The First Step to Becoming a Published Author
Writing a novel is daunting enough. Becoming a published author is just downright overwhelming. It’s not enough to just have a story that you’re passionate about. You also have to market yourself to an industry that’s wildly competitive and full of a zillion other voices all clamoring for the same thing: “Notice me! Notice me!”
Excuse me a moment, I need to go hyperventilate and reevaluate my goals and dreams.
So! You want to become a published author. You’ve got the story burning in your soul. You’ve got characters that have become dear companions. You’ve got grit, you’ve got determination, you’ve finally gotten over the crippling self-doubt that tells you that you’re never going to make it and you should just get a real job!
Okay, maybe “gotten over” is a strong phrase. But at least you’re doing a good job pretending it’s not there. (Also, definitely consider that ‘real job’ if your bank account is suffering. Responsibility should never take a backseat to dream-chasing, but that’s a story for another day.)
ANYWAY. You want to become a published author. But query letters are daunting and how do you even find an agent anyway? Wait, do you even need an agent? Maybe you should just self-publish and save yourself the trouble of facing rejection. Is all this stress and heartache really worth it?
If you’re like me, then these might be some of the questions you’re asking yourself as you get started on the road to becoming a published author. These are probably the questions you’re asking if you clicked on the link to read this blog post, hoping that this Sarah Danielle chick might have the answers for you.
Well, you’ve come to the right place! Because—actually wait, no, I have no idea.
Wait, wait, wait! Don’t back out yet! That’s the point!
I don’t know yet what it’s going to take for me to become a published author, because I’m not there yet. It has been 31 days since I decided that this was an endeavor I was going to pursue. I’m only one month into the 10-year goal I set for myself to get published. (Published before 40! Woo! *Fingers crossed*)
But that’s what this blog is going to be about. This is my journey to becoming published. Everyone’s journey will look different, but my goal here is to share with you my successes and my failures to help you navigate your own path.
And so, to begin with, I want to share with you the first and most important step I have learned that is necessary to becoming a published author: Show up.
The First Step to Becoming Published: Just Show Up.
This might sound simple, but for me, it has been the greatest obstacle I’ve had to overcome. 100% of writers who don’t let their work leave the comfort of their own screens never get published. (I made that up, but it sure sounds right.)
You can hide behind draft after draft, telling yourself that your story must be perfect before anyone can see it, but here’s the thing. It will never be perfect. You and I, by ourselves, will never create masterpieces such as The Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter.
We cannot compare our first or even fifth drafts of writing to published works because the books we read on the shelves have been crafted by whole teams of professionals. There may only be one author’s name on the cover of the book, but if you read through their Acknowledgements section, there are a slew of names who impacted the final product.
That doesn’t mean we don’t work to perfect what we have. We absolutely should do the best that we can with our stories. We should polish and edit ruthlessly. But we should not let the process hold us back from starting the journey to becoming published.
When should you show up?
At a local writers’ conference I attended, there was a panel discussion on marketing. One of the points I remember poignantly is that the right time to start marketing your book is before you’ve even written it.
Excuse me, what?
How do I market a book that I haven’t written? How do I start advertising a work that doesn’t have a title? How do I promise people a story that may never get picked up by a publisher?
Well, spoiler alert, you’re reading about it. This blog, this whole website, is how I am showing up. There are three works in progress listed on my homepage, only one of which I can guarantee will go out into the world because I am going to share it for free on Substack.
Honestly, I feel like an absolute imposter creating this blog and putting myself on Instagram as a writer. I am terrified of offering writing advice and then proving I don’t take my own advice when my work, Forsaken By Shadows, finally sees the light of day. The last thing I want to be branded as is a novice and a hypocrite.
But the truth is, I am a writer. And so are you. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never sold a story before. If writing is in your soul, you are a writer. If you stay up late pounding keys on your keyboard or plotting new miseries for your protagonist, you’re a writer. You know if you’re a writer.
So don’t wait for someone else to say it before you feel like you can justly claim the label as your own. Present yourself proudly. Make an Instagram, start a blog. Tell the world about your passion project.
Show Up Right Where You’re At