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5 Things I Wish Every Author Knew
Contributor
Written by
Brooke Warner
November 2014
Outlining
Contributor
Written by
Brooke Warner
November 2014
Outlining

In my work with authors I see every kind of personality, and I’ve seen firsthand all the ways writers trip themselves up. In my book, What’s Your Book?, I wrote about an irony I see in my work—that the two seemingly opposing mindsets of “I am special” and “I am shit” paralyze writers in similar ways. The “special” folks get tripped up by envy and frustration and impatience; the “shit” folks get bogged down by the debilitating notion that others are better, that their work sucks, and that no one will want to read their book.

These are five things I wish I every author could carry with them through their writing journey. Though they’re all things people know, writing a book is one of those experiences that causes rational people to sometimes lose perspective, if not their sanity. So here's a reminder to keep your eye and your heart on what matters as you write.

1. Your first book won’t make you any money or bring you fame.

I don’t start with this to be a downer as much as to encourage you, especially if you’re just starting, to keep your eye on the long-term vision. If you only have one legacy book you intend to publish, skip to #2, but if you want to become an author, you need to be thinking about writing and publishing more books. Mark Nepo, now a New York Times best-selling author, once told me that he was happy he’d kept writing even when no one was listening. With so many voices out there, it’s easy to feel like putting your content out into the world is pointless at times. But your content is your legacy, and once you start building a following, you’ll want and need that inventory—your blog posts, your bylines, or previously published books. Being an author is like training for an epic marathon. You can rest, and even take days off, but don’t give up on your training when it feels hard. Just like in life, the real rewards come from sticking with it. 

2. Getting published will change your life, but maybe not in the way that you think.  

Though getting published is not likely to bring you money or fame, it will open doors. Being a published author is game-changer for executives, leaders, and coaches. It’s your calling card; it will open doors and bring you clients. For novelists and memoirists, your book gives you instant cred. You’re an expert for having accomplished the feat. You can teach and sit on panels and share your knowledge with others who aspire to do what you’ve done. Remember to be a good ambassador to the literary world, and embrace your new role with humility.

3. Don’t worry about the competition.

Too many writers I work with lose faith when they discover a book that’s “just like mine.” And though there’s an old truism that there’s no such thing as a new idea, aspiring authors often forget this truth when they set out to write a book. Take heart, because there are plenty of ways to put a new spin on old ideas. There will always be room for the quest memoir, the epic family novel, the real-life tale of courage, the re-imagined true story. Allowing yourself to sink into despair because someone “stole” your idea, or got it first, is playing the victim. Things do not happen to you. You make things happen.

4. There are many paths to getting published, and what worked for someone else might not be what works for you.

Your friend’s story about her colleague who got a traditional publishing deal after just one week of shopping her book may serve as a beacon of hope, but it’s more likely to set you up for disappointment. What about those self-published authors who are quitting their jobs because they’re making millions of dollars a year off of all their book profits? Same thing. Let these stories be an inspiration, but don’t let them drive you. Don’t let other people’s accomplishments be a way in which you measure yourself against others. Start to educate yourself about your publishing options, and have a plan, and a backup plan. Decide up front whether you will publish no matter what; if the answer is yes, you’ll find your way.

5. Your voice matters, and your readers are out there.

You will encounter a crisis of confidence (or two, or three, or four) on your writing journey. Then another when you are ready to publish, and another when your book comes out into the world. There will be highs and lows, and you must weather the lows by arming yourself with affirmations! Remember why you set out to write your book in the first place. Get in touch with that spark that first inspired you: to touch another; to help someone; to entertain someone; because you had to. Whatever your reason was, let it be your motivator. That original spark holds a kernel of truth for you that you can tend to and flame to grow bigger, or forget about and deny and let die. You choose.

I'd love to hear from you. What do you know to be true about writing, publishing, and authorship? What hard-earned wisdom have you gained from publishing your work that you wish others knew? Share your wisdom with us!

 

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Comments
  • Brooke Warner Outlining

    Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  • Carol Ungar

    Great post! My first book is coming out in May--a narrative cookbook and a much better known author already has a book out with the same title (Janna Gur, Jewish Soul Food). Thank you for your grounding and at the same time hopeful message. Best

  • Leslie Johansen Nack

    As always Brooke, I love all the ways you keep me informed and educated! You're the best! #5 is the most important to me, so thanks especially for that one!

  • Linda K. Sienkiewicz

    Thank you for good solid survival points!

  • Dana Alexander Writing

    Excellent post, Brooke!  You filtered through the slurry of information floating in the writing world and put out some  key elements a writer should keep close to heart.  I wish I'd found this info when I had started writing!  Would have saved me hours/days in researching the business of writing. :)

  • Brooke Warner Outlining

    Love all of your insights. Thank you. Eileen, I find that so many first-time authors have these grand aspirations/expectations. In some ways I think it's wonderful. It's important to soar and believe that anything can happen. This is the beauty of book publishing. You never know. But in other ways it ends up being detrimental in the sense that not having that success can stop people from pursuing a next book, or make them feel like the whole thing wasn't worth it. I'm glad that's not what happened to you! :)

  • Alexa Poul

    Good job my friend Brooke Warner. Thank you for sharing.

  • Lois Heise

    Thank you for sharing what we need to know and remember. I really liked "Things do not happen to you. You make things happen." 

  • Pat Roa-Perez

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom. 

    I've been in this business now for about a year and have experienced and learned a lot. And the most important lesson learned so far -- mission above anything else.

    Helping others is my mission.

    Writing is my passion and a means to fulfill my mission. 

    This is how I approach writing and what keeps me motivated, undeterred and immune to anything.

  • Eileen Flanagan

    Totally rings true! I had very unrealistic expectations for my first book--landing on Oprah, the whole thing. What happened instead is that I was invited to teach and lead worships at a spiritual study center that I love. It laid the groundwork for my second book, which has made me feel like an old pro at publicity for my third. Focusing on my career, rather than my book, helps a lot.

  • Catherine Hiller

    Well done, Brooke! Some good reminders here, especially 5,  poetically expressed.   

    You write about "the two seemingly opposing mindsets of 'I am special' and I am shit,'" and I interpret that "seemingly"  as a recognition that these two mindsets often exist in the same person, sometimes at the same time!  

  • Brooke Warner Outlining

    Nice, Cardyn. I like that song too. :)

    Ruth—yes!

  • Mandy Campbell Moore

    Thanks so much for this - it was just what I needed to hear, right now!

  • Cardyn Brooks Promoting

    Thanks, Brooke, this post is informative and encouraging as always. Points 4 and 5 really resonate with me as the release date for my upcoming literary erotica title has been moved from 10/17/14 to 10/29 to 11/22 to who-knows-when? I've decided not to let being in publishing limbo ruin my holiday season because ultimately, the love of my family and friends enriches my life in all the ways that matter and endure. [lots of yoga breathing and looping of Taylor Swift's Shake It Off

    A joyful, peaceful holiday season to all!

     

  • RUTH K HUTCHINGS

    Just received the first edit letter from my first ever Editor. Was almost afraid to open the email...but it wasn't too bad, which was encouraging. I had already decided that this first novel was to be practice so that I could learn the correct methods to become a published author. The nagging dream is one of fame and fortune, mostly fortune, but the realization is that it won't materialize at this point. So I am going to shut out the negative voices and keep on writing!  Yea for all of us!!

  • Sonja Larsen

    "Get in touch with that spark that first inspired you: to touch another; to help someone; to entertain someone; because you had to. Whatever your reason was, let it be your motivator. That original spark holds a kernel of truth for you that you can tend to and flame to grow bigger, or forget about and deny and let die. You choose."

    Great advice!

  • Thank you:)

  • Lisa Thomson

    Thanks, Brooke! These are all great reminders and encouragement to keep writing. One thing regarding 'no such thing as a new idea', an agent told me there were already successful books on how to navigate a divorce so there wasn't a need for mine. It almost discouraged me but I knew that everything has been done before. We lend our own touch and spin on our writing and that makes it 'new'.

  • Brooke Warner Outlining

    Yay, Joan!!

    Appreciate all your comments!

  • Joan Leah Gibson

    This is terrific, and just what I needed to hear right now! I'm going to print it out and post on my writing wall.

    And...I'm also going to become an active member on She Writes, which, I must sheepishly admit I joined over two years ago...

  • Elisabeth Zguta Publishing

    Brooke - thanks for this post. Indeed every one has their own path, and the one that feels right is the one that should be taken. It gets confusing, especially with so many 'how to books' out there, and the changing publishing climate, and the flux of algorithms used to stream content marketing - It is easy to get discouraged, loose our direction and our confidence. It is places like She Writes, where writers can share and support, that keeps us going.

  • B. Lynn Goodwin

    Wise, encouraging, and individualized. Thanks for sharing this. 

    www.writeradvice.com 

  • S. Ramos O\'Briant

    Excellent advice. My book won two awards and appeared on a few top 10 lists, but I've still been hesitant about finishing the sequel. The marketing after the book came out was exhausting, expensive and a bit disappointing. It's still selling, and I'm comforted by that. 

  • Nancy Chadwick Writing

    One of your sentences stood out to me from all the rest, Brooke, "Remember why you set out to write your book in the first place." A powerful sentence that carries weight. Its heaviness seems to diminish the small stuff, or at the very least, put it into perspective. If I believe in my writing purpose, (and keep reminding myself of it!) I can't help but to think that my confidence will be a great defender when the the worry, is-it-good-enough,competition, publishing angst etc. starts creeping in.

  • Laura McNeill

    Thank you for sharing this! Great advice!