9 Lessons I've Learned So Far About Writing & Publication

By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund

At the start of this new year, like many of you, I took a little bit of time to reflect on my life. Often, the inner reflection of where we've been provides the stepping stones for the future. We can't climb higher without building upon what we've already learned.

I've had quite the journey with my writing career over the past five years. I've come a long way and experienced a lot. As I prepare for another year of continued growth, I took some time to review and came up with 9 lessons I've learned:

1. Working our writing muscles regularly leads to increased productivity. In 2013, I wrote 4 novels. If someone had told me five years ago that I'd EVER be able to write 4 books in one year, I'd have laughed.

But what I've learned is that writing is a lot like marathon training. We can't expect to start off running 26 miles. We work our way up to it with regular workouts and continually challenging ourselves beyond our comfort zone. If we do the same in writing, our muscles become honed and strong and capable of doing more than we thought possible.

2. We can't be afraid to try new types of writing. The past couple of years of upheaval in the publishing industry have taught us all that everything is changing. Nothing is certain. And if we hope to stay afloat, then we can't let the past ways of doing things be the yoke that sinks us.

Instead we have to adjust and be willing to think outside the box. Whether we try our hand at e-novellas, e-shorts, or even a new genre, this is the age of experimentation.

In addition to 4 novels, I also wrote an e-novella last year. It will release in the fall as a way to help promote my upcoming lighthouse series. Will the e-novella help? Maybe. Maybe not. But we can't get stuck in old ways of thinking in this new era.

3. Indie and hybrid publishing are options all writers must consider. It's most definitely something I've considered and will do at some point. Those who are successful at it have worked hard, done their homework, and are savvy about the process.

4. Traditional publishing is still very viable and important. This past year, I signed another 3 book contract to continue with my publisher for two main reasons. First, my publisher is still able to get my print books in brick and mortar stores and in foreign print. And secondly, their involvement in editing, cover design, and marketing frees me up to do more of what I love–the writing.

5. No matter our publishing choice, there isn't a magic elevator to success. As I brush shoulders with many writers both indie and traditionally published, I realize one thing is true–neither option brings automatic success. Whichever way a writer decides to go, the uphill climb takes time and lots of hard work.

6. Tenacity and perseverance are more important than ever before. I've seen many writers publish one book (either traditionally or self) and then stop there. Perhaps they didn't have the success or sales they counted on. Perhaps no other deals were forthcoming. Whatever the case, I've seen many writers fall by the wayside.

In today's market, clinging tightly to our dreams is more important than ever. We can't let one bad sales experience derail us. We have to persevere to the second or even third book. And if one method of publication isn't working, then maybe it's time try new things (mentioned in point #2) to give our career a jump start.

7. Social media has limited effectiveness for marketing. While social media has been touted as the "new marketing" tool for writers, I've come to the conclusion that it has limited reach–even when done "right."

There's a "ceiling" most of us hit no matter how many followers or friends we have. So while social media has some benefits, the best marketing is the volume of works we can make available to our readers.

8. The long tail is becoming an important source of revenue. As I recently talked through this phenomena with my editor, I was struck again how much things have changed. When the shelf life of a book used to be six months to a year, now an author's old titles sell for much longer.

The internet and the visibility of all our books (on Amazon, Goodreads, and even our websites), keeps the breath of life flowing through them. And we're able to use those backlists to bring attention to current releases (like my publisher is doing right now by offering the ebook of my first book The Preacher's Bride for free).

9. Passion and the power of the story have to remain the driving fuel of the writer's life. As I recently finished my novella, I was reminded again just how fun writing is, especially when the story morphs into something more than you planned. Nothing compares to the creative process and the joy of bringing a story to completion.

Passion, my friends, must remain the bedrock of our writing. If we lose our passion for story-telling, then why bother?

What's the biggest lesson you've learned lately about writing and publication?


  1. Yes yes yes!!!! After years of writing YA, I decided to switch to New Adult. After years of trying to get published, it finally happened just by switching to something new. Turns out these were the stories I was meant to write after all. I hadn't because agents and editors didn't believe it was a via market. Fortunately self published authors proved otherwise. :) So yay for self publishing!!!!

    1. Excellent example of trying new things, Stina! Yes, I think the days of writers only having one genre may be over. It's definitely the time to explore and experiment and find out what works best! And it's really neat to see that self-publishing is opening the door for new genres!

  2. This post is so encouraging to me. I am motivated to keep writing instead of worrying about promotion as much. Thank you.

    1. So glad the post was encouraging, Mary! Yes, I'd say definitely stay focused on the writing and worry less about social media!

  3. Thanks so much for sharing what you have learned Jody. 4 books in one year is amazing. I'm so impressed. Something to aspire to. BTW my Mom loved your books I gave her for her birthday.

    1. Darlene, thank you so much for giving my books to your mom for her birthday! That was so sweet of you! I appreciate it! :-)

  4. Love the many points you make here today, Jody. By publishing and keeping up with the ups and downs of publishing, I'm learning, like you, that passion makes the publishing world stay afloat. Without passion for what we do, we will all eventually quit or fail. Congrats on your recent successes! 4 novels in one year? WOW!

    1. Thank you, Heather! I'm amazed at writing 4 books in one year too! I'm not sure if I can replicate that this year, since I'll have a LOT of work to do editing all of those books! :-) But it has shown me what I'm capable of doing when I put my mind to it! Thanks for being an inspiration with your indie publishing. I love seeing you charge ahead so boldly!

  5. I especially agree with your point about how fun it is when the story doesn't go exactly as you planned; I think it's fun to discover and learn new things that way. I've also learned that when I get envious of other writers' success, I should use that as a motivating tool to keep writing and trying rather than as a reason to feel sorry for myself because of my own mistakes and failures.

  6. Happy New Year! :) Thank you for the encouragement. It's an interesting time to be an author of any kind and along with "interesting" it's sometimes "discouraging". I found this post really encouraging and uplifting. It made me feel excited about being an author again! :)

  7. I hang on to one thing. I heard it during a Harry Potter movies, but I don't know which one off the top of my head. "We all start from the same place." :-)

    Anna from Shout with Emaginette

  8. Thank you for your spot-on observations, Jody.

    Once readers get a taste of an author's work, they want more. In my first year as a published author (small press), I've experienced this. I'm so glad I had my second book waiting in the wings. A Christmas novella also came out this year.

    Happy New Year,
    Susan :)


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