Agency Lessons: Don't be a sucker

Agency Lessons is a weekly post that gives authors and readers an inside look into the mind of a literary agent and a peek behind the curtain of how books are made.

I subscribe to quite a few marketing lists. It's a good way to pick up tips and tricks. It's also a great way to drive yourself crazy. Here's what I mean. I opened my email today to this subject line:

Easiest Way to Become a New York Times Bestseller?


Emails like this are counting on you being a sucker. So let's just talk about how completely awful this email is so you know exactly what to avoid.

1. It's not ever easy
This subject suggests that there are plenty of "easy" ways to hit the NYT list and that this email contains the easiest of the easy. Can we all just  stop with the constant search for the magical unicorn that is an easy button. There isn't one. I promise if I had one, I would share it with all of you.

There is luck and hard work. Most good authors need a combination of the two to hit the big time. It might look like some authors only had to show up to be super successful, but I promise that isn't the case. We never see the hours of hard work, late night pep talks and mountains of rejection that these authors went through to get where they are.

There is not easy solution and anyone who tells you there is is a big, fat, liar.

2. Define your own success
I'm not gonna lie. If by some stroke of good luck and hard work I ever managed to hit the NYT bestsellers list, there will be a massive party involving lots of fried food and adult beverages. And if you hit that list (or any other big time list) you should absolutely celebrate. 

But you don't need to wait to hit this list to consider yourself successful. I've exceeded all my expectations as an author and I'm not even in the same galaxy as the NYT list. Too many authors get caught up on these arbitrary definitions of success and then, when they aren't met, they feel like a failure. And that's a shame.

Don't let someone else tell you what you need to accomplish. Set your own goals and focus on the path that brings you happiness.

3. Not all advice is created equal
There are lots of services and products out there designed to help authors reach their goals. Some are free and others are ridiculously expensive. This isn't an indictment on expensive products. However, know that not everyone out there looking to sell you coaching, courses and opportunities has your best interest in mind. It doesn't cost anything to make a load of promises.

It's important that you take the time to investigate both the people and products being offered to make sure you aren't going to throw your hard earned money away. There are a lot of really great people out there who offer books and courses for reasonable fees that can be a huge benefit to you as an author. There are also lots of not so great people who know how to take advantage of a new author's insecurities and talk you into "help" you don't need.