Four things prospective authors should know

May 1, 2016 at 12:21 pm

learnToday I’ve been reflecting on what I expected when I first became a published author and what the reality has turned out to be. Fortunately, I think I was fairly realistic, although, as with anyone with a good imagination, I had no trouble imagining myself achieving fame and fortune because of my writing! I must confess I still do at times.

So I was thinking of four things I’d tell prospective authors if they ask and I’ve come up with these:

  1. You will probably not become a famous author. You might, but there are far more of us out there who are struggling through this and using other jobs (or retirement money or inheritances, etc) to fund our writing because we make little out of it, if anything. This is not the quick road to fame and accolades. For the majority of us, there will never be a quick road to that.
  2. If you work hard you will gain a following. It’s likely you will gain a following as an author but it’s something you need to work at. No author these days, whether traditionally published or self-published, can sit back and wait for everyone to do the work for them. You need to get out there and do a lot yourself. Even the big companies these days expect you to work hard at creating a ‘platform’ of followers. In fact, most demand you have one before they’ll even consider publishing your book. And the work never stops until you’ve run out of copies to sell (which with ebooks is never!) so you need to get into the habit of trying to generate interest in your writing and your books constantly if you want to keep your head in the game. Always try and seek ways to do this, but not to such an extent that you’re just ‘selling’ at people all the time. No one likes that. You need to find ways to engage people that are going to encourage them to read your books, not drive them away.
  3. Get your book professionally edited before you start to look for a publisher. This is important even if you want a traditional publisher. While it’s true that a traditional publisher will pay for editing if they agree to publish your book, it’s best to have it professionally edited prior to sending it to them. Why would you want them to see your work at anything other than its best? And no, all that editing you’ve done on it will NOT be good enough; you’re too close to the work to see it objectively. And your friends, while they might be able to help find spelling and grammatical errors, aren’t necessarily going to find plotholes and timeline issues unless they’re industry professionals themselves. Don’t think that those things are enough. They’re not. And if you’re self-publishing, I’d get at least three rounds of professional editing before you publish.
  4. Be prepared for rejection. You will be rejected as an author, whether it’s by publisher after publisher, bookstore after bookstore, reviewer after reviewer, or when you receive your first one star review (which will happen at some point). Be ready to get back up again and keep going, even if it seems hopeless. There’s always a new avenue to try. As hard as it is (and I find it one of the hardest things to do) try and remember the successes more than the failures. At least you’re trying. At least you’ve finished a manuscript. At least you’ve had it published. At least you have had other good reviews. Learn from the hard stuff and smile about the good stuff and keep on trying.

If you’re a first-time author hoping to find a publisher I hope these tips help you. Are there other things you’re worried about? Let me know in the comments section below. And if you’re an author with plenty of experience, perhaps you can comment with some other good advice I might have missed. We’ve always got something new to learn. 🙂