Advice for Aspiring Authors
1. Note that this is not advice for aspiring writers. If you’re not already writing, it’s no use aspiring to be an author. A writer writes, an author produces, and a professional author makes a living doing it. It’s ok to be a writer, or an author, or a professional author. You can aspire to be an author or a professional author. But aspiring to be a writer is useless. Start writing.
2. Read. You’ve read the classics; read the things by your contemporaries. Not just John Green and Rainbow Rowell. Read what’s going on in the small press arena. Read what’s going on in the academic arena. Read what’s underground. Read the things from people and places most likely to publish your work. Read poetry, anthologies, short stories, and articles. Read the things you want to write.
3. Opportunity will come knocking. Eventually. But you have to be ready for it. You can’t be sitting around waiting for it to come to you. Some day, you will stumble across the perfect speculative fiction grant you’ve been waiting for. What will you do if you haven’t written that story yet? Hammer it out in time for the deadline? Oh, ok, good luck with that. What about the Open Submissions you come across? Great, you’ve been writing, but have you been reading this literary magazine? No? Then you have no idea what they’re looking for. And you can’t get to know them in two days while you prepare your submissions, either. You could be following literary magazines and small presses with gusto, inhaling everything they put out: Tweets, anthologies, blog posts, short poems. Get to know them. Take them to dinner, listen to their jokes, and learn their pet peeves before you, you know, hop into bed with the first small press that puts out an open submission. Then you’ll know what they’re looking for when they read those submissions. While stalking… er, getting to know your favorite presses, you might stumble across a fellowship that fits your needs or a great opportunity to edit for a small press you love. Well, fantastic, you know them and know what they’re looking for. But do they know you? You’re not technically disqualified, but being on everyone’s radar definitely ups your odds.
4. How do you get on people’s radars? And which people, anyway? Twitter and Facebook are both great places to start. Interact with editors (and other authors!), check out the authors they retweet, and fucking read shit. And then respond to it, because literature is a dialogue. Join communities and be active in them, both online and in real life. If there isn’t an Open Mic or critique group or book club in your area, then start one. Be a leader. Oh, and Tweet about it.
5. In case you didn’t get the hint from points 3 and 4, you have to submit stuff. You need to read to be a writer, and you need to write to be an author, but you need to submit stuff to be a professional author. You probably won’t get paid at first. Your work probably won’t even be accepted. But keep submitting.
6. Great, now you’re producing stuff. You’re an author. Aspire to being a professional author? Produce recognizable stuff and be recognizable. Find your genre but don’t be afraid of surprising people. Make sure people (both readers and submissions editors) can find your Twitter page when they Google you. Think about a Wordpress or Facebook page. Interact with others in social media. Your url/ Twitter handle will become familiar. So will your name. Keep submitting shit. Even if it isn’t accepted, make sure people learn to recognize your name. Start like this. It will grow.