As authors these days, we need to know a tremendous amount. Just learning our craft is a never-ending process, but now we also have to understand marketing and the business of publishing as well. All that information can seem overwhelming.
I attend the Liars Club Writers’ Coffeehouse every month, and we ask a lot of questions and share a lot of information. I have watched as new writers’ eyes glaze over after the first hour, because the writers have reached their information intake limit. In the beginning, grasping the craft itself, let alone all the business and marketing surrounding writing, can feel impossible.
I can relate. About 4 years ago, I was the one with the glazing eyes.
I would sit listening to the experts talking and at times it sounded like they spoke a foreign language. And I guess in a way, they did. When people discuss things you have no context for, it sounds like nonsense. The only thing I knew for sure was that I was NEVER going to understand all of this.
Now it’s 4 years later, and people are asking me for advice and asking how I got to know so much about all this publishing stuff.
It’s no great mystery how I learned what I know: I spent 4 years listening and learning and doing.
Still seem overwhelming? These tips can help get things under control.
1. You cannot understand everything all at once.
Give yourself a break. You cannot learn everything at once. Trying will only lead to being overwhelmed. So pick whatever topic you want or need to know about at this time and focus on that. There are plenty of people willing to share what they know with you. Find blogs or people who are experts and follow them. How? See whose names pop up over and over when talking about that topic. See whose blog posts are linked to most often. Ask writers you trust who they listen to. After 4 years of helping write this blog’s Top Picks Thursday links roundup (a good place to start your search), I have found many blogs that consistently post high-quality information on many topics.
2. Don’t forget the big picture.
Even while focused on a particular topic, you should keep an eye on the big publishing picture. Things change mighty fast these days, and you should keep up. Again, blogs can be a good source, but so can groups like the Coffeehouse, which is led by published authors who are immersed in the day-to-day reality of publishing.
3. This is a process of accretion.
You will understand one thing. Then another. Then another. And suddenly Piece A connects to Piece G and the bigger picture comes into focus. It’s like gathering pieces of a scattered puzzle—you find each discreet piece on its own, but eventually you have enough pieces to start linking them into a whole. It takes time, but it happens.
So be patient with yourself and just stay open to the information. Slowly, the knowledge—craft, marketing, business—will build upon itself and you will see the landscape whole. You will understand how things fit together and how the machine works.
BONUS TIP 4 In the meantime, you will be doing—writing, revising, submitting—and that experience adds to your knowledge.
Keep going, and someday a new writer will come to you and ask for advice from an expert. And, just like me, you will look over your shoulder to find the expert…before realizing that they mean you.