So you want to be an author? Writing is in your blood, you say? You’d write even if hell froze over. And though you might not say it out loud, you want your writing published for all the world (or at least a bunch of readers) to see. How do you get there?
Writing Tip for Today: Here are some tips for getting closer to your publishing dreams.
Pay Your Dues
Some who write want to simply put down ideas and rush off to Amazon or some other self-publishing outlet. At one time, this self-publishing model was derided and scorned by “traditional” authors. And sometimes it’s true—legions of titles out there are poorly written and ego-stroking in the worst ways.
Sloppy writing and publishing is unfortunate (even worse when high-fee vanity presses get involved). But that’s not you. You write and rewrite and are constantly trying to get better. You take rejections with a gulp and steely determination to keep trying, keep writing.
For most writers, learning the craft takes years, tears and a whole lotta effort. Many, including yours truly, have been at it through the SASE envelope and snail mail era all the way to email and Twitter pitches. I know—it seems like a long time. But as a mentor used to remind me, “If it were easy, everyone would do it.” We writers pay our dues through practice, persistence and yeah, some luck.
Iron Sharpens Iron
One of the best ways to get from rejection to publication (IMHO) is by surrounding yourself with other writers. Ideally, you can find at least one or two other writers who are farther down the craft road than you are. A critique group of all beginners is better than nothing, but I’ve found that I get better faster when I get feedback from someone more skilled than I am.
If you can join other writers (either face-to-face or online), you can not only keep one another producing but also learn from each other’s mistakes as well as successes. Accountability, being willing to produce more work for feedback, feeds directly into the idea of many hours required for mastery. Hardly any of us is born knowing how to write for an audience.
Surround yourself with other writers.
If you have crit partners, great. I’d also encourage you to challenge one another to regularly submit your work—whether it be to your local newspaper, contests, periodicals or other publications. So many writers I tutor believe they must instantly publish a book, ignoring all the shorter forms that can hone skills and give more immediate gratification. And if you can’t find suitable critique partners, find a reputable editor or writing coach to help.
While you’re working on that book, write haikus, essays, letters to the editor. Check out magazines’ submission guidelines and start sending in brief tips, jokes or anecdotes to those which still accept them. Shorter pieces sell if you learn to write them well. You can even write short pieces on the same topic as that long-form book you’re working on. See my post on Russian Nesting Dolls.
Platform While You Practice
If you are a writer who sincerely wants to be published and actually sell your books, you’ll need a platform (gasp!). I know, we all love to hate this stuff, but if you carve out a regular time in your writing schedule to build it, one day they will come. Instead of complaining about this part of writing, get to work on it.
One literary agent recently wrote that 20,000 followers is the standard number for all authors who wish to be traditionally published. She claims that writers who hope for traditional book deals must build a platform of 20k or more to attract a publisher’s attention. Sobering news for many, but with so many social media forms, it’s attainable. But it takes a lot of work.
Begin right where you are, today.
Begin right where you are, today. It isn’t too late to start a monthly newsletter (publishers will consider the size of your email list), a blog or to pick a couple social media accounts to focus your energies upon. If you hate Twitter, maybe do Instagram. Just be sure you follow and attract followers who are interested in your book’s topic, slant or concept. Set aside about 10-15 minutes per day to post on whichever you join and be consistent. The purpose is to develop relationships, not to hammer on to buy your book.
Now, get your Buns in Chair and write, write, write.
The tips are not easy to hear, I know. Writing to publish takes a long time, requires skill and lots of writers give up. Even if you choose self-publishing, you’ll grow a bigger readership if you devote yourself to the same principles. Now, get your Buns in Chair and write, write, write.
Learn your craft with good feedback and lots of practice, learn to keep going despite rejection and invest your time in platform building, which is simply translated, made up of your faithful readers. Do these things and don’t give up and with some luck, you might just make your writing dreams come true.