Guest Post: New York Times Bestselling Thriller Author Chelsea Cain

“What I Wish I Knew About Getting Published Before it Happened To Me.”

by Chelsea Cain

Author of the New York Times bestselling thrillers Heartsick, Sweetheart and Evil at Heart.

Travel with a corkscrew.  Otherwise you will end up having to buy one every time you want to take a bottle of wine back to the hotel room.

Never get photographed holding a glass of wine. The glass always looks askew, and you will look drunk.

When an agent/editor says they “don’t love it,” it means they hate it.

Every copy counts. You’d be amazed how few copies you have to sell to get on the bestseller list.

Don’t tell people you will read their manuscripts. You won’t, and then they’ll think you’re an asshole.

If there is a mistake in your book, readers will find it and they will mention it over and over again.

The Oregon State Bird is the Western Meadowlark.

Sometimes you will give readings, and no one will come. The resulting crushing despair will pass.

The best signing pen is the extra fine tip Sharpie. The regular tip Sharpie emits more fumes and will make you high after about a half hour.

Always ask people how they spell their names before you write an inscription, even if you are certain that there is only one way to spell “Pat.”

Protect your writing time at all costs. When you are published at a certain level, you will find that you have very little time to write, among all the events, social networking, interviews, book tours travel and endless online Q&As. Marketing is important, but only if you have a book to promote.

Get a really good accountant.

Make friends with booksellers, they are some of your most important allies.

No red wine before photo shoots – it stains your teeth.

Don’t put a heart on the cover of your book if you want lots of men to buy it.

On a related note, don’t put the word “heart” in the title of your book if you want lots of men to buy it.

If you have any say, go with trade paperback, as opposed to mass market.

When you start to panic because of a publishing issue, wait 24 hours before you send the frantic email to your agent/editor/publisher. This will save you having to write the second email where you apologize for the first.

People like it when you look like your author photo, so don’t go dying your hair platinum right after the book comes out.

Get a P.O. Box.

Few of your friends or family will ever truly understand exactly what you do. Tell people you are a nurse or a ballerina.

It is perfectly natural to hate your copy editor.

If you have to sign 1000 tip-in sheets, you probably want to do this over time rather than waiting until the night before.

Trust your translators. They are collaborators and they know their cultural markets way better than you do.

If you happen to know a language your book is translated into, never ever read it.
Some people like to see their names in books; some people do not.

Do not, under any circumstances, start checking your sales ranking on Amazon.
If you go to Book Expo America, wear really comfortable shoes. Even then, bring band-aids.

Sign stock anytime anyone asks you to.

Norwegians are awesome.

At some point you will be doing an event, and someone will bring you a used copy of your book to sign and you will open it only to find that you have already signed it to some dear friends who immediately unloaded it at the used books desk at Powell’s. Do not feed sad. It will make a funny story later.

To read reviews and buy Chelsea’s books, click on the titles shown on her by-line above.  You can access her website,, here.

Evil at Heart


Filed under Guest Bloggers

18 Responses to Guest Post: New York Times Bestselling Thriller Author Chelsea Cain

  1. Bravo Ma’am Chelsea.
    I can finish digesting a 1,000 page book easier than I can digest all these advices.

  2. Sandra

    “People like it when you look like your author photo, so don’t go dying your hair platinum right after the book comes out.”

    I often wonder about those photos. I would say you shouldn’t put a glamor photo on your book either unless you look glamor all the time. 😉

    Thank you, Chelsea, for sharing with us! 🙂


  3. Sandra

    By the way, if your photo on here is your book photo – it’s a great one! 🙂


  4. Loved this post! Great practical advice! And very funny … 🙂

  5. Great post! Very hilarious and needed on this Monday morning after a long-weekend off from work. 🙂

  6. Upon review, it seems that most of my advice involves wine. Interesting… Thanks for reading, everyone.

  7. I found a copy of my first book used at Powell’s about a week after I’d signed it a particularly detailed inscription for someone. It WAS pretty damn funny.

  8. Laura Keeney

    THIS: It is perfectly natural to hate your copy editor.


    Fabulous advice my dear.

  9. Nina Jaribu

    Norwegians are awesome. Hmmm…Ibsen and? How about the rest of Scandinavia? August Strindberg, Astrid Lindgren, Stieg Larsson, etc.

  10. Love the advice! Very funny and well written.

    Bubble guns are fun at book signings as well if they’re outdoors and the wind is blowing away from your booth. Otherwise, it can be a sticky situation.

  11. Susy

    That was brilliant, thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Just saying that us Swedes are pretty good too… Can’t have the Norwegians take all the glory, sorry

  12. I really enjoyed this post. Informative, funny and in the near future very useful.

  13. Plastic Santa

    Don’t worry, Chelsea. You won’t ever find the book you signed “To Plastic Santa” at any used book counter! And it’s nice that you’re just as funny in person as you are writing here.


  14. After reading this, I’ll be buying your book. If you can write this sort of stuff, you can probably write other brilliant stuff.

    I’m the grandson and son of a bookshop owner, a bookseller (Google: O’Mahony’s Limerick Ireland). I bet they sell your books. I must see if they’ve reviewed you.

    You are fun.

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  17. I always get a kick out of seeing my name in books. I’m childish and shallow that way, and I admit it.

  18. Irina

    Well, here is one Norwegian who thinks you’re really awesome! 😀