Wednesday, September 1, 2021

A Guest Post by Eric Beetner

Eric Beetner is that writer you've heard about but never read. Then when you finally do, you wonder why you waited so long. There are over 25 books and more than 100 short stories so you'd better get started. Books like Rumrunners, All The Way Down, Two In The Head and The Devil Doesn’t Want Me. He also hosts the podcast Writer Types and the Noir at the Bar reading series in L.A. He’s been described as the 21st Century’s answer to Jim Thompson, and he’s been nominated for three Anthony’s, an ITW award, Shamus, Derringer and 5 Emmys. 


And we're fortunate to have him here today, answering this week’s question: The buzz of your first novel has long worn off, you’re no longer the hot new thing — now what?

Man, does publishing love a debut author. They’re wide-eyed and innocent, full of hope. Reality has yet to wipe the optimism from their open, eager faces. Not like us grizzled veterans, the also-rans, living life in the remainder bin.


Like myself — author of 27 published works plus over a hundred short stories. I have award nominations, Publishers Weekly reviews, blurbs from NYT #1 best sellers. And here I stand like a beggar on the street corner while the latest, shiniest object is paraded down the street in front of me.


And then what happens? That once-newbie and I are trading war stories at the bar two years from now at a crime writing convention. It happens to all of us. So what do you do when the shine is off your brand new book?


The simple answer is this: keep writing.


Did you begin a new series with your debut? Now is the time to build on that audience and turn in a book two that will satisfy your newfound readers and bring in new ones.


Did you pour your heart and soul into a stand-alone novel that ripped your guts out to write and took everything from you? Dig deeper and find more to give.


Whatever secret sauce publishing thinks comes with a debut, a big breakout book does not a long career make. You need to keep putting out consistently good work over a long period of time. Books that can be found years from now and find you new, dedicated readers who might not have been around for your big, splashy debut.


A writing career is that clich├ęd “marathon, not a sprint.” In terms more of us can relate to, you might be crowned prom king for your debut, but before long you’ll be hanging out back behind the gym with the weird band kids, but that’s okay because they’re more interesting and talk about more interesting books.


A big thing to remember is not to take it personally. Know that every time you feel inadequate by being lapped by some up-and-comer, you really sound like Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard complaining that “It’s the pictures that got small.” We know how well that went for her.


There are days I feel like I can get arrested in the publishing world. Then there are days when I’m reminded that I have built something. I have a body of work. Doesn’t every writer desire to have a body of work? Who wants one book, no matter how great? Harper Lee and then end of list.


Writing is a life of looking forward, always. The next story should be insisting upon it. And what is that next story but an eager debut waiting to happen? Sure you’ve written and published books now, but each new book is the first time that story is being told. It’s a debut again and again. Even if publishing doesn’t treat it that way, you should.


Each time you start on the first blank page of a new book, take a second to remind yourself why you wrote that first book. The one that got you the publishing contract, all that attention, the interviews, the panel slots, the guest blogs. Write from that place when it was all out ahead of you. 


And, yeah, sure, find other writers to commiserate with when it feels like it isn’t going your way. Next, you’ll be the ones looking at the flavor-of-the-month getting the press and the accolades, and you’ll be able to see the fall coming, even when they don’t. So be a good experienced writer and help break that fall. Nobody wants to see anyone fall flat on their face, even if they did siphon off some of your marketing budget.


And that whole time, you’ll be writing and working and making your own brand new story.


It’s so easy to get cynical in this business. It’s unfair, relies on luck, changes with the winds of what is trending. It’s dispassionate and unsentimental. It will treat you like a king when you are up, and a pauper when you are down. But if you wait out the turbulence you can find yourself on the other side. The tails to the heads of a debut: the author that’s been around so long and been so consistently good and reliable that people start coming around to your books thinking, “I’ve seen this name around forever, why haven’t I read them?”


That’s my current career plan. Wait them out. Keep writing. Write what I want to read and never lose sight of why I started doing it in the first place. And once the pressure and the stresses of that debut are behind you, you might find you can actually settle into a nice groove and be in a good place for a long and fruitful career. And those prom kings? Their crown has tarnished by now. The prom queen left him for a band geek. His class ring is all he has to remember the good ol days.


But not you. You kept working. Kept writing. Kept telling stories with the same enthusiasm as that very first book. 


Always appreciate the ride while you’re on it, but understand that a roller coaster is over in a flash, and a lot of the time it kinda makes you nauseous.


Thanks for the pearls of wisdom, Eric, and thanks for being a guest this week. And for anyone who hasn't read his novels, you can get started by visiting his website here and finding out more. I promise you won't be sorry. — Dietrich



 

5 comments:

Dietrich Kalteis said...

Thanks for the great contribution, Eric.

Susan C Shea said...

Eric, you should give this talk at every convention every year. It'll always be new to someone, and comforting to the rest of us!

Brenda Chapman said...

A good perspective along with great advice - thanks for your post, Eric. I'm checking out your website!

Frank Zafiro said...

Insightful, as always, my friend.

Eric Beetner said...

Susan - Some times it's hard to heed my own advice! But a little perspective is always good when you feel like giving up.

Brenda - Thanks!

Frank - Good advice I didn't share: when it doubt, partner up with a better writer and let them do the heavy lifting!