8 Steps For Getting Started on a Writing Career

By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund

I got an email last week from a recent college grad. She'd stumbled across my For Writer's Page, appreciated the information there, but was curious how to get started with a writing career.

Here was her question: "I am a recent college graduate and I really want a career in writing/publishing my current novels that I am working on. Perhaps you can provide me with some advice on how to get started in that particular field. Thanks for your time."

Rather than write her a lengthy response, I told her I'd answer her question in my blog post this week since I'm sure she's not alone in wondering how to have a writing career.

Let me start by saying that I think there's a huge difference between getting published and having a writing career. I've seen many people either traditionally or self publish one or two books and go no further.

Maybe they only had one (or two) books burning within them to share with the world. Maybe they decided writing isn't their passion after all. Maybe they realized that getting a book noticed is a lot more work than they anticipated. Maybe they didn't have the sales or fame they'd dreamed about. Maybe their publisher dropped them as a result of low sales.

Whatever the case, getting published is the relatively easy part (especially nowadays with the popularity of self-publishing). But actually going on to have a writing career takes a whole lot more work and determination.

So, how does one move from publication to career writing?

In my personal experience and from watching others, here are a few of the steps that can help lead to a writing career:

1. Learn everything you can about how to write (and edit) well. 

Like any profession, writers must learn the basics. Yes, there are guidelines that help shape those awesome ideas into a format that readers will enjoy. I share writing tips here on my blog (for a categorized list check out my For Writer's Page). There are also tons of helpful writing technique books. Learn, learn, learn. There's no way around it.

2. Put that knowledge into practice by writing more than one book. 

One book just isn't enough practice or time to hone writing skills. Most career writers had to write numerous books before they finally began to have publishable quality books. (I wrote 5 before I was ready.)

3. Familiarize yourself with the writing industry. 

In today's ever-changing publishing climate, it's more important than ever to educate yourself on your options. Both traditional or self-publishing are viable options. But before deciding which route to pursue, learn what goes into each of them. Weigh the pros and cons. And realize that no matter which option you choose, both will have challenges.

4. Become savvy with social media.  

The truth is, there's really no way to have a writing career unless you're on social media. At the very basic, every writer needs to have a home base website or blog with a bio, books, and contact info. But the more a writer knows about the various social media and how to integrate them, the better.

5. Build relationships with other writers.  

Try to form writing friendships well before publication to avoid "using" people. Mutual friendships can often lead to critiques, endorsements, advice, referrals, help with promotion, etc.

6. Partner with a knowledgeable agent.  

With this particular point, I'm speaking more to those who decide to go the traditional publication route. Most traditional publishers do not accept unsolicited manuscripts and only look at work presented by agents. In fact, an experienced and hard-working agent can make all the difference when it comes to garnering book deals.

7. Learn how to market your books. 

Whether you go the traditional route or self-publish, you will have to get the word out about your books. There are many, many right ways to market. And there are also some very wrong ways. Give your book the best shot by learning how reach readers without antagonizing or alienating them.

8. Keep learning and write lots of books. 

During setbacks, during slow times, even during busy times, always keep writing. Career writers are constantly putting out new books. They persevere during those times when they're tempted to quit. They weather the stormy reviews. They're driven, hard-working, and passionate. And because of that, they never stop writing.

What about you? Do you have any more tips for getting started on a writing career? (Or questions?)

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