I’ve been writing since I could read. I have notebooks and journals galore, dating back to my early elementary years. From an early age I had no problem labeling myself as a writer.
But having the confidence to label myself an author came much later. By my late twenties I had written my Sherlock Academy Series, dabbled in self-publishing, and was leading a writer’s group. Yet I couldn’t muster the nerve to call myself an author. The reason? I hadn’t really taken myself seriously as an author, so why should others?
Then a seasoned author told me to attend the big Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators writing conference. I had to make a choice to take writing seriously by investing time and money into it—aka going to this conference. So, I sold my wedding dress to pay my way and spent three days in LA. And my life was changed. I found my tribe, I learned about the publishing industry, I heard editors and agents and authors talk about writing, and I got inspired.
From that day on, I owned being an author. I moved writing from Hobby to Profession. I invested time and money into professional development. And a funny thing happened: I got published.
Here’s the thing: while there is no guarantee to getting published, there are important steps to take if you’re wanting to pursue a writing career:
Whatever genre you write, stay informed on what’s being published. Peruse Barnes & Noble, scour Amazon, read Publisher’s Weekly. You want to write a children’s book? Know who are the big names and what they’re writing. You want to write YA? Check the New York Times best seller list or even the movie theatre list. (YA books are constantly being made into movies these days!) Know what’s on trend and who your competition is.
Attend workshops on writing, read books on writing, follow authors’ blogs, and listen to podcast interviews of authors. You must have a firm grasp not just on the mechanics of writing, but on the key parts of story. One of the first books I ever read was Keys to Great Writing, which gives a good overview of story components. Recently I read Writing Irresistible Kidlit. This book dives deeper into the nuances of writing.
It’s important to know how submissions work, how the publishing world operates, what roles editors play, and how agents work. Attend writing conferences, because editors and agents lead workshops and speak on panels. Learn how to write a good query letter and synopsis, and how to submit.
There is acceptance, inspiration, and growth to be gleaned from the writing community. Tap into it. Join or start a writer’s group where you critique each other’s work. Attend conferences and workshops both large and small. If you’re writing for kids, join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and attend their conferences. There are chapters of SCBWI all over the world, so find one in your area and check their calendar for events.
Create social media accounts for your writer/author self. Join social media writing groups. Follow authors and agents on Twitter. (The publishing industry is huge on Twitter.) When you attend a workshop or conference and there’s an option for critique, pay the extra money to submit your pages for an editor or agent to critique. Get ahold of the current Writer’s Market for up-to-date publishers and agencies to submit to. I have used the blog Literary Rambles to compile my agents list for submission.
Most importantly, just own it. If you’re serious about your writing, then take it seriously. Others will, too.