[This blog post appeared in LearnHowToWriteANovel.com in July 2019]
My debut novel came out in March. My firstborn. And, like most parents, I looked around to those with previous experience to help me learn what I was in for, even before it was born.
I’ve been blessed with the interest, support, and encouragement of authors with WAY more experience than me. My debut novel now sits alone on the shelf – it’s an achievement, but there are some authors who don’t just fill a shelf, they fill a bookcase. And they have helped me to get to that place on the shelf.
When my baby was a manuscript, I worked with the great James L Rubart as a mentor, and he endorsed me to agents and publishers alike, resulting in a key relationship that directly resulted in me being published. He provided the insights into the industry when I was compiling a list of people to network at a key conference, and kept me going when the rejections started piling up. Thanks, Jim.
Colleen Coble offered to endorse The Baggage Handler, even though when we met at an ACFW conference, we had 65 published books between us. All 65 were hers. Rachel Hauck and Tamera Alexander both encouraged me at a writing conference and Dan Walsh gave me invaluable insights into indie publishing over breakfast. Pepper Basham and Morgan Busse wanted to hear more about my pitch and shared my launch posts. Carrie Stuart Parks shared how she researched her novels. To you all, thanks for your enthusiasm and ideas.
So this blog post is a chance to say thanks, but it’s also an encouragement for you to connect with experienced authors if you can.
I’m not suggesting that all authors have the time to respond to everyone (especially if they’re on deadline), but reach out. These are some ways you could do it:
- Ask for input, but keep it simple and try not to intrude. Bailing them up with twenty questions when all they want is a coffee at a conference may not be the smartest idea.
- Ask for advice on your writing (but don’t send them your whole manuscript to read). And if you get advice, but make sure you reflect on it and put it into practice.
- Sit in on any workshops they hold, and take as many notes as you can.
- Immerse yourselves in the podcast episodes in which they appear.
- Subscribe to their newsletters and watch how they do what they do when it comes to promoting their own brand and their stories.
- Follow their blog posts and try what they recommend.
- Ask if they’ll mentor you. If there’s a cost, it’s likely to be worth it, so consider that.
- Send them a message thanking them for writing the great book you just read, and for inspiring you to improve as a writer. (They need the encouragement too, by the way).
Most importantly, listen to what they have to say. Learn from them about what this journey is like. They have walked this path before, and you are walking in their footsteps. It makes sense to avoid the traps they have already negotiated and place your feet where they have trod.