Authors, Writers, Publishers, and Book Readers

Waiting for Inspiration to Strike
New writers often think they need some kind of special inspired feeling or mood in order to begin writing. Successful professional writers, on the other hand, have trained their minds to be productive no matter what mood they might be in. They get up in the morning and go to work, just as though it was any other kind of job. They make progress on their book each and every day.

Starting a Manuscript Before You Are Ready
With most book projects, it is very helpful to create a detailed outline before you begin the actual manuscript. For a fiction work, this may involve doing an outline of the plot, but also coming up with descriptions of the characters including an imaginary “biography” for each one. A non-fiction outline usually consists of a description of each chapter and what you intend to include in each one.

In both cases, it is important to assemble all the research materials you will be using as you complete your outline—and before you begin writing the book. If you are writing historical fiction for example, you need to have done considerable research about the period in which your story takes place, so you can bring that time and place to life for the reader. Experienced fiction writers usually know when they are ready to begin writing the actual manuscript. Perhaps the characters begin to be so real to them that they can imagine the conversations the characters will have, or at least interesting bits of dialogue.

All this outlining may seem tedious, but the result will be that the process of writing the book will be much less difficult. You will not have any days of just staring at the word processor, because your outline will tell you your objective for that particular writing session.

Taking a Manuscript to the Marketplace Before it is Ready
Beginning writers are often so excited that they actually finished their book, they can’t wait to contact agents or publishers. But the book may not ready to be published. These days, editors don’t have time to work with writers whose manuscripts are not in publishable shape. Let friends or trusted associates read your manuscript and give you their opinion about it. Solicit opinions from a number of people before you begin sending query letters to agents or editors.

Thinking it will be Easy to Find an Agent or Publisher
Most new authors do not meet with an immediately favorable reception from the publishing industry. In fact, many of the most successful authors in history met with considerable rejection when they first started. It is best to anticipate this when beginning a writing career, and not be disappointed when progress seems slow. That’s normal. Patience is a virtue when starting a writing career.

Misreading Rejection as an Indication You Do Not Have Talent
New writers who face initial rejection often draw the conclusion they are not talented, or their book is not any good. You should never draw those conclusions, because there is no way of knowing if the agent or editor you contacted gave your project the attention it deserved. They receive so many hundreds, even thousands, of submissions each year that many potentially great books get lost in the paper shuffle at the agents’ or editors’ offices. The authors who ultimately prevail are the ones who refuse to give up on their book, or their dream of being successful.

Not Understanding that Writing is a Business
Writing talent is a wonderful gift, but it doesn’t guarantee success in the harsh environment of the literary marketplace. You succeed by being able to sell your work—attracting the attention of agents, editors and then of course the readers themselves. You have to demonstrate to agents and editors that there is a market for your work. For non-fiction projects, this means being able to show how many individuals could be interested enough in the subject you are writing about to pay money for the book.

Once your book is published, your job is just beginning. You have to work with your publisher on actively promoting your book. This is true for the bestselling author and the new author alike. You need to get your book noticed above all the thousands of other titles that are published each year.

Reading Too Much into Early Success
Sometimes an author will be fortunate enough to obtain an agent almost immediately. Sometimes a new author’s book is a smashing success in the marketplace. And in each case, there is a tendency for the author to think he or she has it made. To sustain a writing career, you need a string of successes, not just one. The best way to approach early success it to be extremely grateful for it—and then try even harder to improve your craft and make your next book even better.

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Comment by scribbler on October 20, 2009 at 6:31am
I've discovered waiting for inspiration can be a long, long wait. The quote describes my outlook most days.

"I have learned, as has many another better writer, to summon inspiration to my call as soon as I begin my day's stint, and not to hang around waiting for it. Inspiration is merely a pretty phrase for the zest to work. And it can be cultivated by anyone who has the patience to try. Inspiration that will not come at its possessor's summons is like a dog that cannot be trained to obey. The sooner both are gotten rid of, the better." - Albert Payson Terhune
Comment by Philip Nork on October 21, 2009 at 6:47am
This is so true...
I have one published book and three more outlines ready, along with one more completed manuscript. The steps I followed to get published were these--
1) Write from outline
2) Re-write after reading all the way through
3) Edit- luckily I found an editor that would help me through my mistakes after being rejected by 6 other ones...all of whom told me my manuscript was "crap."
4) Re-write again.
5) Got approval from editor that it was one of the top 5 books out of 200 that he edited. He actually flew to meet me when we handed off the final chapter...said he wanted to meet a "real author."
6) Find a publisher...finally used AuthorHouse to self-publish.
7) Promoting and marketing...this is harder than writing the book itself. Follow my blog at to see how I feel about this subject!
After doing all this I was told that IF I sold 150 books I would be "average." Well, after just 3 months of my book being available I am proud to say I am well past 1500 books sold and still going strong. I can now say "The best feeling in the world, besides getting married and having a child, is to have a published book that someone I don't know will buy and enjoy."
Enjoy the journey you are will take you places you never expected to be!!
Comment by Kay Elizabeth on October 21, 2009 at 7:26pm
Congratulations Philip! That's wonderful. I always say it takes getting your book in front of the right person just once that matters. I'm glad you persevered. :) There's a Groups section on Marketing and Promotion here. Perhaps you could share some of your wisdom on that subject there too and help us get it off the ground. :)

I love Richard Bach, by the way. Illusions and Johnathan Livingstone Seagull are favorites of mine.
Comment by David Rasmussen on March 23, 2010 at 8:23pm
Wonderful post! I am just starting out in my writing career (after 17 years in corporate America) and found this post both helpful and reassuring. I appreciate the time you took to write and post. Thank you!
Comment by Jasmine Andrade on May 6, 2010 at 10:42pm
What a fantastic post! This was very helpful for me, especially since I am very lost in the writing industry :-) Sometimes it's hard to be an author at 10 years old.


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