Few things compare to the sage advice of experienced comrades. Writing can be a solitary game, but the journey to publishing success doesn’t have to be a solo ride. Three established authors offer their advice to newbies in this packed piece!
Jackie Townsend – The Second Book Will Be Better
“Your next book will be better. No matter how wonderful you think this debut book of yours is (and it is!), once it’s done, it no longer matters. What matters is your next book (or short story, essay, or content piece). Sure, your debut book is coming out in the Spring and you’ve got PR to do and a marketing plan to execute. Reviews are coming in—in one you’re “staggering,” in another you’re “cliché.” Do the work but don’t get sucked into the emotion of all that.
Stop checking Amazon for rankings and sales because that’s not who you are. You are not that person.
You are a writer.
And if you are a writer then you write. If you have written a book worthy of publishing then clearly you have figured out how to make space and time for your writing, how to nurture it. There should be no reason why you are not writing. Certainly not because of writer’s block. There is no such thing. There is only hard work. There is only staring at a blank page until words comes out of you. Even if you want to throw up at those words, even if those words get deleted (they will), or edited five hundred times. You are writing. You are grueling out that second book you never thought you had in you. Yes, if you’ve got one book in you, you’ve got two.
And know this, the second book will be better. You’ll be better.”
Lauren Bird Horowitz – You wanna be a writer? You gotta be a Renegade!
“The headline of this article should really say “if you wanna be a professional writer,” because writers, soul-writers, are simply born. You already know if you are a Writer; it’s deep in your blood. When words rip from you like songs, like sobs, like growls, like cheers. When nothing makes sense until shaped in ink, splayed on the page. When frustration and elation combust poems in your soul. Your characters teach you. Their voices speak through you. You write to see. You write to hear. To breathe. To live.
If you’re a Writer, you already know. It comes from you. It’s all you need.
But to be a professional writer—that is something quite different. It requires more: a poet, and a warrior.
The thing about pursuing writing—or any soul-deep passion—as a career is that you have to go in ready to fight. The first law is Your Voice Is Important. Learn that law, know that law, write that law, until its letters are branded into your bones. Because when you offer your voice to the professional world—the world of commerce, and numbers, and sales, risks, and markets—the most common thing you’ll hear back is that your voice isn’t. Not new enough, old enough, cool enough, gold enough—anything and everything, contradictions and oppositions. You cannot listen. You cannot believe. My voice is important. Cleave to that, for as long as it takes. Make it your battle cry.
And train. Train for the fight, because it will be brutal, and long. Writing is a muscle—you have to use it to tone it. Try to write every day, it doesn’t matter what. But keep the connection to your passion, the moment of creation strong. So much in the professional world gets lost to the worldly pursuit—lobbying for an agent, for a meeting, for publicity or visibility—that you need to constantly remind yourself of the spiritual heart of your dream. Write every day. Let it make you strong.
The strange alchemy of finally “breaking through” professionally remains a mystery, and is so different for each of us. But I know this: all writers who “make it” are Renegades. They don’t back down when doors slam in their face; they don’t listen when critiques come back savage, and soul-crushing. They keep believing. They keep fighting. They keep honing their craft.
Draw strength from the battle. Your voice is important. Shout until you are heard.”
Annette Gendler – Platform Building Through Long-Term Relationships
“I just landed my biggest publicity coup yet: Tablet Magazine, which I consider the publication for my target audience, will publish an excerpt of my upcoming memoir, Jumping Over Shadows. It cost me nothing in dollars but it did take years of building a relationship to make this happen.
Since 2012 I’ve published eight essays in Tablet. I like reading it and I wanted to be in there to establish myself as a writer on Jewish topics. My first essay in Tablet, Giving Up Christmas, was an excerpt from my memoir. I hoped published excerpts would help me find an agent or publisher. Not so. I kept in touch with the editor, who published another essay of mine a year later, and referred me to another editor for more timely articles. He reviewed other Jewish memoirs in the Wall Street Journal, and so my publicist sent him a review copy, but we heard nothing. In January I sent him an essay he did not take but he asked, “What’s this about your upcoming book? Can you send me a copy?”—only because my email had included my author signature with a cover image. Hell, yes I could! I didn’t mention that one had already been sent. A few weeks after that he wrote back that he’d like to publish an excerpt! He named a specific chapter that—guess what?—I had submitted to him as a standalone chapter two years ago. I didn’t point that out either, I just graciously accepted.
What I learned:
- Building long-term relationships with target publications/editors pays off, even if in serendipitous ways
- Once rejected doesn’t mean forever rejected
- Always include your author signature including your cover image in your emails.”
What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
Share in the comments!