Mercedes M. Yardley wears red lipstick and poisonous flowers in her hair. She has been published in several diverse publications, and her first short story collection will be released this fall. She is a member of the SFWA, the HWA, and is represented by Jason Yarn at Paradigm. Mercedes is the nonfiction editor of Shock Totem magazine. You can contact her at www.mercedesyardley.com or follow her on Twitter as @mercedesmy.
Success Is Like Lightning: Preparing Before It Strikes
The literary world is feast or famine. Either you’re beating the bushes in order to drum up work, or you’re tied, screaming, to the front of a locomotive as it heads for a cliff. I have seldom seen an author say, “Why, yes, I am absolutely comfortable with my satisfying, impeccably-balanced work load.” When success strikes, it’s most likely going to hit fast. You had better be prepared.
- Have your work ready to go.
It may seem fundamental, but you’d be surprised how many writers are still, and forever will be, in the process of writing. I stumbled across my agent as a fluke, and had to pitch my novel on the spot. He said, “This story is intriguing. Is it ready to submit?” Not only was the novel polished and ready to go, but so were the query and synopsis. It was in his inbox immediately after he requested it. Thank goodness I was prepared, because this gentleman is now my agent.
- Have a marketing plan ready.
If somebody picks up your novel, you won’t have time to breathe, let alone plan a marketing campaign from scratch. You’ll be hitting deadlines like a beast, so it would behoove you to already have your grunt work done. Will you do book signings? Blog tours? Is travel a feasible option? Do you have any marketing contacts? This can all be roughly planned ahead of time so you can avoid your deer-in-the-headlights moment when life is at its busiest.
- Collect ideas for your book launch.
When your editor shrieks out, “Go, kid, go!” you’re going to hit the ground running. Having an idea of what you’d like to do for a book launch will save you time. Not to mention that when you’re trying to make five million decisions in two days, you’re not going to be doing your best thinking. Serving smelly fish sticks with paper mermaid tails at your launch probably isn’t your best idea, no matter how brilliant it seems at 2:00 am.
- Scout out other opportunities in advance.
Would you like to have your work considered for awards? Are there grants or contests that you have in mind? There are many small awards that have very specific criteria. If you’re a Nebraskan writer of color coming out with a second book of poetry, for example, there may be a monetary award for you. But will you have time to search this out when you’re coordinating your book launch? No. This is the sort of thing that you find in advance and tuck away for later. Mark the application submission dates on your calendar so you can submit on time. Even better, have your application mostly filled out in advance so you can just add the additional info. You’ll have enough on your plate during your feasting times, but it would be a shame to let these delightful opportunities pass you by. Work on them during your famine.
- Remember you’re doing what you love.
When you’re down to the wire, the stress can get completely overwhelming. It seems the things that normally mean the most to you and bring the most joy (your family, your book, and the things that you’re doing to get your work out there) become so heavy that they’re unbearable. Don’t forget to take days off. Don’t let the responsibility suck the beauty out of what is ultimately your moment. Everything is a choice and you’re choosing to invest time in something you believe in, and something that will bring you happiness and fulfillment.