So you want to get published…
Here’s the truth: So many of us want to become authors, but no one teaches us how to be authors. Yes, there are classes, workshops, and books about the craft of writing, and blogs and videos on how to successfully self-publish, but what if you want to get traditionally published… and you want to make a good living… and build a successful career?
That’s what I’ve attempted to do over the past 20 years, though I’ve made endless mistakes and had epic failures. Now, as a business owner of Writeway, a place where first-time writers get published, and as a multi-published suspense author with one of the Big 5, I’ve seen the dos and don’ts up close and personal. I’ve bridged the gap between being a writer and being an author, and I’m here to tell you that while being an author is incredible, it’s also really fucking hard.
When writers dream of being published, we’re not dreaming of selling the book to strangers, posting constantly on social media, spending thousands of dollars on publicity or marketing, or talking about our books ad nauseum years after we’ve written them. For most of us, we just want to create, right?
Somewhere along the way, however, writers have become much more than just writers, and we’ve all seemed to agree that the heavy lifting now falls on the author’s shoulders, and that’s just the way it is. Never mind if you have an internal publicity or sales and marketing team: You are responsible for every copy sold, and it can feel like a heavy responsibility.
On that note, here are a few lessons I wish I’d learned up front to make my journey easier.
This is a business, and your book is a product to sell.
As much as we romanticize this industry–that we can just write and sell copies of our books–that’s simply not the case. As this is a business, you need to treat it as such. Are you willing to spend your own time and money for marketing or publicity? Will you have an in-person tour or virtual tour? How will you connect with your readers without “selling” to them? Do you already have an engaged community? Do you know the difference between selling a novel versus a nonfiction book? If the answers to any of these questions are no, then find yourself an advocate and ask every question you can. Go into this with your eyes wide open and decide how you want grow as an author.
There are barriers to traditional publishing–know them, study them, and then decide which publication path is right for you.
If you write nonfiction, there are two main barriers to entry for traditional publishing: the salability or marketability of your book (or your hook) and the strength of your author platform. An author platform isn’t all about vanity metrics; it’s more about engagement and where you have a community of potential readers. Another potential barrier is timeline: Are you willing to wait for that one yes? Are you willing to give away the rights to your book? Are you willing to wait 1-2 years to see your book on a shelf? If the answer is no, you can always self-publish.
Set your own goals and define what success looks like for you–not what your fellow authors are doing or what you think you should want.
Ask yourself: What do you really want out of being an author? We are told that to be successful writers, we have to hit big lists. We have to sell thousands of copies. We have to get noticed. We have to win awards. Recently, I was talking to a few writers who’d opted to step away from traditional publishing and try out self-publishing instead. At the end of the day, they asked themselves: Do I want awards and validation, or do I want readers and money? Ask yourself the same.
You must get clear on what your mission as a writer really is. If you’re writing a novel, maybe it’s to entertain or to hit a list. But maybe it’s just to put out something you’re proud of. If it’s nonfiction, perhaps you need a book to validate your business or to use as a lead gen magnet to land speaking gigs or clients. Get clear on your BIG WHY so you can choose the right path for yourself.
If you want to get published, you can. You just have to get real about your goals and expectations, choose your publication path, and treat this like the business it is. The rest is up to you.
Have you set your own goals? What are they? Let’s talk about it on the Career Authors Facebook page.
Rea Frey is the multi-published author of Not Her Daughter, Because You’re Mine, Until I Find You, and Secrets of Our House. She is also the CEO and Founder of Writeway, where aspiring writers become published authors. Her weekly podcast, The Real Story, demystifies the publishing industry and helps authors navigate their careers. To learn more, visit reafrey.com or writewayco.com.