“What are my next steps?” This is the question I am asked repeatedly when taking agent meetings at writer’s conferences. Often writers come to me with ideas but no understanding of what publishing requires. Launching into the writer’s world with dreams of publication and book contracts is a new thing for most. It’s exciting to sense a calling from God, coupled with a good idea for a book. But what happens next? Though we’d like to think that the next thing is signing on the dotted line—the next step is actually waiting and writing—while we are developed and prepared for what God has called us to.
Write to be Published
Writing for publication takes time and patience. Even when we are certain God has called us, the timing of the project is not usually immediate. Following His lead to write can happen right away but the road to being published is a lot of hurry- up-and- wait. We hurry up to get ideas sketched out, outlines in order and the project started. Then we wait— for what seems like forever— for someone to want to publish what we wrote. A good idea is combined with an urgency to map it out and get moving. What we tend to forget is that there are certain parameters around being published that take some time.
While You Wait
- Your writing will most likely need some polishing up. I can recall getting the advice to make my sentences sing and my sections and paragraphs have a rhythm to them. That sounded impossible and I wasn’t sure it was necessary. But the truth is, every editor is looking for good writers not just good ideas. They are not going to write your book—you are. Work on the craft of writing. Take classes, read books, go to writer’s retreats, join online writer’s communities or become part of a local writer’s critique group.
- You will need a platform. Are people connected with you, your ministry and/or your message? In other words, do you have a growing following of influence? Traditionally publishing a book is entering into a business agreement with a publisher. You must have people who will purchase what you write. Most publishers want to know you can move 5,000 books minimum in that first year.
Don’t Despise The Platform
- Growing your platform takes time and is part of being an author. The goal would be upwards of 20,000 followers combined across all platforms. If you have a call, a good idea and 334 followers—an editor will not be interested. The first step is growing your platform and following. You do this through starting to speak, posting regularly on your topic of interest, having a website with a growing mailing list and possibly beginning to blog for other ministries and organizations. By all means, don’t sit and wait for someone to knock on your door with a contract—there are steps to take in the waiting period. Think of the wait as preparation for what God has called you to.
- Agenting happens when you have a call from God, a good idea, and have done the work of building people around your message and ministry. Agents can’t magically get you a book deal. They can, when you are ready, help you shape your project and pitch it to appropriate publishers. They can, when you are ready, help you through the doors and processes of becoming a published author.
The Waiting and Wrestling
Once you are ready to have and agent and pitch your book, there is still a lot of waiting. A book proposal can sit at a publisher for weeks or months. In our dreams, an editor grabs our work, spins with delight and calls offering a contract. In reality, there is rarely a quick contract offer. This can be frustrating, but God has the right timing for everything—including the publication of the message he has called us to write. Don’t get stuck in the wrestling, instead trust the process and remember that no one is an overnight success. Writing is work and waiting is hard. During this waiting season continue to grow your following by serving the people who follow you. Show up for them. Curate content that fits your message and ministers to their hearts. Don’t give up hope but put your hope in the reality of God having a planned purpose for you—and your desire to write.
While you wait, hurry each day to connect to God—fresh and new, listening and learning. Pay attention to the world around you—what needs to be addressed? Develop your message and write to your audience and their needs.
The Most Important Part
And though followers are important for book sales, the very most important thing is that you are first following Jesus and interested in his heart and direction more than anything else. Everything else will pass away but his word and the message of his heart—will last forever.