When a writer is in the pre-publishing phase of his or her writing career, that’s the perfect time to focus on developing five P’s:
- Pupil for life
Rachel’s blog post from earlier this week contained in its subtext the importance of not giving up on your dream-come-true: Being offered that first publishing contract. The Stephen King story and Dr. Seuss saga both spoke to how daunting it can be to yearn for that contract but not to receive from editors recognition for all your hard work.
I recall many years ago hearing a motivational speaker mention that the best, naturally-gifted football quarterbacks are not the guys you see on television calling out the cadence for when the ball should be hiked. Nope the men who make it as quarterbacks are the lesser-talented guys who wanted the job enough to work harder than anyone else.
It doesn’t mean they aren’t talented; of course they are. It does mean that perseverance is the most important quality for them to display.
The same goes for writers. Are the most talented writers the ones who get published? Nope. The ones who worked the hardest win out over talent time and again.
Okay, being famous gets you a publishing contract faster than talent. But having publishing slots filled by the famous–or infamous–is just another obstacle for a persevering writer to clear.
Publishing is nothing but a waiting game. A lack of patience will cause a writer no end of angst.
“Why isn’t that agent getting back to me!?”
“When will the editor finally read my proposal?”
“How long does it take for the publisher to get my agent a contract to negotiate anyway?”
“Why hasn’t my editor contacted me to tell if he likes my manuscript? I met the deadline months ago!”
“When will the marketing team be ready to talk to me about what I should do to promote my book?”
“Just how long do I have to wait until I hear how many copies sold?”
Yeah, a writer spends a lot of time in publishing’s waiting room.
I do know you already have a personality! What I mean by this “p” is that, in the pre-publishing phase, you need to establish yourself as a winsome person online. Your website needs to shout “PERSONALITY,” and by that I mean it needs to showcase who you are. It shouldn’t be bland and neutral, one that any writer could claim as theirs. Your social media posts should be full of the color of who you are, too.
By creating an online brand for yourself, you’re gathering around you people who like you and want to read what you’ve written in book form. This work will pay dividends in book sales down the road. I promise.
A Pupil for Life
Never let yourself become so bent on penning your book in the pre-publishing phase of your career that you lose sight of the world around you. Explore new aspects of life and do so diligently. It will keep your perspective fresh and your conversation vibrant. And it will inform what you write.
Don’t forget to be a good listener and observer either. I find airports utterly fascinating places to study human behavior. Overhearing conversations is pretty entertaining too. Why, I’ve listened to guys flirt with women they’ve just met. A mother begging a grade-school child to stop complaining loudly about being bored. Husbands and wives having nothing to say to one another, which speaks volumes, by the way, about their relationship–or how tired they are.
Learning how to behave like a writing professional even during your pre-publishing days pays off long-term. When your publisher offers you a newly-designed book cover that takes your breath away because it’s so utterly disappointing, framing a professional response that’s helpful, directive, but polite is likely to get you a new design. Whining about the color being one you’ve always disliked will not get you a new cover.
One of my clients is a shining example of approaching every publishing relationship as one to treasure. Regardless how disappointing a situation is–failed marketing attempts, over-aggressive editing, a wrong-headed title–he maintains a respectful demeanor. He expresses what he had thought would happen and why the actual events were disappointing but then immediately makes suggestions for what he can do to make the book successful or to solve the immediate problem. And then invites the publishing staff member to add what he/she might do to join the author in that mutual goal. The reactions he garners are consistently helpful.
Years of being a businessman have stood him in good stead now that he’s focusing his energies on writing books. And I love that he ends every conversation with the same question: “What can I do to help you?” And you know, when he asks, he really means he’ll do whatever he can, even if what you need has nothing to do with him or his book.
Which of these pre-publishing 5 P’s is hardest for you to work on? Which do you think you’re doing a good job with?
What are the five most important skills to work on as you wait for your first publishing contract? Click to tweet.
What five qualities should a writer work on developing? Click to tweet.