement in the stores (this is paid for by the publishers). If you have a great book and not the other four, it will not hit a bestseller list. (This does not mean that it will not sell well, because word of mouth is very powerful.)
19. Publishing is the most illogical, old-fashioned, uncontrollable business you can ever get into. Don't expect it to make sense.
20. Some of your books will sell better than others (or some will be published, and some won't). Learn to enjoy the surprise of a good seller, let go of those that disappoint you.
21. Pick your battles. You won't and can't win them all. Go for the most important ones and let the little things go. On the other hand, don't let too many little things add up into one big nightmare.
22. Be courteous to everyone, not just the people you think will make you rich and famous. Treat everyone like they might make you rich and famous. You never know! (And it's just good manners.)
23. If you hate what's selling like hotcakes, don't force yourself to write it. The trend won't last forever, and you'll be miserable. Remember that after you sell the first book, your editor will expect your next one to be in the same vein. Keep an eye on the market, but don't be a slave to it.
24. Don't wait for "permission" to write. Explore, enjoy, learn, hone your skills, revel in the art, write what you want to.
25. Enjoy writing!! Why on earth should you be an author if you hate it? I still love to write. I just came off of heavy deadline stress and had free time (wow). What did I do? Wrote! I still do it for my own entertainment--I've just found a way to make money at it.
Please feel free to add to this list! What have you learned since starting to write with an eye toward publication?