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'Big love'

13 June 2011

'A few weeks ago, I was talking to a group of writers online. The subject was what an author can do for herself if her book isn't chosen to get the "big love" from her publisher. We all knew what she meant: each season, it seems like some books are selected for star treatment - often, but not always, debut novels - and all the rest are left to take off, or more likely, fade into obscurity, without much support. My advice was to make friends with your local booksellers. Booksellers rock. If they like you, they will work so hard to sell your books. But the point is larger than that. It's about how you keep going, despite the twists and turns of the market, which you can't control.

The sad truth is that even if you are the big debut author, the rest of your career may not be so charmed. My first novel sold very well. My third novel sold very well. And now, my sixth novel, The Winters in Bloom, is being called my breakout. I hope it's true (please dear God), but in any case, I've learned that keeping a career going as a writer requires flexibility and a willingness to keep trying whatever I can to get my book in the hands of readers. And so my advice to any new writer is simply this: get in the game. Make friends with your co-workers at the publishers' office and out in the field. Go to your local bookstores and offer to come for a reading, or even offer to run a writing group. Buy a book or two from the stores you want to sell your books. Read as much as you write, if not more.

Recognizing that you're part of a business doesn't mean you're a sell-out or anti-art. I always think of the Wordsworth quote: "What we have loved, others will love, and we will teach them how." I have to believe that if I write from my heart, as well as I can, someone will see what I was trying to do. So while I won't chase trends, I will rely on my friends to help me. And the best part? My book biz friends are all readers. They love books, and sometimes, if I'm very lucky, they fall in love with mine.'

Lisa Tucker, author of The Promised World in Publishing Perspectives