Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Conversation with NY Times Bestselling Writer Steve Berry

OWFI-2011-039I was having a conversation with NY Times bestselling writer Steve Berry… Okay, so I’m name dropping here, but, yes I was talking with Steve Berry at the Oklahoma Writers’ Federation’s Conference in Oklahoma City last weekend of which I was the guy that organized the event. Steve said, “You have way too much about the writing business at this conference and not enough about the craft of writing.”

I said, “That’s probably my fault. I am the editor of Writing for DOLLARS! I tend to think more about the business side of writing rather than the how-tos of writing.”

After the conference, I thought about what Steve said. Did I really not have enough on the craft of writing at this conference? I took a program out and scored all of the workshops, craft or business. I had to score a few of them a little of both. It turned out that I had almost exactly the same number on both sides.

So, was I balanced?



No. I’ll tell you why.

If you will look at my last post (sorry, it’s been a few months since the last one), I listed “The Five Best Things for Marketing Your Kindle Book.” The very first one was… drum beat… a good book. I listed this first because it is absolutely, positively, solid gold, rah rah for the home team, cream of the crop, super star, home run… well… it’s the most important. So important, in fact, that if you don’t have a good book, none of the rest will make any difference. You won’t sell to anyone, except to a few who will feel ripped off and not recommend it to others -- they may even go out of their way to warn others to not buy it.

So if you are self-publishing that novel that was rejected by dozens of agents and publishing houses and it’s STILL not selling. Maybe you need to get back up and rethink your whole publishing adventure. Maybe all those criticisms of your book have some merit. Maybe you need to work some more on your writing craft and rewrite your book or junk it and write another one that is better. A really good salesman may be able to sell refrigerators to Eskimos, but it would be a lot easier to sell them snowmobiles – something they would use. You must have a good product to sustain yourself for the long haul.

In a post this week in Joe Konrath’s A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing , bestselling author Stephen Leather makes this same point. “When I hear ‘Indie’ writers talking about their books, all they seem to talk about is how they go about marketing their work … I never hear them talking about how they want to improve their craft.”

Don’t turn down any opportunities you may have to learn more, join or form a critique group, take online classes, attend writing workshops and, of course, follow the advice of every successful writer… write every day and keep on writing. The best way to learn anything is repetition, so write, write, write.

Steve Berry, having gone through a 12-step program for recovering lawyers (okay, I made that part up), wrote five or six novels and nearly a million words before he was able to get published. He chalks this up to his taking that long to learn the craft well enough to BE published. He’s still learning, but I’d say he’s pretty dang good at it now.

Like I told Steve, I’m the editor of Writing for DOLLARS! I don’t publish articles on “how to write” so I don’t seek out good websites to learn the craft of writing. I’d love to hear in the comments if anyone knows of such places.


  1. Regarding: "I don’t publish articles on “how to write” so I don’t seek out good websites to learn the craft of writing. I’d love to hear in the comments if anyone knows of such places."

    I'm so glad you asked. For the past several weeks I've been listening and studying the backlog of podcasts at www.writingexcuses.com. They are extraordinary...short yet filled with wisdom.

    "15 minutes because you're in a hurry and we're not that smart" is their tagline -- the first part is true, the second not. These guys and gals are very smart when it comes to writing skills.

    While their focus is writing fiction and specifically SF and fantasy, I believe much of what they have to share can be applied across the board.

    I've also found that the more I listen to them the more I'm inspired to write, write, write, so they are quietly and with a subtle touch removing my 'writing excuses.'

  2. You might like to check out hollylisle.com as well. I've found her writing articles invaluable.

  3. Fascinating stuff, there are so many sites telling you about how to promote, and not enough telling you stuff like this. Thanks!