Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A Writer's Journey Continued

I get a lot of calls from aspiring writers who have finished a manuscript (usually a book) and pose the question, "What do I do from here?"

Here are the basic steps to publication:

1. Hone Your Craft
Subscribe to a trade journal such as "Writer's Digest", "Writer's Journal", or "The Writer" (all found at Barnes & Noble), attend writers' workshops and conferences, read books such as "Grit for the Oyster: 250 Pearls of Wisdom for Aspiring Writers," join writer's groups live and online, meet with a writer buddy or mentor regularly (preferably someone with more experience than you). There are MANY things about writing you don't many things that you don't even know what you don't know. LEARN, LEARN, LEARN!

2. Create a Platform
The first question you will be asked by a publisher or agent who is considering your work: "What's your platform?" Traditional publishers will not consider investing their money (and time) in authors who haven't had some form of publication experience, demonstrated a desire to actively market/promote their work, or have not been working to build an audience.

Begin all three NOW.

Refer to "Writer's Market" or "Christian Writers' Market Guide" (if you're an inspirational writer) and submit articles to magazines, newspapers or anthologies (excerpts or chapters from books can often be reworked as articles). These Market Guides are the Bible for freelance writers - updated yearly, every publication out there is listed along with contact information, required word counts, formats and everything you need to know for submission.

You will learn invaluable lessons about writing and you'll have great clips with which to impress book publishers.

Prepare a marketing plan: How will you get your name/books out into the world? Website? (A Must!)Blog? Newsletter? Grass roots marketing? Back table sales at speaking events?

Unless your name rhymes with "bowling" and you write about boy wizards, you WILL be expected to get out there and market your books hands-on. Do some research on effective book marketing and tailor a workable plan to your time availability, budget and skill level.

Build an audience: Use the ideas in the above two paragraphs to establish a base of "followers." Collect e-dresses for your contact list, immerse yourself in your community; offer to judge contests, speak at events, help with functions. Determine what you do best and write about it; offer to speak on that subject to churches, schools and civic organizations. Become an "expert" on something that people are interested in.

3. Have your manuscript professionally edited
Don't make the common beginner mistake of submitting your manuscript before it's ready. Make sure its edited, rewritten, turned inside out, rewritten again, and polished to a golden gleam before you show it to an agent or publisher. These days, they expect a manuscript to be ready to market and will NOT give it a second glance if it's not professional quality.

Small presses are a wonderful way to break into publishing - most deal directly with the author, while larger publishing houses only deal with agents.

You only get one chance. Don't blow it.

4. Consider self-publishing
You pay the bills, but you have control. There are many good self-publishing options these days, which lots of writers are turning to because traditional publishers have tightened their belts like everyone else in this troubled economy. Look at track records (reputation and longevity of the company), quality, and don't be afraid to compare prices.

POD (Print on Demand) means only the quantity of books ordered are printed at a time, so you're not overrun with inventory. However, chain bookstores are reluctant to stock POD books because they're not returnable, so self-published marketing choices are basically online (Amazon), self-sales at speaking events, and consignment (gift shops, independent and some Christian bookstores are willing to carry books on consignment). And anything else you can creatively contrive.

Questions? Comments? I'd be happy to throw in my two cents worth to help you along your writer's journey. Contact me through my website,