Publishing World Wisdom from Kim Taylor Blakemore
This month Kim Taylor Blakemore is sharing the advice she wishes she could tell her pre-published self! These wonderful tips are essential reminders for those of us who have been writing for a while and invaluable advice for writers at the beginning of their publishing journeys. Like most of the featured authors in 2022, I connected with Kim through the Blackbird Writers. I'm so glad she was able to 'stop by' this month because her latest book just came out and I know she's super busy!
Kim writes historical novels that feature fierce, audacious, and often dangerous women. She writes about the thieves and servants, murderesses and mediums, grifters and frauds - the women with darker stories, tangled lies and hidden motives. She is the author of the historical thrillers THE DECEPTION, Silver Falchion Award winner AFTER ALICE FELL, THE COMPANION, and the historical novels BOWERY GIRL, and CISSY FUNK, a WILLA Literary Award winner for Best Young Adult novel.
In addition to writing, she is a developmental editor, and founder of Novelitics, which provides workshops and community to writers in the United States and Canada. She lives with her family and passel of rescue cats and dogs in the Pacific Northwest. She loves the rain, is afraid of scary movies, and thinks the best meal consists of a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup.
If I could go back and talk to my pre-published self, what advice would I give?
Don’t take anything personally – some agents will love your book and others will hate it. (When I submitted The Companion to agents, one wrote, in essence, that the book was the worst piece of plagiarized, boring, irrelevant dreck. And I’m using much kinder words than were said.) I needed to remember that agents have tastes much as I do. I personally am not a fan of avocado kitchen appliances and never in a dog’s age would I buy them, even in their vintage reproduced iteration. That doesn’t mean the avocado it bad. It means I don’t like it. The book and the poor refrigerator will find someone who loves them to death.
Write wild – you’ll feel pressured to write to trends and market, and maybe that’s a good fit for you. If so, move forward, my friend! If not, write the story that burns in you. The one you can’t stop thinking about. The one that you know you were the one meant to write. That passion will sing through the pages.
Get a brand – I know, I know, you want to write what you want to write. Please do. And maybe this advice seems counterintuitive to the advice above, but really, it’s an addendum. Readers like to know what they’re getting. I don’t know about you, but when I find an author I love and in a genre I love, I buy all their books: all the backlist at once, and I pre-order what’s coming up. I expect those books to be at least somewhat in the same genre. Give me some warning if they’re not. So, I would advise myself to think good and long about a brand that allows for some wiggle room for my own creativity sanity and also be clear for the reader. For myself, I chose to say “I write historical fiction about fierce and often dangerous women.” It goes on from there to describe the types of women I like to write about, but the gist is it leaves me open to everything from gothicky novels to historical thrillers to straight historical fiction. The common key is the fierce dangerous woman and how she lives by her wits and wiles.
Get a network – Writers are a generous and fun lot, and it’s wonderful to have people in your court, and to give back to them. Join local writing groups. Find the regional and national associations for your genre and get involved. Volunteer at conferences and for events. Be part of the big picture. I have met so many dear friends through organizations and conferences. We need each other.
My last advice I’d offer my pre-published self – Be kinder to yourself. Celebrate all the wins, and celebrate your writing friends' wins, too. It’s a hard business with loads of ups and downs, and easy to get discouraged. So celebrate – you bring to life whole worlds, just with the click of a keyboard and twenty-six letters.
What do I wish I had known before publishing my first book?
How much marketing falls on the author. Like, most of it. I wish I’d taken courses in marketing much earlier than I did. Now, I feel I’m constantly in catch-up mode. Being traditionally published, the ROI from marketing is a bit more muddy, with more guessing as to what works and what doesn’t. I’m really looking forward to having more control over those elements with my next book, which I have chosen to pub under my own imprint.
I also wish I’d known how rocky the road is. I signed with an agent two weeks after I started submitting The Companion and signed with a publisher four weeks after that. So, of course, I thought my author career was made and there would be smooth sailing from then on out. And yes, I’ve released more books with them. But they’ve also passed on proposals. I’ve started writing a book to stop and throw it out (and I write historical, so there was research involved before I even put a pen to the page). I had to learn that this is part of the process.
And remember that bit of advice I’d tell my pre-published self: Be kinder to yourself. Don’t take anything personally. Write what you're passionate about. Respect your reader. And hang on – it’s a wild ride.
The Deception, a historical suspense, released September 27th.
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