Writing Advice from Harlan Coben

Harlan Coben

Saw this snippet from a recent interview with thriller writer Harlan Coben over on Dean Westly Smith’s blog – it’s good enough it needs to be shared. You can read the full interview with Coben on The Big Thrill.

Franze: Does your success insulate you in any way from all the changes occurring in publishing? Do you worry about the industry?

Coben: I don’t worry about the industry because there is very little I can do about it. Here I will give out some free advice to “newbies”: Stop worrying so much about the business and spend that time WRITING. I know one thing—if I write a good enough book, readers will find it if it’s on digital or paper or stone tablets. If the book isn’t good enough, checking your Amazon rankings and tweeting how wonderful you are, isn’t going to help.

Franze: What’s your best advice to new writers—both those who are trying to get published and those with one or two books under their belts?

Coben: See answer two questions above. Most of the social networking and whatever are worthless. Yes, some writers have benefited from them, but some writers have also won lotteries. And yes, publicists will pressure you to do it, but a few years ago, those same publicists were telling you to travel on your own dime and set up book signings at remote stores or hand out bookmarks. How many writers made a big splash doing that? Sure, you need to know the business. It is constantly changing and we are entering a new world. But in EVERY instance of a book that really broke out, that really shook up the bestseller lists . . . it was word of mouth. Never does a clever tweet or funny Facebook status or Amazon list manipulation trick have any real, lasting effect. And that’s a good thing. The story is the thing. Embrace that. Career-wise, find the authors whose careers you admire. Study how they do it.

Franze: What’s the worst piece of writing advice that you’ve heard dispensed to writers?

Coben: Anything that doesn’t end with the sentiment, “Just shut up and write.”

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