What I Wish I’d Known About Publishing — Lessons Learned the Hard Way

Guest Post by Alan Elliott

publishing

In March of this year, I attended a wonderful writers conference called WORDfest 2019. At the conference, I had the pleasure of hearing a panel discussion on the topic: “What I Wish I’d KnownWhat Writers Learn the Hard Way About the Craft of Writing.” Alan Elliot was a member of the panel. He shared some excellent points about publishing, and he distributed a handout which I thought contained several golden nuggets for writers pursuing publication. I asked him if I could share the material on my blog, and he said yes! So, here goes. Enjoy!

1. PUBLISHING IS A BUSINESS – to be traditionally published your story/book MUST fit into standard categories – Go to a Barnes and Nobel and find the shelf where your book will be placed. If you can’t find that shelf, you can’t sell your book to a publisher. If you find that shelf, you can identify which publishers might be interested in your manuscript. See How To Make A Living With Your Writing by Joanna Penn and Brian Sanderson “Business of Writing” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C59eOLX2K-A

2. WRITING IS WORK — You MUST put your butt in the chair and your fingers on the keyboard regularly – daily if possible – for multiple hours a day if possible. You MUST write and REWRITE, knowing anything you write is probably garbage – UNTIL you fix it, edit it, reimagine it, and rewrite it (multiple times) Read the book Bird by Bird by Anne Lamont)

3. IDEAS ARE EASY – MAGIC IDEAS ARE GOLDEN – There is an unlimited number of books you COULD write – more ideas than you could ever tackle. You must decide which are the GOLDEN ideas – books/stories that demand to be written – whose title or premise makes immediate sense – books that you can describe in a single sentence that causes people to say – I want to read that – that’s so funny – what a great book idea. Concentrate on THOSE projects. (Read the book The Magic Word by Cheryl Klein.)

4. PERSISTENCE AND DETERMINATION ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN TALENT – Yes, you must have skills to write, you must learn the craft of storytelling, and you must know how to write compelling stories and/or sentences – that gets your foot in the door. What REALLY MATTERS is that you commit yourself to the (usually) LONG process of writing, perfecting, and SELLING your work. You must be prepared for REJECTION upon REJECTION – You must be able to pull yourself back together and try AGAIN and AGAIN, sometimes YEAR after YEAR. You must be an optimist – and see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel – faint at first, but brighter the more determined and persistent you are. (Read the book GRIT by Angela Duckworth.)

5. START WITH A BURNING DESIRE — You should write because you want to write – because there are stories that must be told, books that must be written. And you have a burning desire to write those stories and books. To get there you must learn the craft of writing – which is more than what is typically taught in any English class. Yes, you might be able to tell a story – but can you construct a PUBLISHABLE story? Learning any craft takes hours and hours of hard work. Like learning any skill (ice skating, piano playing, baseball), to become skilled enough to play in the major leagues you need well-planned and deliberate practice to hone your craft. This practice is sometimes tedious, lonely, and tiring. But you do it because you’re after the RESULTS – you spend time learning and growing because you know that’s what it takes to enjoy seeing your work published and enjoyed by others. See the book Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else by Geoff Colvin.)

6. SUCCESSFULLY PUBLISHED! – BUT YOU MUST MARKET YOUR BOOK! Once your book is published, you’ll need to market it yourself. Yes, the (traditional) publisher will get it to bookstores, and do some preliminary marketing, but you’ll want to do book signings (book tour?), go to conferences, be on social media, etc. to get the word out on your book. Work with your publisher’s PR department to get the most mileage out of whatever they have to offer. (See Your First 1000 Copies: The Step-by-Step Guide to Marketing Your Book by Tim Grahl (and many other webpages on this topic.)

Publishing

Alan Elliott is a native Texan with a knack for story. He is co-author of the family comedy movie Angels Love Donuts (with Leon McWhorter) filmed in Dallas and released on DVD. Two recent books include Willy, The Texas Longhorn, a children’s picture book from Pelican and On Sunday the Wind Came (bilingual) from Babl Books. Alan can be found online at: www.alanelliott.com