So you want to be an author

Good morning! Well at least here on the east coast of the US.

In my previous post, I discussed part of my weekend at RAGT (Reader Author Get Together). I will get to part two of my weekend but I wanted to talk about the things I learned from an author I spontaneously met who let me pick her brain for two hours while we were waiting in line to see J.R. Ward. It started out as normal conversation because I had no idea she was an established author. When she told me, I was like woah! and thinking of all you lovely writers out there, I proceeded to ask her a million and one questions about how she got to where she is now. I want to share her journey with you all in the hopes that if you ever decide to write a book or already have a book and want to know what she considered was the best approach to putting yourself out there.

Step One: Write. 

She, like many, didn’t think she could write a book at first. Her friends encouraged her a lot because they thought she had some stellar ideas. One day she decided to sit down and start writing. The key is to keep writing no matter what. Some days you may not feel like writing but push through and do it anyway.

Step Two: Beta readers and assistants.

Once you have a written product, you want to get some feedback. You want to start to build a relationship with people who will be your first book point of contact. Those people will read your stories, judge them, point out any errors they find, critique your ideas and just be the brutally honest people that you are going to need. They also help you to find the events that you need to put yourself on the map. They are usually are your closest friends (who will work for free because they love you and want you to succeed).The more help you have, the more time you can spend on writing.

Step Three: Networking, networking and more networking.

Book conventions, expos, cons, workshops; the list goes on. She went to a few expos and ingratiated herself with authors that are already established. She constantly shared her story ideas while learning the book trends. Romance is HOT right now. Urban Fantasy is super HOT right now. Author Lora Leigh saw something in her and took her under her wing which, alone, changed the course of her career. She gave her tips, told her tricks and introduced her to other authors and editors.

Step Four: Find a proofreader and an editor.

Finding an editor is the first thing you need to do before you find an agent or a publisher. Why? Because your work needs to be spotless. She said enough grammatical errors in your work won’t even get a decent look. And then it goes back to networking. These editors know what they’re doing. It’s highly likely they have ties to agents and publishers and can open the door for you.

Step Five: Independent publishing vs. Traditional publishing

Once you’ve built your literary team, it’s time to decide how you want to proceed. There is nothing wrong with independent publishing. In fact, a lot of authors are migrating towards it because they can set their own rules. Traditional publishing is great but it can take time to be offered a contract. In the meantime, you could be indie publishing. Amazon is the number one hot spot to make that happen. You can start to gain royalties for the product you already have which allows you more time to focus on improving your writing skills or another book while playing the waiting game with traditional publishers. This author put it this way, “If a publisher knocked on my door and offered me a $200,000 contract, I wouldn’t say no but until then I’m living my dream job.”

Step Six: Do not stress over your first bad review. It won’t be your last.

In this age of the internet, it’s hard to tell who’s a true reviewer and who’s a troll. You can read them and stress yourself out or you can be like this author who leaves it to her beta readers and assistant to read them for her and give her quality feedback.

I’m not an expert and I’m sure everyone has their own ways of doing things. However whatever route you decide to take, I hope I’ve shared some useful information I received from this wonderful lady. It’s a long, slow process but in the end it can offer great rewards and if you have enough confidence in yourself and your work, you can, one day, live the dream.

Edit: Patty made me realized I never actually said the author’s name. Her name is Melanie Jayne. She writes contemporary romance with characters age 35 and up. Quite a niche area. She also plans to write urban fantasy under a pen name next. Check out her site here.