What do you think of when you hear the phrase “published author?” Do you imagine a writer who has published a book? Or a writer who has published an article in a magazine?
Most writers dream about traditionally publishing their work. They want their words to be shared on a grand scale. But traditional publishing isn’t necessarily the best route for your writing.
In this blog post, we will teach you how to reframe publishing, and share how your writing can improve with a new mindset.
Traditional Publishing—Why Writers Desire It
Traditionally, publishing refers to the creation and distribution of printed works, like books, newspaper articles, and magazine features.
When writers imaging being published, this is most often what they envision. A byline proves they credibility. No doubt, traditional publishing is a form of external validation. There is something fulfilling about being selected by an external publisher. While we might believe that a traditional publisher will provide a larger audience, the truth is there are many authors who publish non-traditionally with much larger audiences. They’ve built large audiences from faithfully publishing regularly in non-traditional ways, like blogging, posting to social media, or podcasting.
The flip side it true, as well. There are many writers who publish traditionally and are never read. There writing simply isn’t good (yes, even bad writers are published traditionally).
A writer can feel like they’re “part of the elite few” if they traditionally publish. But remember it’s just a feeling.
The Imposter Syndrome can never be solved through external validation, though. It is something most writers will struggle with the entirety of their writing lives.
How to Reframe Publishing—Why You Need to Change Your Mindset
A good writer needs a purpose bigger than simply “being published.” And as Stephen King said, “Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well.” So, how do you find your purpose? One way is to reframe your views on publishing.
The word “publish” comes from the Latin word “publica” which means, to be made public. If we focus on this definition, then publication can include submissions to digital magazines, presentations via webinars, and even posts on social media.
In each of these cases, you become the publisher.
Isn’t this why we publish? Because we have words we want to make public? Words that can influence, educate, or tell a story?
Reframe your desire to publish and you will have a better understanding of why you write.
Why We Publish—The Benefits of Non-Traditional Publishing
When you reframe publishing, you can take a more active role in your publishing life.
Depending on the source...
When you’re writing a book, two questions first-time writers most often ask are: How do I land a book deal? and How do I market it so it is read?
We sat down with Robin Zachary, author of Styling Beyond Instagram: Take Your Prop Styling Skills from the Square to the Street, who shared her roundabout path to landing a book deal and how she plans to promote her book to increase sales immediately following its release and also in the years to come.
In this blog post, you will learn the best approaches to land a book deal, and how to market your book to increase book sales.
All You Need is a Connection
Publishing houses receive dozens, if not hundreds, of manuscript submissions a day. Their process of elimination is brutal and quick. And if you don’t make an immediate impression, your manuscript will be rejected. The rejection doesn’t mean your book is “bad,” it just might not be a good fit for a particular publisher, as Zachary found out.
At a conference for creatives, Zachary attended multiple workshops and seminars with published authors who shared their experience getting published. Most of them said, “The publisher found me.” Zachary wondered, “What about the rest of us?”
Later at the conference Zachary sat down with a publisher who expressed that her book idea wasn’t “publishable.” Tough words. So tough, Zachary decided she likely would self-publish the book and use it as a teaching tool.
But things quickly shifted when she had a chance meeting with an acquaintance at that same conference. Zachary shared her idea, and her friend said, “That sounds like a book the publisher of my book would be interested in!” A few weeks later, Zachary’s friend reached out for a book proposal she could pass on to the publisher.
Often the best way to land a book deal is through a connection like this. It’s a warm introduction. The person acts as a proxy for trust.
That being said, you also should be looking to ways to nurture relationships and support people you know. Give without the expectation of gaining. You just never know when you might receive a gift in return.
Attend a Conference
Many people attend conferences and writer’s workshops with the expectation that they will find an agent or land a book deal with a publisher. But often these workshops are intermediate steps to landing a deal. View these gatherings as opportunities to learn from other people’s experiences, learn more about the industry, make connections, and share your unique ideas.
You might not land a book deal, but you’ll create valuable relationships—that might pay off like they did for Zachary. You never know who might have a connection!
Market Your Book to Your Ideal Audience
While you’re writing your book, you need to begin to think about how to market your book to increase sales. In fact, even as you write your book you should be...
We all remember our high school research papers. Twelve or so pages of regurgitated facts, figures, and quotes. And completely devoid of voice. To describe them as boring would be an understatement.
Nobody really teaches you how to not lose your voice in your research. They just teach you how to cite research.
That’s a problem for authors of nonfiction writing in particular, who must find a way to use research to support or apply their idea. Because a book isn’t the research. The book is a unique idea.
When writers spend hours researching for their projects, the temptation is to include every single quote and study that supports their argument. Or, to use long, cumbersome block quotes that interrupt the narrative flow.
Quite simply, too much research can overpower your voice and lose your reader.
We sat down with Melinda Moyer, author of How to Raise Kids Who Aren’t Assholes: Science-Based Strategies for Better Parenting—from Tots to Teens. As the title suggests, Moyer’s book is science-based and research-driven. Yet Moyer artfully maintains her individual voice—even in the midst of research.
In this blog post, we share two tips on how to not lose your voice in your research.
Reframe Your Research
Unless you’re writing a PhD dissertation, research is best when it is buried. That means, as a writer you incorporate the ideas into your own voice, rather than simply reporting what others have discovered, often through long quotes. Allow your voice to weave all the ideas (and voices of other writers and researchers) together.
How do you do this?
Start by collecting nuggets of research that relate to your idea. Create documents labeled by subject/idea matter, and drop quotes into the correlating subject documents. You might put the same quote into more than one doc, as you wrestle with how to best use the research. Sometimes, the research will pop up more than once in your writing. That’s fine, too. If it’s an important idea, it might demand revisiting.
Once you have written down the quotes verbatim, rework those nuggets of wisdom with your own words—in a way that the average person will find interesting. You become the translator of information that might be too dense for the average reader.
The key is to not simply regurgitate direct quotes. Through reframing the research, your voice will remain unique and present in your text.
Break It Up with Story!
To keep your reader’s attention, you need to continually tap into the reader’s emotion. One way to do this is through story. Stories bring to life the research by applying it or illustrating it.
Check out Moyer’s article ‘I Had Never Felt Worse’: Long Covid Sufferers Are Struggling With Exercise. She starts her article with a personal story. And then connects this story to her research. In a research-dense article that could be boring and overwhelming, personal stories allow your voice to...
“I have a manuscript, but is it ready for submission?”
Maybe. Maybe not.
There’s no magical formula for what will catch an editor’s attention. Sometimes editors just follow their gut.
But with years of publishing experience under our belt, we know a few things about what manuscripts catch the attention of editors—and which ones are trashed.
Check out our 8 must-dos to get an editor’s attention.
Follow the Yellow Brick Road—Writer’s Guidelines
One of the most basic yet important steps is to follow the guidelines established by publishing houses. Guidelines are your guide in getting one step closer to being published. This is a step you can’t skip, but aspiring writers often bypass.
Publishing houses have varied and strict guidelines on how to submit material. Before you submit a manuscript, research the houses you want to reach out to. Determine whether there is a specific word count, a letter to be included, or other necessary guidelines to be completed before submission.
If you have a personal connection who can get your work in front of an editor, you may be able to bypass this step. If not, your writer’s guidelines are your first step to making the connection!
Publishing houses have their own niches. And they have a definitive audience in mind whom they want to serve. This is true for magazines and book publishers. It’s important that you recognize what stories the publishing house is interested in. Figure out what they want. If you don’t have material that fits into the house’s niche, don’t waste your time on a submission.
If your material does relate, then think about the audience the house wants to serve. Ask yourself: “Who is their audience? Is my manuscript a good fit for this audience? Do I have an expertise that would benefit their ideal audience?” Make sure your material provides some sort of value to their audience. And in the pitch letter (if they ask for one), make sure to reference your understanding of their target audience.
Hook ‘Em to Win ‘Em
Editors are drowning in unsolicited manuscripts. If you want yours to be the one that pulls them up for air, you have to hook them. Your first sentence/paragraph of your manuscript must breathe some energy into the editor—at the very least, make them think “This is fresh! And they can write!”
Editors have limited time. They scan the first paragraph and might skip to the conclusion. But they typically will not read the middle. You don’t have time to build up to some dazzling insight or prove you have writing chops.
One caveat: when writing your opening, stay away from clichés—ideas and phrases. Clichés reflect unsophisticated thinking and writing. Find a unique angle on your subject.
Also, create some tension that demands the editor’s attention.
If you’re looking to pitch an article, do some...
“I have an idea for a memoir. But I don’t know how to structure it. What do I do?”
A memoir, like any book, needs to be structured. It needs to provide a compelling story and maintain your reader’s attention.
We spoke with Anna LeBaron, author of The Polygamist’s Daughter, who grew up in a cult. In her memoir, she chronicles her coming of age in the midst of a volatile atmosphere, one in which she was on the run from authorities. Her story is structured in a way that demands your attention from the beginning until the end.
In this blog post, we share the best tips on how to structure your memoir.
Find Your Angle
There is a book, blog or article written about every idea.
In Anna’s case, multiple books were written about her family and her villainous father. Out of all the books written on her family, not one chronicled the experience of the children. So she wrote from the perspective of a child. Her memoir provided a new perspective to an old topic.
When you think about your own memoir, ask yourself: “What does my story provide to my reader?” and “How does my story differ from others?”
For instance, loss of a child, addiction, dysfunctional families, poverty—all of these subjects have been discussed at length before. And it is more difficult to find a literary agent if you simply rehash what has already been written on these subjects. That’s not to say you can’t write on these topics. But to do so effectively, you have to provide a fresh take. What in your story is fresh?
Your Structure Needs Some Thinking—And Tension
Once you have an angle to work with, you need to structure your memoir in a way that keeps your reader’s interest.
Your structure can be written in chronological order, or a change between past and present, or center it on a message or theme you want to share, with no particular reference to chronology. Each of these options can be effective in storytelling, if you build on the proper tension.
The chronological structure presents a linear story. This is effective if you withhold information from the reader and/or allude (foreshadow) to coming problems.
Anna structured her book as a chronological timepiece of her childhood. She did not use flashbacks nor foreshadowing to build the tension. Instead, she maintained tension by withholding information. The reader learns pertinent information—such as when she learned that her father was a murderer—at the same time she did as a child. This technique keeps her reader engaged.
A “past vs. present” memoir structure is used to compare life events without being held back by chronology. This technique is most effective through the use of flashbacks and flashforewords.
“I’ll Push You,” a memoir about two friends—one confined to a wheelchair—and their journey on the 500-mile Camino de Santiago trek, uses past vs.present structure. The memoir...
What if I told you that your dream will come true and you’ll publish a book?
Now, what if I told you it will take 14 years before you get published?
That’s bittersweet, right? Jennifer Risher, author of We Need to Talk, a memoir about wealth, attended multiple writer’s conferences and rewrote hundreds of manuscripts for her book. And she was rejected each time. It took her 14 years before she would be published.
In this blog post, we talk about what to do when your book is rejected—specifically how you can use the time to improve your writing and thinking for a better book.
Rejection Is Not the End of Your Story
Rejection can make you feel like your story “isn’t good enough.” But don’t let it dampen your passion for your idea. Jennifer believed she had a story that needed to be told. Her constant rejection—partly due to publishers’ bias about her topic, wealth—further solidified her belief that she needed to share her story. Rejection might have been a setback, but it didn’t permanently derail her. She chugged along for 14 years, rewriting her manuscripts, improving her writing, and fine-tuning her thesis until she published her book.
Too many people give up on their story too soon. Refer to our talk with literary agent, Adria Goetz, who’s heard of people facing a hundred rejections before connecting with a publisher. Sometimes it’s the 101st time that is the big breakthrough.
Do you believe in the story you’re writing? Do you believe it needs to be shared? If you answered yes, then keep writing. Rejection is not the end of your story.
What to Do When Your Book Is Rejected: Ask, “Do I Have a Solid Thesis?”
There is a payoff to 14 years of rejection—other than finally getting published. You’re offered time to get into the weeds of your book. To improve your writing.
Embrace the opportunity to mature as a thinker and writer.
If your project was rejected, consider redefining your thesis. All nonfiction books—memoirs included—must include a meta idea, or thesis. It’s the main focus of your book! It might be why you were rejected. Jennifer came to realize, during her years of rewrite, that she lacked a solid thesis. Her book did not have a purpose other than for her to emote her experiences. She realized she needed to define, sharpen and refine her thesis.
To define your thesis, you’ll need to reconsider your core audience. You may find that your rejected manuscript was written to a general audience. You’ll want to position your writing for your minimal viable audience. Ask yourself: “Who am I writing this book for?” Specify your audience based on your answer. This will help you determine what subject you’re writing on.
What To Do When Your Book Is Rejected: Redefine Your Narrative Arc
Once you’ve determined your core audience, consider your narrative...
“How do I get published in the Harvard Business Review…or another prestigious publication?”
For many business professionals, this question is always at the forefront. To get published in the Harvard Business Review or other top tier publications is to feel like you’ve made it. You’ve got credibility.
But, if it were easy to do, everyone would have a featured article. It’s not easy.
We sat down with Rose Hollister, author of Nobody Told Me and a consultant who specializes in business performance onboarding, to talk about how she got published in the Harvard Business Review, Forbes, and MIT Sloan Management Review.
Connections Build Success
Forbes, Harvard Business Review, MIT Sloan Management Review, receive dozens of submissions every day. And they discard dozens of submissions daily. So, what submissions snag their attention?
Familiar names. Writers whom they have worked with prior. Writers whom they trust and whose work is acceptable.
If you’re name isn’t familiar, work your network. Connect with published writers, build solid relationships, and then share your ideas with published writers.
Rose did just that. Early on in her career, Rose was introduced to Michael Watkins, a published, best-selling author who is also published in Harvard Business Review. Rose made an effort to get to know Michael, and once they became close acquaintances, she started to share her ideas with him.
One day, while at a client site with Michael, Rose shared another one of her ideas. Michael approved of the idea and when Rose returned to her home that night, she wrote down her first draft.
She didn’t dawdle. She committed to her idea, completed the first draft, and sent her copy to Michael. They entered an agreement to co-write a piece. A piece that would be published in Harvard Business Review.
Learn from Rose. Step out of your comfort zone, be friendly, and network your path to publication.
Don’t Miss the Opportunity
It’s easy to think an idea to death. And never actually get started writing.
When Rose shared her idea with Michael and received his greenlight, she immediately started writing. She didn’t hesitate. She didn’t question whether or not she should—or could—write a piece for the Harvard Business Review. She took initiative of the project and put in the hard work.
When opportunities come your way, seize them. Don’t allow self-doubt, perceived lack of experience, or fear control your decision. When you’re presented with an opportunity to write or co-write for a significant publication, accept it!
It will require significant effort on your part. And if you’re working with one or more co-authors, you will encounter problems between partnerships. But the payoff is worth it.
Co-Writing—What You Need to Know
When you finally receive the opportunity to publish in a prestigious magazine, you might encounter the difficulties of...
Writing a book is not a solo act. You need the support of editors and readers. Launching a book isn’t a solo act, either.
You need a team—a book launch team—to create buzz beyond your immediate circle in the weeks leading up to its release.
Recently, we spoke with book launch manager Kaitlyn Bouchillon, who explained what a book launch team is and how to optimize the reach of your team.
Book Launch Team? Never Heard of It
A book launch team is a group of people who volunteer to support your book’s release. They are your cheerleaders. They are your support team from behind the scenes.
You provide your members with early access to your book, either a digital copy or an ARC (advanced reader copy). This way, your team knows exactly what your book is about—the message, the characters, the storyline. They’re prepared to talk about your book. And share it with the public. Essentially, they market your book before its release date.
Book launch teams are not confined to self-publishers. If you’re working with a traditional publisher, you can request a launch team to work with your marketing team. It is possible to manage your own launch team. Many do to save money.
But, managing a launch team can also be stressful. You’re in charge of securing reviews for your book and encouraging your team members to promote your work—which can be awkward for some people who aren’t used to asking for help. You have to tell them what to post, and when to post. In the weeks leading up to your book launch, this may cause additional stress to your already busy life.
So, what should your launch team do?
Reviews! Reviews! Reviews!
A reader will be interested in your book based on the blurb or cover. They will then read reviews about your book to determine if they should buy it. Reviews are important for you book sales and should be an expected part of your launch team.
Amazon rank books depending on their reviews. If a book receives regularly posted reviews, it will receive a higher ranking. On Goodreads, members can catalog which books they want to read, are currently reading, or have read. If your launch team members catalog your book on Goodreads, your book will gain traction.
Reviews are a staple to a book launch. And a necessity if you want to increase book sales.
Social Media Is Your Greatest Ally
One of the best ways to promote your book is through social media.
These postings range from serious, long posts reserved for personal blogs or Facebook. To fun videos on TikTok, shortened reviews on Instagram, and book cover postings on Twitter and Pinterest.
The buzz on social media will encourage potential readers to check out your book on Amazon or Goodreads. The more traffic for your book, the better!
I Want a Team—Now What?
Your first step is to outline your main goals. Do you want more social media shares? Do you want more book reviews? What do you care about the most? Determining your...
“Is this vanity press?” “Are you going to control the rights?” “Do I have to pay a lot?”
These are common questions writers ask when considering self-publishing.
We spoke with Steven Spatz, President of BookBaby, who answers all these questions, and offers four cornerstones to self-publishing—including one that too many authors never put into place.
BookBaby is a self-publishing services provider. They give every bit of advice, tools, and access to the marketing place that a writer needs. Here’s the best part: they never take control of your book. You maintain full autonomy.
As Steven puts it, “You’re the contractor. We help you out with the subcontractor, the roofer, the plumber, and we help you get your book out into the marketplace. But you never lose control over your book.”
You retain creative control. Financial control. And legal control.
So, why else should you consider self-publishing? What benefits do you reap? Continue reading to learn more.
Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
In traditional publishing, you have a team of experts helping you chug along. So why shouldn’t you have the same for self-publishing?
The answer: you deserve a team too. Publishing a book is not something you need to do alone. In fact, you shouldn’t publish a book by yourself.
You deserve an editor, cover designer, and other professionals to review your book. You also need somebody who can get you into book stores and help you distribute your book.
You need a professional team, like BookBaby, though there are many other self-publishing service providers. Look for experts experienced in publishing. Pay for their services, or enlist the help of others whom you know with the experience you need. This will guarantee a successful self-publishing experience.
Editing Is Your Best Friend
You’ve likely read a self-published book riddle with errors a stiff proof would have caught. This is one reason self-publishing has been regarded as an inferior publishing method.
Readers want a quality book with few mistakes. They’re spending their money and time to read your work. Give them what they want, and what you deserve: a great product.
Your book should be the best version of itself. Which means you need good editing and a great design.
You can’t avoid editing. It’s foundational to all publishing. And you can never proof too much. When your book is ready and you’ve proofed it a hundred times, print out a physical copy and proof it once more.
It may seem tedious but proofing a physical copy of your project will prove useful. Our eyes grow lazy after staring at a screen for too long. And you also scan rather than read. You will miss stupid mistakes. But with a physical copy, you’ll find these mistakes much easier, because you slow down. At the end of the day, you want to submit a near-perfect copy of your work.
You also want a compelling design for your...
Where do you find an agent? How do you query them? What if they reject your work?
Querying an agent can be downright daunting. You first wonder, Where do I find an agent? And once you find a handful, your inside screams, “She’ll probably laugh at my writing!”
We sat down with literary agent Adria Goetz who shared her tips on querying an agent, what to include in your query letter, and why you should be querying agents, even if you’re rejected the first time.
How to Query an Agent
There are a couple different ways to query agents.
Dig into the guide books available at Barnes and Noble or on Amazon, which provide information about various agents. Check out Guide to Literary Agents 2020—the most popular guide book out there.
Conferences are another great place to connect with agents. Throughout the conference, you have opportunities to meet face-to-face and pitch them your project.
But don’t expect a contract. While some authors successfully connect with agents, the reality is agents rarely pick up authors from conferences. Adria, in fact, has only signed one or two agents from a conference.
Traditional Querying: Still the Best Route
The best way to connect with literary agents, come to find out, is the traditional way.
Adria says she connects with most of her clients through the email slush pile of manuscript submissions she receives. Traditional querying is a great means to reach out to individual agents you have researched. You are solely querying those you’re interested in—and who (if you’ve done your research) might be interested in your writing.
The downside to this method is the overwhelming volume of manuscript submissions agents receive on the daily. You’re not the only person querying an agent. You have 20 seconds to make an impression, or it will likely be rejected.
Tweet, Tweet, Tweet: Connecting with Agents via Twitter
Another option for querying is through Twitter, where agents lurk. Once you follow a couple of agents, you will follow the breadcrumbs to more agents. Follow them. Comment on their posts. Become a familiar name to a handful of agents who cover writers of your genre.
But Adria says, do not (do not!) DM these agents with your pitches. Instead, participate in Twitter pitch event days.
Throughout the year, Twitter designates a few days for pitch events. During these events, agents are actively looking for fresh projects.
You can tweet a pitch of your project using a specific hashtag. For example, #PitMad is used to tweet a pitch for unpublished novels. This is the only hashtag for nonfiction projects. Another hashtag to check out is #PassOrPages. It’s used for agent feedback on queries.
Editors and agents scroll through these hashtags and request to see your project if your work piques their interest. If you’re nervous about querying, this is a great opportunity. Agents request to see your work rather than you submitting a manuscript and...