Sorry for the delay in getting part 2 done. We had some challenges with the hosting account (another blog for another day). We are back and ready to continue.
You can go back and read Part 1 or go forward to Part 3.
In part 1 I discussed the idea of the source of your writing and talent. You may disagree but I maintain that writing is not a magical process of inspiration but a combination of effort and talent.
I am going to offer a strategic approach to getting published. It is one that I followed and I believe has some logical merit. However, I am not delusional enough to believe that my path is the only path.. it is just a path. You may read another author whose path was completely different.
I would guess that your path will be slightly different. Opportunity is fluid.. it doesn’t happen one way in a some cookie cutter approach.
In fact, my path, while involving some strategic elements, was more or less a natural result of following opportunity as it came up, some wise and timely choices, and good old fashion luck. Most people, if they are persistent will use all 3 of those to get published.
Non-fiction as a starting point
Everyone wants to write the great American novel. I get it. But, 90% of the publishing world is non-fiction. There is always a need for great content in the form of blogs, articles, and books (e-books count too).
The simple fact that more non-fiction than fiction gets published is a pretty compelling reason to start there. Writing and publishing is a small world. If you get in with a publisher, chances are they have connections with other publishers across other genres and disciplines.
Some other reasons to consider a path to publishing through non-fiction:
Selling non-fiction is easier
You can sell a non-fiction book with a book proposal and 2 good chapters. Most fiction requires that the book be done. Unless you are a well-known author (in which case, this stategy is not necessary), the largely subjective world of fiction is a challenging place to break in.
Building a platform is simpler
Fiction does not lend itself to building a “platform.” Non-fiction does.
What is a platform?
We’ll discuss your platform in more detail in part 3. In short, your platform are those things that help you develop yourself as a subject matter expert and someone worth listening to. Publishers LOVE authors with a platform. This could be a radio show, a series of articles, a popular blog – etc. or a combination of many elements.
The platform helps your book sell and believe me, your publisher wants you to help sell your book.
The Why: What is it you have to say?
If you are going to get published as a non-fiction writer, you should have something to say. What is that? What experiences and ideas can you bring to the table.
Expertise is relative
Important: You don’t need someone else’s permission and you don’t need special degrees or credentials. They help, I won’t lie. But, in the end, good ideas and good writing can help you become a known subject-matter-expert. Start small, build from there. Local articles, a blog, etc. are all ways to establish yourself.
Also, don’t worry if what you have to say has been said. It never hurts to have someone provide additional insight into a good idea. If you have a unique way of expressing that idea, there is room for you at the table. Your particular advice and perspective, may be the voice that reaches a brand new audience.
The How: Writing talent is required
Be a good writer! Yes.. that matters. Not everyone who wants to write is a good writer. I alluded to The Elements of Style and On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. I enjoyed both of those. . You may find others that you like.. But beware, there is no silver bullet.
Avoid Writer Critique Groups
There.. I said it! The sad truth is, most writer’s critique groups are founded by, run by, and frequented by, writers who rarely write anything relevant and spend more time critiquing others who actually produce.
Instead, find a writer that you like and reach out to them. I don’t put my writing in front of critique groups. Whether new non-fiction or songwriting, I have some trusted go-to friends who I recognize as talented.. people who are “in the game.”
Another indication that you are a talented writer is that someone offers to pay you to write something. Yes, money talks and B.S. – well. It doesn’t.
Schedule a Time to Write
The last piece of advice to get you started today is that you schedule your writing time. If you want to get in shape, you setup a schedule and you work out – regularly. Writing is the same. Assuming you have some talent to start, you will improve through practice and through regular production.
I write in the mornings. It is quiet and with the combination of rest and coffee, I get a few good hours of ideas.
Do not believe the lie that you write when you are inspired. Most great writers write daily – inspiration or not. As Stephen King points out, “Your muse is a fickle bitch!” You can’t count on her (or him). That is actually encouraging because it means that you, muse or not, have everything you need right in your hot little finger tips. So.. write dammit!!
In Part 3 I will discuss building your platform in more detail. This will involve you “risking it all” and getting an article published… yes, reaching out and risking potential rejection. Scary eh?