Many writers start out with a Hollywood-style vision of fame and fortune that they hope will come from that very first book they write. A bestseller, of course! One that practically flies off the bookshelves. Barnes and Noble can’t keep up. Borders is having a breakdown. Amazon customers are burning up the internet trying to order your book. Oprah wants to interview you! ABC, NBC and CBS too. And Fox, CNN, the wire services. They’re all fascinated with this strange, new uber-writer that is YOU. Limos arrive to whisk you away to parties with admiring superstars. Product lines and merchandizing follow.
But it’s all a grand dream. . .
The truth is--writing is hard work though it hardly pays for most, at least not at first and certainly not for the amount of time and effort you put into it. Hard-working writers can indeed make a tidy living even if they never make it to the NY Times Bestseller list.
And when they're not writing? Most authors market their books when they’re not writing. Remember the ballerina with the red shoes who couldn’t stop dancing? If you’re trying to make a living at writing, you’ll feel like that ballerina.
You’re probably saying to yourself—right. I’m not really interested in all that stuff. I don't want to speak or get into social networking. I just want to find out how to get my first book published. Maybe I won’t have to work as hard at it as everybody else. My manuscript is brilliant. In fact, I think the first publishing house that takes a look at it and gonna snap it up.
Well, you never know. You might be the exception. However, no writer ever got published without doing the work. Which brings me to the first point of our discussion.
1. Become a student of writing. According to award-winning author Randy Ingermanson, "It takes an average of 7 years for a would-be author to get a book published.”
2. Join a writers group. ACFW American Fiction Christian Writers, Christian Writers Guild, RWA (Romance Writers of America, Texas Christian Writers—to name a few).
3. Join or form a critique group of no more than 4 people. You can critique each other online and in person. Use “Track Changes” in Microsoft Word. A personal critique group is great because these people will come to know you and your characters. The characters in your groups will change over time as some move away or become too busy, etc., but if you keep replacing those who leave, you will get a fresh infusion of new ideas with each new person. Of course, you’ll miss the partner who knew your characters almost as well as you, but it works out in time.
4. Have a teachable spirit. If you begin thinking that you know it all, you are at a disadvantage. The more you start to learn, the more you begin to discover just how much you don’t know.
5. Attend writers conferences and workshops. You will learn from the best at these conferences. Jerry Jenkins puts on an excellent and expensive one at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado—Christian Writers Guild, usually with a big name speaker like Frank Peretti. Mount Hermon in San Jose, California is awesome, and the Colorado Christian Writer’s Conference, Greater Philly Writers Conference. ACFW, Blue Ridge Writers Conference, Glorieta Christian Writers Conference etc. are great.)
6. Enter writing contests at conferences, online sources and writer’s groups.
Often for a small fee (sometimes not so small), but if you win, the reward is that you get to add “award-winning writer” to your name. Tools. Get yourself some good reference books.
7. Develop excellent grammar skills. Contrary to popular belief, it is not the editor’s job to fix your work. You should turn in the best, most polished manuscript you can. This is where all those reference books come in handy. Use them. Read them. Apply what you learn from other writers.
8. Become a self-editor. Be as good an editor of your own work as you are of others.
9. Read and write what’s out there. Know the market. Books these days are generally written to sell to people with a small amount of time and short attention spans. The sentences are shorter and to the point.
Study publishing houses. If they are looking for a word count of no less than 75,000, send them a MS with that word count. Don’t get rejected by making some silly mistake. Write your best. Write from the heart. Writing that sparkles and has a unique voice is what will set you apart from the rest and attract editors to YOU.
10. Get published in different venues first. Blogs and online magazines offer great opportunities for new writers.
11. Prayer and Patience—You do your part and God will do His. Pray, but try not to get manic about it. Lots of writers go through this—waiting by the laptop all day for the email responses you’re expecting, stalking the mailman, getting depressed or even mad at God.
12. Accept Rejection—Rejection letters are inevitable, and no matter how many books you’ve had published, they still come and still hurt the same. But don’t take them personally. The publishing house may have something similar or aren’t looking for your type of book right now, etc. Rejections are an opportunity for you to reexamine your work and ask other for your opinion. There is a possibility that you need to revise your manuscript or proposal.
Hope these tips help you to get on the right track to your writing career. Hard work, prayer and perserverence will help you to achieve your goal. So what are you waiting for? Get back to that keyboard and write!
Linda Kozar is the co-author of Babes With A Beatitude—Devotions For Smart, Savvy Women of Faith (Hardcover/Ebook, Howard/Simon & Schuster 2009) and author of Misfortune Cookies (Print, Barbour Publishing 2008), Misfortune Cookies, A Tisket, A Casket, and Dead As A Doornail, (“When The Fat Ladies Sing Series,” Ebooks, Spyglass Lane Mysteries, 2012). She received the ACFW Mentor of the Year Award in 2007, founded and served as president of Writers On The Storm, a local ACFW chapter for three years. In 2003, she co-founded, co-directed and later served as Southwest Texas Director of Words For The Journey Christian Writers Guild. She and her husband Michael, married 23 years, have two lovely daughters, Katie and Lauren and a Rat Terrier princess named Patches.
Represented by: Wendy Lawton, Books & Such Literary Agency
Member of: CAN (Christian Authors Network), RWA (Romance Writers of American), WHRWA (West Houston Romance Writers of America), ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers), Writers On The Storm, The Woodlands, Texas Chapter of ACFW, Toastmasters (Area 56) The Woodlands, Texas. WoodsEdge Community Church, The Woodlands, TX.