Monday, July 06, 2009

Guest Author Debra Webb

Please welcome romantic suspense author Debra Webb to the convertible today!

Debra wrote her first story at age nine and her first romance at thirteen. It wasn’t until she spent three years working for the military behind the Iron Curtain and within the confining political Walls of Berlin, Germany, that she realized her true calling. A five-year stint with NASA on the Space Shuttle Program reinforced her love of the endless possibilities within her grasp as a storyteller. A collision course between suspense and romance was set. Debra has been writing romantic suspense and action packed romantic thrillers since.

The Long Haul - The Marriage Between Author and Publisher

Hey, all! It’s great to be back! I’ve talked quite a bit recently about keeping it simple and real. Keep your finances in check, make the right decisions so that you can write out of “want” not “need.” Along with that, as writers we need to recognize that we’re in the business of storytelling not for just one book, but for the long haul. As I reflected on the long haul of my life, marriage, kids, mortgage, etc., I decided that my ten-year-old writing career is very much like my marriage--wonderful but filled with ups and downs and compromises.

I married when I was 16 (because I wanted to--there was no shotgun involved). I couldn’t wait to have my own family and my own life. Over the course of these three-decades-plus of marriage, we’ve shared many wonderful moments, many painful ones, and a whole heck of a lot of decisions. There were times when it might have been easier to throw our hands up and just walk away. Lots of people I knew definitely chose that option. Somehow, we stuck it out. We rode out those ups and downs and made all those stinking compromises. Why? Because I truly love my husband and he truly loves me. He was worth the trouble.

The marriage between author and publisher is much the same. We’re so excited when we get the proposal--offer. “We love your story and we want to publish you!” It’s the most amazing feeling! Instead of a diamond ring and matching band, you get an advance! Twelve to twenty-four months later you see your book hit the shelves (much like seeing a child born). Life is sweet!

Then that child for whatever reason doesn’t walk for a little longer than the experts say she should. And the husband is too busy at work to notice you or the child. Eventually child number two and maybe even three comes along. Things are crazy. There are so many decisions and you get pretty upset at times that the husband/father can’t give all that you expect because he has “other” commitments. Work, the guys, taking care of things around the house, whatever. What do you do? Move on? Hope for a better husband/father from the next choice? Stick it out? Big, big questions.

My publishing career has followed that same path--those ups and downs and compromises I mentioned before. I have a very keen sense of loyalty and I’ve tried to stick with those who proposed to me first and who brought my books to the shelves. But this is where my marriage and my career differ--this is business.

A publisher has many authors and decisions have to be made about scheduling, marketing, everything from offer to publication. The choices are hard and sometimes can feel unfair. You may firmly believe you should have gotten something another author got. Work very hard not to do that. Fall back on what you learned in Sunday school as a kid, “Do not covet thy neighbor’s stuff.” You must understand that the publisher has chosen to do whatever they’ve done with the other author because it was, they felt, in their best interest. Again, I say, this is business. This is not about friendship or anything else. It’s about potential sales. The day you start taking these things personally is the day you start taking big steps backward in your career and that long haul diminishes in the distance.

There are a few things you can do to ensure you continue to thrive for the long haul with your publishing career. First and foremost, write the absolute best book you have in you. Not once, not twice, but every time. If you don’t give each story your complete focus and effort, then you’ve neglected that book (you wouldn’t neglect one of your children, would you?). Second, stay in tune with what your readers like about your stories. Of course, you may not always like the feedback whether it be reviews or letters/emails from readers or advice from trusted writer friends, but consider what has been said. Weigh if it has any merit and go from there. If your child is complaining about something, you consider it, weigh it and then either take action or dismiss it. Do the same with your books. Thirdly, know the business. You may say (I certainly have), I’m a writer, I don’t want to know the inner workings of the publishing business, I just want to write. Well, I’m here to tell you that mentality is like saying you don’t want to know what makes your husband tick or where your kid is at on Saturday night. If you think you don’t need to know, then you will definitely miss something. You will be unaware of what is happening to your beloved works of fiction. YOU WANT TO KNOW. Make it a personal quest to know what is going on in that world with the same fervor you do what’s going on in the lives of those you love in your family.

Lastly, when you’ve written the best book you can, having weighed all the feedback, and you’ve stayed on top of how the industry works and how your publisher does things, the final and fourth thing you can do for your career is—CHANGE AS NEEDED. Now, you may ask, what does a lady who has been married to the same man more than three decades know about change? Not as much as I‘d like, but I‘m working on it. Changing publishers is not always good or necessary. Think long and hard, weigh all your reasons. Discuss the possibility with trusted friends and a damned good agent. Do not make this kind of change based on emotion or bad advice from people who don‘t really know or understand. Only do it when absolutely necessary and when and if it’s the best decision for your work/career.

My baby girl went to the same pediatrician from the day she was born until he passed away last year (eighteen years!). He was amazing and I genuinely respected his decisions about my child’s health. But don’t think for a moment as much as I respected and adored the man, that if he’d made one wrong move regarding my daughter’s health that I wouldn’t have been gone. Good and gone. The same goes for your relationship with your publisher. Step back, really, really look at the situation. Do not jump the gun. Do not get ticked off because you didn’t get what “you” think you deserved. Know the business, weigh the facts and then make a decision. Sometimes a compromise is needed, sometimes it’s change that is required.

Talent and persistence will take you a long way in most any career, but sound decision making will keep you moving forward for the long haul. You cannot, absolutely cannot, make sound decisions unless you’re informed. So take the time to ask the hard questions. Know what’s going on in the writing world around you and stand the test of time.

What's the hardest compromise you've ever had to make? Are there areas that you never ever would compromise in? Debra is giving away a copy of her current release EVERYWHERE SHE TURNS to one lucky commenter today!

35 comments:

Playground Monitor said...

Waving to my Heart of Dixie chapter mate.

Hmmm. Difficult questions to answer, but I'm sure if Silhouette buys my book I'll be making compromises in the way of revisions. But they know best.

This is a great analogy, Debra, and some great advice as well.

Marilyn

Kylie said...

Welcome to the convertible, Deb!

What a thought provoking post, and an apt analogy. I would trade publishers before I'd exchange my husband--most days!

I can't say my finances are in check, LOL, but I certainly hear ya on publisher compromise. The quickest way to become disappointed and disillusioned is to compare your career to someone else. A writing career isn't a race it's more of an endurance marathon, LOL! That's why an agent is so important at a certain point. To bring reason to the discussion when emotion overtakes us and help us think in terms of years and multiple books rather than the current one.

Debra Webb said...

Thanks, Marilyn! Good luck with Silhouette!

Debra Webb said...

Kylie, it's great to be here! And it is not a race. You are most definitely correct, it's more like an endurance marathon! A good agent is of the utmost importance!

lois greiman said...

Thanks for joining us, Debra.

I appreciate your perspective. Writing is like a marathon to me, too. Exhausting but inspiring at regular intervals and dammed hard not to compare my speed to faster runners. And most...I have to say...run faster than I do.

Michele Hauf said...

Hello to a fellow Dangerous Woman! Great to see you here today, Debra.

I don't know that I've had to face any compromises in my writing career yet, but I know personally, I don't like to compromise my word. What I say, I mean. And I don't say it unless I mean it.

Love your cover! Very evocative.

Debra Webb said...

Lois, it is hard not to compare but it only hurts us in the end. We are who we are and making that list or getting that bigger advance is no reflection of how good "we" are. However, it is difficult to keep that in mind! But we keep on keeping on!

Debra Webb said...

Michelle, hey you dangerous woman yourself! I agree wholeheartedly. In my opinion you and your word are synonymous. And I hate, hate, hate failing on a promise. Sometimes I have one of those senior moments when I realize I've forgotten something and I HATE THAT! Thank you for the wonderful comments about the cover! I like it too!

Karin said...

Compromise is my middle name. I have always been the buffer between generations, workers, etc. It took me a long time to realize, however, that although the others benefited from my compromise, I didn't. My daughter is trying to teach me how to finally stand up for me - except when it is something she wants :>)

Debra Dixon said...

Debra-- Great to have you in the 'vert and what a great post.

I love "CHANGE AS NEEDED."

Managing a career as a working writer is fraught with unexpected difficulties. It helps, IMO, to be aware of that so that the writer can distance themselves from the emotional and personal aspect of the hard knocks, bad luck and incompetent publishing that sometimes come our way as writers.

I've had to change agents twice. The first time it was incredibly difficult because I was new, unpublished, and the agent was a major NY agent. But she wasn't right for me. She wanted my writing to go in a direction I didn't feel passionate about.

And once I was all revved up to draw a line in the sand. I'd made a decision to buy back a book rather than take the edge off it. It was darker than most of the work in category at that time.

As it turns out, my editor (may she be sainted) felt the same way about the book that I did.

Debra Webb said...

Karin, we could be twins! I've always been that "person" who negotiates, counsels, etc., for my family and friends. But then I often forget to do the same for myself. I, too, am working on that!

Debra Webb said...

Deb!!!! Thanks so much for sharing that. Distance from the emotional aspect is so, so important. And it's hard. Very hard, but it can save your sanity and, many times, your career.

Emmanuelle said...

I compromise a lot... especially with my very stubborn DH. I'm married to a mule so it's actually a matter of peace in our home. Happily, for me It's not too difficult to compromise.
Can't wait to read "Everywhere she turns" and congrats !!

Debra Webb said...

Thanks, Emmanuelle! I have two lovely daughters who are at least part mule! I don't know where they get that (vbg!).

Karin said...

I'll send my daughter up for a visit!

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed reading the comments.
I grew up compromising since I had a twin sister and share was our middle names. I learned early on though, how to subtly get my own way. That has helped me more times than I can count in working with people who do not compromise.
JOYE
JWIsley(at)aol(dot)com

Debra Webb said...

Joye, sometimes we have to do that subtle thing to get our way--which is usually the right one, right???

ForestJane said...

I think the biggest compromise I've made is the dichotomy between career choice and financial solvency. I chose to work in the nonprofit sector, and so I'll never retire rich. I've worked in professional scouting, in teaching, and now as a librarian, and enjoyed most of it, felt like a contributing member of society ... but it does rankle sometimes to see people I went to school with, that have the same number of degrees, making way more $$.

It reminds me of the poem by Robert Frost, Two Tramps in Mud Time where at the end he says:

My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation ... and the work is play for mortal stakes ...


Sorry, didn't mean to get all philosophical on ya'll today. ;)

Debra Webb said...

ForestJane! Thanks so much for sharing. Many of us sacrifice for a good cause to some degree, but you've made a life's work out of it. You should be very proud of what you've done so far! I'm certain there is more to come.

Jane said...

Hi Debra,
Congrats on the new release. I would like to think I would never compromise my integrity and go against my personal code of ethics.

susan said...

Glad to join you here and hope you have a great day . Well let's see since you forgot the last blog date..maybe you could rebook and offer two winners. I think that may be better than being whipped with a wet noodle. ha ha I guess that just proves one thing..you are human and can forget like all of us. ha susan L.

Debra Webb said...

Jane, absolutely!

Debra Webb said...

Susan, I'm in the process of rebooking that blog date as we speak and giving away two books is a great idea!

catslady said...

Congratulations on your release. I'm a stickler when it comes to rules - especially in games. If yuo have to cheat or fudge, you're really not a winner. That pretty much goes with being truthful. Usually the lie or cover up is worse than admitting doing something wrong or it at least makes it worse.

Debra Webb said...

Agreed, Catslady! Even in plotting, cheating the reader for a certain effect is a big no-no to me.

GunDiva said...

Debra, I loved this post and it can be applied to any career, not just writing.

Congrats on the new release.

Debra Webb said...

Thanks, GunDiva! You are exactly right!

Virginia said...

Congrats on your new release, it looks like a great read.

Debra Webb said...

Thanks, Virginia! I truly enjoyed writing Everywhere She Turns!

Laurie said...

Biggest compromise: MARRIAGE
32 years on July 16th

There has to be some give and take.
I can't always get my way!

Never compromise: my morals, how I raise my children, my religious beliefs

I Heart Book Gossip said...

Compromises are hard especially when you have a crazy labeling roommate. I swear sometimes I want to label her with her labelmaker. But other times I just have to say shes not that bad.

cindyc725 at gmail dot com

Anonymous said...

Hi Debra,

Congrats on your new release!

Biggest compromise is trying to not break any of my rules.

Terri W.

Debra Webb said...

Laurie, it's 35 for me come August 3rd!

Debra Webb said...

Cindy, I know what you mean. I love my best friend but sometimes she makes me crazy! We're so different, I guess that's what makes the world go round!

Debra Webb said...

Terri! Not breaking rules is tough. Thanks!