road sign on road that splits with four arrows, all pointing to "Right way"

Universal Truths for Authors

laptop on table with mouse and glasses

Usually New Year’s Day is a time where I reflect back and clarify goals and feel positive about moving forward in the new year. This year was kind of a muddle. What do I do with my manuscripts? What genre are they? How much more work do they need? Should I be putting more time in as a freelance editor, instead of writing?

As nothing came together, I did what I do when I need clarity: put the questions “out there” and then walked away. Over the next few weeks, some ideas came to me—not specific answers but general guidance. As of January 2019, I think these things are true. (If you disagree or have alternate ideas, please share your thoughts in the comments.)

Things Authors Should Do

Regardless of how you decide to publish, doing these things will help you:

Categorized romance novels in my library
  • Find your readers (or, for beginners like me, potential readers). Preferably, connect with them directly (e.g., they subscribe to your blog or sign up for your mailing list). Also connect with them via an intermediary (e.g., a social media platform).
  • Hone your craft and keep revising your manuscript. Learn through classes, webinars, conference sessions, reading about craft, working with various types of editors, and using beta readers. Each time you think your novel is done, learn more and then see if you want to revise again.
  • Read everything in and around your genre and sub-genre. If like me, you don’t have good comparable titles, read as many possibilities as you can. I have recently categorized them on a shelf in my library. Know exactly where your book fits and, therefore, who your readers are.

A Word About Publishing

signpost with two arrows pointing "this way" and "that way" with a daffodil

This seems to be the current state of publishing, based on what I’ve gleaned from fellow authors and agents at conferences:

  • A handful of books/authors are discovered and cherished and published as they are, and are allowed to change the industry. Most authors, though, have to write what already sells to get published traditionally.*
  • In addition, since most publishers require authors to have an agent, the author must either write what appeals to a certain agent or find an agent who already likes what the author writes (or who thinks it will sell).

So there it is. I’d love to hear any universal truths you’ve discovered or questions you are mulling over.

*Please note: I’m not saying anyone has to write what already sells. Just that it seems to be what it takes to be traditionlly published.


2 responses to “Universal Truths for Authors”

  1. This sounds about right to me and is consistent with everything I’ve learned about writing songs. One thing I’ve noticed, however, is that my audience has changed over time, and as a result, I’ve had to change with it. Overall, however, this has been very good – it allowed me to grow, personally – and it allowed my audience to grow.

    1. Thanks for sharing your insight, Josh. I hadn’t thought about an audience changing over time, but it’s a good thing to keep in mind.

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