For Authors

So, You Wanna Be An Author? By Doreen Orion


Writers ask me all the time, “How can I get published?” If I answered those emails personally (let alone spoke on the phone to every acquaintance/friend of an acquaintance/friend who wanted advice) that’s all I’d do all day. (I already spend enough time not doing the things I should be doing since discovering Twitter.) So, here are some tips:


It’s harder nowadays to get published than ever before. Before you can become an author, you have to be a writer. It’s always surprising to me how many people skip this step. They don’t realize that they can’t just want to be writers and then become them. It didn’t work in fourth grade when they wanted to be astronauts, so why should this be any different? It’s crucial to study, read (books on writing and in your genre), take workshops and classes, join a critique group and/or hire a professional to critique your work. I am hereby warning the next person who tells me, “Oh, I always wanted to write a book, I just never had the time” I’m going to throw up on you. Copiously. As Elizabeth George says in her excellent book on the craft of writing, Write Away, “You will be published if you possess three qualities – talent, passion, and discipline.” “Just” never had the time? Fortunately, I haven’t eaten yet today.  


So, you’re a writer. Now, you want to become an author.


Especially for nonfiction, you must have a platform. Platform is not publicity: It is assumed that every author will do everything she can to promote her book and will try to get reporters to write about her, do book tours (if sent), have a web presence, etc. What agents and publishers want to know is what built-in, ready-made audience you already have for your book. That’s your platform and it’s usually because you’re an expert on a certain subject, so already have people clamoring to read anything you write on your website, newsletter, blog, etc. or to hear anything you have to say at the conferences you present to. If you still don’t understand platform, websites like are invaluable, free sources of information like that and so much more.


People ask how I landed my wonderful agent. I had no connections, so used, a free website where you can plug in your genre, search for agents accepting submissions and get their websites, sales and submission preferences. I queried in batches, ie sent out 6-10 letters and waited for the responses. Then, when asked, I sent out my proposal and two sample chapters. (For fiction, the entire manuscript needs to be completed before you query. For nonfiction – including memoir – just a proposal and two sample chapters will suffice.) The batch method works best because it allows you to make corrections based on any feedback you might get. For example, if out of 10 queries, no one asks to see your pages, you know you have to rework your query. (You usually won’t get actual feedback on query letters.) Some agents will give you feedback on your manuscript, even if they reject you – that’s another reason to send out in batches. You can then incorporate the feedback you get into a rewrite, if after much thoughtful consideration and consultation with your citique group/professional critiquer, you agree with it. If you don’t agree with it, but several agents tell you the same thing… maybe it’s time to be more thoughtful.


Nothing we write can ever be perfect – but it can always be better.


In the meantime, don’t just wait for an agent to sign you. Keep building your platform.


The best book I’ve come across on this entire process is Susan Page’s, The Shortest Distance Between You and a Published Book.


Agent and author blogs are also a great resource for aspiring authors. Some of my favorites are:

Also peruse the links on their sites.


I URGE you: prior to querying, get your manuscript/proposal professionally critiqued. Just suck it up and spend the bucks. Two published authors who also do critiques are: Pam Novotny and Kathryn Black (the latter, especially for memoir). I know them both personally, and can highly recommend them.


Already have a book deal? Congratulations! Do yourself a favor and hire author consultant extraordinaire Bella Stander. Her website also has great author resources for web design, publicity, etc. Some other wonderful sites that helped make QUEEN OF THE ROAD a success were:




Readers Circle


Best of luck!


- Queen Doreen


Copyright 2008 Doreen Orion