Jo Ramsey’s Lessons Learned Along the Way

Please welcome our guest, multi-published YA Author, Jo Ramsey. Her second book in the DARK LINES series, WHEN DARKNESS FALLS comes out September 15th. Here’s a sneak peek about the story.

Blake Walker learned the hard way to hide his psychic abilities from others. But new girl Faith Carlisle refuses to let him hide from her. When a force of darkness and its human minions endanger the town–and specifically Faith–will Blake dare to use his abilities to save her?

See Jo’s website below for details on how to purchase a copy.  Now Jo, tell us a few secrets about what you’ve learned along the way to becoming a multi-published author.

Coming September 15th

Thanks PJ, I’d be happy to. Friday on your homepage blog, I shared the story of how I went from being the “weird kid” (in my family, weird is a compliment) sitting in her bedroom with a spiral notebook and pen, to being a multi-published young adult author. Today I’ll give you just a few of the gems I’ve learned during that journey.

Lesson One: Not everything is publishable.

When I started writing, my dream was to become a published author. I wrote story after story, dreaming of the day my name would be on book covers. I submitted my first novel in high school. It was rejected–repeatedly. It just plain wasn’t that good. The writing wasn’t great, the plot was shaky at best, and I clearly hadn’t done any research. I still have that manuscript, but I don’t plan on submitting it again unless I do a whole lot of rewriting. This leads me to the next lesson.

Lesson Two: Writing is work!

I have a drawer full of spiral notebooks and a couple of typewritten manuscripts. Some of those stories could probably be reworked and submitted, and someday I might do that. Hence, my still having them. But back in high school and college, I didn’t want to do that much work. I wanted to write a perfect story the first time and send it in for publishers to praise.
         Obviously, it doesn’t work that way. The first draft is called “first” for a reason: There are going to be more! Back when I was in high school and college, to revise I would have had to rewrite the entire thing, because I had either handwritten or typed it on a typewriter. Computers have made life a lot easier for me, since now I can make changes without having to redo the whole thing. This is fortunate, because there are always changes that need to be made. It’s very, very rare for a first draft to be polished enough to be submitted; I know one author who can pull that off, but she’s the only one. I definitely can’t do it.

Lesson Three: Writers don’t typically get rich.

I’ve been asked a lot about how much money I make, or why I have to work a day job if I’m a writer. Some people have the misconception that all authors earn on the level of Stephen King or J.K. Rowling. When I was a teenager, I had the same misconception. I used to daydream about buying my parents a new house with the earnings from my first book. So far, the earnings from all my books combined would barely be enough to buy a doghouse.
         Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration, but the reality is that writers do not get rich off their work. Anyone who decides to write a book so they can quit their day job is likely to be very disappointed. I write because I love writing, and on the occasions that enough royalties come in that I can pay a couple bills early or buy my kids something I’ve been putting off, I celebrate.

Lesson Four: The “work” of writing doesn’t end when the book is published.

In fact, it’s just beginning. Writing the book, revising it, getting it accepted, and then revising it again under the editor’s guidance—for me, that’s the easy part. After the book is published, the author still has to promote it. Most publishers do at least some promotion, but many if not all of them, especially smaller presses, expect the author to promote as well, which makes sense. The publisher has to promote all of their authors; each author only has to promote his or her own books. Promoting takes a lot of forms. Finding venues and methods to let people know my books exist takes a lot more time than I’d expected. It’s well worth it, but it’s still a lot of work.

I could go on about other things I’ve learned, but I did agree to a word limit on this post. Suffice it to say that I’ve learned a lot, and I haven’t stopped learning. There’s always more to find out, always skills to improve. Being a published author takes a lot of time and effort, but it’s definitely worth it, at least to me.

Now it’s your turn Scribes fans. What lessons have you learned?

Learn more about Jo Ramsey and her books, both published and upcoming, on her website, www.joramsey.com.

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22 thoughts on “Jo Ramsey’s Lessons Learned Along the Way”

  1. Not all publishers are equal! I sold my first two YA to a publisher that had RWA recognition, promoted their books well, were doing really well, as far as I could tell! And I became a published author with the sale of two books to them! And then 2 years later, a month before the release of the first book, they closed the YA line. Lesson learned: You’re not a published author, really, until the book is available to purchase!!! At least I was able to keep the advance for both books!

    But for me, the real lesson learned is that you don’t give up. Not if you love to write, love to create stories…you write, revise, and submit. When I decided to publish my first fae story, The Dark Fae, I didn’t realize how much the story would take off. Now, it’s a series. So never give up!

  2. Terry, that must have been heart breaking! It goes to show you, nothing is written in stone. At least you got to keep the advance, and best of all, you didn’t give up and you’ve gone on to be successful. Kudos! And thanks for sharing your story.

  3. Terry, I’m sorry that happened to you. How disappointing for you. When I hear stories like that, I grow wary of submitting to publishers I’ve never heard of. Which, I guess, leads me to my question. How do you know if a small press is recognized by RWA? I’ve been looking into submitting to a few, but not sure what I should look for.

  4. PJ, thanks for hosting me today!

    Terry, sorry that happened. Unfortunately, some publishers do close down, or at least close their YA lines, without warning. But I’m glad you didn’t give up!

  5. This was excellent and so informative. To both Terry and Jo Ramsey: I wonder about publishers and RWA recognition as well. I also wonder if one could do more regarding the issue of closing the line at the publishers. Was there a way to resubmit the same two books after the contract was up? Jo were you ever able to rework any of the notebooks in the drawer of the so-called unpublishables into workable and publishable novels? Thanks for your post.

    Deb

  6. What I’ve learned: Writing (like growing old) ain’t for sissies! There is a lot of rejection along the way, some kind, some downright mean. But the important thing is that if you believe in your work and believe in the dream, then don’t ever give up. I’ve heard it said “the difference between a published writer and an unpublished one is perseverance.”

    And everything else Jo Ramsey posted is spot on. Great lesson today! Thanks!

  7. Thanks for visiting today Jayne and Debralee.

    Jo, I want to know about those notebooks too.

    Before I started writing YA, I had two paranormal/fantasy novels and two romantic suspense manuscripts waiting on super-revisions. I was still in my first 500,000 word practice period and I was daunted by the revision process. In terms of revising, sixty or seventy thousand words was much easier than the 80-100k novels I’d written (poorly). I still love those characters and there are a couple of story lines that I definitely want to revisit. What about you?

  8. Great post Jo and thanks for visiting the Scribes. If you want to last long term, you have to have a “no guts, no glory” attitude. One of my favorite movies lines is from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. After the opening train scene, when Indy captures the Cross of Coronado only to lose it later, the Fedora man says, “You lost today, kid. That doesn’t mean you have to like it.”

    Perserverance, focus and the willingness to keep learning will take you far in life.

  9. Believe in your dream and don’t give up – that’s what everyone seems to be saying – and I couldn’t agree more. I didn’t start out writing with the hopes of making money. Yes, I am excited about being published, but I don’t expect to be able to buy more than a dog house either!
    Patti

  10. I have a plaid fedora hubby bought me when we were dating… maybe I should start wearing it. LOL.

    The drawer full of notebooks is still there. I did revise one of them, then realized the content might not be publishable; there isn’t really a plot, it’s just snippets following three friends from the first day of their freshman year of high school through their high school graduation. (I wrote a sequel following the same characters through the first few years after high school.) I’d still like to see it published someday, but I think it would be a very, very hard sell.

    Another one, which I originally wrote in high school, then revised about 10-12 years later, was re-revised and is now under contract with Featherweight Publishing, a newer small children’s/YA press. There are three or four others that I’d like to try to redo someday, but they would need a LOT of work. (On the other hand, two of them directly tie in with the one that’s under contract, and my editor was talking about me writing more books with the characters, so those may yet see the light of day…)

    There are some great comments here!

  11. Jo, or anyone else who wants to chime in, do you have any tips for Katy Lee about how to find out which are the more stable publishers to seek out? Are there specific things an author should look for?

  12. The most frequently-quoted advice I hear about publishers is “wait till they’ve been around a year or two.” Most small presses that fold do so within the first year of operation. It can be exciting to hear about a new company that takes what you write, and even more exciting if that publisher approaches you and asks you to submit, but unless you’re very familiar with the people behind the company and they have a demonstrated ability to run a business effectively, it’s sometimes best to wait a year or two and see where they are. I’m comfortable with Featherweight Press even though it hasn’t been around long because I know who’s behind the company and I know they know what they’re doing.

    Solicit opinions from authors who are with that company. Jupiter Gardens Press, which publishes my two YA series, isn’t familiar to most authors. I’ve received at least half a dozen emails in the past six months asking me about the company, how they are to work with, etc. I never have a problem answering those questions; I’m very happy with Jupiter Gardens, but I would be equally willing to answer if I wasn’t happy. Authors have to help each other out.

    Check out websites like the Absolute Write Water Cooler, a message board that includes a forum called “Bewares, Recommendations, and Background Checks.” They have an exhaustive list of threads about publishers there, and if the publisher you’re wondering about isn’t listed, just start a thread and it’s a pretty safe bet you’ll get some information. Also check out sites like Preditors and Editors or Piers Anthony, which list publishers and whether there have been any problems with them.

    If all else fails, trust your gut. If you feel like something’s hinky with a publisher you’re considering, don’t go with them.

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