First Things First
or… Don’t Put the Cart Before the Horse
If you’re a writer, here’s what I want to ask you today: Are you getting ahead of yourself?
There are seasons in a writer’s life: Seasons for focusing on the art and craft of writing, and seasons for focusing on the business of writing. And seasons where it’s appropriate to spend time on both.
If you’re a fairly new writer, unpublished, you should probably be focusing on art and craft. Sure, it’s fun to spend your leisure time cruising the Internet and learning about agents, publishers, and how the industry works. But the bulk of your time should be spent on writing. Learning to write is first and foremost. Are you a freshman writer? If you’re spending more time learning about publishing than working on your writing… do you think you might be getting ahead of yourself? None of the business aspects will be relevant to you, if your writing isn’t strong enough.
After you’ve worked on your writing for awhile (usually a year to several years), you’ll be ready to start thinking about getting published. Then you definitely need to be thinking about queries, proposals, platform, marketing, and other business aspects of writing. You need to kick your business-focus into high gear. There may even be periods of time when your writing takes a back seat as you learn the ins and outs of publishing.
Once you’re published, you’re going to have to pay attention to both business and art. You’ll go back and forth more easily.
But if you’re at the beginning of this journey, it’s tempting and fun to think about all the bells and whistles of “being published,” but your most important job is to work hard on your writing. Don’t be too eager to query. Even if you’ve finished a book, don’t type “The End” and then immediately begin whipping out those query letters. Let it sit. Go back and edit, revise, polish. Do everything you can to get it right.
Now, if you’re writing non-fiction and it’s a platform-driven topic, then along with your writing, you’ll need to be platform building. You might get speaking engagements, build your blog readership, make a name for yourself in your field. That’s going to be just as important as the writing. Novelists and memoirists, not so much. The writing is most important.
So where are you in this process? Focusing mostly on the craft of writing? Or mostly on business—queries, proposals, marketing plans, etc. Are you doing the right thing for where you are on the journey? Or do you need to re-evaluate?
Rachelle Gardner, Christian literary agent, WordServe Literary Group, Colorado.