[This blog post first appeared in the International Christian Fiction Writers blog on November 13, 2017]
I read this blog post by Dan Balow from the Steve Laube Agency, which was a tongue-in-cheek deconstruction of how some people misinterpret the work required to get published.
This was Dan’s list – Six Steps to Publishing Success:
- Quit your day job today and live off your savings for the three weeks necessary to accomplish steps 2-6.
- Become a good writer while writing your first book. (Ten days max.)
- Establish your author platform (Three days.)
- Develop a creative voice and style like none other to stun and create awe in the hearts of readers. (Two days.)
- Get an agent. (Another two days.)
- Get published and start making money (Four days.)
For those of us who are working hard (or have worked hard) to put our stories on the page, this list will make you chuckle. For those outside the writing bubble, however, this can be their understanding of what we’re doing. (And why Dan could easily come up with a list like this).
I appreciated his humour, but Dan’s also on the money here. This past weekend I’ve met a few people and introduced myself as a writer. Why? Because I get a kick out of it. Their reactions justified Dan’s list – especially #1 and #6. A few of those people believed I must be raking in the cash because I identify as a writer. Nevermind the fact that they formed that position before asking me what I wrote, how much I wrote or what I’d published. And all of them believed in #6 – that getting published is as simple as writing something.
But there was one part of Dan’s blog post which I really related to, and this is what I think we can learn from. As an agent for a leading agency, Dan lives and breathes publishing, and puts forward these six points as steps to publishing success. They aren’t get-published-quick schemes, but they are the foundation of good writers. I’ve spoken to a number of name authors over the past two years, and you’ll find them in this list, not the one above.
1. Care deeply about what you write, but not so deeply you reject editing or suggestions.
We all care deeply about what we write (this is what keeps us moving forward when we’re pressed for time or feeling disheartened), but good writers step back enough to let the work breathe in light of feedback. This feedback has to be the right feedback as this is such a subjective pursuit, and I’ve spoken to many successful authors who say they just let their work go when editors or publishers have at it. That’s the challenge to all of us: care deeply enough about your story to make it worth reading, but don’t hold too tight to it so that you stop editing making it an even better read.
2. Treat deadlines as important, even those self-imposed. They aren’t set just for fun. Deadlines make things happen.
I guess this is second-nature to me in my industry or PR and media, but deadlines are important – especially self-imposed ones which are actually moveable. I was chatting to James L Rubart (who just won the Christy Award) about deadlines and he was very matter-of-fact: “I need to have the book done by March. And it will be.” And I believe him.
Deadlines are often the difference between a good idea and a good book.
3. Recommend books to others, which are not written by you. They’ll believe you more when you tell them about your new book.
This is one thing I’d like to comment every time an author contact posts in social media about their book, except I’d wear out my keyboard. There are some author contacts I have and the only thing I see on Facebook is basically another thinly-veiled ad to buy their book. I respect authors who love story and writing so much they’re willing to recommend another author, risking me buying their book instead. And I’ve learned to switch off from some authors who do nothing but spam me in social media.
4. Care about other people more than yourself…or a copy of your new book.
I find the authors who are truly successful are the ones who spend time in social media asking questions of others. They are a part of a community … and they know it. With the great misunderstanding of how writing and publishing works, it means the best voices for us to listen to are those who are in the trenches too.
5. Give courage to other aspiring authors. Courage is currency given one to another. (Where do you think “encourage” came from?)
One of the things that’s helped me through the early stormy waters of an author’s career is the encouragement of others. Facebook comments encouraging me to keep going. Retweeting my tweets to reach a wider audience. Messages on my blog to thank me for taking the time to write a post. When I went to ACFW in 2016, one of the biggest takeaways for me was the support and encouragement, and I blogged about finding my tribe. Talking to people who pushed me a little further down the path. Finding out my stories were possibly interesting. Finding out the issues I was facing were common – and surmountable.
6. Decide how you want to be remembered. Conduct yourself accordingly.
This piece of advice is great, and one I’ve put in place for a while now. Looking back on your writing career (and life, really) gives you pointers on how to behave now. For me, I want to be remembered (among other things) as profilic. That means I have to write. Now. A lot. But I’m doing it for a reason which helps drives my writing now.
So thanks for the second list Dan. Well, both lists really as the first one made us laugh, but your second list of six steps to publishing success really does help inspire us on this writing journey.