Wisdom for new authors: Don’t rush the process

“I finished writing my first book…now what? Any advice?”

I saw this post by a new author in a writing group yesterday and felt compelled to comment. I prepared a lengthy response and was all set to offer my advice when…poof. I got distracted and my amazing, insightful words vanished under my fingertips.

“Nooooo!” I bellowed, exchanging a few curses with my mobile device. Was that how this would end? Would the world never know the incredible wisdom I had to offer?

Then I remembered I have a website and a blog—a ready platform to share my views on writing or whatever else is on my mind. And I haven’t written a post in some time. So I got busy.

Why do I feel compelled to offer advice?

Not that long ago, 2015 to be exact, I was a new author. Fresh off the high of finishing my first manuscript, I stared at my keyboard wondering: What next? Who should I send this labor of loveliness to? How do I publish my first book?

Lucky for me, I joined a writer’s group with members able to offer advice. Still, no one told me what I’m about to tell you now.

Take your time.

Three little words but they’re critical to success. They spell the difference between good and great, between ho-hum and amazing, between a simple pedicure and the deluxe, between a slice of cheese pizza and one loaded with your favorite toppings, between a single taco and the entire enchilada…okay you get the picture (and now I’m hungry).

I know making it to the end of a manuscript is a miracle akin to welcoming a child into the world. You’ve dreamed about this moment most of your life, never thought you had it in you, and spent many years dredging the courage to begin let alone finish. You want nothing more than to see your finished cover and book in the hands of readers.

But please, take a deep breath and go back to your manuscript.

Did you rush the ending? Even a little? Did you catch every possible mistake? Did you eliminate clichés and make sure your writing is fresh?

Once you’re certain that your ending is as fantastic as your beginning and there’s no saggy middle, take your manuscript and send it to as many contests as you can find.

Yes, you heard me.

Don’t send it to a single agent or editor until you’ve entered contests…lots of them.

Why? Because contest judges provide a whole lot of feedback from professionals. Feedback you can use to evaluate and shine your manuscript until it sparkles. You will need this pizazz to compete with the millions of books in the marketplace and the thousands of new ones released every day.

Your book must be the BEST you can write. Only then should you share it with agents and editors and hopefully, one day with readers. You’ll know you’re ready when you place in your first contest.

Which brings me to my second reason why you shouldn’t rush into publishing.

The publisher.

Part of the learning curve to becoming a successful author is to find the best venue for your work—one that will give you the greatest reach in every format (print, electronic, audio, etc.). Roughly sixty percent of book sales are impulse buys. This means a reader happened to see your book somewhere and decided to buy it. Your book needs to be everywhere your readers are—which is literally everywhere. Will the publisher you sign with provide that kind of reach? Is this something you can garner on your own if you self-publish?

You get one chance to make a first impression. Once you publish your work, it’s out there. You can’t take it back. The publisher holds the rights to your book for the period of time in your contract. No agent or editor will touch it—the same holds true if you self-publish. What’s more, most publishers have the right of first refusal in their contract, meaning they get first dibs on every other book you produce in that series.

So why not take your time and make sure you find the venue that will give your book the biggest boost?

Keep writing while you pitch, and when you find your dream agent and publisher, you’ll not only have one masterpiece, but two or three or more in the making.

Don’t settle for the temporary thrill of seeing your words in print. You only get one shot to wow your readers and keep them returning for more. Perfect writing, like fine wine, takes time.

Don’t aim for a field goal, go for the touchdown. Shoot for the stars but don’t settle for anything less than the moon.

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  1. Such great advice! I wish I would have taken a step back and realized all that was still left to do when I finished my first MS. It’s just so hard to be patient!

    • Well things are really rolling for you now! Plus you aren’t out in the world as a published author so you don’t need to devote energy to marketing and sales. You are doing things right. Keep it up:)

  2. Did the contests help connect you with an agent and/or publisher?

  3. Barbara Heintz

    March 14, 2018 at 3:05 pm

    Good advice Amanda. Something we already should know, but good to be reminded.

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