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Morgan St. James: An Accidental Writer Shares Seven Secrets for Success

Morgan St. James: An Accidental Writer Shares Seven Secrets for Success
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BY ELISABETH DANIELS

On August 26, Morgan St. James turned 76. “I’ve reinvented myself so many times throughout my life,” she laughs. “Becoming a writer was just the beginning.”

In 1978, Morgan St. James owned a successful interior design studio in California. She was 40, with long black hair. Her business partner, Carol, was a gorgeous blond. People in the industry called them the Starsky and Hutch of Interior Design.

After they’d designed a floor made from packing crates, Designer’s West Magazine came calling, asking for a story about their innovative floor. They said yes. Only problem was, neither Morgan nor Carol were writers. Photographers came out to take pictures; the whole thing was ready to go. But a week before it was due, the ladies still didn’t have an article.

A late-night brainstorming session led to an unusual idea. “Maybe it was the wine,” says Morgan, “but we decided to write it like a noir mystery.”

The editor loved it and asked them to pen more articles. And that’s how Morgan St. James accidentally started writing.

She continued writing articles, until a family medical crisis served as the spark for Morgan’s break into fiction. While caring for their mother, who’d suffered a series of mini strokes, Morgan and her sister Phyllice discovered they shared a passion for funny mysteries. Since they were both published writers, they decided to write their own series.

They penned a manuscript, and “we started submitting it, thinking it was fabulous,” Morgan says, “and we were going to get an agent in no time. Then the rejections started coming in.”

“Most of them were the usual rejections,” she continues, “but one gave us good feedback. They suggested we work with a manuscript evaluator, as opposed to an editor.”

Morgan and Phyllice took the recommendation to heart. They rewrote the manuscript, and a couple of years later, their first book, A Corpse in the Soup, featuring over-50 twin sisters Godiva and Goldie, was published.

ACorpseInTheSoup

It was named best mystery audiobook by USA Book News. Morgan was 66.

That auspicious debut was followed up with Terror in Teapot and Vanishing Act in Vegas. She and Phyllice are now writing the fourth book in the Silver Sisters Mysteries series.

Morgan has gone on to write ten other books, including Writers’ Tricks of the Trade: 39 Things You Need to Know about the ABCs of Writing Fiction. She also hosts a radio show on Blog Talk Radio where she shares advice and interviews successful writers.

Here are her top seven tips for breaking into a writing career in mid-life:

  1. You may have heard this one before, but it bears repeating. Learn your craft. Morgan notes that there are too many people who think it’s easy, which is how garbage gets out there
  2. Instead of taking organized classes, attend workshops, conferences and writers groups. That’s where you’ll get information from people who are actually in the trade, not doing it academically.
  3. Before submitting anything, always have your work professionally edited. If you can’t afford that, at least have someone who’s knowledgeable in writing critique it.
  4. The route to traditional publishing can take years. Consider self-publishing because of the time constraints. It’s a credible option these days, and as a minor author, you’re going to have to do all your own promotion anyway
  5. Don’t be afraid of learning new technology. If you’re afraid of the computer, you’re going to miss out on so many things that could be helpful with your writing and marketing. Take a class. Have a younger person help you learn things if necessary.
  6. Book marketing will take about 50% of your time. You need to do everything you possibly can. Use online tools like Twitter and Facebook. Work with bloggers. Consider being a guest on a podcast or starting your own podcast. And don’t forget to network offline, too.
  7. Watch out for book marketing scams. New writers can easily become “pigeons.” Many sites offer promotional packages for placing books on their sites, sometimes including Tweeting and Facebook posts as well. Their fees are generally fairly reasonable. Before listing your book, pick some of the books on the site and check their ranking on Amazon. If you find rankings like 4,750,251, you can assume the promotion hasn’t garnered good results. On the other hand, if you sample some of the books, and they all have good rankings, that site is probably delivering what they claim to do.

The biggest thing writers need to remember? “Don’t think it stops when you have a finished manuscript,” Morgan notes. That’s when it begins.”

For more about Morgan, visit her online at http://www.morganstjames-author.com/.

 

 

 

 

 

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Elisabeth Daniels
Elisabeth Daniels is a freelance writer and social media manager living the laptop lifestyle from an RV she shares with her husband and three dogs. She writes travel articles and culture pieces for a variety of national and regional publications. Known as the Coffice Girl (cafe + office = coffice), she hangs out on Twitter and Instagram under the handle @CofficeGirl.