Yesterday I saw a tweet from Alison Brennan (via Piper Bayard retweet) about advice Lee Child gave to a group of new writers. I highly recommend making some time to read it because as the author of the article, Anthony J. Franze, correctly points out, Lee Child’s advice is more about being a successful person in whatever your job or endeavor. Anyway, I just want to highlight a few of his points.
It’s not just about being the best in your field; being positive, approachable, and likeable breeds loyalty.
For those of you familiar with The Teachings of Kristen Lamb, this could double as a quote from her. She didn’t invent the golden rule, but it is what she’s built the entire WANA method around. A guy at Lee Child’s level of fame probably doesn’t need to be positive, approachable or likeable; he’ll still sell tons of books. The fact that he is, says a lot about his character.
There’s another quote that goes something like, “If you want to know one’s true character, give him some power.” It’s easy to be a nice guy when you’re at the bottom of the ladder, but what if you start moving up? Lee Child is a smart man for not letting his fame go to his head because, as he said, it breeds loyalty. There’s a handful of famous people that have the qualities in Lee Child’s quote and because of that, I’m genuinely excited to hear about any new project they’re working on. I automatically want to support it.
Penetrating the culture is slow and takes years and years and years.
That’s right, SLOW. Lee Child said you should keep writing and see where you are in ten years. This isn’t a random number, I’ve seen the ten year thing a lot.
According to wikipedia, Kelley Armstrong sold her first book in 1999. Her first book to be labeled a New York Times bestseller was No Humans Involved. It was published in 2007. This was the seventh book in her series and like Child, she’d been releasing a book a year, slowly building her fanbase. Not long after that, she was much more well-known author. Pretty close to ten years.
I realize Child and Armstrong are traditionally published, full time authors that got started over ten years ago. Things are different in publishing, but the time it takes to penetrate culture hasn’t. Anyone who clings to someone like Amanda Hocking as proof that you CAN be an overnight success, is only getting set to fail. Besides, the ten year rule applies to her too, just in a different way. She spent nine years getting rejected before she self-published and in under a year, she scored her deal. But the girl still put in her time.
A better example is Claire Legrand. If you don’t know her, you should quickly click the appropriate buttons here on her blog. She’s awesome. This August, her debut comes out from Simon and Schuster and she’s already got 2013 and 2014 booked for new releases. So, regardless of the outcome for her first book, she’s on track to have more than just me at her NYC signing by the time the third book comes out.
If you’re self-publishing, there are no better examples than Susan Bischoff and Kait Nolan. Susan’s raising her daughter while writing and Kait is juggling multiple jobs. Despite these extra responsibilities, Susan is two novels and a short story into her series and Kait’s got two novellas and short story from one series and a YA novel under her belt. Both are just a few years into their careers.
Even though these ladies lead such different lives, they share something in common; they’re positive, approachable and likeable. And you know what that breeds.
So, the moral of this story is: Lee Child is awesome and you should do what he says.