With a world-wide pandemic and lockdowns, we are seeing a unique time in the history of the world. It has not been easy for anyone. For example, to stay out of the stores and at home, I've learned how to order almost anything online and have it delivered to my front door. It still feels strange to order items where I normally walk into a store and get it but it's possible and I've been doing it. Much has changed, yet there are many things which will remain the same way beyond this pandemic.
I read the publishing trade publications and know book sales are up--in many different categories--print and electronic book sales. Books are continuing to be released and promoted and published--as they will for years in the future. It's good news for writers.
In this article, I want highlight something I wrote more than a dozen years ago, as a frustrated acquisitions editor. I wrote Book Proposals That $ell, 21 Secrets To Speed Your Success. In the back of that book, I included a series of simple statements for writers that I called Maxims. Today I'm returning to these truths as reminders for every writer (including me). I hope they will be something important to you and help guide your writing life:
1. Never forget the impact of your words—positive or negative. Most days, I feel the pressure of motivation to make money as a freelancer. I’ve got bills and obligations which demand payment. Yet if you are so money-driven that you never make any decisions about your writing except ones which are motivated from finances, it will be difficult for you to advance in nonfiction or whatever category you choose. Don’t get me wrong. I want to be fairly compensated for my work but I also want to enjoy my work and what I do day in and day out. You need to be conscious of your motivation behind your writing and let that drive your daily efforts.
2. Never forget your writing is a privilege and a business—so seek to maintain balance. Too many writers hesitate to ask for their materials or for a decision about a query or proposal. They send it out once or twice, then it’s rejected and they don’t properly market.
3. Celebrate your writing successes. Never lose the wonder of the opportunity. Years ago, at a general market writing conference in Southern California, I was fascinated listening to a well-known bestselling novelist and his message. While waiting to ask him a question after the session, I turned to another person and asked if she had taken this instructor’s writing class. The woman puffed up her face in disgust and replied, “No, I’m a published author.” Just because our material is printed in magazines or books, it should not build us up in pride. Believe me, sometimes it’s difficult but as writers we need to keep things in balance, especially when it comes to nonfiction books.
4. Believe in the quality of your work and the value of your message. Surprises always happen. I work hard at my craft and perseverance is a key factor. Don’t get me wrong but I love to receive my material in print. It’s a surprise and a special blessing. It’s the new box of books hot off the press or the magazine article in a missionary publication. I marvel at the grace in my life. I’d encourage you to absorb the same attitude no matter how many books you publish.
5. Expect to serve an apprenticeship. It’s a false expectation to go from nothing to book contracts. Everyone is expected to move through the ranks of this business. It takes diligence and perseverance to succeed.
6. Learn all you can from every possible source. If you approach life in this fashion, you will find that you can learn from a multitude of sources.
7. Act wisely and thoughtfully. Haste usually makes waste.
8. Never resist rewriting. Your words are not etched in stone.
9. Never resist editing. Again, your words are not etched in stone.
10. When you receive advice about your writing, learn to evaluate it critically. Sometimes you will get advice from a fellow writer or a family member and it doesn’t “feel” like something you should take. Follow that instinct.
11. Treat editors as the coach on your team. They know their audience, so respect their counsel and only reject it with good reason.
12. Never rest on your laurels. Be looking for your next opportunity. I’ve discovered that writing opportunities abound—particularly when I’m actively looking for them. As I read through these truths which I wrote many years ago, they still ring true. In fact, I've based much of my writing career on following these statements. I hope they will encourage you and help your writing life.
If you haven't read Book Proposals That $ell, let me give you several reasons to get a copy: First, the book has over 130 Five Star reviews on Amazon. Second, many people have used this information to get an agent or snag a traditional book deal. Third, I have all of the remaining print copies (so don't buy it from Amazon). Finally I've reduced the price from $15 to $8 and added bonuses and other elements. I hope you will check it out and order a copy.
As you read through this article, which principles are important to you? Am I missing something? I look forward to your comments and feedback in the comments below.
Read this article about Writers Need Simple Truths from this prolific writer and editor. (ClickToTweet)
W. Terry Whalin is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. His work contact information is on the bottom of the second page (follow this link). His latest book for writers is 10 Publishing Myths, Insights Every Author Needs to Succeed. One of Terry's most popular free ebooks is Straight Talk From the Editor, 18 Keys to a Rejection-Proof Submission. He lives in Colorado and has over 200,000 twitter followers.