Three years ago, I was halfway through writing my very first novel, The Claiming Words. I put my heart and soul into it and the words flowed unencumbered by punctuation, correct sentence structure, or any consideration for plot. Needless to say it was a train wreck. I was so green then, I assumed the greatest challenge in writing was finishing the novel. I also assumed agents would be eager to sign me up and I’d have a huge publishing contract by the end of the year.
Back in those days, I didn’t use Facebook and wasn’t aware of the vast writers’ resources out there in cyberspace. I did absolutely everything wrong—from peddling a manuscript that wasn’t anywhere close to being ready for publication, to signing with a publisher I hadn’t fully researched. I’ve learned a lot in the last three years and I share much of that hard-earned knowledge on my blog in hopes new authors can learn from my growing pains.
Here’s my comprehensive list of advice for newbie authors:
- Don’t query a first draft. I’ve seen authors make this mistake time and again. Though I read through my manuscript a few times before querying, my MS still wasn’t anywhere near ready for publication. Any draft that hasn’t been ripped apart by revisions is a first draft and not ready for agents, publishers, or self-publishing. Find good beta readers to read through your manuscript before you even think about publishing.
- Learn the basics. I’m an avid reader. I always had good grades in English. But, somehow I forgot my first draft needed a plot. Hmmm. Writing a novel requires an entirely unique skill set. Brush up on basic grammar, read books with an eye toward showing-versus-telling, and maybe read a book about the art of writing.
- Network with other authors. Authors are the most generous, helpful people you’ll ever meet. You can find other authors on writers’ sites (The Next Big Writer, Book Country, etc), in Facebook groups, or in local meetup groups. You’ll learn more from other writers than you’ll ever learn sitting in front of your computer.
- Start your author platform early. Set up an author platform before you ever finish that first book. You’ll need Facebook, Twitter, and a basic blog. Agents and publishers will Google you to see if you have an author platform. If you choose to self-publish, it helps to build a following long before you finish your book.
- If you want to be a professional writer, act like one. From the very second you decide to write professionally, you need to start self-editing your Facebook posts and other online posts. Anything you post online should be well-written and should reflect well on you as an author.
- Don’t sign with the first agent or publisher who shows interest in your work. Don’t assume you’ll never get a better offer. Don’t assume the publisher shares your vision for your work. Publishers should be carefully researched and contracts should be reviewed by a lawyer. If you can’t find anything about your prospective publisher on the internet, they’re probably too new to have enough experience to publish your book. Say no and move on. A bad or inexperienced publisher can destroy your book, and possibly your reputation as an author.
- Self-publishing is not the kiss of death to your career. There used to be a huge stigma in regards to self-publishing, but more and more authors nowadays are choosing self-publishing over traditional options. There’s nothing wrong with taking the traditional route, but don’t discount self-publishing until you research all your options. If it comes down to choosing an inexperienced publisher or self-publishing, I’d choose self-publishing every time.
- Writing isn’t easy, but it’s worth it. There have been several times over the last three years where I’ve lost confidence in myself and considered giving up. There have been times I’ve put my writing to the side. But, I always go back to it. Why? Because writing isn’t just what I do, it’s part of who I am. Even if I never sell another book, I’ll continue to write because I love it.
Tricia Drammeh is a wife, mother, book-lover, and coffee-junkie. She’s an author of paranormal and mainstream fiction, including The Séance, The Fifth Circle, and The Claiming Words. When she isn’t writing, Tricia can be found interviewing up-and-coming authors on her promotional site, Authors to Watch. You can also find Tricia on her website.