When considering traditional publishing, new authors may think it’s harder than ever to go from unpublished (or “pre-published” as the popular euphemism goes) to published. However, that’s not the case.
The truth is, it has ALWAYS been difficult to become a traditionally published author.
When my first book was published in the 1990s, my uncle, a high school history teacher at the time, told one of his friends, an English teacher, about my success. The English teacher, said, “Do you know how HARD that is?” My uncle has always been supportive of me, but I think at that point his awe and respect level shot up 200%.
Now that the secret’s out, you can move forward with even more confidence if you:
1.) Keep writing and submitting your best work.
2.) Follow guidelines from agents, editors, and publishing houses.
3.) Be willing to write what will appeal to the market.
4.) Listen to the advice from your team of publishing professionals.
5.) Know you can negotiate, but be cautious and prayerful about the battles you choose during the process.
6.) Keep communication open between yourself and your agent.
7.) Be of good cheer.
Even the most talented and savvy new writer may need a few tries before seeing publication. However, the persistent and professional author with whom editors and agents want to work will find that the door remains open much longer than it will for uncooperative authors who don’t want to put in the time and work.
At our agency, we want to open doors for you.
What other factors do you think help a new author?
What new author have you recently discovered?
Debra L. Butterfield
Tamela, isn’t platform a factor that today’s unpublished author must have that the authors of yesteryear didn’t? My understanding is that past authors never entered the marketing arena and today most authors must handle a lot of it.
Tamela Hancock Murray
Debra, platform is much more important for nonfiction than fiction. Much depends on which publisher you go with, too. That’s where a great agent can help.
Visiting this blog helps me understand the industry so much better. I can’t imagine how hard breaking into writing was before the Internet.
I appreciate all you do for us. Thanks.
Tamela Hancock Murray
Jackie, I can tell you it involved a lot more trips to the post office and much, much more paper.
I think keep writing is great advice, but also to be willing to write what is marketable. It’s not always your first book or two that makes you published. I’m starting to realize that perhaps the novel I wrote first might be a better story down the road. It’s hard to put it on the shelf and start something else, but I’m starting to feel that’s what I’m supposed to do.
Tamela Hancock Murray
Sondra, I have seen that with a lot of authors. They write to get out a lot of emotion and work through life events. Then they are able to settle in and write to market. I’m not saying that is the case with you — just that I’ve seen it a lot. I even blogged about it a few weeks ago.
At sixty-eight years old, I’m going to personalize your question, “What other factors do you think help a new author?” My answer? Being sixty-eight years old.
I’m retired, which frees me up from the juggling (work, child-raising, etc.) so many new authors struggle with.
I’m old enough to have lots of life experiences to draw from, and a time perspective which helps me digest those experiences.
I’m super motivated, because–however many years my writing career may be–they are, realistically, compressed.
I’m also motivated to stay active and keep learning for the rest of my life. Writing will do that.
Am I inferring that sixty-eight is the perfect age to get started? Of course not. But I am saying that one can be a debut author at any age.
And, hey–I might even get published one of these days. How exciting!
Joe, in some circles being 68 years old is a big plus. I have some friends at a talent agency for musical performers. They rep a very well known country music star (make that legend). Every concert is a sell out because among the fans its whispered that this concert may be their last. Fans pack the venues full. The artist is chuckling all the way to the bank, regularly. My friend at the agency isn’t offended either. They are definitely “of good cheer”!
I was also honored to know a nationally known painter well into his eighties. His paintings today hung in museums around the country. He used to joke about his paintings ever increasing in demand and prices. The older he got the stronger the demand and higher the price because people thought he would not be around much longer. He knew this. It is true that the value of many artists paintings go up after their death. He now has passed on and his paintings are aggressively escalating in price as demand soars with production stopped. In years past while a guest at his residence he gave told me something that I have never forgotten and consider to be of great wisdom. He said:
“The leaves will always need raked,
the grass will always need mowed,
put your art FIRST.”
He was right. Will anyone care if you had the neatest lawn or whatever that you put ahead of your art or is it more important to perfect that novel or painting? What will last? Will mankind benefit more from an exquisite book, painting or household chore (like mowing or dishwashing, etc.)
So, to answer Tamela’s question of what I think will help a new author is.
MAKE YOUR ART A PRIORITY OVER LIFE’S ROUTINE. DO IT FIRST WHILE YOU”RE FRESH!
The mundane chores will still be there later. You don’t need great creativity, freshness, high energy or enthusiasm to perform those.
I could not say it better than this:
Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.
My apologies for a few typos above. Unfortunately in a big squeeze for time today!
Where’s the like button on this thing?! M Rochellino, that was exactly what I needed to hear! Thank you!
You are welcome Sabrina! There is a good bunch of people here sharing ideas and experience and I am elated that you found something helpful. .
Tamela Hancock Murray
Joe, you and author Martha Rogers have much in common!
It does seem like it’s harder now to break into the publishing industry. In some ways. I’m “pre-published,” and I’m finding that being teachable is helpful. As I’m learning craft and marketing ins and outs, I think all this will help me when it comes to publishing. I would also say networking—but more, building relationships—with mentors/multi-published authors, peers and readers is important.
When I read Joanne Bischof’s first book, I fell in love with it. Other new authors I’ve enjoyed: Carla Laureano, Amy Matayo and Beth Vogt.
Jeanne, you and I seem to be on similar paths! You took the word “teachable” from my finger tips. I have a dear friend who is a wicked good editor/coach and years ago he had me brand these words into the forefront of my mind: Story comes first.
Over the 4 years I’ve known him, I’ve learned what that has meant. I listened to his advice, guidance and teaching because I trust and respect him and his work, and I love to learn! Being open and flexible to teachings of this craft from reputable people in the industry has been key for me. While I’m not ready to put my work out there yet, when I do, I will be able to do it with confidence and know it’s my best work.
Jenelle, having someone like that in your corner is pure gold! 🙂 You’re very fortunate. 🙂
Tamela, thank you for using the phrase …”more forward with even more confidence…”
This industry is subjective and it can be hard to feel confident at times when rejections keep coming without any affirmation that we’re doing something right as a story teller. I know I have limits as a writer. I can only take the story so far. But, for me, knowing that I have done my very best by pushing it to reach it’s full potential that I can see makes me feel confident. And then it’s time for my beta readers to thrash it up again, haha!
Patti Jo Moore
Loved this, Tamela. Especially #7: Be of good cheer.
I think that’s so important no matter how “down” a writer may feel. So, in accompanying all of the other suggestions, I think a good dose of cheer will go a long way. 🙂
Thank you for these wonderful reminders, Tamela. I would add that attending writers conferences is a big factor in helping new authors. In my opinion, attending my first writers conference (Mount Hermon in 2008) probably saved me three years of what I could have learned/gained on my own through other means. I consider the time, effort, money – and growing pains – well spent for the serious writer (or writers trying to gauge how serious they want to be!). The feedback, relationships, connections, encouragement, and honest critiques propelled me forward even if it required me to look backward in order to make changes and re-assess where I was a writer.
After eight years, many writing conferences, several edits and I have now published my first and working on the second book.
Steve had told me to narrow my audience, look for print on demand publisher and I have followed his instructions. The fun part, to me, is the marketing. My background is in sales and marketing, so if your within three (3) feet of me, you will get a sales pitch.