Third Key to Publishing: Persistence

As I wrote last week and the week before, the first key to publishing is research, and the second is networking, both to find people to help you along your writing path and people you can help. The third key to publishing is persistence. This is the one key of which you have almost total control. All the research and networking will do you no good if you don’t persist when the going gets tough. And the going is tough most of the time.

Although I’d been writing stories since I was seven, I didn’t write consistently until I was eighteen. In my twenties, I began researching how to get published. But I didn’t publish my first piece of fiction until I was forty-seven.

Part of the problem was I didn’t do enough research into the craft of writing. I thought you either had the gift or you didn’t. I didn’t realize writing was an art you could learn and get steadily better at. I also didn’t network to gain a better understanding of the publishing industry.

It wasn’t until 2015, when I joined my local chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers, that I learned how difficult both the art of writing and the business of publishing are. At that point, I could have given up and written for my own enjoyment, which is a fine choice. Or I could dig in and learn.

So my persistence had to kick in. This meant starting a website when I knew nothing about blogging, and keeping up the blogging when it seems like nobody reads my posts. It also meant establishing a schedule for social media posts and sticking to it whether I get a response or not. I had to research newsletters and figure how to put something together of value each quarter. (By the way, you can sign up for my newsletter in the sidebar. See where my persistence comes in?)

I went to pitch session after pitch session with agents and editors, getting all sorts of feedback, including that I should switch from writing mysteries to romantic suspense. I gave up the YA crime novel I’d worked on for literally decades when the characters in my Christmas mystery, “A Rose from the Ashes” sprang to life so vividly that I had to write about them, and the publisher of “A Rose” wanted to see what else I could write. I pushed through back and shoulder pain, crazy schedules, and family conflicts to complete my latest novel.

All of those actions come under persistence. From the time I decided wanted to write a novel to the publication of my first one, A Shadow on the Snow, in 20201 was thirty-two years.

So don’t get discouraged when the pitch session with your favorite agent goes nowhere or your views on your website take a nose dive. Slow and steady persistence will win the race.

Out of the three keys to publishing–research, networking, and persistence–which do you find the easiest to do? Which one is the hardest?

Authors, What Surprised You the Most About Publishing?

Publishing is a whole different world from writing, a world I find fascinating. And sometimes frustrating, if we start talking about marketing. Authors, what surprised you the most about publishing?

What surprised met the most was how much I enjoyed working on the cover design for my mystery, A Shadow on the Snow. First, it’s a privilege for an author to have input on the cover. At big publishing houses, authors have no say in what cover goes on their book. Mt.Zion Ridge Press is a small publishing house and wants authors to give their opinions.

I loved working with Tamera Lynn Kraft on the cover. I filled out a detailed questionnaire on what I thought the cover should look like. Then Tamera sent me pictures, and we seesawed with emails, exchanging ideas until we created the cover below. The challenge of designing a cover that accurately reflected my novel was so interesting. I couldn’t be more pleased with the results.

A Shadow on the Snow

So I’d love to hear from authors what you surprised you the most about publishing.

What Writing Conferences Do You Recommend?

Although writing conferences can be expensive, you can’t beat them for education in the craft of writing and access to agents and editors. What writing conferences do you recommend?

In-Person Conferences

If you write Christian fiction, I recommend American Christian Fiction Writers national conference. I’ve attended 3 times and learned a lot both about writing and marketing. I also signed up for 15 minute appointments with agents and editors to pitch my novel. Those appointments make the price of the conference worth it because agents and editors take a writer, who has invest time and money in a conference more seriously, than someone who just sends a query letter.

If you write Christian fiction or nonfiction, try the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. I’ve attended once, in 2020. Then the conference was much smaller, which I liked. So I don’t know if a fully attended conference would feel overwhelming. Again, they had great sessions and opportunities to talk to industry professionals and successful authors one on one.

If you write anything in the mystery genre, check out Killer Nashville International Writers Conference. I attended in 2019. I liked the smaller conference and the sessions are what any mystery writer would love. There were sessions on writing, marketing, and with law enforcement professionals talking about what they do.

Online Conference

The biggest problem with conferences is the cost. But if you want to stay at home and save money, you should try the conference hosted by Mt. Zion Ridge Press. They offer sessions for both fiction and nonfiction Christian writers. The appointments with editors are not only for Mt. Zion Ridge Press but other small Christian presses. I’ve attended and taught at the conference and enjoyed being on both a teacher and student.

Now it’s your turn. What writing conferences do you recommend?

Authors, What’s Your Best Publishing Advice to New Writers?

Since this month’s theme is publishing, I decided to have questions to prompt discussions rather than photos to prompt stories. So, authors, what’s your best publishing advice to new writers?

My best advice is to dream small. It’s fine to work on a novel that you hope will become a national bestseller. But don’t pass up other writing opportunities because they don’t fit in with your dream as a novelist.

I joined my local chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers because I was working on a Christian novel. When the opportunity came for me to contribute to an anthology of Christian fiction, I jumped at the chance. Although I wanted my novel published, I recognized that this might be the only story of mine to see the light of print.

So I published my first mystery short story in 2018. I heard about a Christmas anthology and submitted “A Rose from the Ashes”. It was published. The publishers liked my mystery short story so much that they wanted to see the next story I wrote. That was A Shadow on the Snow, which became my first published novel.

No, it wasn’t the one I’d been working on for years and years. Shadow was much better. But I wouldn’t have had the chance to develop this new novel if I’d been stubborn about clinging to my original dream of becoming published.

So I’d love to hear from you, authors, what’s your best publishing advice for new writers?

If You Are Ready to Publish

Since I’ve devoted this year to “The Journey of a Book”, I have to address the business side of writing: publishing, which is my theme this month. Not every writer needs to be published. If you enjoy writing for yourself or friends or family, then publishing may not be on your mind. But if you want to publish stories or books, you need to ask yourself if you are ready to publish. Below is the key question to know if you are.

Are You Willing to Let Others Shape Your Story?

When I first began writing, I thought I knew everything there was to know about writing fiction simply by remembering how the stories I’d read were constructed. The manuscript I brought to my first conference was perfect. All the publisher had to do was print it. I’d be on my way.

Except that this idea was delusional.

Publishing makes a story marketable to a wider audience. Professionals in the industry help you fix quirks of your writing that might hamper readers enjoying your story. For me, that meant having an editor point out when I used colloquial expressions that readers from other parts of the country might not understand. I had to have a teachable spirit, able to take opinions from critique partners, beta readers, and editors and use them to improve my story. I had to admit that no matter how much work I put into a book, I couldn’t do it perfectly and would have to accept advice on how to make it better.

And an amazing thing happen–my stories improved. Many new writers think other industry professionals, like editors, will harm their story. But those professionals want your story to be the best it can be. They also recognize that it’s your story. They want you bring out the qualities that make your story unique.

If you are ready to publish, you are ready to let the story be king, to allow others to make the story the best it can be.

Are you ready?

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