So the last couple of days I’ve read over some questions you’ve had about my first and second book deal. I know not all of you are looking to become authors, but if you are, here are my best tips, from an ole two-timer:
1) Find your voice, and find the book you truly believe you are born to write: Write for a couple of years. Write blogs. Freelance. Sometimes for free, sometimes for not. Write in journals and on a million word documents. Find your best voice: not the voice of your favorite authors, not the voice you think people like the most, but YOUR VOICE. Finetune that voice to near perfection, then rip it apart and start over. Once you find this growling voice, find the book that that voice wants to write. Don’t just come up with a concept at 3am while staying up late. Come up with parts of your soul. Come up with a book you would want to write even if nobody would read it. Or, you know, a kitschy coffee table book. One of the two will get picked up. I’m almost kidding.
2) Learn to get rejected: I get rejected all the fucking time. People will hate my second book. People DID hate my first book. And mostly, I don’t care. Sometimes I care, but mostly, I don’t. Learn to take criticism, and learn to feel like nobody will ever like your stuff, and learn to feel like shit. And then keep writing, and keep working, and do it all because you really want to.
3) Write a proposal: For fiction books, you’ll just straight up need to write the whole thing. I know. It stinks. I’m working on my fiction proposal now, and it’s a whole different animal. But, if you want to go non-fiction, you’ll need to write a proposal first. A proposal consists of (usually): a) an intro that explains why you are qualified to write the book you are about to propose, even though you’re not a Real Housewife. It includes the types of books your book will be like, social media stats if you have them, and why your book would sell well. b) Two completed chapters c) A summary of the other chapters. The whole thing is about 40 pages long. Make it neat. Make it good. Make it free of error.
4) Get an agent: I strongly recommend sending your proposal to book agents before you send it to publishers. They do get a cut of your earnings (around 15%), but they can get you meetings with bigger publishing companies and work out a better cash deal for you. Research companies, and then research agents and the kinds of books they sell. Send it to people you think sells books like yours, and that you would jive with. Send them an email, and then send them a follow-up email, and then send them another follow-up. Find an agent that believes in you, and will give you constructive criticism and honest opinions without trying to change everything you write.
5)Send to publishers you love Find publishers and editors you are familiar with. Find publishers that buy books like yours. Meet with more than one if you have to. Realize this could take years to come to fruition. But do your research. Hold your head up high. And be confident in your shit, even if you think it will get rejected.
6) Be Fucking Patient: Writing a book takes years. Getting a publisher, working out a deal, and getting it printed also takes years. It’s all a giant waiting game. Work other jobs. Don’t count on publishing money. Get used to waiting weeks even if they say days.
7) Get rejected. Seriously: If a couple of rejections makes you want to curl up in a ball, get the fuck up and keep going. If you want to be a writer, you gotta take the downs with the ups. And if you do get a book deal, expect to edit your shit a million times. So learn now: don’t be afraid to cut your best lines if they don’t fit in with your chapter. Cut paragraphs. To be a good writer, you also have to be a decent editor. So reject your own stuff, too.
8) Don’t expect to be rich: Ha. Ha. HA.
9) Find out who you really are: Find out how many rejections you can take. Find out how much you are willing to change about your writing. Find out how late you can stay up writing. Find out how many no’s you can hear before you hear a yes. Find out if self-publishing is the way to go, instead. Do your research. Try. Keep trying, and don’t give up until your knuckles are bleeding.
Listen, I was super lucky with my publisher and agent and subsequent book deals, but nothing is smooth sailing ever. I’ve had my fair share of ‘no’ and I’ve cried and screamed and pinched pennies a lot in my last years. But fuck it, I like being a writer, and being a writer sometimes likes me back. Sometimes.