Getting started is the hardest part. Whether you’re psyching yourself up to put pen to paper or you’re gearing up to get your book in front of agents and editors, the publishing world is an intimidating place.
Luckily, though, you’re not the first person to face the challenges of becoming a new author. Scores of bestselling writers have paved the way. They’ve taken risks. They’ve made mistakes. And, now, they’re sharing everything they’ve learned about breaking into the industry.
Keep reading for the best advice from top writers to new authors.
On the Business
“People won’t publish a book unless they can sell it. What’s your market? Who is going to buy it? What other books are similar? Who’s going to buy your book and are there other popular books out there? If so, why is yours better?”
– Nicholas Sparks, author of The Notebook
“If being a writer is important to you, keep at it, keep improving, and don’t give up. I wrote three books that were never published. I sent the first one out to everybody. I went through every agent and publisher in New York, twice.”
– Janet Evanovich, author of the Plum series
On What You Can Control
“My biggest piece of advice for writers is to stay focused on the process instead of the result. I’m someone who’s always loved writing. Yet when you get caught up saying, “Oh, I’m going write this book; I’m going to have this success; I’m going to achieve these things” — you can’t always control those things.”
– Veronica Roth, author of the Divergent series
“I always wish I had done something differently, but I seldom look back at books. Gotta move on to the next one.”
– R.L. Stine, author of the Goosebumps series
“I don’t think of my reputation when I write, just about the work to be done and how to do it.”
– Danielle Steele, author of more than 140 novels
“Don’t make stuff because you want to make money — it will never make you enough money. And don’t make stuff because you want to get famous — because you will never feel famous enough. Make gifts for people — and work hard on making those gifts in the hope that those people will notice and like the gifts.”
– John Green, author of The Fault in Our Stars
“I want people to understand that you can absolutely work a job, sometimes two jobs, and have those responsibilities—and still write. I didn’t fail to become a writer, and therefore had to take a job. I had to take a job to keep a roof over my head because I had student loans to pay off. And that’s the way it works.”
– Leigh Bardugo, author of the Grisha trilogy
“You can never read your own book with the innocent anticipation that comes with that first delicious page of a new book, because you wrote the thing. You’ve been backstage. You’ve seen how the rabbits were smuggled into the hat. Therefore, ask a reading friend or two to look at it before you give it to anyone in the publishing business.”
– Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale
“Resist the urge to tell friends and family your story. I know it’s hard because you want to talk about it and they’re (sometimes) interested in hearing about it. But writers have a dirty little secret: We are mainly motivated by our desire for people to experience our stories. We want an audience. We need it. Telling your story to friends verbally satisfies that need for an audience, and it diminishes your motivation to actually write it.”
– Andy Weir, author of The Martian
On Doing the Work
“Success in writing—and by that, I mean getting the contents of your head out onto the page in a form that other people can relate to—is largely a matter of playing mind games with yourself. In order to get anywhere, you need to figure out how your own mind works—and believe me, people are not all wired up the same way.”
– Diana Gabaldon, author of the Outlander series
“The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it’s definitely true for writing.)”
– Neil Gaiman, author of American Gods
On Seizing the Day
“At the beginning of each new book, each new scene, and each new day’s work, I ask myself, ‘What is it about this character (or her situation, or the scene I’m about to write) that I feel passionate about? What notion fills me with joy or makes me angry or (potentially) will make me laugh like a loon?’”
– Robert Crais, author of the Elvis Cole series
“It’s going to take some time to not only get published, but for your career to get off the ground. Don’t get discouraged if it takes the time. It could easily take 10 years for it to happen. Just make sure that you have someone who is going to be there for you and understands that it’s hard. You need someone to support you.”
– Laurie Halse Anderson, author of Speak
On the Rulebook
“My advice? Reject rules and critics out of hand. Define yourself. Do it your way. Make yourself the writer of your dreams. Protect your voice, your vision, your characters, your story, your imagination, your dreams.”
– Anne Rice, author of Interview with a Vampire
The most prevalent advice bestselling authors have for new authors? Write as much as you can, as often as you can, regardless of the feedback you receive, regardless of how good the work is, regardless of how many rejections are in your inbox. Pick up your writing instrument of choice and persevere!
Author Bio: Chris Napa serves as the Global E-commerce Experience Manager for A.T. Cross Company, LLC. Chris oversees the customer experience on Cross.com from the Providence, RI headquarters. Before joining A.T. Cross Company, LLC., Chris was the User Experience Lead at FootJoy, part of the initial team that launched their eCommerce site in 2016, and the E-commerce Project Manager at TaylorMade Golf Company. When not thinking about enhancing customer’s online experiences, Chris can be found cycling, golfing, or bowling.