So you want to be an author? I am not talking about writing a book here and there, I mean a professional author, like Karen Kingsbury, Danielle Steele, Tricia Goyer or Stephen King.
You want to write plenty of books, books that sell millions of copies, are in the New York Times Bestsellers list, and receive great reviews in the Daily Mail or Independent Online. How hard can this be?
Many people believe the myth that being an author is an easy job: you just sit down and write. In reality, it can be one of the most complex and loneliest jobs there are.
The author of the book you may be reading at the moment, spent hours in front of a computer, drafting and re-drafting the manuscript. Authors have to do intense research, and make sure the writing flows, as well as coming up with plots.
Sometimes they can have what is known as ‘writers’ block’; they haven’t got a clue what to write next. If they are agented, then agents, like myself, will step in and help them with some ideas, and give them encouragement. If they are not agented, then they will normally have to take a break from writing the story, until inspiration comes to them. This is why a manuscript can take around six months or more to write.
Still interested? Good, but it doesn’t end there. Once a manuscript is completed, then comes the task of finding the agent or publisher, which again doesn’t come easy. Many, many authors face rejection – sometimes one after the other – until they get that ‘Yes’.
After a publisher is found, next comes more editing. Yes, more editing! An author will have just spent hours on the computer redrafting their manuscript until it is polished, and they have to edit again. This is when you can find them, as the phrase goes, ‘pulling their hair out’, or becoming discouraged, thinking ‘Will this book ever reach the shelves?’ Plus, they have to stick to tight deadlines, as the publishers are on a schedule to have the book released, so it is late nights or early mornings for the writer – and plenty of coffee.
So, the hard graft is done. A writer has found the publisher; the manuscript is now in a book format; the cover design is done, and the book is ready to be released. Surely this must be it for the writer? Wrong! Next comes the biggest task of them all, and that is marketing. Some people don’t think of writing as a business, especially Christian authors; they tend to see it more as a ministry. However, if you want to write professionally and really progress in the industry, you have to see it as a business, as well as glorifying God through your talent.
An agent and a publisher can only do so much. People are more interested in the author and the product, which is the book.
This means you will have to market yourself – not just on a one-off basis; it has to be a continual process, until you are in the position where you don’t need to market yourself as much, since you have a large readership.
As with all things, building up credibility takes time; you have to take it step by step. Some authors don’t sell a book until after three months, so if you were thinking of getting rich quick, this certainly won’t do that. However, if you want sales to be quicker than three months, it is important to market yourself and build up your credibility before the book has come out. I always tell my authors to do this, and it has worked in their favour.
As well as marketing yourself, you will also need to write your other books. Most authors have a schedule plan of when to market and when to write. For example, they will do three days of marketing and four days of writing, which means, yes, they do work on the weekends. Their social life becomes non-existent, and if they have families and are active in their church, they really have to balance.
There you have it: the life of an author, and this is just the surface. Though it is a lot of hard graft, if you’re passionate about a career, and believe this is your God-given talent, then you will stick with it all the way through. You will even enjoy it, as it is something that you love to do.
Think ahead, to when that book is in a bookstore or online, and don’t get discouraged by bad reviews. Not everyone is going to like what you write. You can’t please everybody. Just continue to enjoy the journey, and ask God to help you along the way.