I originally wrote this article for the Better World Books blog. Please check out their website.
When embarking on the journey to traditional publication, there are things you should know. First, write a great book. Really. This sounds like a no-brainer, I know. But it is hard—no, extremely hard, to successfully pen a novel-length story, submit your work to literary agents and/or editors at New York publishing houses and achieve your goals without first facing crushing rejection. It hurts every time. Growing the thick skin of an elephant is a near necessity to survive some of the harsh feedback. Not because you stink as a writer, but because the bar has been set incredibly high by today’s talented authors. I’ve learned along the way to use critiques and rejections as tools for learning how I may improve, continuing to edit my manuscript with persistent hope.
You may possess the talent of Hemingway and a blockbuster idea, but without a solid foundation in the craft of writing fiction, sadly, the world will likely never experience your brilliance. At least not the way you envision—on best seller lists at major book outlets. Your book must be engaging enough to make it past the slush pile on an agent or editor’s desk
If you really want to see your story in print, put the hard work and time in learning the craft. Hundreds of books on writing are available teaching everything from plotting, pacing, story arc, character evolution—you get it. There’s a lot more involved in creating a book than just telling a story. So, do it well—well enough that it’s received by those who guard the gates of publishing with something other than, “Oh, another newbie.”
I do have some very specific advice for new writers:
- Join a local or online writer’s group in your genre. Writing can be a lonely undertaking. It’s great to have support from others in the trenches with you.
- Attend writers’ conferences. Check online. Conferences are great for networking, professional craft classes, and learning the industry.
- Have realistic expectations and plan for the long haul. Don’t quit your day job just yet. It’s a tough business, so suit up.
- Butt in chair. Ink on paper. Write every day! An unwritten book will never be published.
Most best-selling authors are rejected many times before making their first sale. I continue my journey toward publication, learning something at every conference, by reading about writing, and actually writing. Your book is your best training ground.
Best of luck to all who are on the road to publication. However you choose to get there.