Of all the questions I’ve been asked about my writing journey, numero uno by far is, “So, how do I get published?”
Every writer’s journey is his or her own, so it’s difficult to map out the steps that will take someone from a hobby writer to the title of author. And this post won’t do much to be able to define your specific writing journey. I believe that’s between you and God. But if you’re serious about it and you’re as green as I was two years ago, you might like some practical tips to get you started.
(Just to clarify – this author makes no guarantee that reading this post will result in publication for you. These tips might help you learn something new or find a resource that could aid in your journey, but the information here is meant to be inspirational. I’m not able to endorse any of the sites or individuals in shared links – make sure you investigate those on your own. In fact, I’ll be new to the bookstore shelves in 2014 myself, so I’d invite you to leave a comment so we can walk this road together. After all, I’m still learning too.)
1. Stop dreaming. The first step to becoming an author is to put a stake in the ground. When you start out, it may be a lofty dream to become an author one day. You might wonder if you’re good enough for anyone outside of your inner circle (consisting of your Mom and best friend) to read your work. You might think that being an author is “something I’d do if I won the lottery“. Am I right? I understand because I’ve been there. I used to tell myself the same thing. I liked writing. Maybe I even thought I had a calling on my life to do it. But as for blessings enough for it to actually happen? As for doors opening enough that I could slip in and sign a contract? It seemed far out of my reach… until I stopped dreaming.
This is where I’d challenge you to take a long look at where your heart is. If your dream is to be an author, then you’ve got to think uncommonly about it. Don’t see it as a dream any longer. Instead, see it as an aspirational reality. Start referring to yourself as an author. Even before you’ve finished your first manuscript, reinforce in your mind that you are an author – you’re just still on the journey to get there. (We call that being “pre-published”.) Take it very seriously. It’s a job. Your chosen profession. It’s something that should be turned from a fanciful dream into a goal you’re determined to reach. To make that happen, you’ve got to be uncommon in how you see it.
2. Write – every day. That’s what it’s going to take to reach your goal. It’s one thing to face your fear, to sit down and write and then risk rejection afterward. But it’s quite another to sit and write well. Like anything, you’ve got to practice. You’ve got to be willing to sacrifice (sleep, for example, or time out on Friday nights). You’ll have to dedicate your time and energy to the craft of writing. This is where a lot of the preliminary work comes in, so at this point you should consider yourself in school. Along with writing every chance you get, you’ll need to begin researching the industry. You should begin to cultivate your author platform. (Start an author profile on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, LinkedIn and Pinterest. Don’t wait to get your name out there.) You’ll also need to become educated on social media, book promotion, and what’s being published out there in the genre you intend to write. Learn who the authors are at the publishers you like. Read the books they publish and make notes about how you’re going to be on their list of authors one day.
Crack open the books (pun intended), because there’s a lot of learning ahead.
3. Query. Once you’ve finished your manuscript, it’s time to edit. Once you’ve edited, you’ll probably edit again. And again. Then you’ll polish, re-work, and perfect. And after all of that hard work, you may find you’re ready to test the waters! So here’s the point where you’ve got to make a few decisions that will define your specific path to publication: Should I self-publish or go with a traditional publisher? Do I need an agent? Where can I find agents in the industry? How do I write an eye-catching query? What are the dos and don’ts of sending queries to agents?
There’s a lot to think about. And once you’ve made those decisions, you’ll have to decide: Is my work ready to pitch? Does my query have that WOW-factor, enough so that it will stand out from the “slush-pile“?
Whether you send queries to literary agencies or decide to pitch in person (such as at a writing conference), there’s still a lot of preparation that goes into this stage of the journey. (Oh yeah – make sure you research one-sheets, pitching etiquette, and how to handle rejection. All of these are going to be essential to get you to the next step…)
Once you’ve decided that you’re in the market for an agent (or a traditional publisher), you’ll need to prepare a winning proposal.
If you’re on this journey to publication, I’d love to connect with you! What resources have you found helpful? What stage of the journey are you in? Do you have any advice that could help others in their journey?