The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.
― Albert Einstein
If you’re a writer, you’ve probably felt that way before. I sure have! Frequently, friends ask me about publishing or refer me to someone who wants to write a book. “I just don’t know where to start” is what they tell me.
Does that sound like you? If so, I invite you to help yourself to a cup of coffee and read on. I hope my story will encourage you in your journey—and point you to resources that will equip you for the road ahead.
When I started writing in middle school, I knew nothing about the publishing world. I just loved to write. I didn’t know writing groups existed or that I should attend a writers’ conference. Honestly, I didn’t know the first thing about getting published. Not surprisingly, when I tried to query publishers, many a door slammed in my face.
So, I tackled the world of self-publishing. In the middle of my YA trilogy, I started developing an online presence and then attended my first writers’ conference.
Looking through the 20/20 lens of hindsight, I realize how backward my approach was. Regardless, I hold to what no-quitter Thomas Edison said:
I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.
Okay, maybe I’m not to 10,000 yet, but I’ve learned—and continue to learn—what does and doesn’t work. For starters, in today’s publishing world, any publishing path requires authors to actively engage readers online. Ever a troubleshooter, I began designing blogs and websites and experimenting with social media.
But I didn’t want to keep what I learned to myself. If I could help other writers skip a couple of my mistakes, then they could communicate their stories more effectively. A teacher at heart, I began to share my experiences through technology and blogging workshops at the Florida Christian Writers’ Conference.
That’s where I met author and entrepreneur Bethany Jett. Bethany saw my heart for helping writers share their stories and proposed I partner with her to create a series of videos on her website, teaching the basics about popular social media platforms.
Helping Your Writer’s Journey
Like me, maybe your writing journey hasn’t taken a traditional path. That’s okay. The path I’d recommend would look something like the flowchart below, but regardless of the order, the components still work together. Let’s look at each one, and then I’ll come back to Bethany’s proposal.
Join a Writers’ Group
Perhaps you’ve never heard of writers’ groups. I hadn’t either until a writers’ conference where a wonderful man and mentor named Bruce Brady invited me to join an online group with Word Weavers. Since there were no openings in current groups, he challenged me to start leading my own “page” online.
So I agreed, and now, I’m president of the Word Weavers Page 5 group—the most amazing team of writing friends I could have dreamed possible. We meet online, but there are also groups that meet in physical locations. To learn more, visit Word Weavers. (This is by no means the only writing group community available. I encourage you to do your research to find one that works best for you.)
The bottom line is that writing groups help you polish your craft, keep you accountable, and provide the cheerleaders to carry you through slumps.
Connect Online with Your Audience
You’re writing. That’s good, but don’t wait until you finish your book to start connecting with your audience. The internet and social media offer endless possibilities for doing this, but finding your way can feel overwhelming.
Back to Bethany. After spending several months identifying a common need and honing the concept, we launched the Build Your Brand Program to help writers find their voice and their audience online. Our personal brand as writers is so much more than a WordPress website or Facebook page or MailChimp newsletter, but these can serve as the vehicles for communicating a consistent message that reaches our readers.
Nothing can replace face-to-face contact, but in our digital age, more people want to connect online. Need I mention that publishing houses expect us to engage our audiences? My goal through this program is to break down some of the most popular social media platforms so writers can decide what works best for them.
Membership in the BETA program is currently closed but reopening again soon. To be the first to know about the reopening, click here.
Attend a Writers’ Conference
Okay, you’ve polished your work and started to build your personal brand. Now is the time to consider attending a writers’ conference.
There might even be one in your own backyard. For me, that’s the Florida Christian Writers’ Conference, but there are plenty of others. Google Christian Writers Conferences, and you’ll find them.
Conferences give you a chance for face time with key decision makers in the industry: agents who can represent your book and editors who can publish them. There, you can pitch your concept directly instead of sending an unsolicited submission that will likely get lost in a slush pile. If an editor or agent is interested, he or she will request your submission, which automatically gives it higher priority. With rare exception, the editors and agents who request a proposal or manuscript at a conference will respond back to you with feedback and either a yes or a no. (Trust me. Even a “no” is better than endless suspense.)
Going on an adventure
Have you read or seen Tolkien’s The Hobbit? My favorite scene is when Bilbo Baggins finds his courage and runs off to join Thorin and his dwarves on their quest. He has no idea what lies before him, but he’s ready for the adventure.
The writing life is like that. Once you have the writing bug, you can’t go back, but the road ahead won’t be easy. Some days, you’ll want to quit (another reason to have accountability through a writing group).
Like you, I haven’t arrived. I might be a few steps ahead of you on the journey, but I’m growing right along with you. I hope my story challenges you to keep going, and I invite you to join others and myself on the writing adventure.
Finish your coffee. It’s time to get busy.