I’ve been a professional, published, author/writer for a few years now, and for a few years before that I was a writer in search of publication. And in that time I’ve seen a lot of advice given to writers who want to be published. Some of it I’ve taken myself, sometimes it’s been great and useful, and sometimes I’ve regretted it. That’s not to say that a lot of the advice I’ve seen is wrong or bad (some is, of course), what I’m saying is a lot of it I don’t necessarily agree with.
The thing with advice (and this applies to this post too) is that it can’t help but be very general. And I think that’s where my problem with it lies – because every writer, every publisher, every agent, every story, every magazine and every book is different and, as such, requires its own advice. It’s its own thing.
So, here’s my advice to those who want to be published. Take it or leave it. Most importantly – decide if it applies to you…
Stop worrying about being published. The most important thing – EVER – is the book you’re writing. Make that book great. Publishers like great books (because they sell) so if you write a great book you’re most certainly in with a chance.
So, how do you make it great? That’s the trick. You write and read a lot. You practise. You don’t give up – even when you’re frustrated by your output (everyone writes rubbish every now and again – it’s actually part of the process: the Good Stuff comes after) and even when you are and it’s rejected. You keep going.
Most importantly: you write for YOU! It’s your book after all. So write the book you want to write. Be true to it. Don’t write something simply because you think a publisher, or your peers, will like it – make it good in your own way.
Don’t be disheartened if you’ve been writing for ages and you feel as though you’re getting nowhere. Nothing’s lost. Nothing’s wasted. You are building your talent. You are learning your craft. You are gaining experience.You are Getting Better.(You wouldn’t expect to be a concert violinist after playing for a year – these things take time. And that’s OK!)
Don’t worry about building a following, or having a unique selling/marketing point. Sure, those things are helpful once you have a book out (from a publisher’s and commercial point of view), but I think you’d be better of concentrating on writing a great book than building up a list of thousands of Twitter or blog followers.
There’s an awful lot that’s been said about having an established platform but I do worry that the search for that distracts a lot of writers. Let’s not forget too that having a huge following doesn’t automatically mean that your writing’s good.
I’ve also seen a lot of people saying that you should have some sort of unique marketing slant a PR department can use. And, yes, that can be useful. But, in most cases, I’d guess that publishers would rather have a great book than a book (which ain’t that good) written by someone interesting for whatever reason. Unless it’s an autobiography.
Good books find readers. And readers find good books.
So, that’s about it, I think.
Don’t get distracted. Concentrate on writing something good, that you’d love and be proud of. Work hard. And trust yourself. You’re probably a better judge than you realise.
And, you know – the whole publishing world, for all its foibles, is actually quite straight forward. Don’t assume it’s any more complicated than it is. When a publisher reads a submission, they ask, ultimately: will it sell? So, why not try to give them what they want?
You can also see my tips on writing short stories here, if you should so desire.