Five things I didn’t know until I wrote my novel

imageIt’s only been a little more than two months since I finished writing my first novel, but I have learned a lot of BIG ideas in that time. Here they are, in no particular order:

1.) Writing the book was the easy part — I am naïve. I thought that I would write the book, send it off to a few agents and editors and someone would express interest in reading the manuscript. Not so. First, comes the pitch, which is your query letter. Your query is a cleverly crafted, succinct summary of your book, free of grammar errors, marketing fluff and cheesy lines. It must describe the plot, the hero, the heroine and the hook — that special something that will draw the agent in and make them want to sell your book. It must not be too long or too short — opinions vary widely on what the proper length is, but if it can be kept to one page, that seems to be about right. Expect to rewrite it dozens of times before you get it right and even then, it may not be right. You’ll know because you’ll send it out to a dozen agents and half will not write you back. The other half will write you a nice form letter rejection. Develop a thick skin. Most would-be authors can expect to be rejected 100 times before getting a bona fide offer.

2.) You must be social media and computer savvy — Worldwide, more than 2 million books will be published this year. It is a crowded marketplace. Publishers rely on authors to market themselves to increase sales. That means you need to develop a following before you have published the book. This seems contrary and intimidating for a new novelist but is a necessary part of the process. If you don’t have a personal website, author Facebook page, and Twitter account at a minimum, you’d best get busy developing these tools. It doesn’t hurt to use other apps like Pinterest and Instagram to post photos that lead to your website, too.

3) You must go to conferences — I did not get any offers to read my manuscript until I went to my first conference — then I got three. Pitching a book in person is A LOT easier than pitching your novel in a query letter. You will have the opportunity to ask questions and showcase skills, such as your ability to be articulate and sell your novel. The agent/editor can get a sense of your personality and whether they might enjoy working with you. Plus, at conferences you can talk to other writers, hear from interesting speakers, take workshops, and buy books. The time spent is well worth the effort and beats the cold query any day.

4.) You must enter contests — Being able to state that you are a contest winner in a query letter is golden. Since agents can get up to 500 queries in any given week, you can use the extra credit a contest win provides to stand out in the slush pile. Plus, entering a contest requires your manuscript to be judged, which means it will get read by other authors, agents and editors, and you will get feedback. Getting professional feedback on your manuscript can help you improve your writing, which will eventually lead to a publishing deal.

5.) You must be patient — Some time ago I completed an exercise in a book called StrengthFinders. It identified my top five strengths based on 40 years of research by Gallup, which analyzed and recorded the traits of highly successful people. When my results came back, I was a little surprised by my number one trait: Activator — a person impatient for action. There’s no worse project for a person with activator in their makeup than writing a novel. The whole process is a lesson in patience. It’s a lot of hurry up and wait. I guess I’m still working on this one.

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6 Comments

  1. Jean

    All true and well said! I have been telling the writers in my workshop that writing the novel is about 10% of the work! Marketing is 85% and the 5% is prayer!

    • amandauhl

      Thanks Jean. That’s a great quote! Writing the novel is the fun part — the rest is all hard work. I am feeling really positive today about my manuscript — I got a critique back on a contest I entered. Didn’t win but the person who provided edits did a fantastic job. I finally figured out what I need to do and am headed in a great direction. Can’t wait to share this with an editor I have been corresponding with and see what she thinks.

  2. Melissa Saul

    Trying to figure out how to subscribe. It says enter in the box to the right but on the mobile site there is no right. Do you mean here in the comments section?

    • amandauhl

      So sorry Melissa. Apparently, I am a much better writer than I am a webmaster. It seems the section to subscribe to my blog only appears in the desktop view. I will work on a fix. In the meantime, you can either access my site from a computer to easily input your email and subscribe. OR you can provide your email address and I’ll subscribe for you. If you don’t want to write your address here in the comments, you can email me at amandauhlauthor@gmail.com. Note that subscribing generates an email to your address that you’ll then need to click on to activate the subscription.

  3. SorchiaD DuBois

    Boy oh boy, do I identify with everything in your post. I’m about to put out my third book and it seems I must learn these things every time… Especially the patience part.

    • amandauhl

      I keep waiting for it to get easier but so far it hasn’t. In fact, with each book release I feel like there is more I have to know and do. For instance, just released the audio for Mind Waves and that requires knowing who reviews those types of books. Many readers (including myself) don’t listen to audiobooks, so it’s taking some sleuthing to grind those who do. Good luck with your new book!

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