The 30-odd journals on my bookshelf prove that I’ve had a passion for writing since I was a little girl. And after my first son was born, I began prayerfully crafting and submitting book proposals. Up until that point, I had been a prolific freelance writer, but it took me five years and about fifty rejections before I got my first contract.
Now, after fifteen-plus years as an author in the Christian book industry (Christian Booksellers Association), I can see how much I’ve grown as a writer, and as a person of faith.
I’ll be transparent here: before I became an author with a traditional publisher, I believed several myths, which are common to aspiring writers. I want to share, and debunk, them here. [Note: I don’t write fiction, and I haven’t tried self-publishing, so my statements will be coming from a traditionally published non-fiction author’s perspective.]
1) If I find an agent, I’ll get a book deal.
I’ve had several agents, and all of them had their strengths. However, in all but two of my contracts, I already had an offer when I approached the agent. I’m sorry to report that signing with an agent–though it’s something to be celebrated–is not a golden ticket to Book Deal Land.
2) If I don’t have an agent, I won’t get a book deal.
What leads to book deals? Great ideas, stellar proposals, strong platforms, and authentic relationships with editors. Small and mid-size publishers are ALWAYS looking for new talent, so write like crazy; be teachable; meet editors at conferences; and speak or do other things to increase your visibility.
3) If my book is good enough, I won’t have to market it.
How I wish this were true! Unless your name starts with “Max” and ends with “Lucado,” you’ll need to participate in your publisher’s marketing and publicity plan. You may be asked to guest-blog, send out review copies, write op-eds, speak, and/or appear as a guest on radio and television shows–in both traditional and online media.
There are ways to market yourself without selling your soul–or upchucking. I promise! (My advice? Pray; BE YOURSELF; find mentors in the industry; and talk to your editor, agent, or fellow authors about creative ways to fight stage fright and shyness.)
4) If I follow a certain marketing plan, my book will be a bestseller.
People make big money selling this lie and creating plans you can follow in order to get your book on certain lists. But those plans are expensive, time-consuming, and not-at-all foolproof. To be honest, the book I did the least marketing on (because it was a work-for-hire) sold so, so much better than the books I did extensive marketing and promotion on.
So what’s true in this “house of mirrors” called publishing? Great writers WILL get published–in some form. Readers want to buy amazing books, which they can read and tell their friends about. Publishers long to find one-of-a-kind ideas, brought to life by seasoned, unique and professional writers.
And, most important of all, if the Creator has given you a talent for writing, He wants to use that gift to encourage others. There are so many ways to be published now. The whole world has changed over the last few years, and publishing is evolving at warp-speed. So hone your craft; seek His face; and ask Him what He wants to teach you on the journey.
You might just be surprised–and pleased–by what you learn.
Tell me in the comments: which myth have you believed?
Need more writing/publishing help from Dena? She offers book proposal coaching!