Finally, never give up. Ever ever ever. Writing a book is mostly a solo endeavor. It takes time, and it’s hard, but if you’re going to succeed, you must keep going.
As part of my series on the “5 Things You Need to Know to Write a Bestselling Book,” I had the pleasure of interviewing fantasy author S.G. Prince.
Sarah is a native Floridian living in Fort Worth, Texas with her husband and their two fluffy pups. She spends most of her time writing, traveling, cooking, playing around with photography and reading. Sarah’s debut novel Elvish is the first book in her fantasy series.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share a story about what brought you to this particular career path?
I think some people are born to write. We have stories to tell, they live inside us, and we can’t ignore them. That’s what it was like for me. I wrote my first short story when I was seven. I started writing “seriously” when I was twelve. By the time I was sixteen I’d completed my first novel, and I continued writing through college and into adulthood. I’ve wanted to be an author since I was old enough to want anything, and I’ve built my life around those aspirations.
What was (so far) the most exhilarating or fulfilling experience you’ve had as an author?
Those first few weeks leading up to my debut novel’s release were some of the most stressful, exhilarating, terrifying weeks of my life. Everything I’d been working towards, all the thousands of hours and dozens of rewrites, seemed to be leading to that moment. I could hear the chorus building. The grand finale. The start (or quick end) to my writing career. I remember being so desperate to get it over with, to skip to the part where strangers had read my book, and loved it, or hated it. I just needed to know.
What was the craziest, weirdest, wildest experience you’ve had as a bestselling author?
The wildest experience was how quickly it all happened. I went from dreaming about being an author to suddenly being published, selling thousands of books and receiving fan mail from total strangers who loved my story and couldn’t wait for the next one. That’s still so crazy to me.
What is the greatest part about being a successful, bestselling author? What is the worst (if anything) part?
The pressure is the worst. When you release a book people love, how do you top yourself? I get emails from fans wondering about (and worrying over) the sequel to Elvish, and there’s this sense now that I can’t let them down. I’ve never felt that kind of pressure before.
The best part, though, is feeling like I’ve become myself. I’ve wanted this for so long, and now that it’s happened, it’s been amazing.
What is the one habit you believe contributed the most to you becoming a bestselling writer?
Grit. Oh, how important this is. It takes years to write and publish a book. And it’s a mostly solo endeavor — there’s no one to stop you from quitting. You’ve got to have the grit to keep going, even when it’s hard. Especially when it’s hard.
Which writer or leader has had the biggest impact on you as a writer?
There are so many! Patrick Rothfuss, for reminding me why I love books at a time when I needed it most. Marie Rutkoski, for showing me that stories can be both well-plotted and beautifully written. C.S. Pacat, for encouraging me to take risks. Juliet Marillier, for teaching me how to write a character that’s equal parts strong and vulnerable.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in your journey to becoming a bestselling author? How did you overcome it?
Self-doubt. I know I’m not alone in saying that self-doubt is a huge challenge for authors, but my best advice for aspiring writers is not to focus on it. Self-doubt is normal. It’s common. Luckily, your opinion of your own work is rarely trustworthy. You can safely ignore it.
What challenge or failure did you learn the most from in your writing career?
I wrote three books before I wrote Elvish (none of which were published). I call those failed attempts “practice.” You might write several books before you finally write one that’s good enough to publish, and that’s okay. Honestly, it’s to be expected.
What are the 5 things a writer needs to know if he/she wants to become a bestselling author?
1) Writing a book really is about pleasing people (rather than simply following your muse). Readers know what they like. Tropes are tropes for a reason. Before you sit down with a new book idea, it’s vital that you look at trends. Study your favorite books. What makes them so good? What do they have in common? If you listen to what readers are asking for, you’ll write a more popular book.
2) Read. Read as much as you can. I remember hearing an author once brag that she didn’t ever read while working on her novels because she didn’t want other books to “influence her,” and I balked. That’s insanity. You can’t write in a bubble. You can’t get better unless you read and learn and study. Read so much. Read everything.
3) Book marketing matters. Some publishing houses handle this for readers, but many don’t (or don’t do enough!). You must be your own best advocate. Learn how to run Amazon ads, try to get a BookBub, and expect to spend a good chunk of your advance/your own money on some self-promo. I know this is tough for many authors (myself included!) because we think, we wrote the book, didn’t we? Isn’t that enough? But alas, no, it’s not. No one can read a book they’ve never heard of, and in today’s world, it’s up to you to make sure the word gets out.
4) Cover art is crucial! I had no idea how much it mattered until my book was published, but the reality is that your book’s cover art can make all the difference. Your cover art should clearly match your genre. It should convey a certain kind of feeling (rather than, say, your favorite scene from the book). If you receive your cover art from your designer and isn’t stunning, put your foot down. Ask for changes. It matters.
5) Finally, never give up. Ever ever ever. Writing a book is mostly a solo endeavor. It takes time, and it’s hard, but if you’re going to succeed, you must keep going.
What are you most excited to work on next? Most excited to read next?
Currently, I’m working on finishing the next two books for The Elvish Trilogy. After that, I have a billion more ideas for books that I’m anxious to get to. It’s intimidating and exciting all at once.
As for books I’m excited to read next, there are too many to count! A few currently on my shelf are The Last Namsara, The City of Brass, and Vengeful.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
This might be a little unexpected, but I’d love to bring awareness to introverts — both what it means to be an introvert, and what it means to be friends with one. I didn’t start defining myself as an introvert until a few years ago (when I was maybe 24 or 25 years old). It’s such a simple, fundamental thing, but it caused me a lot of pain, because I didn’t understand myself. I didn’t know why some people loved parties and family gathering and yes, even making friends, and I didn’t. I dreaded those things. Sometimes, I hated myself for dreading them.
It took way too long for me to realize that I wasn’t boring or shy or antisocial, and that there was nothing wrong with me. I was just introverted. Once I realized that, I was able to stop blaming myself for not being a certain way, and things started changing for the better. Today, I know there are sixteen and nineteen and twenty-two-year-olds out there who are dealing with the same self-conflicted feelings I had to deal with. I’d love to save them some of the heartache and just spread some awareness of what it means to be introverted.
Anything else you’d like to add? We would love to hear whatever you feel inspired to include.
My fantasy book Elvish is available on Amazon (worldwide!). I’m also active on Instagram, and you can find me @s.g.prince 😊
Thank you so much for these great insights!