(Full disclosure: this baby photo of David may not be 100% accurate)
David Neilsen, welcome to the blog! First things first, enjoy a complimentary soda on the house. Now sit back…close your eyes…
I want you to go on a journey with me, back to your newborn authors days. Remember all the joy, the self-delusion, the crippling fear and anxiety? Think of all the things you would have done differently. Now imagine that you could sit down with Baby Author You the day before your book sold and offer him some sage advice on the road to come? Guess what? It’s too late for you–sorry David!–but it’s not too late for all the other Baby Authors out there. So let’s dive in. The wee Baby Authors of the world need your words of wisdom.
What would you tell Baby Author You about…
David. The year is 2016. Last April, your agent called you out of the blue to tell you he’d sold Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom. You did a happy dance. Now the book is a few months away from coming out this August.
Start promoting like mad. This is your job. The publisher will not do it for you. Get on blogs. Get folks to review it. Contact people you haven’t contacted in years to see if they can help you promote it. Do you know some teachers (you do), get them to bring you to their school.
You thought being a writer meant you job was to write. You were wrong. It is to promote.
Don’t read reviews. And when you do read reviews, don’t pay any attention to them. And when you do pay attention to them, don’t let one person’s opinion get you down or raise you up. You believe in your books, so keep believing in your books. And when you read the reviews anyway and get upset that they don’t like you, don’t punch anything solid.
And seriously, ignore Kirkus. They just don’t like you.
School visits are possibly the most important thing you can do to help your book and your career. Do them. Do a lot of them. Contact a zillion schools. Keep contacting them year after year. You are a children’s author, therefore you need to be introduced to children. There are lots of children at schools (it’s kind of a law thing).
Listen to your editor. She is all-knowing. Trust me. All-knowing.
Writing first drafts
Stop trying to be perfect with your first draft. It’s annoying and pretentious. Just get the story down on digital paper, because then you will begin…
This is where you’re gonna do the work. Fix all the little things that need to be fixed. Fix the big things. And above all, CHARACTER, CHARACTER, CHARACTER. Plot is nice, but give the reader a character who grows or is changed by the events of the story. Without that, your book is pointless and won’t get published.
Have other people read your work. Let them tell you what they like and don’t like. Listen to them and pay attention to things that keep coming up. Once you’ve done that a few times and have a draft you like, send it out again to more friends. Then pretty much ignore any negative criticism at that point because you’re too far along in the process and what do they know anyway, right?
That was a lovely advance. It is all you will ever get for your book. Deal with it.
Hahahaha, so true!!! Thanks for stopping by, David, and for sharing your words of wisdom.
DAVID NEILSEN is the author of two Middle Grade horror/comic/fantasies published by Crown Books for Young Readers. His debut novel, Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom, was named an Editor’s Pick by Amazon, won the Silver Falchion Award for Best YA/Tween Horror or Fantasy of 2017, and was a Semifinalist for Best Middle Grade / Children’s Book in the 2016 Goodreads Choice Awards. His second book, Beyond the Doors, was published in August, 2017.
Before turning to slightly-creepy children’s literature, David spent a dozen years working as a writer in Hollywood, culminating in optioning a pilot to 20th Century Fox (that went nowhere), and penning the screenplay for the Straight-to-DVD film “The Eliminator” (rent it, he dares you).
A classically trained actor, David works as a professional storyteller based in Sleepy Hollow, NY and spends much of October spooking the bejeebers out of people or performing one of his one-man shows based on and inspired by the works of H. P. Lovecraft. He lives with his wife, son, daughter, and two very domineering cats.
Learn more about David on his website. https://david-neilsen.com/