This past week, I attended the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) Conference. After a whirlwind of pitches and sessions and meeting authors I have come to know online, I returned home exhausted, but excited and renewed! My favorite class that I attended was on “How to Develop a Thick Skin” by literary agent Steve Laube and he gave such insightful tips, I thought I’d write a post summarizing my take away on the class.
Don’t take critiques personally. When you first release your baby into the hands of your beta readers/critique group/agent/editor, it’s frightening. After all they are judging you, right? No. They are judging your work, not you. You have to be able to separate yourself from your work, but it is hard to do as so much of the emotions in the story are inspired from the author or at least felt by the author. After all, don’t they say, no tears in the writer, no tears in the reader?
Tip: Learn to separate yourself from your work to a point where you can hear the criticism and take bits and pieces to improve your work. Steve said that while 95% of a critic’s comments can be dead wrong, there is almost always 5% of truth in them. Sift through them and find those nuggets that can make your story that much better!
On being critiqued by public. Having been so engrossed in the current critiques pre-publishing, which are relatively safe as I get to choose my beta readers/critique partners, I never really gave much thought to being critiqued by the public post-publication. With Amazon and its rating system of stars 1 to 5, it’s important to know that the success of your book doesn’t rest on that one terrible 1 star review from a critic who hated your book (or the “reviews” that are really just a response to the condition of the book upon delivery that bring down the entire rating of your work even though it isn’t based on the book itself!!!!).
Tip: There are going to be haters out there, no matter how good your book is, but the important thing is to not let it discourage you from continuing your passion. If it distracts you from your writing time, it may be best to avoid checking those reviews obsessively.
Know your limit. Be it in the rejecting/accepting stage or the critiqued by public stage, Steve emphasized that it is important for each writer to know their limit of hearing feedback (of the pitching process to editors, Amazon book reviews, online articles, etc.). Steve said that he had one client who didn’t want to hear from him unless he was calling with an acceptance as rejections sent the client spiraling into depression for hours and ruined a perfectly good writing day. On the other hand, Steve told the class of another client who wanted to hear EVERYTHING good and bad, big or small.
Tip: Don’t be afraid to admit what you can and cannot handle to your agent!
Define Your Success. This point really stuck out to me. This isn’t about me meeting my goals, it’s about me being content with where I am as an author when I finally reach my definition of success. The difference between goal setting and defining your success is that while goals are there to push you to get better, success is being content with where you are and having the ability to celebrate your achievements, which can fuel you to continue to reach your annual goals.
Tip: I’ve already had my fair share of rejections. This is a hard business, but it is so rewarding! Don’t take writing so seriously that it kills the fun of creating! Learn from your rejections, but don’t let the rejections define your success as a writer. Keep up the good work and as always Happy Writing!
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