Posted On June 10, 2015 by Print This Post

The One Thing You Need to Know Is Everything by Natalie Damschroder

We’re very happy to welcome back Natalie Damschroder to the RU campus. Today, Natalie talks about the importance of continuing education for writers. 

Great to have you with us again, Natalie!

The first time I was invited to write a post for Romance University, I was immensely flattered. I’d been published for nine years and had several titles to my name, but I was still fairly small potatoes compared to the awesome authors launching this site. When Jennifer contacted me to invite me for this post, “immensely flattered” doesn’t even come close to how I felt. The awards badges down the right sidebar are a testament to the great advice and education that’s been posted here over the years.

Jennifer commented on how much publishing has changed since my first post in 2009, so of course the first thing I did was go back and read that. And she’s right. Obviously, authors have so many more options, so much more control over their careers, so many ways to individualize their path to publication. But it struck me that one thing has never changed, not in the 23 years since I started writing romantic fiction.

Education is probably the most important element in the foundation of your writing career.

Luckily, it’s also the easiest—especially because you’re already here!

Craft Education

This is probably the first thing most of you thought of. So, yep, start out by reading as much as you can in your chosen genre/subgenre. Take classes, attend workshops and conferences, read how-to books and the posts here at RU—do whatever you can to improve your storytelling and your writing. The competition is fierce and gets fiercer every year, and this is your best edge. But it’s only the start.

Industry Education

Know the players on the field. If you want an agent, or want to publish with a publisher, you’ll want to spend time getting to know the ones who will be the best fit for you. That’s SO much harder now than it was six years ago. Everyone moves around so much…opening their own agencies and then switching to a different one, changing publishers or going freelance… Luckily, there are plenty of resources to help you research these editors and agents, and the “new face” of publishing seems to mean they’re more eager to interact with authors. Find them on social media, in classes and meet-ups, at conferences and message boards. Absorb whatever you learn!

If you want to self-publish and aren’t capable to doing it all (most of us aren’t—cover art, editing, and formatting all take different skills than crafting a story does), you need to learn who the best and most affordable providers are for each piece. There’s a whole section of the industry now designed to bilk authors out of the money they haven’t earned yet. Talk to people, get references, check finished product before you choose who to pay for services.

NJDamschroder2colorwebMarketing Education

Every time something new seems to work gangbusters to sell books, it takes less time for it to stop working. Book tours! Street teams! Swag! Contests! Advertising! Making the first book in a series free! Facebook parties! Pinterest boards! Promotion and marketing have always been impossible to figure out. What works for one author doesn’t work for another. I used to say that the only thing I know is that you can’t do nothing. And then a friend had a story reissued at a time when she could do zero promotion, and it sold thousands more than any of her other work. *throws up hands*

But no one can buy a book they don’t know about, so some kind of promotional activity is always a good idea. Study what other authors are doing. Read articles and blog posts about promotional ideas. Invest a little bit in trying different things, and figure out what makes you most comfortable. Some authors are great at hand-selling. Some have a powerful social media presence. Some excel with advertising and giveaways. Educate yourself on the possibilities ahead of time to give yourself the best chance when it’s needed.

Market Education

This is different from marketing education. The market is what people are buying and not buying, and it exists on two levels:

What are readers buying in the bookstores?

What are publishers acquiring to sell to those readers?

You can learn about this in different ways:

  1. Look at bestseller lists, especially subgenre lists.
  2. Look for buzz wherever people are talking about books.
  3. Ask readers what they’re most excited about.
  4. Subscribe to publisher newsletters to see what they’re pushing.
  5. Ask editors and agents (in appropriate venues) what is selling right now.
  6. Ask authors which of their books are most successful.
  7. Look for articles in specialist publications and mainstream media about authors and books.

It can be hard to write to trends if you’re not a fast writer and if you’re not self-publishing. It can be impossible to write to trends if you don’t like what is trending. If it bores you to read about billionaires and marriages of convenience and hot sex on every other page, you’re probably not going to write a compelling book about those things.

But educating yourself on the market is important so you know where your writing fits. My favorite subgenres have been down for a little while, but the most popular genres are getting glutted again, so things are probably about to shift. Yay! Maybe I can get the timing right and capitalize on that.

It’s also important to watch trends and buzz so you can be ready when it shifts in your favor. There were a LOT of great authors already writing wonderful erotica and erotic romance when EL James burst onto the scene and everyone acted like she’d done something brand new. Many of those authors soared to new heights when they or their publishers rode the erotica wave to find new readers.

Education in this business is less about learning the right things than it is about learning everything. In school, you studied intensively to pass a test and then moved on to something else. As an author, you want to absorb and internalize everything you can learn so that it all builds on itself. Then, when you’re ready to make a move, you can make the best choices with your eyes open and knowing the possible consequences, both good and bad.

How has education helped you develop your career? Is there anything you wish you’d known earlier that could have helped you make a better decision? 

***

In March, I lost my stepmother to cancer in a manner very similar to the way I lost my mother over ten years ago. In their honor, and in appreciation for the care they received at the end of their lives, I am donating all of my income for the sale of my newest release, Kira’s Best Friend, to Baystate VNA and Hospice (via the Baystate Health Foundation) and the Heartland Hospice Memorial Fund. 

***

Kiras Best Friend FinalKira’s Best Friend (May 2015)

Brook Hollow wasn’t enough for Kira MacGregor, who abandoned it for Boston years ago. She never planned to come back—until her best friend, Jake McKenna, tells her he’s dying.

Jake has always loved Kira, but he loves Brook Hollow just as much. He wouldn’t leave, and she wouldn’t come home. When he faces a frightening diagnosis, he tells her the truth. But the worst doesn’t happen—and Kira doesn’t love him back.

Or so she thinks. Now that he’s drawn her attention to it, she wonders if her feelings are deeper than she knew and returns to Brook Hollow for an extended but temporary stay. Back in Jake’s life, she knows she was wrong. She does love him, and she’s willing to give up everything to be his. Except it’s too late. Jake’s moved on…and is about to get married. (NOTE: This book was originally published in 2005. This is an updated reissue, but the story has not substantially changed.)

Available from: AmazonBarnes & NobleAll Romance eBooksKoboiBooksSmashwords, and Google Play.

***

Bio: Natalie J. Damschroder is an award-winning author of contemporary and paranormal romance—Love with a Shot of Adrenaline. She sold her first book in 1999, and 2015 saw the publication of her 19th novel. She grew up in Massachusetts and loves the New England Patriots more than anything. (Except her family. And writing and reading. And popcorn.) When she’s not writing, revising, proofreading, or promoting her work, she works as a freelance editor and proofreader. She and her husband have two daughters she’s dubbed “the anti-teenagers,” one of whom is also a novelist. (The other one prefers math. Smart kid. Practical.) You can learn more about her and her books at www.nataliedamschroder.com.

***

What’s next: Join us on Friday, June 12th, for another column from Adam Firestone, RU’s resident weapons expert. 

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Discussion

16 Responses to “The One Thing You Need to Know Is Everything by Natalie Damschroder”

  1. You are so right on everything, Natalie. Author’s need to know a little bit about it all these days. Thanks for a great and informative article.

    Posted by Vicky Burkholder | June 10, 2015, 7:09 am
  2. A terrific amount of information. Great advice. Thanks!

    Posted by Sunni | June 10, 2015, 7:41 am
  3. Very good advice here! I have a new paranormal romance launching this weekend, so I’m fiercely studying marketing techniques and plotting things in spreadsheets. I’m also looking for quiet ways to promote my backlist without spamming all my social media friends.

    Posted by Kessie | June 10, 2015, 8:06 am
  4. Just wanted to let commenters know I’ll be silent for a little while this afternoon. My “kid” (she’s 20 in 5 weeks) is having her wisdom teeth out today. I’ll respond to any comments when we get back. 🙂

    Posted by Natalie J. Damschroder | June 10, 2015, 10:07 am
  5. I just love synchronicity.

    I’m taking Laurie Schnebly Campbell’s Blurb class, thanks to her recent post here at RU. And it tickles me to no end that even after 23 years of learning, I can still be made to see things a new way and to improve my skills.

    AND that just happened to occur on the day I post here about education. LOL

    Posted by Natalie J. Damschroder | June 10, 2015, 10:21 am
  6. Hi Natalie,

    I can’t help but think about about the pre-internet age when publishers took care of promo and the only info on the author was the bio blurb on the back of the book. Thanks to social media, readers can connect with authors on a variety of platforms.

    Thank you for sharing your experience with us.

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | June 10, 2015, 9:00 pm
    • Hi, Jennifer!

      My first book was published by a small press in 2000, so I’ve always had that pressure to promote. We used Yahoogroups before Twitter and Facebook started up. 🙂 I think social media has changed the value/impact/appeal of author booksignings, for better or worse. Remember book tours? Now, you’re right, it’s so easy for readers to connect with the person behind the words. 🙂

      Thanks so much for commenting!

      Posted by Natalie J. Damschroder | June 11, 2015, 10:38 am
  7. Natalie – First, I’m so sorry about the loss of your mother and step-mother. What a wonderful way to honor them both!

    You raise so many good points here. As a newbie, still-learning writer, I take classes whenever I can (and when I can afford them). In so many lines of work, continuing education is not just recommended but required. With publishing changing every few minutes, I can’t imagine being comfortable going forward without some help staying up-to-date!

    Congratulations on all your success, and thanks for a great post!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | June 10, 2015, 11:34 pm
    • Thank you so much for your kind words, Becke. It’s so great to see you here!

      You’re so right about CE being required in other professions and the increasingly fast pace of change. We have to be careful about getting too immersed in the writing lest we come up for air and find everything is different! 🙂

      Posted by Natalie J. Damschroder | June 11, 2015, 10:39 am
  8. Excellent article, Natalie! Couldn’t agree more!
    But actually, my education isn’t helping me that much. Everything I need to know, I’ve learn by myself after graduating the university.

    Posted by Pimion | July 10, 2015, 6:32 pm

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