Want to quit your day job and become a full-time writer, with a long list of successful published books to your name and royalty checks flowing in? Well, the hard truth is that huge success in the book world doesn’t happen overnight. (Sorry!) Even the most popular and high-earning authors had to struggle for years to master both their writing craft and the business of publishing.
The good news is that, even if your manuscript is more shambles than chapters right now, you can still be laying the groundwork for long-term success and ultimately, scoring that book deal and publishing a successful book. In fact, one of the very best things you can do to make your publication dreams come true is learn about the business of publishing and what you’ll need in the long run to not only get published, but also to successfully sell your book, build a readership, and become a full-time, professional author. Unfortunately, it’s so easy to get bogged down in the daily grind of just working on a manuscript, holding down a day job, and still trying to be a human who eats and showers and sleeps and sometimes even socializes. (Mostly with cats, though.)
In your quest to get your manuscript written, edited, and just done, make sure that you’re not rushing so much that you lose sight of the long-term skills needed to be a successful, full-time author — as in, an author who can make enough money from book sales to quit her day job and write books for a living. Publishing is a business, and even if you’re one of the lucky few who scores a book deal, you’ll still need to build creative discipline (so it becomes easier to sit down every single day to write), constantly improve your craft (so each book you write is better than the last), foster a network of writers and influencers (who will support and help promote your book when it publishes), and build a readership (so your mom isn’t the only person who buys your book).
If your goal is to get published one day, work these tips into your life and set yourself up for a long, successful, profitable writing career, filled with adoring fans, solid royalty checks, and the everyday satisfaction of living the dream.
Find A Job In A Field That Makes You Stretch Your Writing Muscles
Everyone knows that the best way to improve your writing is to write every day. That kernel of advice is straight out of freshman year’s Creative Writing 101. But then you graduated, were dropped into the real world (ugh!), and realized that no one was going to pay you to stay home in your yoga pants and write all day from your couch.
Except! If you look carefully, you’ll find that there are hundreds of writing jobs that will pay you for your words. Many of the most successful authors have gotten their start in journalism, and they’ll often say that the sheer discipline they learned from meeting deadlines every day made it possible for them to write their own work at the end of the day. Just make sure you stay open-minded; you may not be writing about topics that are 100 percent your jam, but you’ll be still be learning the mechanics of writing, how to brainstorm and pitch quickly, how to handle editorial feedback, how to meet deadlines, and how to get better each and every day.
Get on Twitter
Twitter is a glorious hub for writers, editors, agents, and other publishing professionals to chat about books. Your knowledge of the publishing industry will grow by leaps and bounds just by checking in and hearing what people are saying. Twitter is every writer’s best friend — you’ll start to crave the streams of conversation during the hours of drafting drudgery, and it’s also a great way to make Twitter-friends with other writers in your genre. Search for #amwriting for writing inspiration, #querytip for commentary from agents on how to query, and #pubtip for general publishing advice from industry insiders. And make sure you follow all your favorite authors, publishers, and literary agents, so you don’t miss out on invaluable snippets of free advice!
Attend Writers’ Conferences
You know how working on your WIP day after day can get well... mind-numbingly boring and painful? Like you sort of want to jab pencils in your eyeballs just so you can stop staring at the blinking cursor? Yeah, you need to get out. Make it count as work by going to a writer’s conference, otherwise known as a carnival of fun and delights for the lonely writer. Sign up for sessions and workshops, rub elbows with editors and agents, and network with other writers who totally get the whole pencils-through-the-eyeballs thing.
Join a Critique Group
Newsflash: Writing doesn't improve in a vacuum. Yes, as much as you may want to smack a fellow writer right in his smug mug when he points out that your main character is still flat and two-dimensional, there’s a good chance that’s exactly what you need to hear. As tough as it is to handle criticism of your book baby, it’s the only way to keep improving and growing as a writer. Just make sure you join a group that has the whole constructive part of criticism down to a science — the last thing you need during the emotional struggle of birthing a book is to be berated.
Build a Readership
One of the hardest things every writer must learn is creative discipline — the sheer willpower to sit your ass down and write every single day, no matter how uninspired or exhausted or zombified you feel. The only way to master this is to just keep doing it. Luckily, the more you work your creative muscle, the easier it will be each time you sit down to write. Setting up a website and adding content to it every week is one of the best ways to publicly commit to doing your creative thing, with the added bonus that you can begin building a readership at the same time as you’re building discipline. Every single writer should have a website — either a portfolio website if you’re writing for other outlets and want to showcase clips, or even better, a content-based website where you share blog posts, vlogs, or podcasts every week. Creating content for your website every week is a great way to build creative discipline, tell people who you are and what you care about, establish your brand and voice, and build a readership before you even have a book to sell.
Read Like Crazy
Sure, you may have heard this one before, but are you really doing it? It’s easy to slip off into the world of reading online articles and your Instagram feed instead of a book before bed, but nothing will invigorate your creativity like reading a book. And, as important as it is to read obsessively within your genre, make sure you also read outside of your favorite genres once in a while. If you write young adults books, try reading a business book; if you write fantasy, jump into a biography occasionally. It’ll keep your writing from becoming stale and too similar to everything else in your genre.
Go to Readings
Chances are your local bookstore or library has a robust schedule of readings, signings, and other author appearances that you may be missing out on. Readings are one of the easiest ways to meet your favorite authors, and they can be such a dose of excitement and a morale boost to help you slog through the endless hours of typing at your laptop. Use them as an excuse to get out of the house and remind yourself that, one day, you’ll be reading to a rapt audience from your own published, successful book.