Our thanks to Linda Chamberlain who reports on the talk given by Eloisa James at the recent RNA General Meeting.
New York Times best-selling author Eloisa James is a great supporter of literature.
It’s something she does in her day job as Professor of English literature specialising in Shakespeare at Fordham University in New York – a job she would never give up.
And it’s something she does by osmosis as a prolific writer of historical romantic fiction. We all know that it’s the ‘role’ of hugely successful authors to effectively bolster those further down the earnings ladder. With a smile, she reminds us that the entire literary department is included in this scenario.
She is disappointed that so little nurturing of careers goes on in the industry, saddened that so many mid-list authors are thrown out through a perpetually revolving door if their sales don’t improve. As the writer of, she thinks, 23 books, which have sold in their millions she says a thick skin is essential. Eloisa had some brilliant advice for her RNA audience in London.
Be Machiavellian – know your strengths, your weaknesses and read books that are selling. Stop reading and you lose sight of what is at the heart of the market. Study those ‘reader pleasure moments’ that make a book special and keep the pages turning.
Get in the Zen – she admits to a strong ego. She’s left a publishing house that wasn’t serving her well and she won’t suffer an editor who’s not up to the job. She has sufficient clout to say NO but sometimes she has to accept that she might be wrong and re-write. Remember, she says, ‘Your editor doesn’t own you; your agent is there to serve you.’
Have a thick skin – she describes herself as the queen of such scenes as near-death and outside sex but ‘not everyone will like what you are writing’. High sales increase your chances of nasty reviews and vicious blogs. Never respond. She keeps a book at hand featuring bad reviews for good writers as an antidote.
Be a businesswoman – you have to understand royalty statements and contracts.
Writing can be high risk and humiliating – there were murmurings of understanding from her audience at this point. Writing about relationships and sex bring the inevitable questions of what does your husband think? Have you done all those things? Remember that romance is a fantastic genre; its triumphs may be small but it helps people through the bad times.
Beware of critique groups – they can iron out ‘that voice’, the thing that makes your book original. Better to have one critique buddy.
She finished her talk with a reminder that will resonate throughout the RNA with its remarkable New Writers' Scheme.
‘You have to nurture the bottom if there’s to be a top,’ she said. ‘Readers need great books to read.’
Eloisa is prolific but she can’t write all of them.
Thank you, Linda
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