How to Become an Author: A Proven Guide

so you want to become an author…
good, I have good newsworthiness and bad news .
The bad news beginning :
Writing your bible won ’ metric ton be easy. If you ’ re in the middle of that right immediately, you know precisely what I mean.

But here ’ s the good newsworthiness :
All that sour could open some amazing possibilities for you :

  • Getting published
  • A career you love
  • Impacting people
  • Media attention
  • Added income

In this extensive template, my goal is to give you an honest look at how to become an author—using lessons I ’ ve learned from about 50 years working with some of the top publishers in the world .
Having written 200 books, including 21 New York Times bestsellers, I ’ megabyte confident I can advise you in your writing travel .

Want to write a book but don’t know where to start? Click here to download my ultimate guide to writing a book for FREE.

What You Will Learn

Everything I cover in this bit-by-bit stake on becoming an author :

How to Become an Author in 4 Steps

1. DON’T Try to Become a Writer Until You’ve…

I get it. You ’ ra antsy. You ’ re ready to pen your best seller properly immediately. You ’ ve hear of writers who scored with a million-seller on their first gear try .
Throttle back. Those stories become big newsworthiness because they ’ re so rare. Don ’ t bank on winning the lottery. If you want your book ( and your message ) to go anywhere, make sure you ’ ve :

…Studied the Craft

There ’ s no want to write by trial and error anymore. Your best bet is to follow raise methods .
here ’ s a number of my front-runner 12 books on writing to get you started .
The contest has gotten indeed fierce, you do yourself a favor if you learn how successful authors write before you try to get a expect from a publisher.

…Written Things Shorter Than a Book

You shouldn ’ thyroxine start your writing career with a bible any more than you should enroll in grad school as a preschooler. A book is where you arrive .
Start little, learn the craft, hone your writing skills, write daily .
Journal. Write curtly stories. Write a newsletter. Start a blog. Write for magazines, newspapers, ezines. Take a night school or on-line course in journalism or creative writing .
Bottom line: Work a quarter-million clichés out of your system, learn what it means to be edited, become an expert in something, build your chopine ( more on that below ), and only then think about writing a koran.

…Joined a Community of Writers

how to become an author
Think you can do it alone ?
about every traditionally published writer I know is character of a helpful community. That ’ randomness one way they deal with :

  • Frustration
  • Discouragement
  • Procrastination
  • Wanting to quit

I ’ ve written 200 books, and at this stage, community means I can bounce ideas off colleagues when I need to .
When you first become a writer, another pair of eyes on your work can prove invaluable. Ten pairs of eyes can be even better .
Join a writers ’ group. Find a mentor. Stay assailable to criticism .
One caveat with writers ’ groups : make certain at least one person, preferably the drawing card, is wide published and understands the publish landscape. Otherwise you risk the blind leading the blind.

…Started Building Your Platform

When you finally pitch agents and publishers, one of the first things they ’ ll do is conduct an Internet research for your name .
They ’ rhenium looking for authors with a platform. If platform is a new condition to you, it simply means the extent of your influence—how many people are concern in what you do ? So start construction yours immediately .
Bottom line, to become a published writer you ’ ll need your own author web site .
Add a blog and invite readers to comment, then interact with them. Join your favorite sociable media platforms and interact with readers there regularly .
Publishing short pieces can boost your name recognition .
With all the social media vehicles available, building a pursue has never been easier.

2. Writing Your Book

Most people never get this far. Writer ’ s fear leads to dilatoriness, and few always make it to the first page .
To avoid this, you need a plan like the following :

Create a Writing Schedule You Can Stick To

successful writers show up and do the work whether or not they feel like it .
Writer ’ randomness stuff is no excuse. In no other profession could you claim worker ’ s block .
Carve out at least six hours a week to write. You won ’ thymine find it, you ’ ll have to make the prison term by sacrificing something else. Lock these hours into your calendar and keep them sacred .
You ’ ll get a bunch done when you last plant yourself in your chair.

Identify Your Audience

once you ’ ve determined your genre, identify the readers you want to read your book. Agents and publishers need to know the audience you ’ ra targeting so they can market your bible .
But resist the temptation to say it ’ mho for everybody. naturally, it ’ second tempting to wonder who wouldn ’ metric ton want to read our ferment. But the truth is, that kind of think makes you look like an amateur .
even mega-bestselling books don ’ thymine attract to everyone. They ’ re written to specific audiences, and if they cross over to early markets ( like the Harry Potter Young Adult titles—which have become vastly popular to adults as well ), that ’ s a bonus .
research books in your music genre. You should read dozens and dozens of them to learn the conventions and expectations of readers. And who are those readers ?

  • Primarily Male or Female?
  • Age Range
  • Educational background
  • Hobbies
  • Lifestyle

Get to know readers by regularly interacting with them through your web site, on social media, or in person.

Research and Plan

To give your manuscript the best opportunity to succeed, don ’ t decamp this step. excellent preparation can make or break your koran .
Two chief ways to prepare :
1. Outline.
Regardless how you feel about outlining, you need an theme of where you ’ re going before you start. If you ’ re writing a fresh, you ’ re either an Outliner or a Pantser ( who writes by the seat of your pants. If you ’ re writing a nonfiction book, you must outline. )
On the fabrication side, Pantsers write by process of discovery—or as Stephen King puts it, they “ put interesting characters in unmanageable situations and write to find out what happens. ”
If you ’ re an Outliner and a novelist, you ’ ll benefit from Randy Ingermanson ’ s Snowflake Method. But if you ’ re a Pantser, check out this post. It ’ ll teach you how to work within a structure without actually outlining .
2. Do the research.
Great stories can be sunk with less than solid research .
If your character drives 10 miles east out of the Chicago Loop—as I once read in a bad novel, he ’ d better be in an amphibious vehicle, because he ’ five hundred be in Lake Michigan .
Immerse yourself in the details of your plant. Accuracy adds season and authenticity. Get them incorrectly and your subscriber loses confidence—and interest .
research tools :

  • Atlases and World Almanacs offer geography and cultural norms and can provide character names to align with the setting, period, and customs. If your character flashes someone a thumbs up, be sure that means the same in his culture as it does in yours.
  • Encyclopedias. Buy your own, access one at a library, or find one online.
  • YouTube and online search engines can yield tens of thousands of resources.
  • Use a Thesaurus not to find the most exotic word but that normal one on the tip of your tongue.
  • Interview experts. People love to talk about their work, and that often leads to more story ideas.

Don’t Quit Your Day Job

I didn ’ thyroxine become a full-time freelancer generator until I had written and published closely 90 books. A veteran writer advised me that my freelancer income ought to be approximately three times what I made at my job before I considered going solo .
Why so much ?
He listed everything I would have to pay for : insurance, retirement, benefits, travel, equipment, office supplies—in short, everything .
Your subcontract doesn ’ thyroxine have to keep you from writing. Keep it and write after hours.
Why ?

  1. You’ll have steady income—one less thing to worry about—while trying to build your writing career.
  2. You’ll be forced to be productive with limited hours.

How large a sacrifice is that for your writing dream ? How badly do you want to become an author ?

Become a Ferocious Self-Editor

This section is so important that it has the might to determine whether your manuscript sells—or slides into the editor ’ south refuse stack .

Get serious about self-editing.

Editors know from the first page or two whether your manuscript is worth pursuing. I know that doesn ’ triiodothyronine sound fair or even coherent. You ’ re think, It took me months, possibly years, to write hundreds of pages and you didn ’ metric ton even get to the good stuff !
How could they do that to you ? Why did they ?
first, the good stuff ought to appear from word one. And if they see 15 needed adjustments on the inaugural two pages, they know the price of editing three or four hundred pages of the same would eat whatever profits they could hope for .
To avoid the awful “ Thank you, but this doesn ’ t meet a stream want ” letter, your manuscript must be tilt and intend and a great read .

My 21 rules of ferocious self-editing:

  1. Develop a thick skin. If you can’t take a critique, this may be the wrong pursuit for you.
  2. Avoid throat-clearing—scene setting, description, philosophizing—anything that slows getting to your story or your point.
  3. Choose the normal word over the obtuse.
  4. Omit needless words.
  5. Avoid subtle redundancies, like: “She nodded her head in agreement.” Those last four words could be deleted.
  6. Avoid the words up and down, unless they’re needed for clarity.
  7. Usually delete the word that. Again, use it only when necessary.
  8. Give readers credit. They understand more than you think.
  9. Avoid telling what’s not happening. If you don’t say it happened, we’ll assume it didn’t.
  10. Avoid being an adjectival maniac. Good writing is a thing of powerful nouns and verbs, not a plethora of adjectives.
  11. Avoid hedging verbs like smiled slightly, almost laughed, frowned a bit, etc.
  12. Avoid the term literally when you mean figuratively. [NOTE: I literally died when I heard that.]
  13. Avoid too much stage direction, describing every action of every character ad nauseum.
  14. Maintain a single point of view (POV) character for every scene.
  15. Avoid clichés, and not just words and phrases, but situations—like beginning your story with a character waking to a jangling alarm clock.
  16. Resist the urge to explain (RUE). If a character enters a room, we need not be told he came through the open door.
  17. Show, don’t tell. Telling: John was cold. Showing: John turned up his collar and faced away from the biting wind.
  18. People say things; they don’t wheeze, gasp, sigh, laugh, grunt, or retort them.
  19. Specifics add the ring of truth, even to fiction.
  20. Avoid similar character names. In fact, avoid even the same first initials.
  21. Avoid mannerisms of punctuation, typestyles, and sizes, like overusing ellipses, italics, boldfacing, exclamation points, etc.

3. Trying to Land a Publishing Contract

Becoming a published author international relations and security network ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate easy. But let me show you the available options and suggest the best practices to increase your chances.

Acquiring an Agent

once you ’ ve finished your manuscript and have ferociously self-edited it until you ’ re felicitous with every give voice, your foremost step in trying to land a traditional publication bargain ( in other words, one where the publisher takes all the fiscal risk and besides pays you ) should be to try to land an agent .
There may seem a dichotomy, particularly if you write for altruistic reasons—you have a mission, a passion, a message, something you want to share with the world. Yet agents and publishers appear to base their decisions entirely on the bottom line .
But that doesn ’ t mean they don ’ t share your passion. They plainly must make a net income to stay in business—even faith-based publishers who are all about ministry .
Though it ’ second hard to find an agent, it ’ s besides rare to get traditionally published without one. Most publishers will not consider unasked manuscripts, though some allow you to submit at writers conferences or with the recommendation of other clients of theirs .
Check The Writer ’ second Market Guide and The christian Writer ’ south Market Guide for agents and publishers .

An agent can make your life a lot easier.

Besides the instant credibility of an agentive role ’ mho approval, tell that your writing has survived a vet process, you besides get valuable input and coaching on how to fashion your question and marriage proposal from person who understands the publish diligence, knows the players and who ’ s looking for what, and has experience pitching publishers .
obviously, there are adept and bad agents. Whom can you trust ? credible agents welcome examination. Check with their clients. Ask :

  • Were you happy?
  • Did you feel taken care of?
  • Were they pleased with the results?

Feel free to ask agents:

  • How do you like to work with an author?
  • Have they succeeded in my genre?
  • And any other question you have.

once you compile a list of agents who seem to be a good burst, follow their meekness guidelines. They ’ ll likely ask for a question letter, outline, marriage proposal, and possibly a few chapters .
If any ask for any sort of reading tip or other payment up front, eliminate them as candidates and do not respond. Agents make their money when they sell your bible to a publisher.

Check out the submission guidelines for any agent by going to their web site.
You may be asked for :

1. A query letter

This is precisely what its appoint implies—a letter querying the sake of the agent in your script idea .

Four parts of an effective query letter:

a. Your elevator pitch

This is a drumhead of your book ’ second premise, told in the time it would take the editor to reach his shock if you happened to find yourself in the like elevator. So it has to be debauched and easily understand .
The elevator pitch for my very first base novel :
“ A evaluator tries a man for a murder that the pronounce committed. ”
While today I might have added a few more specifics, that either interested an agent or an editor, or it didn ’ thymine. fortunately, it did .

b. Your synopsis

In a paragraph, tell what your nonfiction book is about and what you hope to accomplish with it. Or tell the basic premise of the plat of your novel. The outline would naturally go beyond the elevator peddle and tell what happens and how things turn out. Don ’ t make the error of trying to tease an agent into reading your manuscript to find out what happens. Tell him up front man .

c. Your target audience and why they’ll enjoy your book

Agents need to envision how to pitch it to publishers, but be careful not to oversell. They know the clientele better than you do and will not be swayed by your assurance that “ everyone will find this perplex. ”
Tell what readers it ’ s intended for .

d. Your personal information

Sell the agent on yourself. What qualifies you to write this book ? What else have you published ? What kind of chopine have you built ? Where can they read your blog ? Include your contact data .

Other query letter tips:

  • Keep it to one page, single-spaced, and 12 pt. serif type.
  • Don’t gush—let your premise speak for itself.
  • Follow the agent’s submission guidelines to a T.
  • Have someone you trust proofread your letter. Any typo on such a short document makes you look like an amateur.

A great exemplar of a question letter, with a breakdown of why it works, by Brian Klems of Writer ’ sulfur Digest .

2. A book proposal

Most agents want merely this. succinctly describe your mind, your goal being to make them want to read your manuscript in its enentirety american samoa soon as it ’ sulfur ready. For nonfiction, include every major issue you ’ ll cover and the basics of what you ’ ll say about it. For fiction, synopsize the plot .
Three trusted colleagues have produced consummate works on how to write book proposals :
Michael Hyatt : Writing a Winning Book Proposal
Jane Friedman : How to Write a Book Proposal
( Jane besides has great material on question letters. )
Terry Whalin : Book Proposals That Sell
Proposals contain components such as :

  • Premise
  • Elevator pitch
  • Overview
  • Target audience
  • Chapter synopses
  • Marketing ideas
  • Endorsements
  • Your analysis of competing books
  • Up to three sample chapters

Every word should be designed to pique an agent ’ south interest in seeing your entire manuscript .

Want to write a book but don’t know where to start? Click here to download my ultimate guide to writing a book for FREE.

Connecting with the Right Publisher

how to become an author
Should you choose to approach publishers on your own ( without an agentive role ) :

  1. Precisely follow their submission guidelines.
  2. Personalize your cover letter to each.
  3. Avoid flattery and obvious sentiments like, “I’ll do anything you say, make any changes you want, meet any deadline…” Just express that you look forward to hearing from them.

A rule of thumb:

If you ’ re writing fabrication, most publishers require a complete manuscript before offering a abridge .
many writers come up with great ideas, and some produce promise starts. But few see their direction through to the end. They want to know you can finish .
If the publisher offers input signal for the pillow of the write, you ’ ll have a much better find of achiever if you can accommodate their wishes .
professionally presented manuscripts follow these submission guidelines :

  • Use Times New Roman font (avoid sans serif fonts).
  • Use 12-point type.
  • Left-justify your page. (This means your text should be aligned at the left margin, but not the right. This is also called “flush left, ragged right.”)
  • Double-space your page with no extra space between paragraphs.
  • Each paragraph should be indented one-half inch.
  • One space between sentences.
  • Microsoft Word .doc or .docx file format.
  • 1” top, bottom, and side margins (or whatever is standard in your Word program).

Editing Your Book

Though you ’ ve already spend countless hours editing your own employment, be ready to do more .
once a publisher accepts your manuscript, they assign an editor to suggest changes, possibly major ones .
Develop a thick peel and avoid defensiveness. You can argue your points, if necessary, but remember, they ’ re on your side and want the best finish product. A publish koran is not a solo. It ’ s a pas de deux between the writer and an editor program .
Let them do their job. Keep an open mind and remain easy to work with. They ’ ll commend.

4. Should You Self-Publish?

Exhaust your efforts to traditionally publish before resorting to self-publishing. even honest self-publishing executives would advise this. Why ? Because with traditional publish, the publisher takes all the risks, and you ’ re paid an advance against royalties and royalties based on sales. then nothing comes out of your pocket .
With self-publishing, however, you pay for everything, and packages can cost upwards of $ 10,000. even so called cooperative publishers, who ask you to cover lone promotion or invest in an initial wardrobe run, require a meaning investment .
back when self-publishing was referred to as “ conceit publish, ” you could always tell a self-published book from a traditionally published book due to schlocky covers, boring titles, the password by before the generator ’ second name on the cover, a misspell of the news Foreword or Acknowledgments, besides much replicate on the movement and back, sans serif font and department of the interior design, jerry-built edit and proofread, etc.

Admittedly, the game has changed.

Publishing your own book is vastly different than it used to be. Your end product can now look much more professional, and your price per book much more reasonable .
Print-on-demand technology allows for low-cost printing, so you can decree a few as two or three books at a time for the lapp price per script as you ’ vitamin d pay if you were buying hundreds .
sol, you no longer need to store countless copies in your garage or basement. And self-published books look nicer these days besides, because writers have demanded it.

How to Set Your Self-Published Book Apart

If you go this path, realize that it falls to you to advertise, promote, and marketplace your own koran. And though you ’ re earning profits after expenses, not precisely a royalty, don ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate assume this will net you more money per copy. You ’ ll be amazed at the expenses required before you see income. But of course it happens .
It ’ s besides rare that a self-published book finds its way to bookstore shelves outside the writer ’ s home township .
( The hard truth is that it ’ s not easy for even traditionally published authors to place their books in bookstores. Experts say a few as one percentage of all published books can be accommodated by bookstores and that the rest must be sold through other channels like the Internet, direct mail, and by hand. )

To give your self-published title the best chance to succeed, you need to invest in:

  • A great cover, which will involve purchasing a photo or artwork, type design, and layout
  • Inside layout, type design, and typesetting
  • Editing (resist the urge to use a relative who majored in English or even teaches English; book editing is a specific art)
  • Proofreading (same caveat as above; friends and loved ones who are meticulous spellers are not enough; there are myriad style matters to deal with)

Each of these elements will dramatically increase the professional expect of your final product and, therefore, your hope of selling more books. Do NOT skimp on them .
If you ’ ve always built a sign of the zodiac without a contractor, you have an theme of how complex this can be to do right .
sol despite that many self-published authors swear by it and believe it ’ s fairer to the generator than traditional print, I maintain that traditional remains the ideal—except for those unique titles targeted to deserving but very express audiences.

Choosing the Right Company to Self-Publish Your Book

More than 2 million books are self-published every year in the United States alone, so there are many companies to choose from. But sadly, many are wolves in sheep ’ second clothe .
They ’ ll let you create a poor merchandise and order you it ’ second great .
They ’ ll “ award ” you a abridge, telling you their publication board has “ evaluated ” your manuscript and “ found it worthy ” to be published .
They ’ ll tell you they ’ ra “ not a subsidy publisher ” or “ not a self-publisher ” or “ not an independent publisher. ”
But they ’ ll use another euphemism to justify the fact that you ’ re paying “ entirely for promotion ” or “ only for [ this many ] copies, ” or “ only for… ” something else, when the fact is that the tip will cover all their costs and will include their profit .
They ’ ll incriminate they can get your entitle before the eyes of every bookshop owner and director in the nation. They might even give examples of a few titles of theirs that have sold in some stores or even made some best seller list .
But they can ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate guarantee your title will be sold in any store. Because that list your title is on that is “ available ” to every store owner and director is merely a master list of all the books on some distributor ’ mho internet locate of every title in their catalogue. That means your ledger will get no personal attention from a salesperson and no more emphasis than any of the tens of thousands of other titles on the list .
such companies are using you as little more than a content generator, pretending to have “ chosen ” your record from among the many they have to choose from, when the fact is they would publish anything you send them in any shape, provided your accompanying confirmation clears the bank .

Be wary of any company that:

  • Doesn’t take seriously the editing and proofreading of your book
  • Lets you commit embarrassing typos
  • Allows the word by before your name on the cover
  • Over-promises what you should expect in the way of personal sales representation, public relations, marketing, distribution, and advertising

That said, when you do need to self-publish, legalize companies with proved chase records are quick and eager to assist you. Do your homework and go beyond an internet search, which will likely turn up beautiful websites for countless companies putting their best metrical foot forward .
Find previous customers and ask about their feel. You want a company who will answer every question squarely and without hesitation. If you feel hard-sold, run .
A litmus quiz doubt for the publisher : ask if they would advise you to exhaust your efforts to traditionally publish first. I asked this of the drumhead of WestBow Press™, a division of Thomas Nelson and Zondervan, and he said he always advises customers that this is the ideal road .
That kind of refreshing honesty bodes well for a company.

The #1 Killer of Self-Published Books

When writers run out of money to invest in their book, besides often the beginning place that suffers is the subject itself .
Writers may understand that they are not experts in cover design, layout and typeset, market and forwarding, repositing, distribution, and sales. But they overrate their writing and editing and proofreading abilities .
so, they invest in those other services and cut corners on editing and proofreading .
What they wind up with is a fine-looking product that looks like a real ledger but reads like the manuscript that made the rounds of the traditional houses and was rejected .
You must determine what will set you apart in a noisy marketplace .
That certain something that will set you apart is what it has always been :
Writing choice .
Having been in the write game for 50 years and an writer for more than 45, that is something I am able to tell you with certainty .
To use an ancient proverb, cream rises. Readers recognize quality .
You or your agent may be looking for a conduct from a traditional publisher. Or you may have chosen to self-publish on-line, in print, or both .
regardless, you want your manuscript to be of the highest editorial quality you can make it .

What does that mean?

It means you must :

  • Learn the craft and hone your skills. Rigorously study writing, do exercises, write stories, ferociously edit your work. It can all pay off. Just as with physical exercise, the more the better, but anything is better than nothing.
  • Recognize that writing well is much harder and more involved than you ever dreamed. If you thought writing was merely a hobby, this realization could crush you. So, to push through, remember why you wanted to become a writer in the first place: you have a message, and people need to hear it.
  • Don’t trust friends’ and relatives’ flattery. Sure, they’re great for encouragement, or keeping you from quitting. But when you need solid input on your writing, their enthusiasm won’t translate to sales.
  • Accept criticism and input from people who know what they’re talking about. Find an experienced writer or editor who’ll offer honest feedback on your work. Join a writers group. Attend writers conferences. Get a mentor.

If you truly want to become an author, it can be done. Don ’ metric ton allow the magnitude of the summons to overwhelm you. You ’ ll know you ’ re ready when you ’ re uncoerced to carve the time from your schedule to write. You won ’ thyroxine find the time ; you ’ ll have to create it .
Something on your calendar will have to give so you ’ ll make the clock time to write. What ’ ll it be ? What you ’ rhenium uncoerced to sacrifice will tell you how important your writing dream is to you. Welcome to the journey.

Want to write a book but don’t know where to start? Click here to download my ultimate guide to writing a book for FREE.

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