by Colby Marshall, @ColbyMarshall
All authors face this problem at some point in their careers, whether they’re published, striving to publish, or have simply let their friends know they’re writing a book.
You know the statement, because if you’re a writer, you’ve heard it over and over again. “Oh, I’ve always wanted to write a book!”
Sometimes, depending on who it is, you probably smile and ask about their writing, silently thinking about how most people who say this have very little intention of actually ever writing a book. Most people who say this don’t know how much hard work is in it, either.
But, because we’re writers and try to support other writers, it’s always a good idea to give advice if ever asked. After all, someone at some point has given us some, be it someone in a writer’s group online, a mentor in person, a blog post, or an article.
However, occasionally the “I want to write,” the statement moves from, “I’ve always wanted to write a book,” to, “Can you tell me how to get published?” Oh, boy.
Sure, we all know there’s no way to convey everything we’ve learned about the industry in a quick, succinct paragraph. So, how do you address this question when it inevitably arrives at your doorstep? Here are my three best pieces of advice for writers aspiring to become published:
- Write the book first.
You can't publish something that isn't written. If you want to write with publication in mind, that's one thing, but no matter what your intentions, you have to write it before you can head for that goal.
- Don't let to mechanics of the publishing industry murk up your waters before they're even flowing.
When finding the right book to set out to write, try not to think to hard about what your readers might want in the book. The truth is, there are so many books out there and so many people who say they have a book in them. Books exist about nearly every topic you could imagine, and everyone thinks their story will interest people. However, when a book comes out at the end of the day, NO ONE—not even professional Big 6 publishers like Random House or Penguin—can predict which books will take off and which won't. No one saw Harry Potter coming, and they spend plenty of big dollars buying books that flop hard. This is the reason why, when you are figuring out what book to write, you shouldn’t write it because "the readers want it." Write what you want to write, are passionate about writing, and will feel good having finished at the end so that in case it never sells or only garners a handful of readers, you're happy with your work. The same goes for if it ends up with millions of followers and is the next breakout book on the New York Times Bestseller List: you'll be happy with what you've done. Most people who say they want to write a book but never do don't because they aren't passionate about it. The only way to do it is to be so.
- Do your homework.
I don’t sugar coat the fact that they’ve asked me a question that would take years to answer. Instead, I let them know that before they’re ready to publish after they’ve written a book, they’ll need to learn a lot about the industry, including about the options regarding publication. This is one thing they can start now while working on their books, because heaven knows they’ll need the time to peruse all of the blogs, books, and forums dedicated to helping authors learn to navigate the world of publishing. And yes, that goes for those who plan to self-publish, too, since there’s still a lot to know about how to promote (well), finding someone to help you edit or beta read your book that isn’t your mother or husband, and important things like cover design, meta keywords, book formatting, etc. For those wanting to go the traditional route, there are query letters, agents, and small presses, oh, my! If ever they ask why is there no shortcut you can give me, my answer is always the same: a book is a big deal, and anything worth doing is worth doing right.
What advice do you give to aspiring writers?
Writer by day, ballroom dancer and choreographer by night, Colby has a tendency to turn every hobby she has into a job, thus ensuring that she is a perpetual workaholic. In addition to her 9,502 jobs, she is a proud member of International Thriller Writers and Sisters in Crime. She is actively involved in local theatres as a choreographer as well as sometimes indulges her prima donna side by taking the stage as an actress. She lives in Georgia with her family, two mutts, and an array of cats that, if she were a bit older, would qualify her immediately for crazy cat lady status. Her debut thriller, Chain of Command is now available, as well as the second book in her McKenzie McClendon series, The Trade.
THE TRADE is currently available on:
Directly from the publisher with free worldwide shipping: www.stairwaypress.com/bookstore
Coming Soon on Barnes and Noble, iBooks, Sony, Kobo, and other major e-readers.