Preparing to Be a Published Author


When you’re hoping to be a published author, you’re preparing for a whole new job in a whole new field. When you look at it from this perspective, you can see why agents are always stressing the importance of preparation and education..

Being a writer might be something you’ve always done. But being a published author is like starting a new business or getting a new job. To succeed, there’s a lot you’ll need to learn.

And the learning curve can be steep for quite a while! (As many of you are finding out—now that you’re working with a publisher on your first or third or fifth book.) New situations are always arising, there are constantly new hurdles to jump.

So what are the best ways to educate yourself?

  • Keep reading blogs and follow publishing people on social media.
  • Network with other authors online via loops, forums, Facebook, Twitter, other social media outlets. Try to make sure you have a network that includes writers further along the path than you—it’s the best way to learn.
  • Network with other authors in person via conferences, local writers’ events, workshops, and classes.
  • Read some books on the publishing life. Browse Amazon for the many choices.

I know it’s difficult to find the time to WRITE as well as prepare for the life of published author. Remember, slow and steady wins the race. You can do this.

What’s the most surprising or eye-opening thing you’ve learned about publishing in your journey so far?

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


  1. Angela Arndt on May 31, 2018 at 5:46 AM

    I’m always surprised when I find out that editors of publishing houses (even executive editors) are people just like we are. It’s a wee bit scary placing “your baby” into their hands, especially when they only publish 30 – 35 books a year. But the editors I’ve met at conferences have been genuinely nice and even encouraging. That was a very pleasant surprise.

  2. Tracy Line on May 29, 2018 at 11:00 AM

    Great post. In my journey, I have always been working on trying to be sure the writing is good. Obviously this is important. But now, I am focused on learning the ins and outs of the publishing industry. There is so much to learn but I truly think it will help me as I work to get my book completed.

  3. Lynne Hartke on May 28, 2018 at 4:40 PM

    It helped me to see my book as a big business card to opening doors that weren’t there before

  4. Patricia Iacuzzi on May 28, 2018 at 4:09 PM

    I’ve got the patience down, now for the consistency. With all that I’ve learned, I still have to expect that perhaps that first submission may not be accepted, and I need to keep moving forward.

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  8. Lance Tullis on October 31, 2011 at 1:31 PM

    I’ve been submitting, revising, and building a platform for almost three years. Even with endorsements, referrals, and a full manuscript accepted, I’ve yet to secure a contract. Becoming a published writer is HARD WORK. Thanks for your reminder that writing and “being a writer” are very different goals. LT

  9. Linda at Bar Mitzvahzilla on October 27, 2011 at 4:49 AM

    I’ve found that it’s hard to transition from the writer hiding in my office (albeit blogging and working as an editor), into a more public role. It’s hard to suddenly change hats, to be the “author” instead of the forever “wannabe.” And, when your natural forte is writing, not promoting, it can be difficult to suddenly plunge into the world of promotion.

  10. Gail Shepherd on October 25, 2011 at 7:36 PM

    The most important thing I’ve learned is that the race isn’t over just because you’ve published one book. So many published authors I know are stressing about their third or fourth or fifth books (writers block! slow sales! deadlines!), so I’d say, if you can’t handle the stress while you’re querying your first novel, maybe you’re not cut out for this biz?

  11. printing on October 25, 2011 at 6:58 PM

    Thank you for the post

  12. Thedesertrocks on October 25, 2011 at 4:39 PM

    Slow and steady wins the race….

  13. Eliabeth Hawthorne on October 25, 2011 at 2:57 PM

    After participating in a live chat with agents this summer and learning the right and wrong reasons to self publish, my coauthor Ermisenda Alvarez and I have already started building our author platform so that if we aren’t a fit for traditional publishing houses, we don’t have to start from scratch. It’s interesting to read that even published authors have to do the same thing.

  14. Kyle Dickerson on October 25, 2011 at 2:56 PM

    In the small amount of time I’ve been active on Twitter, reading these blogs, etc., I’ve been saved from some major pitfalls I would have otherwise known nothing about…as well as being educated to some I had already made. It’s true that there is much to learn, and I’m thankful for those who are willing to show and teach.

  15. birdermurdermama on October 24, 2011 at 9:16 PM

    If I had it to do over again, I would have finished every book I wanted to write before I had the very first one published! Since my first (series) book came out in 2008, I’ve been writing a book a year to keep up with getting the next book in the series published each year, while working on a second series (two books done there – neither sold yet), and trying to teach myself everything I can about the publishing industry (read Publishers Weekly and many blogs as often as possible!) itself. I’m also my own publicist and marketing director (a full-time job in itself), since my publisher is a small independent with no marketing resources. All this comes on top of a part-time position as a college adjunct and being a wife and mother! Yes, I’m busy, but I love it. So the biggest thing I’ve learned is that writing is only a piece of a very big job, and if you’re not writing out of love for it, you’re probably not going to make it over the long haul.

  16. CG Blake on October 24, 2011 at 9:10 PM

    Thanks for another great post. The most surprising thing I’ve learned about publishing is how many great writers are trying to get published. Studies indicate most Americans don’t write well. I figured as a journalism major with vast experience as and a writer and editor, I would be among the elite in terms of my writing ability, but there are so many amazing writers out there. That’s good for the craft and ultimately good for the reader.

  17. Kimberly Dawn Rempel on October 24, 2011 at 8:41 PM

    I think most surprising to me so far is the tangled web of marketing, particularly social networking. Overwhelming. Not sure which pieces to unravel first. Where to invest my time to get best results for readers, publishers and myself seems like some grand mystery. How does one network meaningfully yet efficiently?

  18. kiff on October 24, 2011 at 7:38 PM

    if anything jolted me was the advice on creating a platform and making use of social media.I’ve lived in the Caribbean all my life, still do now, so working on a platform and a presence is going to be an adventure.

    so, here I am trying my hand!

  19. Reba on October 24, 2011 at 5:36 PM

    Thank you, Rachelle for your reminder of “slow and steady wins the race.”
    In this fast pace world we live in I find myself caught up in the ‘hurry’ of doing things. If we went at a slower pace, we probably would not be as stressed out.
    I’m trying to do just that as I write my 4th book. I’m self-published so I do not have a deadline from a traditional publisher or agent, but…my readers keep asking me “when’s the next one coming out.” which I love and need that from them, but I need to remember to keep slow and steady.

    • Catherine Johnson on October 25, 2011 at 10:54 AM

      I must admit the intensity of the book launch scares me, so spreading everything out as much as possible is the way I’m going. Slow and steady wins the race is definitely my writing moto. Thanks Rachelle!

  20. Laura Kirk on October 24, 2011 at 4:30 PM


    What do you think about the following – you always offer stable insights: (It was sent to me by a fellow writer.)

    From The New York Times:

    Amazon Signs Up Authors, Writing Publishers Out of Deal, the online retailer, has long competed with bookstores; now it is
    starting to make deals with authors, bypassing the traditional publisher.

  21. joan Cimyotte on October 24, 2011 at 4:05 PM

    I’ve learned that there is so much to know. The other thing is that there are so many of us. I think there are more writers than readers.

  22. Annalise Green on October 24, 2011 at 3:22 PM

    I haven’t yet finished something big that I would want to send out. So I’m still far, far away from being a “published author”. But I think definitely the biggest thing I’ve learned from the writing blogosphere is that it’s POSSIBLE. I know, somehow all those stats had the opposite effect on me!

    But I don’t know, I always thought of getting published as this vague thing that happened because you were extremely lucky. You mean there are actual concrete steps that I can take to get myself there??? I’m not saying it’s easy, but it’s nice to know that there IS a path and it’s not something that just happens to you because you got lucky when you sent something out on a lark.

  23. Lisa Jordan on October 24, 2011 at 2:57 PM

    As a newly published author who also works full-time at home, I’m juggling two demanding jobs. My day job doesn’t end at 4:30 because there is more to do to prepare for the next day. My writing job begins after dinner and ends at bedtime. I’m so thankful for this new role in my life, but I will appreciate becoming a full time writer someday so I can devote more time to my writing career.

  24. Theresa Froehlich on October 24, 2011 at 2:42 PM

    Several things:
    That writing is not just about writing; it’s about being an entrepreneur, business-builder, and marketer;

    That being a writer stretches me in my personal development;

    That getting a book published is a lot of work!

  25. Lori on October 24, 2011 at 2:29 PM

    From my readings of various blogs of agents, I’ve learned that agents don’t live or work in ivory towers and that they are human just like the rest of us. 🙂

  26. Donna Pyle on October 24, 2011 at 1:12 PM

    As I work toward that wonderful goal, I’ve put several of your suggestions into practice and it has been amazing! The networking, wisdom, and comraderie has provided much needed guidance and encouragement. Thanks for putting all of these great tips into one place!

  27. Laura Drake on October 24, 2011 at 12:26 PM

    Thanks for the reminder to look at your links, Rachel.

    I’ve just recently become agented, and under submission – I find that I need a whole new plethora of blogs to follow for information, so they really helped!

  28. Elizabeth Carden on October 24, 2011 at 12:18 PM

    I honestly learn something every single day about this brave new world of publishing–hard to pin down the most eye-opening. While I do think this is a difficult time to get a book published, I recently wrote a post hoping to give others on this journey with me some historical perspective–it’s always been difficult!

    Thanks, Rachelle, for all of your advice and encouragement!

  29. Wanda on October 24, 2011 at 12:10 PM

    What is frustrating to me is how long the process takes. It took two years to complete the book. And now the manuscript has been in the hands of an editor at a publishing house for two months. Their guidlines say it could be 10 months to a year to get a reply! I’m getting too old to wait that long! And of course there’s the chance it could still be rejected and I’ll be back to square one.

  30. Casey on October 24, 2011 at 12:05 PM

    Because I’m unpublished and unagented (and just content with that status right now) I feel I can take the time to really learn all I need to learn. And I hope I succeed and become prepared as I can be for when I do head into publishing.

  31. Expat Mum on October 24, 2011 at 11:23 AM

    The biggest surprise to me, on being published, was the amount of work you have to do AFTER the book comes out. (Therefore, in preparation for publication, make sure to factor a lot of time in for PR and Marketing.)
    Even though I had a big publisher, I wasn’t a big author and therefore very little was done in the way of PR for me. (This is typical BTW.) I worked day and night for months to spread the word about my book – far harder than I ever imagined I would and you need to carve out the time for that.

    • TC Avey on October 24, 2011 at 11:59 AM

      WOW, that’s daunting! Good thing I like to work hard because it sounds like I’m in for a long ride. I still haven’t got an agent, so I know I have a long way to go. I’m excited about this journey however.

      Thanks for the added perspective, I think I have been more focused on getting an agent/published and haven’t really thought much about what comes next. I know I have to go one step at a time, but I have to be learning ahead of the steps and ready to go!

  32. Mel Menzies on October 24, 2011 at 11:05 AM

    You’re so right, Rachelle. I started writing as a child, received my first rejection slip at the age of fourteen (from a prestigious short story magazine) and was finally published in my thirties (under a different name) once I’d raised my family. Other than via membership of a couple of organisations, I had no contact with other authors, and felt very isolated and unsure of myself.

    Of course my then publisher and agent booked events for me, and I recall my first visit to a booksellers’ conference where I saw my name up on one of the stands. I confessed to feeling very wobbly. “I’m only a housewife trying to find time to be an author,” I said. “No, you’re not,” came the reply. “It’s about time you started thinking of yourself as an author trying to find time to be a housewife.” That remark completely transformed my thinking.

  33. Lindsay Harrel on October 24, 2011 at 11:01 AM

    Rachelle, thanks for the great reminders. I’ve just started writing my first novel, but through reading agents’ blogs and other writers’ blogs, I’m learning the vital importance of building a platform and a following early on. I’m soaking all of this new information in and loving it! Trying to find time to write amidst the learning is the biggest challenge.

  34. Patricia Raybon on October 24, 2011 at 10:14 AM

    Great question, Rachelle. This fall, my third and fourth books are being published, both by Tyndale House–and I’m grateful. When I talk to aspiring authors, however, I’m surprised, not that they want to be published, but how few read good writing. Just last week, I talked to a woman longing to write a book to tell her life story, but she doesn’t read memoirs. Or I talk to people who love to read, and long to get published, but they won’t take time to master the rules of grammar. God help us, first, to seek to give him our best in our writing–by doing the hard work needed to give others our most. Thank you for your post!

  35. Dianne Liuzzi Hagan on October 24, 2011 at 10:00 AM

    I wrote a good memoir, one that people who want to understand race in America will want to read, but I didn’t know I needed a platform — they didn’t teach me that in my MFA program. Now I’m working hard on it and moving forward each week. Slower than I had predicted, but I believe in my book and the ones I will write in the future.

    My blog is About Race (maybe one of the few writers that doesn’t write about writing?).

  36. Katie Ganshert on October 24, 2011 at 9:43 AM

    That is the struggle! Trying to get a handle on this new business I find myself in AND find time to write. The fact that my writing output has slowed kills me just a little.

    • TC Avey on October 24, 2011 at 11:53 AM

      I too am having a little difficulty balancing the two. Sorry you are having this issue, but for me, it’s nice to know that I’m not alone.

      It’s hard to find the balance between learning this new business, writing and having other commitments and responsibilities.

  37. Yvonne Osborne on October 24, 2011 at 9:36 AM

    I always read your blog. The most surprising thing to me was that the first agent I queried didn’t snatch me up in a NaNo second! I’ve come a long way.

  38. Sarah Thomas on October 24, 2011 at 9:12 AM

    I thought published authors I admire would be sort of unreachable. I figured they would be too busy to reply to e-mails or answer newbie questions. But I’ve been delighted by how open and willing to share published writers are. I knew I’d have to be “social” in order to promote my work, I just had no idea how welcoming the CBA world would be to newcomers.

  39. Stephen King on October 24, 2011 at 8:33 AM

    It kind of surprises me how flat the sprint to the finish line is. After months of rejection, I just received an e-mail this morning from the editor asking for a few little things (like a few Q&A) before it goes. I’d’ve thought I’d be celebrating, printing out the e-mail and making little party hats out of it. Instead, I’m in bad need of a nap.

  40. Timothy Fish on October 24, 2011 at 7:35 AM

    When you put it that way, I can see why I have the attitude toward publishing that I do. I don’t want a whole new job. I like the job I’ve got. And I enjoy doing the work I’m doing at church. I value those experiences and I see writing as a means by which I can teach other people some of what I have learned from those experiences. Maybe they can avoid some of my mistakes. But I don’t want to give up my life just so I can help those who come behind me. I want to lead the way, not get out of the way and cheer others on.

    • Karyn on October 24, 2011 at 1:25 PM

      I hear what you’re saying, Timothy. I write, not to create a “product,” but to communicate ideas.

      I want to craft that communication as clearly and (in the case of fiction) as artistically as possible; that is not necessarily the same as learning to craft it in terms of someone’s idea of a “marketable product” in terms of perceived trends and tastes and genres in 2011.

      In my case, though, I would like to pursue writing and reading and related tasks full-time instead of the jobs I’ve had over the years. All the talk about how it takes forever and ever and ever and ever to write a book good enough to even be considered, and then forever and ever and ever and ever to finally attain publication, and then don’t expect to make much money, if any–well, come on. I don’t have forever and ever and ever and ever to wait. I expect a reasonable return on the investment of my time and energy within a reasonable amount of time, and frankly think the writing culture has been built up more to make it as difficult as possible to gain entrance. Most industries at least have entry-level positions where one can earn a living doing something related to what they ultimately aspire to be doing.

      • Timothy Fish on October 25, 2011 at 9:44 AM


        I can’t say I disagree, but I’m not sure how to solve that problem. The large number of people who want to write makes it impossible for all who want in to be let in. In other industries, there are paid entry level positions because the demands of the job turn most people away. In writing, though it is challenging to be truly great, entry level is so easy that nearly anyone can do it.

        • Amy Sue Nathan on October 25, 2011 at 6:02 PM

          Bad writing might be easy but good writing is hard work — at any level.

          • Karyn on October 25, 2011 at 6:49 PM

            Entry-level writing isn’t necessarily “bad” writing, so much as “adequate” writing for the purposes of the management. Anyone with writing talent and a bit of polish can write an article for a company newsletter that is not only “adequate” but “good.”

            For that matter, I’ve seen an awful lot of published books that are mediocre, at best, in terms of the caliber of writing. Sometimes “what sells” isn’t necessarily “what is great.”

            I think part of the problem might be that we live in a culture in which good writing isn’t valued highly enough to be considered worth seeking out. If you can knock a few sentences together, run spell check, and make the company look good and/or earn a few dollars, you’ve met expectations.

        • Karyn on October 25, 2011 at 6:38 PM

          I wasn’t expecting you to be able to solve it 😉 just articulating a frustration that many creative people share.

          I am a patient person, and do not mind the idea that it takes time to see results, but I do expect to see results. Eventually, preferably in THIS lifetime, I want to be free of the need to do “paycheck” jobs that might be reasonably tolerable but also divert my attention and energy from focus on my writing.

          The path to publication and self-sufficiency as an author seems more like investing time and money at the casino, with a slim guarantee of any return on time and money spent, than like building a path, step by step, towards a solid payback of eventually having the work we REALLY want to do be our source of support. Career counselors and authors of career books always talk about how everyone can make a living doing the work they love; is that true, or is it merely something people write in books so they can make money writing books? 😀

  41. otin on October 24, 2011 at 7:32 AM

    The most interesting thing I’ve learned about getting published is how to install a light bulb! hahaha

  42. Joanna Aislinn on October 24, 2011 at 7:23 AM

    Feel as though I’m earning three degrees as this journey evolves: writing/revision; business/promotion; social media.

    Wrote a post on this topic too, about what I’d do differently with the knowledge and hindsight gained

    As always, Rachelle, thanks for your candidness and time to share your experience and expertise!

  43. Keiki Hendrix on October 24, 2011 at 7:18 AM

    The most important advice I’ve received is to seek out critiques, tips, advice from those who have a clear description of my reader and are sincerely interested in what the objective of my work is. General guidelines are useful but specific advice is more useful to me. An excellent way to do this is speaking with agents, publishers, and editors who work at writers conferences or online training courses.

    • TC Avey on October 24, 2011 at 11:50 AM

      Good advice!

  44. Peter DeHaan on October 24, 2011 at 7:05 AM

    As I begun to consider writing as a career, I was hit with four significant surprises:

    1) Don’t quit your day job.
    2) It’s unlikely that you can support yourself writing books (hence item 1).
    3) You must market and promote your own books.
    4) Having a platform is essential.

  45. Cheryl Linn Martin on October 24, 2011 at 3:28 AM

    I just received my first contract for my three-book series and am very excited to take this journey! I didn’t know about all the marketing things I need to pull together, but I’m learning, planning, and enjoying–thinking about blog tours, release parties, networking, and more.

    It was nice to meet you in the airport, Rachelle–I’m Camille’s friend. Thanks for the helpful post!

    • TC Avey on October 24, 2011 at 11:55 AM

      Congrats! That’s great, it’s always wonderful to hear success stories!!

      Can’t wait to someday share mine (wink)!

    • Shanice Thompson on June 18, 2012 at 12:17 PM

      I’m only 18 but frm as long as i can remember writing stories as always been my passion. It would be a pleasure if someone helped me to find out how to publish a book. plz if there is anyone who can help me just comment on my msg and educate me on the pros n cons as well as how to go about publishing a book, thnk u so much..

  46. Marji Laine on October 24, 2011 at 3:20 AM

    When I started this journey, I assumed that hermits made the best authors. After connecting with writers via social media, enjoying online training, and joining critique groups and writing guilds, the fallacy of my original belief turned my entire attitude about this career around. What a blessed revelation!

  47. Aimee L. Salter on October 24, 2011 at 3:14 AM

    The thing that surprised me most was how long it (usually) takes writers to become traditionally published authors from the day they start writing their first novel, to the day they finally have a book on the shelf.

  48. Amber Argyle on October 24, 2011 at 1:33 AM

    I’ve learned more going through the publication process than I thought possible.

    Somethings have surprised me (like the politics that come with publishing).

    Other things have been better than I imagined (like meeting fans and receiving fan mail-love that!).

  49. Beth MacKinney on October 24, 2011 at 12:59 AM

    Have you ever read Aaron Shepard’s book ‘The Business of Writing for Children,’ Rachelle? (Just picked it up at the library.) It was short and sweet, but seemed like a great way to bring a writer up to speed on the business of publishing. Your thoughts?

  50. Cari Galeziewski on October 24, 2011 at 12:49 AM

    Thanks Rachelle for reminding me that even though I haven’t finished my novel, I need to be doing things that put me ten steps ahead of the game.

  51. Elanor Lawrence on October 24, 2011 at 12:39 AM

    I’m still unagented and I’ve never even queried, so I’m probably not the sort of opinion you’re looking for, but even at my stage of the game I’ve been able to learn so much. Two years ago I still thought you mailed off your book to the publisher. Thanks to the online community, I’ve learned about agents and queries and all that sort of thing. While I have yet to complete a manuscript that I think is worthy of being published (I’m writing my 4th novel, the other three I trunked) but once I do, I already know what to do with it and what will likely happen afterwards.