We’ve all had longings or yearnings during our lives, especially when we were young. Having the whole world before us, we could dream about what our lives would look like as writers/authors. “If only I could publish a book” “I wish I could find the perfect literary agent” “If I could only have more sales” “I wish more people would interact with my social media posts” “If only my family and friends would take my career as a writer seriously”. . . and so it goes.
This past year has been a special one for the books (pun intended) because I published my first book! As you know, the process is anything but quick, but you can bet that the experience has been rich with lessons that will carry on into my future projects. My brief takeaways might just work as a reminder for you while on your writing journey.
Dedicating your work to God makes a world of difference
Writing a book is a daunting task that involves more than just hashing out 300 pages. You have the task of giving a reader an experience, good or bad, influential and entertaining. Praying over my message, my chapters, my ideas and more helped me surrender, knowing God will help, inspire, encourage, and take the book where it needs to go.
Don’t marry your words
This idea comes from one of my writing professors. We writers can get so attached to our words that we fail to receive criticism. When it comes to crafting your ideas effectively, the best practice is to be open minded and flexible.
Your audience is more important than your ‘dream’
I’ve always been so focused on “writing the book” that it hindered me from thinking about who I was writing for. Becoming a writer may have been the dream that got us started, but our attention to our readers allows us to bear good fruit, which is ultimately more fulfilling.
Editing never ends
You can go through your manuscript a hundred times and still find something to tweak. I had several sets of eyes go through my work and I went through in a variety of formats, but the final product still has a few errors. Learn when to let go before you let the editing process keep you from ever publishing.
Rejection doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer
I thought that I would be a mess when I received my first rejection. To my surprise, I had prepared myself enough to be confident despite each “No” from the industry. Publishing houses and literary agents reject for a number of reasons: length of the manuscript, criteria of the publishing house, market need, etc. Let them roll off your back as you continue to learn and grow.
Your work is not less significant if it’s self-published
I always went along with the stigma of self-publishing. Obviously, it meant that the writer wasn’t good enough to get really published. Fortunately, I don’t feel that way now. Though some self-published books are less than good, self-publishing is a great way to learn about formatting and design. It’s also effective in building a readership that publishers ultimately admire.
Don’t skimp on quality
In reference to self-publishing specifically, you are the one with the final say and the same goes for quality. Have editors but don’t rely on just their edits. Go back through yourself. Don’t try and design a cover if you have little to no experience as a graphic designer. Those details will scream low quality and end up hurting your readership. Cost effective solutions are out there, and you’ll be thankful once you have that stellar looking book in your hands.
Marketing is a game: win or lose, you still have to play
Many writers hear the word ‘marketing’ and cringe. Growing your inner marketer is part of the job, and it will include trial and error. Read the books, try new things, get people excited about your work. Marketing is necessary, so bite the bullet. Seeing your platform growing, your calendar filling, and your books selling will make it all worthwhile.
Doubt is part of the territory
No matter where you are in the process, I bet you’ve experienced doubt. I had many doubts right up until my release. We tend to doubt our story is as good as what’s out there. We doubt if anybody will truly enjoy reading our work. The list goes on. But don’t let those feelings keep you from doing it anyway. Keep writing, keep querying, keep advertising, and keep editing. You’ll be glad you did.
Practice makes perfect
This is a lesson we all learn at a young age and it’s no different for the writing and publishing world. The more we read, write, edit and worm our way into the industry, the better we will get. I look forward to the day I can look back at my first book and praise God for how far I’ve come.
What’s something you’ve learned on your writing adventures? Is it on this list or is it something different? Please share with us!
Write on, friends!
Leah Jordan Meahl is an up and coming Christian author. She loves to journey with new adults and Christians alike with her blog. Check out her full Bio.
Now that we’re ready to dig into our various writing projects and (gulp!) even think about submitting a few…we face a common enemy: Fear of Rejection. To encourage your hearts, our faculty shared some of their rejection stories. Now you can say to yourself, “If they were rejected and look how far they’ve come… I can submit my work too.”
“My first rejection letter said my picture book didn’t meet the editorial needs of Peachtree Publishing.Poof…my great idea didn’t turn into a children’s book that kids adored, parents raved over, and teachers chose for story time. Instead of giving in, I geared up. Within a year, I attended my first writing conference where I learned all writers experience rejection. Eleven years later I don’t send out a manuscript until I’m confident the writing is my personal best. Yes, I’m cautious, but I’d rather take my time than send a weak manuscript. Before submitting, I share my manuscript with a writer’s group for critique, hire writing coaches to work with me one-on-one, and read, read, read. Don’t concede when rejections come. Gear up to learn how to write for the market, the publisher, and the reader.”
“As I look back on the book proposals I’ve had rejected, they were rejected because something wasn’t quite right. Maybe the focus wasn’t strong enough, the concept wasn’t fresh, or the writing was mediocre. But every rejection has made me refine my concept, polish my writing, or scrap the whole thing altogether and start over. Then, when the acceptances come, it’s a glorious thing—a book I can be proud of and one that would represent the Lord in the best way possible. I’ve learned to receive acceptances and rejections as divine redirection that pushes me further into God’s will.”
Rejection can be brutal. At my very first writing conference I took a Bible study I’d written to pitch. It was the late 90s and no one but Kaye Arthur and Beth Moore were publishing Bible studies. Even though this was a huge Christian Conference, no publishers were taking pitches for them. But the conference staff suggested I talk to a nonfiction editor and take his continuing class. I met with him in a 15-minute appointment and it was tough. He suggested I take my in-depth Bible study and rework it into a cross-stitch or quilting gift book.[spacer height=”20px”]
I wasn’t rude and thanked him for his time, but I was so upset I left my proposal on the table. When I got to his class the next day, he proceeded to use my proposal (with my name blacked out) as an example of how not to write and not to follow God in publishing.[spacer height=”20px”]
I was devastated and when I got back home, I locked away my writing. I was certain I’d heard from God and that dream was dead. Then the next year a got an anonymous scholarship to the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. Since it was anonymous, I had to go or risk wasting someone else’s money. Once there, God showed up in a big way and I sold my very first article to Focus on the Family.[spacer height=”20px”]
God resurrected the dream I thought was dead. But God did more than that. He also birthed a passion to shepherd other writers as they try on the dream God has given them. As much as the enemy meant this for evil, God has used this for good in my life and in the lives of others. I praise Him for all He’s done and continues to do.[spacer height=”20px”]
I wrote my first book back in the 1980s, and pitched it far and wide to dozens of publishers. Much to my dismay, fewer than half of them responded (and all rejections). No one gave a reason why.
When I started working as an agent almost nine years ago, I decided that I would be the nice guy. I would always give a reason for my rejections. Within a week, I discovered that most writers don’t REALLY want to know. They just want to argue with me.
Writers, if you should ever receive actionable feedback from an editor or agent, thank them for it and consider it gold. Even if you disagree. These are the people who could make all the difference in your career.
In the Bible, even for the prophets, God sent them human teachers. If it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for you.
On Thursday we’ll share more rejection stories from our faculty to encourage you to keep on, keeping on! Do you have a rejection story (or two) that you would like to share to encourage other writers? We want to hear them! Please leave your contact information in the comments, or send Carol Federlin Baldwin a private message on Facebook.
Sidebars fill the pages of magazines, our computer screens, and even some TV shows. Sidebars are short articles that accompany and relate to a larger work, yet they present a different angle. With today’s online and “everything now” mentality, these high-demand mini pieces often serve as the article. Come to this workshop to learn why editors, writers, and readers love sidebars. We’ll also examine the different types, how to be creative in assembling a sidebar, and how to write these snappy pieces to entertain and inform readers. You’ll soon be providing the extras your editor craves.
Vijaya Bodach – Writing Memoir (Part II): Being a Witness—Writing the Most Important Story
Can you think of any modern-day witnesses? These are people who questioned Christianity and found it to be true! And they will do anything to keep this Pearl, this Treasure, this Gift. Can you state the reason for your hope in Christ? Allow the Holy Spirit to speak through you. We are now living in a post-Christian society. We have the greatest number of people who have no religious affiliation. They are the “nones” (not to be confused with nuns). It is YOUR story that will make a difference in their lives, as you sow seeds of faith and hope in them. Yes, I’m looking at YOU!
Terri Kelly – How to Write Devotions for Children
Turn yourself into a writing machine. Don’t you want to publish a children’s picture book or a magazine article for teens? How about a middle-grade chapter book or nonfiction for children? There is a surefire way to sharpen your story: Write Devotions. In How to Write Devotions for Children, you’ll learn a simplified method that you can apply to all writing. Not only will you walk away with a plan for a publishable devotion to the best audience in the world—our children, you’ll gain a writing tool belt to wear for life.
Edie Melson – Writing for the YA Audience
We live in a world with a savvy and sophisticated young adult population. In their young lives—through media and the ready availability of digital information—they’ve been exposed to a lifetime of experiences. The first rule of YA writing is respect—respect for our audience, and respect for their experiences and opinions. The second rule is authenticity. Our YA readers can spot a fake a mile away. This workshop will cover the mindsets and expectations of this audience. We’ll discuss how this mindset affects our writing in multiple genres and for different age groups.
Tessa Emily Hall – Create Book Buzz by Coordinating a Blog Tour
Marketing isn’t always an author’s best friend—but in today’s publishing landscape, it’s a requirement. What if I told you it could be both exciting and cost-effective? And that, even with no prior marketing experience, you could reach readers from the comfort of your own home?
This is what I have found to be the case through coordinating blog tours for my own books. Coordinating these tours have proven to be a powerful strategy to reach target readers and spread online buzz surrounding a new release. By tapping into my passion for the book, I have discovered how to create unique tours that invite my target readers to share in this excitement.
Come to my workshop, Create a Book Buzz with a Blog Tour, and learn these five steps on how to kick off your virtual tour from the ground up—in a way that is both organized and efficient. You will also discover secrets on how to infuse your passion with creativity to brainstorm unique and fun content for your tour.
Who knows? After coordinating your first blog tour, you might realize that marketing isn’t your worst enemy after all.
Steve Hutson – Why You’re Not Getting Published: Rejection-Proof Submissions
Have you sent off your manuscript to dozens of agents and editors, only to be rejected again and again? Learn the things they won’t tell you; discover the most common problems, and how to avoid them. Hint: It may have nothing to do with the quality of your writing or your story.
Are you making a list of the workshops you want to attend at the conference? Leave a comment about your favorites. Then subscribe to the Write2Ignite newsletter (link on the right side) and share this post on social media. You will earn one, two, or three chances to win Edie Melson’s YA steampunk fable, Maiden of Iron. Bring your winning copy to the conference for Edie to sign. She will be presenting two fabulous workshops during the conference and the final keynote.
Contest ends August 31. The winner will be announced on next Monday’s teaser blog — so enter soon!
Nobody likes to be rejected. And when we’ve poured ourselves into a writing project, only to see it rejected by agents and editors, it’s easy to take that rejection personally.
“My manuscript isn’t good enough.”
“My writing skills aren’t good enough.”
“I’m not good enough.”
Is that true?
Before you believe the lie that you’re not good enough, consider the truth.
Maybe your manuscript does need more work. And maybe your writing skills could use improvement.
Or maybe the agent just signed an author who writes in the same genre you do. Or maybe the editor knows he can’t contract your book because his company is releasing a book on the same topic in a few months. Sometimes a rejection has nothing to do with you or your skills and everything to do with timing.
Then again, maybe the timing is fine, but you and the agent or editor simply have different likes.
Agents Are Human
I attended a writers conference years ago where agent Steve Laube served on the faculty. Participating in an agent panel, Steve mentioned that agents don’t always make the right call. He cited a well-known author whom he regretted rejecting several years earlier. During the Q & A session, several multi-published authors prefaced their questions by noting (with a laugh) that Steve had also rejected them. He finally asked the audience to raise their hands if they had been rejected by his agency. I lost count of the hands raised across the room as laughter erupted.
Agents are fallible!
Editors Are Fallible Too
Are you familiar with the anthology series, Chicken Soup for the Soul? The authors spent 3 years developing the first volume and finally published it in 1993, after 140 publishers rejected it. Thirty-three publishers turned them down in the first month alone! Their agent finally returned their manuscript, saying, “I can’t sell this.” Yet in more than 20 years, the series has sold more than 115 million copies with 250 titles, and there are more to come. Inspirational “soup” books have been published for kids, teenagers, parents, women, couples, dentists, sports fans, veterans, nurses, pet lovers, chiropractors, and others.
Yes, editors don’t always recognize a bestseller, either!
Rejection Can Be a Stepping Stone
Author and teacher Kay Arthur once shared an illustration of a donkey that fell into an abandoned well. After many failed attempts to rescue it, the farmer reluctantly decided to end the donkey’s life. So he began to shovel dirt into the well. But with each shovelful that landed on its back, the donkey shook the dirt off and stamped it down. Eventually the farmer observed that the donkey stood a little closer to the top because the additional dirt had raised the floor. The farmer continued shoveling, and the donkey was able to step out of the well.
You and I can use rejection as a stepping stone too. We can use the added time to
research agents and editors for a better fit
improve our writing skills
learn more about the genre we’re writing in
join a critique group for objective feedback
draw near to the Lord to learn what He may want to teach us
encourage other writers who are facing similar circumstances
Don’t take rejection personally. Use it to grow into the person and writer God created you to be!
How has rejection helped you be a better writer? Share your thoughts in the comments.