So when people contact me about getting published, here’s my advice to them:
1. Start a blog
You already like to write. So blogging will be natural for you. You may even have the charism of writing (I do), which means writing is deeply fulfilling. It’s one of the gifts God gave you through your baptism, to work for the Kingdom. Awesome!
You have to have a blog because it forms the basis for your Platform. Whether you self-publish or find a publisher, you need a platform through which people can find you, learn about you, read your work, and connect with you. And a blog is the most natural way to do it. Use wordpress (self-hosted if possible) or blogger, but the important thing is just to get started.
Without a platform, convincing a publisher to take on your project is much more difficult. They want to see that you are out there building a brand. Not because they are stingy or lazy but because social media is now the most effective way to market books. So while they will do both traditional marketing and new media marketing, they want to partner with writers who are going to be actively promoting their work, speaking on the radio or at events, blogging, on facebook and/or twitter, etc.
2. Reap the Blog Rewards
Through blogging, you will become:
A more practiced writer.
You will be writing multiple posts each week. Writing will become like second nature to you. You will be exercising your charism on a regular basis, making your even stronger at it.
Sure, there’s a danger in being sloppy and learning bad habits with frequent word-slinging, but in my opinion that danger is outweighed by the advantages.
Used to criticism
If you are going to write a book, you will receive criticism. Some people won’t like it, will disagree, fairly or unfairly. They will leave negative comments, email you, diss you on your YouTube channel, give you one-star reviews on amazon, etc. With blogging you will get the opportunity to develop a thick skin.
Adept at Incorporating Feedback
On the positive side, you will also receive criticism that is constructive, that provides feedback on your ideas. You float an idea out to your readers and find out what they think. You learn which arguments work and which don’t, which claims are specious and which are solid, what resonates with people and what falls flat.
3. Endure the Slow Growth
There’s nothing worse than writing what you think is a great blog post, and you publish it, and you wait for comments, and you wait some more, and none come. No one cares. No one read it, or three people did and none of them were moved enough to respond.
It takes time to build a readership. I’ve been blogging for over seven years and my “numbers” are still fairly modest. Jen Fulwiler’s blog is orders of magnitude more popular than mine. She once told me that the great thing about a blog is that, if you just keep at it, your number of readers will continue to grow. I nodded sagely but secretly wondered whether that was true. So for the next six months or so I watched my numbers. My blog readers did grow but seemingly at the pace of a large glacier melting.
But after plugging away for a long time, more and more people have discovered my writings and now I receive comments on almost every post I make, sometimes lots of comments. For most people, moderate readership increases will be the norm, but slow and steady wins the race so it’s worth it. So I do think Jen’s advice is true, but the trick is to keep at it and not get discouraged.
4. Connect with Others
Facebook is one of my prime mediums for connecting. I’m active on there and if you friend me, I will read what you post and will comment on it if it interests me. I want to get to know people–this is coming from an introvert by the way–and facebook is a nice sandbox for doing so.
But some people aren’t on facebook. That’s fine: take the shotgun approach. Start a YouTube channel and make some videos. I don’t pay attention but just looked and saw my YouTube channel has almost 100,000 video views. Wow, that many people have watched videos I created. Some people love videos and this is the way to connect with them. I still get emails every week from atheists who are irate about my video on how to convert them to Christianity. Stir up the hornet’s nest baby!
Other people don’t watch videos but listen to podcasts. So make a podcast on iTunes and upload your recordings to it. I made one and lots of people have found me through it. Matter of fact so few Catholic apologists do podcasts that if you google catholic apologetics podcast you find mine as the first link. I don’t deserve that but it’s the way it is because I started one a few years back and just slowly plugged away with it.
Some won’t listen to a podcast. So go on twitter or pinterest or google+ or wherever and try to connect with people there. And don’t stress if you can’t place bets on all these forums; just pick a few you like and stick with it. Blog + facebook is fine. Blog + YouTube is fine, etc. The goal is to make connections with others.
5. Submit Your Proposal to Publishers
Traditional publishers are still very important, especially in niches like Catholic-related books. Do your best to craft a proposal and send it to lots of publishers. Get ready for rejection. These outfits operate tight ships; they work to publish books that do well with their audience. Yours may or may not fit. Listen to their feedback but don’t get worked up if they don’t provide detailed criticisms. In part that is protective of themselves and in part they don’t have time for it.
Look around for all the publishers you can find. What do they offer you: professional vetting of your idea, editing, layout, cover design, credibility, and marketing. You cannot do all that yourself as well as they can, even if you can approximate it.
6. Self-pub, Editing, and Cover
Let’s say everyone rejects your work. Oh well, if you want to try it, self-publish! Use Amazon’s CreateSpace for the paperback and Kindle Direct for the Kindle version. Go through Barnes and Noble’s PubIt platform for Nook and then use Smashwords to get to Apple, Sony, Kobo, and the others.
But you should find a freelance editor to edit your work. Expect to pay them well for their work. A good editor will save you many embarrassments and provide invaluable feedback on your work. Same with cover design. Unless you are good at designing graphics, don’t design your own cover.
Yes this all means you will have to pay your own money to self-publish. Expect to pay $1,000 for editing and cover minimum. More like $2,000 for good ones. But if you believe in your work, then you can believe you will make this money back.
In the one year my book has been out there (self-published), it has sold 6,000 copies (ebooks + paperbacks). That fact surprised me greatly. I don’t tell people they will have such success as I think I got lucky in several ways, but I tell it to you to encourage you as to what is possible by a regular guy like me with a blog.
I’ve been something of everything: wannabe author, unknown to somewhat known blogger, self-pub writer, now God willing published author. Yet I’ve always been the same person; my self-worth is not found in how many people read my book or blog or whether a publisher likes my manuscript. Neither is yours. So don’t get too caught up in it all. If God wants you to be raised up through these means, He will raise you up (but not on eagles’ wings!).
And sometimes others who seem less worthy will rocket into the stratosphere in popularity. People will share their blog posts like breath mints, while yours go ignored. That’s life. Unless you’re the next sensation who thinks up Stuff White People Like or that Call Me Maybe song, the road will be long and uphill. But trust in the Lord and do all for His glory, leaving the results in His hands. Say that prayer about hoping others become more saintly than you so long as you become as saintly as God desires for you.
God bless! Let me know if you have more ideas or (gasp!) criticism of these suggestions.