I must preface this post by saying I’m certainly no expert on anything, but I'd like to share some of what I've learned with you in the hope it might somehow encourage you in your own writing journey. By the end of 2014, I’ll have been traditionally published as well as indie published with ten books (six full-length novels and four novellas) to my name. All in the last four years, in addition to working full-time. So, that’s got to count for something.
Not to sound like a dreaded infomercial (I’m not selling anything here although I am posting a photo of the boxed set of my first four books as well as the cover of my newest release, Moonbeams), I’d like to share with you what I consider the five key factors to success in pursuing a full-time writing career. I’m hoping to quit my full-time job in the near future, and—based on the income I’ve earned in the past three months—I believe it can be done.
The following steps are nothing more than common sense, really. You know these things, too, but sometimes it helps to have someone else put it in perspective. As I mention at the end of the post, please feel free to add your own ideas.
*Pray. Begin every writing, editing or marketing/advertising session with a time of prayer. Whether it’s one minute or 15 minutes, I always present my petitions, both large and small, to the Lord. He has been my Partner in my writing journey from Day One. I firmly believe without Him at my side, and living inside me, I could not have accomplished as much as I’ve done with anywhere near the same measure of success. Write for His glory and know you can hold you head high when you meet your Savior one day.
*Write. The only way you can get a book published is by writing it. The only way you can learn and grow as a writer is by continuing to write, edit, hone and fine tune your work. Make each and every book your best effort. Write a good book and the Lord will get it in the hands of those who most need to read it. Word-of-mouth promotion will kick in after a while, but don’t get greedy and don’t get impatient. Sometimes—especially with a first novel—it takes time to build the momentum, especially if you’re not with a big publisher. But don’t ever get lazy. And keep writing and releasing. The more books you can offer readers, the higher the potential for income.
Give up the idea of writing the “perfect” novel. It’s simply not going to happen. A book can be grammatically perfect, a book can follow all the rules, but it doesn’t mean it’ll touch hearts. How many books have you read where it’s sound from a technical standpoint but doesn’t affect a reader’s emotions? How many reviews have you read where the reviewer says, “I can tell the author was on deadline because the ending felt rushed”? Write from your heart and finish your story. Then it will reach others with the message you want to convey.
*Join. Become a member of a writers’ group. Critique group. Something. Any organization where you’re around others who share your passion. Guaranteed, you will learn more about the craft of writing. The energy to be gained from fellowshipping with other Christian authors, in particular, is infectious and one of the best things you can do. After I joined the national ACFW, I learned so much just from reading the email loops. One of the best things I ever learned was from Indiana’s Colleen Coble who advised me to write a scene in the POV of “the one who has the most to lose.” Give others the opportunity to teach you and be willing to share what you’ve learned with others.
*Persevere. More than half the battle is sticking with it. Writing can be a lonely existence at times. It will be joyful and yet there will be the inevitable lows. You will be uplifted by others and sometimes you will feel a bit wounded by the careless words of others or by a reviewer who just didn’t “get” the message of your book. There will be those who rejoice with you and others who will try to tear you down. That’s a big part of standing firm in your faith. The Lord never said it would be easy, but He said He’d be there for us. And, oh what a comfort that is! I cling to His promises, folks, and I trust that you do, too. Keep at it and pursue the calling of writing the Lord has placed in your heart. Tell His stories your way. And tell your story His way.
*Marketing/Advertising. As it is, there are millions of books written every year. With the advent of self-publishing, anyone can write anything and get it published, and that can be both a good and a bad thing. Be creative and inventive. Seek out your focus group. My book series (five books now in release and more to come) is based in the Houston area, although settings from all over the country (and more) are featured in the subsequent books. After the third book released, I prepared and sent a slick “ad” to a number of big Houston-area evangelical churches. I addressed them to the ladies’ ministry coordinators. Do I know whether or not it had an impact? No, but based on the sales of the books shortly thereafter, I believe it certainly didn’t hurt.
Without going into detail, I managed to get my debut novel (at the time published by a small Canadian publisher no one had ever heard of) into the illustrious CBD catalog. It only stayed there for two or three issues, but I accomplished my goal. After meeting the CBD rep at the ACFW and then getting no response after several emails, I used my common sense and got the job done.
Be willing to spend money to make money. One of the biggest boosts to my writing is discovering websites such as BookBub and Ereader News Today. The first is expensive but more than worth the cost. Guaranteed, if you advertise with BookBub, your book will make it to bestseller status, even if only for a day or two. BookBub has a subscriber list of thousands and many of their members download their daily recommendations. You must be willing to reduce your eBook price (free and 99 cent books do the best, and the first of a series book does even better). Seriously, your jaw will drop at the number of downloads! Ereader News Today is a wonderful outlet, especially for those who are self-published. The results are only a small portion of what BookBub can do (hundreds of books downloaded as opposed to thousands in one day), but their cost is relatively small but well worth it.
These are only a few helpful hints that have boosted my visibility in the contemporary Christian romance market. They’re tried and true in my case. Feel free to share any tips that have worked for you! I’d love to hear them. After all, we’re here to help one another!