So, You Wanna Be an Author?

Ever since I started spreading the new about The Scavenger getting published, I’ve been getting questions about the writing and publishing process. The most common question, by far, is how to actually start. There are so many people out there, even more than I realized previously, that want to be published authors. It seems very open and very doable to write a book — anyone can pick up a pen or a laptop and jot down some words. But the process of getting that a book from paper into a binding can be very intimidating. I completely understand. When I first began looking into publishing The Scavenger, I was completely overwhelmed. I had no one to ask about this stuff. I was doing something that no one I knew had ever done, and to be honest, it was scary. The first steps were the hardest. Once I had a plan laid out before me and I saw a clear destination ahead, it was so much easier to continue moving forward.

So, you want to be an author? I’m going to lay out five simple “first” steps to take at the beginning of the writing process to help you get a foothold in where you are and where you’re headed.

  1. Have a book

This might seem straight forward, but to be a published author, you need to have something to publish! You don’t have to have your book completed when you begin the publishing process, or even really close to it, but you should at least have your first draft done. Every writer works differently, but you’ll know when you have a story that deserves to be on a shelf. I started and stopped countless projects before my debut novel. When I completed the first draft and read-through of The Scavenger, I knew that I had something special. It’s not something I can explain in words, but I somehow knew that throughout all that trial and error, this was the one. I can’t say that everyone will have the same experience. Still, it’s important to make some head-way into your book before you even think about publishing.

  1. Establish yourself as an author

Now that you have your book started, you need to prepare to sell something alongside your work: yourself. Many people don’t understand the importance of promoting the author in addition to the book. You’re the literal face of your work. Your book can’t speak for itself — only you can. That’s why it’s so important to start early establishing yourself in the writing industry. Get on all the social media platforms you can. Make some accounts, meet some people. Create a website and a blog. The longer you’re putting out quality content, the more likely it is for people to support you when your work hits the market.  I went a little deeper into the importance of social media in an earlier blog post, but I really can’t stress enough how crucial it is to put yourself out there for people to find. The sooner, the better. 

  1. Start saving

Whether you’re self or traditional publishing, chances are you’re eventually going to have to rake out some cash. As soon as I realized I was going to get published, I started saving. You’d be surprised how much money you spend on things throughout the writing/publishing process, from editing to cover design to ISBNs. The more money you have set aside, the better. That way, you’ll be prepared when you need it. You don’t want to get to a crucial moment in the future and realized you don’t have enough funds saved up. Do the dirty work now so you’re ready for what’s to come.

  1. Research

When I was totally lost and had no idea where to start my publishing process, I did exactly what you’re doing now: looking at other people’s experiences and learning. This is not a time to take a “leap of faith” and figure out what you’re doing as you go along. You need to prepare before you start. Use this blog (and others) to your advantage. I highly recommend going on YouTube and finding some “BookTubers” that share their experiences and tips for the trade. Gather as much knowledge as you can for whatever may come your way. But remember: no one’s writing experience is ever exactly the same. So if you’re book is turning out the exact way that others did, don’t fret!

  1. DON’T stop reading

You might be feeling pretty swamped with all the things you have to do now that you’ve decided to publish your work. It is overwhelming, but it’s crucial that during all this, you still find time to read. Reading gives us new insight when we need it, and can help revitalize your work when it needs it. It’s so important to avoid getting completely immersed in your work and blocking out other sources of inspiration in the process. There are going to be moments of tribulation, when you have writer’s block or you’ve edited the same scene twenty times and it’s still not sounding the way you want. Some days, you just run out of words. The only way to replenish your supply is to read. Keep doing what inspired you to write in the first place. It’ll help keep you stay focused on what all this hard work is going towards. 

Making the decision to start down the publishing path is difficult and pretty scary. Follow these tips and it’ll help you get started in the right direction. But overall, the best thing you can do is to use the resources available to you: including me! I’m happy to help with any questions you may have about the writing or publishing process. It can be utterly overwhelming, and I would be more than happy to help with anything you’re confused about. Feel free to email me or leave a comment below!

Keep plugging away! Those words aren’t going to get down without you 🙂

— J. L. Willow

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