As an acquisitions editor at Harvest House Publishers, I have the opportunity to meet with many successful authors. I also meet with many aspiring writers—some of whom are just beginning their first book, and others who have written several as yet unpublished manuscripts. Often, the latter have been met with rejection by various publishing houses and have become discouraged on their quest to getting published.
So what makes the difference between the successful author and the as-yet-unpublished writer? I'll mention three of the most important factors below. But before we review them, let's make one thing clear: If you're a Christian, God can manage and direct your writing career far better than you can. Make sure of your calling as a writer, keep your projects in prayer...and then do these things:
1. First, there's the obvious question: Are you a capable writer? Can you capture the reader's attention on the first page and keep that reader turning the pages until the end of the book? Some writers begin well, but bog down eventually. That's when the reader closes the book, never to seek out the author's next book. As the famous crime-writer Mickey Spillane once said, "Nobody reads a [book] to get to the middle. They read it to get to the end. If it's a letdown, they won't buy anymore. The first page sells that book. The last page sells your next book."
So how can you become a proficient writer? Here are some ways to do that:
- Join a local writer's critique group.
- Read good books on writing.
- Subscribe to The Writer or Writer's Digest magazine.
- Sign up with a good online writing course such as The Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild.
- Take writing classes.
- Attend at least one writer's conference a year.
- Write, write, write. Then write again. Most successful authors have written tens of thousands of unpublished words before they made their first sale.
2. Second, learn about the world of publishing. Here are some questions you should know how to answer:
- Which publishers publish the kind of books you write?
- Can you name three current bestsellers?
- Do you know the role of an agent?
- Do you know the "hot" genres now? Or the genres that are not currently popular?
- Do you visit blogs by writers, agents, and editors? (You can read my blog for writers at nickharrisonbooks.com.)
3. Third, build a "platform" from which to promote your books. It's always been important for a writer to do what is necessary to be visible to his or her market, but all the more so these days when there are between 60,000-1,000,000 new books published every year in the USA alone.
If your book is published, there will be plenty of competition. How will readers hear about your book? Your publisher may give you some marketing help while the book is new, but in a very short time (a few months at best), your book will be considered "back list" and the marketers will be working on the new front list.
What does a platform look like? It can be something as simple as being active on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. Blogging is part of it, too. More important is your ability to get out and speak to groups or be interviewed in the traditional media. Here are a few pointers on developing a platform:
- It's okay to start small. Do what you can, but do it now. Don't wait until your book is out.
- Get help from others who have succeeded. Read Michael Hyatt's book Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World.
- Work up a talk about your book and be willing to speak to groups.
If you're a writer, be encouraged! It's a great time to be writing.
To sum it up, remember these four P's: Pray, practice writing, learn publishing, build your platform, and your chances of sucess are greatly enhanced.
Nick Harrison is a senior editor at Harvest House Publishers and author of several books, including Power in the Promises, Magnificent Prayer, and His Victorious Indwelling. Nick and his wife, Beverly, are the parents of three adult daughters and grandparents of four grandchildren. Follow Nick’s blog for writers at http://www.nickharrisonbooks.com/category/writers-blog/.
Want more writing tips? Find out what another Harvest House acquisitions editor has to say about what makes a good book.