For Writers: Writers’ motivation must come from within whether self-publishing, traditional publishing

So you’ve got that idea burning in your mind, that story itching in your fingers.

It’s a book — and you believe it needs to be written and read.

So what do you do first to get it published, other than start writing?

1. Decide whether you want to go for a traditional publisher or self-publish.

There are pros and cons to both, many industry professionals say. In the traditional publishing route, you would pitch your book to a traditional publisher in hopes they would offer you a contract. In the self-publishing world, you would pay to have your book published.

It’s important to keep a realistic view of which would be better for your book, said Jane Friedman, a long-time publishing industry professional who advises would-be authors at her website,

To get nonfiction books accepted by a traditional publisher — like a self-help book or book on a topic of faith — you have to have a strong hook and author platform, meaning you have to already have a proven reach to a target audience, she writes.

It is not something you create overnight, she said. And it is not something you can buy. It’s not a one-time event or your authority or qualifications. It’s not about being active on social media or blogging, though those are an important part of it.

“It is more about putting in consistent effort over the course of a career and making incremental improvements in extending your network,” Friedman wrote. “It’s about making waves that attract other people to you — not about begging others to pay attention.”

It’s a long-term process of connecting with quality readers and extending your reach gradually by partnering with others, she said.

If you don’t have a platform and are not wanting to take the time to build it before approaching a publisher, you might want to look into the self-publishing route.

“There are many mid-size houses, independent publishers, small presses, university presses, regional presses and digital-only publishers who might be thrilled to have your work,” Friedman wrote. “You just need to find them.”

And the benefits of self-publishing are that you retain all the rights to your book, get all the proceeds and have total control of the process, according to the “Getting Your Book Published for Dummies” website.

The downside is that you’re still going to need that author platform to some degree, otherwise you might never get your book out into the public domain. But you can go this route, enter writing contests and find other ways to get exposure for your book so you’ll potentially have greater success in approaching a traditional publisher, according to

2. Determine if you need an agent.

If you’re interested in going the traditional publishing route, you will likely need an agent, as most New York publishers don’t accept many, if any, unagented submissions, Friedman writes.

She said the best place to research agents is

Another place to start looking for an agent is at, according to

And another good place to explore your options is at events like the Southern Christian Writers Conference, held yearly in Tuscaloosa. There you can interact with industry professionals and get advice on where to start.

At conferences like these “you will meet agents and editors and start to see them as real people,” Friedman writes. “If you have an appointment or consultation with a publishing professional, it will shorten your path to publication. You can get the reasons, immediately, that an agent or editor may not be responding favorably to your work.”

3. Keep writing.

With book publishing, 99 percent of the time there’s no reason to get in a hurry, Friedman writes.

When the time comes to submit a manuscript, “be confident that you’re submitting your best work,” Friedman writes. “One of the biggest mistakes new writers make is rushing to get published.”

If your book is a novel or memoir, she said to finish the project and make it the best it can possibly be before giving it to an agent or a traditional publisher for consideration.

“Seek out a writing critique group or mentor who can offer you constructive feedback, then revise your story,” Friedman writes. It’s almost never a good idea, she said, to show them the manuscript at an early stage.

For nonfiction books other than memoirs, the best plan is to submit a well-
written proposal rather than a full manuscript, she said. A proposal is basically a business plan meant to convince a publisher to want your book, and it’s important that it be in the best shape it can be before it hits a publisher’s desk.

“Read in your genre, practice your craft and polish your work,” she said. “Repeat this cycle endlessly. It’s not likely your first attempt will get published. Your writing gets better with practice and time. You mature and develop.”

Huffington Post offered the same advice as part of its 11 tips on getting a book published — “Write well. Given how many people talk about writing a book when they have the time or after they retire, it’s easy to forget that writing is a real job. But it is. To do it well, you need time, practice and talent.”

Hiring a freelance editor or writing coach to give you feedback might not be a bad idea either, Friedman writes, noting that it’s hard to improve without a mentor.

In every case, make sure your validation comes from outside your closest family and friends and from people in the publishing industry instead, she said.

But, she said, “your motivation to write has to come from within. Don’t write (only) because you were given validation or permission by someone close to you. What you really need (require) is your own inner conviction.” (TAB)


The Southern Christian Writers Conference is a popular Alabama event —


Publishers in Alabama

Riddle Creek Publishing


Specializes in biblically based classroom curriculum


River City Publishing


Publishes Southern literary fiction and nonfiction


Apologetics Press

Publishes texts dedicated to the defense of New Testament Christianity


OnStage Publishing


Specializes in children’s literature