There are a ton of How-to-be-a-Successful-Writer articles, essays, and books out there. Some are noteworthy, others are written by people we’ve never heard of. The most recent one I read was pretty concise. It listed everything you need to get picked up by a good agent.
I have yet to go agent shopping. It’s something I’ve thought about, something I may do someday, but I’ve been having fun climbing the indie ladder to build up the necessary writing muscles I feel I need.
My first deal was with a teeny tiny indie press, the second was with a pretty nice ebook only publisher, and the third was a small press that is still growing. I’m still under contract with all three and a fourth now. Each publisher has taught me a wealth of knowledge through experience, and even trial-and-error.
In the list of steps noted on How-to-Get-a-Good-Agent, I’m on my way. Basically you need to have written something worth sharing with others. Make sure it’s polished and been read by beta readers (not your mom). Get a website, maintain a blog and social media presence. Grow a following…wait…are all these connected? YES!
Basically in order to stand out and get the support you need from agents and bigger publishers is to already have an established career.
It’s no different than music, or acting. You start small and work your ass off to gain the credit you deserve, if you’re patient, persistent, and deserving.
I know authors who have agents and don’t sell more books than I do. I also know a couple of NY Times bestselling authors. This business is risky. It won’t always pan out. But I have found that a positive attitude and the will to easily work with others will take you farther.
So how does one start?
How do you even begin to establish a writing career?
Should I self publish?
I’m going to piss everyone off and flat out say right now, if you want to be taken seriously as an author, do not self publish without at least trying to submit your work first. Everyone and their mother can literally click the little publish button on amazon author services and have a book released. It may work for some, but not many and not often. WRITING IS NOT A GET RICH QUICK SCHEME! It is an art, and if you wish to make some kind of living off of that art, a business as well. (It hurts to admit that sometimes.)
Start small. Write short stories for publications. Get used to rejection. take criticism and move forward.
Once you have enough smaller credits to your name, work on writing longer pieces. Novelettes, novellas, and novels. Make sure to give yourself a realistic timeline and to set your writing aside for a while before self editing. Once you’re ready, send it to another writer to look over. (I don’t suggest paying for pro editors, if you find nice rates with a cool one that’s fine, otherwise you get milked)
Revise it once you get your notes back and then look into indie publishers, small presses, agents, and every prospect you can find. Research every single person and/or place you want to submit. (There are plenty of Vanity Pay-for-Publishing Presses pretending to be traditional publishers). Make sure you know what you’re getting into and then submit.
I usually do one submission per story. It’s just more courteous to the people who are potentially considering your work.
Don’t expect to be the one-in-a-Hundred Million person who gets a million dollar deal on the first try. Sure it’s a fun fantasy, but it’s not going to happen. Remember, if you’re a real writer, you do it for the love, not for the money. Yes supporting yourself through your words would be great, but no one owes anyone in this industry a damn thing. Never forget that.
And my last and final little tidbit (that is just my approach), practice loyalty. Remember the people who help you out and make sure to pay it forward. You never know when it will help. And if not, it still feels good.