Writer's Digest Q&A With April L. Hamilton

This interview originally appeared on the Writer’s Digest site on 11/2/2010.

What piece of advice have you received over the course of your career that has had the biggest impact on your success?
 
This is a difficult question to answer, since my career has taken some unexpected twists and turns. I don’t think I’ve received career advice pertaining to writing or publishing from any specific person along the way, but there are three guiding principles I’ve tended to follow. The first is, “Nobody knows anything,” which is a quote from William Goldman.

This interview originally appeared on the Writer’s Digest site on 11/2/2010.

What piece of advice have you received over the course of your career that has had the biggest impact on your success?
 
This is a difficult question to answer, since my career has taken some unexpected twists and turns. I don’t think I’ve received career advice pertaining to writing or publishing from any specific person along the way, but there are three guiding principles I’ve tended to follow. The first is, “Nobody knows anything,” which is a quote from William Goldman.

 
The second is that there’s nothing mysterious or sacred about publishing. Publishing is a business, nothing more or less. The last is that most of the time, what seems like luck is actually just preparation meeting opportunity. 
 
I’ve taken the Goldman quote to mean there’s no fixed blueprint for success in any endeavor; at some point you have to stop trying to figure out the secret handshake and just focus on doing the best work you possibly can so you’ll be ready when a door opens for you at last.
 
Recognizing publishing for the business it is reveals the fact that signing with a publisher is simply a business partnership, there’s nothing magical about it. If a publisher chooses not to partner with this or that writer, it doesn’t necessarily mean the writer’s work has no merit or commercial potential. All it means is that the partnership didn’t look like a profitable one to that specific publisher at that specific time.

It’s easy to get caught up in emotions when things don’t work out as you’d hoped, but emotion has nothing to do with it. There are no white hats and black hats here, just businesspeople making business decisions.

 
What message do you find yourself repeating over and over to writers?
 
Forget the so-called “rules” of writing. Sometimes prologues work, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes shifts in POV work, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes an adverb really is the best word choice. If you must have rules, I’d say these are the only two you need:
 
1. If it weakens, or adds nothing to the work, change it.
2. If it strengthens the work, leave it alone.
 
 
What’s the worst kind of mistake that new writers, freelancers, or book authors can make?
 
I hate to repeat myself so soon, but I have to go back to treating publishing like a business: most aspiring authors don’t. If you intend to approach an agent or trade publisher, you need to be able to make a compelling case for why they should take a risk on you and your book, why you and your book are likely to be profitable.
 
If you’re going to self-publish for profit, you need to go into it expecting to run a small business because that’s exactly what you’ll be doing. And if you’re going to try and support yourself through freelance gigs, again, you must accept that you’re running a business and operate accordingly: maintain records, keep an eye on the competition, track income and expenses, and so on.

 

Read the rest of the interview on Writer’s Digest.

Comments are closed.