A Career

Guest Blogger: Reed Farrel Coleman

By the time this blog post appears, my thirteenth (GUN CHURCH, Audible.com) and fourteenth (HURT MACHINE, Tyrus Books) novels will be on the shelves—actual and virtual. Although I don’t get quite as excited by the release of my latest novel or novels, I do still find the experience amazing. Given how hard it is to get traditionally published, I try never to lose sight of the fact that it’s nearly miraculous any of us manage to make a career of this affliction called writing. I think that’s the thing I’ve learned over the course of the last twenty years since my first novel, LIFE GOES SLEEPING was published in 1991. I never take what I do for granted.

When I’m asked how I’m doing, I almost always say, “I’m vertical and in print, so I must be okay.” That’s borrowed from Lee Child, by the way. He usually gives that same answer. Unfortunately, I’m neither as vertical nor as in print as Lee. It sounds flip, I know, yet it’s not at all. Publishing is a tough business and I’m proud to have survived as long as I have in the field. Over the years I’ve been asked to give advice to people coming up or people who aspire to be writers. My usual advice is as follows:

1)      Sit down and write. No one gets published by wanting, only by writing.

2)      Fall in love with writing, not with what you’ve written.

3)      Never hit and run on a pitcher’s count. (sorry, that’s a baseball joke).

But just lately, I’ve come to the realization that people who want to get traditionally published think an acceptance letter and an advance is the end of the road. Nope. Getting published is the beginning of the road, not the end. And that’s what I tell people who want to make a career of it. Take the long view. It took me a long time to learn that lesson. I tend to learn best the hard way.

I’ve been doing a lot of looking back at the beginning of my career. I recall the first time I saw my book in a bookstore—you remember bookstores, right? It was both a moment of great exhilaration and great panic. It was so cool to see a book with my name on it on a shelf. At the same time, I remember the sudden realization that my book was just one among thousands in the bookstore. How, I wondered, would anyone ever find my book among so many? I’ve also been thinking a lot about the sacrifices my family has made so that I could follow my dream. It might be my name on the book, but many people have contributed in ways large and small to make my career. That’s another thing I try never to lose sight of. Books and careers are made up of more than just words on a page.

Called a hard-boiled poet by NPR’s Maureen Corrigan and the noir poet laureate in the HUFFINGTON POST, Reed Farrel Coleman has published fourteen novels. His 7th installment in the Moe Prager Mystery series, HURT MACHINE, was just named to PUBLISHERS WEEKLY’s 10 Best List for 2011. Coleman is a three-time recipient of the Shamus Award for Best Detective Novel of the Year and a two-time Edgar Award nominee. He has also won the Macavity, Barry, and Anthony Awards.  He is an adjunct professor of English at Hofstra University and an instructor for MWA U. He lives with his family on Long Island.

Visit Reed at his website or on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter.


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