How to Become an Author: Your Complete Guide

So you want to become an author…how to become an author image 1

Well, I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news.

The bad news first:

Writing your book won’t be easy. If you’re in the middle of that process, you’re nodding right now.

But here’s the good news:

All that work is a small price for the amazing possibilities it can open to you:

  • Getting published
  • Enjoying a career you love
  • Impacting people with your writing
  • Media attention
  • Royalty income

In this extensive guide, my goal is to give you an honest look at how to become an author—using lessons I’ve learned from 40+ years working with some of the top publishers in the world.

Having written 21 New York Times bestsellers myself, I’m confident these lessons will help you in your writing journey.

Ready? Let’s do it.


What You Will Learn

Here’s the short version of everything I cover in this complete, step-by-step post:

  1. DON’T Try to Become an Author Until You’ve…


  1. Writing Your Book


  1. Trying to Land a Publishing Contract


  1. Should You Self-Publish?

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1. DON’T Try to Become an Author Until You’ve…

I get it. You’re antsy. You’re ready to pen your bestseller right now. You’ve read or heard of writers who had never written a thing before and yet scored with a million-seller on their first try.

Throttle back. Those stories become big news because they’re so rare. Don’t bank on winning the lottery. If you want your book (and your message) to go anywhere, make sure you’ve:

…Studied the Craft

There’s no need to write a compelling story by trial and error anymore. Others have already done it for you—and written books about it. So your best bet is to follow proven methods.

Great writers are great readers. So here’s a list of my favorite 11 books on writing to get you started.

The competition has gotten so fierce, you’ll do yourself a favor if you learn how successful authors write before you try to get a second look from a publisher. Take the time to learn what you’re doing. You’ll thank yourself later.

…Written Things Shorter Than a Book

A book shouldn’t be where you start any more than you should enroll in grad school when you’re a kindergartner. A book is where you arrive.

Start small, learn the craft, hone your skills.

Do some journaling. Write a newsletter. Start a blog. Get articles published in a couple of magazines, a newspaper, an ezine. Take a night school or online course in journalism or creative writing.

Publishers are looking for authors with platforms (in short: audiences, tribes, followers, fans). So start building yours now. Any of the pieces above will start building steam behind your writing, and boost name recognition for you as a writer.

If you’re planning to start blogging, check out this post on creating an author website.

Bottom line: Work a quarter-million clichés out of your system, learn what it means to be edited, become an expert in something, build your platform, and then start thinking about that book or novel.

…Plugged Yourself into a Community of WritersBecome an author - Community of Writers

Think you can do it alone?

Then you’re a better writer than I.

Almost every traditionally published author I know is surrounded by a helpful community. How else would they deal with things like:

I’ve written over 185 books, yet I often wonder whether I can finish the next one.

At this stage for me, community means knowing I can be encouraged by colleagues whenever I need it.

When you’re starting out, another pair of eyes on your work can prove to be invaluable. Ten pairs of eyes are even better.

Join a writers’ group. Find a mentor. Stay open to criticism.

One caveat with writers’ groups: make sure at least one person, preferably the leader, is widely published and understands the publishing landscape. Otherwise you risk the blind leading the blind.

2. Writing Your Book

Surprisingly, most people never get this far. Whether it’s fear or procrastination or something else, few writers ever make it to the first page.

To avoid becoming part of this sad group, you need a plan.

So regardless your personal writing method, be sure to cover these bases:

Create a Writing Schedule You Can Stick To

When you’re an author, writing becomes your job.

So treat it that way. Show up and do the work whether you feel like it or not. Writer’s block is no excuse. In no other profession could you get away with getting out of work by claiming you have worker’s block. Try that and see what it gets you—likely a pink slip.

Find at least six hours a week to write. Well, find is the wrong word, of course. You won’t find it, you’ll have to carve out the time. Lock these hours into your calendar and keep them sacred.

If you can’t think of what to write, then edit. If you can’t edit, plan. You’ll be astonished at your ability to get stuff done when you finally plant yourself in your chair.

Challenge: Don’t move until you have scheduled at least six hours.

Research and Plan

To give your manuscript the best chance to succeed, skip this step at your peril. Excellent preparation will make or break your book.

Two main ways you should be preparing:

1. Outline.

Regardless how you feel about outlining, you need an idea of where you’re going before you start. If you’re writing a novel, you’re either an outliner or a pantser—those who write by the seat of their pants. (If you’re writing a nonfiction book, an outline is a given.)

On the fiction side, the definition of an outliner is obvious. You plan everything beforehand. But pantsers write by process of discovery—or as Stephen King puts it, they “put interesting characters in difficult situations and write to find out what happens.”

Neither is better or worse. But most writers are one or the other (a few are hybrids, largely one over the other but doing a little of both). But, depending on which you are, you’ll approach the planning phase completely differently.

If you’re a hardcore outliner (and a novelist), you’ll enjoy my friend and colleague Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method. But if you’re a pantser, check out this post for non-outliners. It’ll teach you how to work within a structure while staying free enough to write on the fly.

2. Do the research.

All great stories are rooted in solid research. If your research stinks, your story sinks.

If your character drives 10 miles east out of the Chicago Loop, he’d better be in an amphibious vehicle, because he’ll be in Lake Michigan. (And you thought I was joking about sinking.)

To avoid such embarrassing errors, do your research. Immerse yourself in the details of your setting. Make sure no characters are wearing ski jackets when it’s 95 degrees outside.

Two online research tools that will help you avoid mistakes:

Don’t Quit Your Day Job

I didn’t become a full-time freelance author until I had written and published nearly 90 books. I had been advised by a veteran author that my freelance income ought to be around three times what I made at my job before I considered going solo.

I was stunned. Why so much more?

He started listing everything I would have to pay for on my own. Insurance, retirement, all my benefits. I had always been careful to separate my writing and my office work, but during my off hours on business trips I might do some research.

No more. Any travel would be on me.

Your day job doesn’t have to keep you from writing your book. You might not like this, but I recommend you keep it and spend your after-hours time writing your book. Why? Two reasons:

  1. You’ll have steady income—one less thing to worry about—while trying to build your writing career.
  2. The structure will force you to be more productive with fewer hours.

So, yes, you can have your cake and eat it too—without sacrificing time with family. You lose three hours per night for what, TV? How big a sacrifice is that for your writing dream? How badly do you want to become an author?

Become a Writer Ferocious About Self-Editing

This section is so important that it has the power to determine whether your book makes a huge splash with readers and publishers—or slides into the editor’s reject pile after the first page or two.

Get serious about self-editing.

Editors know from the first page whether your manuscript is publishable. I know that doesn’t sound fair or even logical. You’re thinking, It took me months, maybe years, to write hundreds of pages and you didn’t even get to the good stuff!

How could they do that to you? Why did they?

First, the good stuff ought to be in the first two paragraphs. And if they see 15 adjustments they need to make on the first two pages, they know the cost of editing three or four hundred pages of the same would eat whatever profits they could hope for before even printing the book.

To avoid the dreaded “Thank you, but this doesn’t meet a current need” letter, your manuscript must be lean and mean, besides being a great story and a great read.

Here are my 21 rules of ferocious self-editing:

  1. Develop a thick skin.
  2. Avoid throat-clearing.
  3. Choose the normal word over the obtuse.
  4. Omit needless words.
  5. Avoid subtle redundancies, like: “She nodded her head in agreement.” Those last four words could be deleted.
  6. Avoid the words up and down—unless they’re really needed.
  7. Usually delete the word that. Use it only for clarity.
  8. Give the reader credit. Once you’ve established something, you don’t need to repeat it.
  9. Avoid telling what’s not happening.
  10. Avoid being an adjectival maniac.
  11. Avoid hedging verbs like smiled slightly, almost laughed, frowned a bit, etc.
  12. Avoid the term literally—when you mean figuratively.
  13. Avoid too much stage direction.
  14. Maintain a single point of view (POV) for every scene.
  15. Avoid clichés, and not just words and phrases, but situations.
  16. Resist the urge to explain (RUE).
  17. Show, don’t tell.
  18. People say things; they don’t wheeze, gasp, sigh, laugh, grunt, or retort them.
  19. Specifics add the ring of truth, even to fiction.
  20. Avoid similar character names. In fact, avoid even the same first initials.
  21. Avoid mannerisms of punctuation, typestyles, and sizes.

3. Trying to Land a Publishing Contract

I’m not going to sugarcoat it—this isn’t easy. But if you have a solid plan (and if you’ve followed the guide), you’ve got as good a chance as any.

This section will show you how to become an author by revealing the options available. These best practices can vastly increase your likelihood of getting published.

How to Get an Agent

Your first step in trying to land a traditional publishing deal should be to land an agent—which can be just as difficult, as it should be.

There will seem a dichotomy here, because you are likely writing for altruistic reasons—you have a mission, a passion, a message, something burning inside that you must share with the world. Yet agents or publishers will appear to base their decisions solely on the bottom line.

If they see sales potential, they will accept it; if they don’t they won’t.

But don’t despair. That doesn’t mean they don’t share your passion. It simply means they must make a profit to stay in business—even faith-based publishers who are all about ministry.

Though it’s hard to find an agent, it is possible to get traditionally published without one. Most will not consider unsolicited manuscripts, though some will.

Check The Writer’s Market Guide and The Christian Writer’s Market Guide for publishers that don’t require agent-represented manuscript submissions. Some will allow you to submit at writers conferences or through other clients of theirs.

Be aware that it’s not unheard of to submit an unsolicited manuscript to dozens of publishers without success.

An agent can make your life a lot easier.

A plethora of new doors open because of your agent’s connections.

Besides the instant credibility of an agent’s approval and the knowledge that your writing has survived a vetting process, you also get valuable input and coaching on how to fashion your query and proposal from someone who understands the publishing industry, knows the players and who’s looking for what, and has experience successfully pitching publishers.

Obviously, there are good agents and bad agents. How do you know whom you can trust? The credible agent welcomes scrutiny. So find reviews. Check with other clients. Ask:

  • How did their book turn out?
  • Did they feel taken care of? Were they pleased with the results?

Feel free to ask agents:

  • What kinds of books have they succeeded with?
  • Have they succeeded in your genre?

Once you compile a list of agents who seem to be a good fit, follow their submission guidelines. They’ll likely ask for a query letter, synopsis, proposal, and perhaps a few chapters.

If any ask for any sort of reading fee or other payment up front, eliminate them as candidates and do not respond.

Before you do anything else, check out these submission guidelines from three agents I’m familiar with. I’m not necessarily evaluating or endorsing them, except to say that I know them to be ethical and trustworthy and find their guidelines helpful and sound.

Their pages will give you a good idea of what typical agents are looking for.

Steve Laube’s guidelines

Hartline Literary’s guidelines

Books and Such’s guidelines

Two things you may be asked for—and which some writers struggle with:

1. A query letter

This is an easy way to reach out to an agent, but many prefer more—like a full proposal, which we’ll get to.

Most agents prefer submissions of any kind to be electronically submitted as an attachment, not as part of the body of your message. Avoid snail mail.

Make your query letter crisp and short. The shorter (while saying what you need to say) the better.

A query letter is just what its name implies—it queries the interest of the agent in your book idea. So make it stimulating and intriguing. Remember, you’re selling your book to the agent.

Four essential parts of an effective query letter:

a. Your elevator pitch

This is a summary of your book’s premise, told in the time it would take for the editor to reach his floor if you happened to find yourself in the same elevator car. So it has to be fast and convincing.

Here’s the elevator pitch for my very first novel:

“A judge tries a man for a murder the judge committed.”

It worked.

b. Your synopsis

In a paragraph, tell what your nonfiction book is about and what you hope to accomplish with it. Or tell the basic premise of the plot of your novel. The synopsis would naturally go beyond the elevator pitch and tell what happens and how things turn out. (Note: Almost any plot, when reduced to a one- or two-paragraph synopsis, sounds ridiculous.)

c. Your target audience and why they’ll enjoy your book

Agents need to believe they can sell it before they’ll ask you for more. Help them envision how to pitch it to publishers, but be careful not to oversell. They know the business better than you do and will not be swayed by your assurance that “everyone will find this amazing.”

You can say that your audiences have been enthusiastic or that beta readers have expressed excitement.

d. Your personal information

Sell the agent on yourself. What qualifies you to write this book? What else have you published? What kind of tribe have you built? Where can they read your blog? Of course you’re including all your contact information.

Other query letter tips:

  • Keep it to one page, single-spaced, and 12 pt. sans serif type.
  • Don’t sell too hard—let your premise speak for itself.
  • Follow the agent’s submission guidelines to a T.
  • Proof your letter before sending. Any typo on such a short document makes you look like an amateur.

Here’s a great example of a query letter, with a breakdown of why it works, by Brian Klems of Writer’s Digest.

2. A book proposal

You’ll find that for most agents, this is the most important document they want to see. Some want only this. Succinctly and completely describe the details of your idea and make them want to read your manuscript in its entirety as soon as it’s ready. Leave nothing out. For nonfiction, include every major issue you’ll cover and the basics of what you’ll say about it. For fiction, rough out the entire plot in a few pages.

With a proposal, your query letter becomes a cover letter.

Resist the urge to write a long cover letter. Allow your proposal to do the heavy lifting.

Three trusted colleagues have produced masterful works on how to write book proposals, so check out what they have to offer:

Michael Hyatt: Writing a Winning Book Proposal

Jane Friedman: How to Write a Book Proposal

(Jane also has some great material on query letters, so search her site for that, too.)

Terry Whalin: Book Proposals That Sell

Proposals can contain any number of possible components, such as:

  • Premise
  • Elevator pitch
  • Overview
  • Target audience
  • Chapter synopses
  • Marketing ideas
  • Endorsements
  • Your analysis of competing books, and where yours fits
  • Up to three sample chapters

More book proposal tips:

  • Tell why you think your book can succeed.
  • Every page in your proposal should make them want to flip to the next page.
  • Despite that a proposal is longer, keep it tight and terse, as short as you can without cutting crucial information.

Every word should be designed to pique an agent’s interest, your goal being to be asked to send your entire manuscript.

Which should I choose, query or proposal?

The competition is so fierce these days, I would lean toward a full proposal almost every time. The only instances when I might fire off a query would be if an incredible opportunity fell in my lap and I thought an agent could help me jump on it before I had time to craft a proposal.

For instance, if a major celebrity wanted help with a book and chose you to write it, a fast letter to an agent might get a quick response. Otherwise, take the time to put together a professional proposal that shows an agent you know how to work and can be thorough.

But know this: If you spark an agent’s interest, they will immediately ask for more information. So you’ll need a proposal at some point. Keep that in mind and be ready to get busy.

Connecting with the Right PublisherBe an author by connecting to publishers

Regardless whether you secure an agent, there are five guidelines for submitting your proposal and/or manuscript to publishers:

  1. Follow their submission guidelines to a T.
  2. Customize your cover letter to each.
  3. Know what the publisher wants, and tell them why you believe your book is right for them in light of that.
  4. Let it show in your attitude and tone that you realize how few manuscripts are chosen for publication each year, and by the fact that you have done your homework and covered all the bases to ensure you’re giving the publisher everything they need to make a decision on your manuscript.
  5. Avoid gushing and flattery, like adding the obvious sentiments, “I’ll do anything you say, make any changes you want, meet any deadline…” Just present your complete proposal and professionally express that you look forward to hearing from them.

A rule of thumb for first-time authors:

If you’re writing fiction, while some publishers may ask you to send your completed manuscript after reading your proposal, synopsis, and sample chapters, it’s highly unlikely they will actually offer a contract before they see that completed manuscript.

That’s because many people can come up with great ideas, and some can produce promising starts to novels. But few can see their way through to the end. So you’ll have to prove you can do it.

If you’re writing nonfiction, you might be able to secure a publishing contract before you have finished your entire manuscript, though that is also rare.

Should it happen, the publisher is likely to offer a lot of guidance and input for shaping the rest of the writing—and you’ll have a much better chance of success if you work nicely with your editor.

Regardless your genre, publishers won’t take a second look at your manuscript unless it’s presented professionally. Use these submission guidelines:

  • Use Times New Roman font (or at the very least avoid sans serif fonts).
  • Use 12-point type.
  • Left-justify your page. (This means your text should be aligned at the left margin, but not the right. This is also called “flush left, ragged right.”)
  • Double-space your page with no extra space between paragraphs.
  • Each paragraph should be indented one-half inch.
  • One space between sentences.
  • Microsoft Word .doc or .docx file format.
  • 1” top, bottom, and side margins (or whatever is standard in your Word program).

Editing Your Book Like Crazy (Again) with an Editor

By the time you get to this point, you’ve already spent hours editing your own work. You’ve rearranged, improved, and cut things that hurt to cut.

Be ready to do more.

Once a publisher agrees to take your manuscript, you’ll be assigned an editor to make your manuscript the best it can be.

This editor will suggest changes, maybe major ones—especially if it’s your first book.

Don’t get touchy. Writing is not a solo. It’s a duet between the writer and an editor.

Sometimes you’ll have to kill sentences that took hours to write. It’ll feel like disowning your children.

Remember, the editor is on your side. Throw a private temper tantrum if you must, but then cool down and listen. Let them to do their job. You can push back respectfully if you feel strongly that they’ve missed your point on something, but do this only when the sting of criticism has worn off and you’re thinking rationally. Keep an open mind and be easy to work with. They’ll remember.


4. Should You Self-Publish?

If you can score with a traditional publisher, do it.

Exhaust your efforts to traditionally publish before resorting to self-publishing. Even honest self-publishing executives will give you this advice. Why? Because with traditional publishing, the publisher takes all the risks, and you’re paid an advance against royalties and royalties based on sales. So nothing comes out of your pocket.

With self-publishing, however, you pay for everything from design to editing. Packages can cost upwards of $10,000.

Back when self-publishing was referred to as “vanity publishing,” you could always tell a self-published book from a traditionally published book due to the lack of quality.

Schlocky covers, boring titles, the word by before the author’s name on the cover. Too much copy on the front and back covers. Poor typeface and interior design. Lousy writing, editing, and proofreading—sometimes clearly nonexistent.

But the game has changed.

Publishing your own book is vastly different than it used to be. Your end product can now look much more professional, and your price per book is much more reasonable.

Print-on-demand technology now allows for low-cost printing, so you can order as few as two or three books at a time for the same cost per book as you would pay if you were buying hundreds.

So, you no longer need to store countless copies in your garage or basement. And self-published books look nicer these days too, because writers have demanded it.

How to Set Your Self-Published Book Apart

If you resort to this route, realize that you are the publisher now. You have to advertise, promote, and market your own book. But because you’re earning the profits after expenses, not just a royalty, a successful book will net you more money per copy than a traditionally published one.

Admittedly, selling enough self-published copies to actually net you more money than you would make selling more traditionally at a lower royalty rate is rare, but it happens.

It’s also rare that a self-published book finds its way to bookstore shelves outside the author’s own town.

(The hard truth is that it’s not easy for even traditionally published books to place their books in bookstores. Experts say as few as one percent of all published books can be accommodated by bookstores and that the rest must be sold through other channels like the Internet, direct mail, and by hand.)

To give your self-published title the best chance to succeed, you need to invest in:

  • A great cover, which will involve purchasing a photo or artwork, type design, and layout
  • Inside layout, type design, and typesetting
  • Editing (resist the urge to use a relative who majored in English or even teaches English; book editing is a specific art)
  • Proofreading (same caveat as above; friends and loved ones who are meticulous spellers are not enough; there are myriad style matters to deal with)

Each of these elements will dramatically increase the professional look of your final product and, thus, your hope of selling more books. Do NOT skimp on them.

If you’ve ever built a house without a contractor, you have an idea of how complex this will be if you do it right.

So despite the fact that many self-published authors swear by it and believe it’s fairer to the author than traditional publishing, I maintain that traditional remains the ideal for authors—except for those unique titles that are targeted to deserving but very limited audiences.

Choosing the Right Company to Self-Publish Your Book

More than 400,000 books are self-published every year in the United States alone. So there are many companies to choose from. But sadly, many are wolves in sheep’s clothing.

They’ll let you create a poor product and tell you it’s great.

They’ll “award” you a contract, telling you their publication board has “evaluated” your manuscript and “found it worthy” to be published.

They’ll tell you that they’re “not a subsidy publisher” or “not a self-publisher” or “not an independent publisher.”

But they’ll use another euphemism to justify the fact that you’re paying “only for promotion” or “only for [this many] copies,” or “only for…” something else, when the fact is that the fee will cover all their costs and will include their profit.

They’ll imply they can get your title before the eyes of every bookstore owner and manager in the country. They might even give examples of a few titles of theirs that have sold into some stores or even made some bestseller list.

But they can’t guarantee your title will be sold into any store. Because that list your title is on that is “available” to every store owner and manager is merely a master list of all the books on some distributor’s Internet site of every title in their catalogue. That means your book will get no personal attention from a salesperson and no more emphasis than any of the tens of thousands of other titles on the list.

Such companies are using you as little more than a content generator, pretending to have “chosen” your book from among the many they have to choose from, when the fact is they would publish anything you send them in any form, provided your accompanying check clears the bank.

Be wary of any company that:

  • Doesn’t take seriously the editing and proofreading of your book
  • Lets you commit embarrassing typos such as spelling foreword as forward, foreward, or forword
  • Allows the word by before your name on the cover
  • Over-promises what you should expect in the way of personal sales representation, public relations, marketing, distribution, and advertising

That said, when you do need to self-publish, legitimate companies with proven track records are ready to assist you. Do your homework and go beyond an Internet search, which will likely turn up beautiful websites for countless companies putting their best foot forward.

So find previous customers and ask about their experience. You want a company who will answer every question straightforwardly and without hesitation. If you feel hard-sold, run.

A litmus test question for the publisher: Ask if they would advise you to exhaust your efforts to traditionally publish first. I asked this of the head of WestBow Press™, a division of Thomas Nelson and Zondervan, and he said he always advises customers that this is the ideal route.

That kind of refreshing honesty bodes well for a company.

The #1 Killer of Self-Published Books

When writers run out of money to invest in their book, too often the first place that suffers is the content itself.

Writers may understand that they are not experts in cover design, layout and typesetting, marketing and promotion, warehousing, distribution, and sales. But they overrate their writing and editing and proofreading abilities.

So, they invest in those other services and cut corners on editing and proofreading.

What they wind up with is a handsome product that looks like a real book but reads like the manuscript that made the rounds of the traditional houses and was rejected.

You must determine what will set you apart in a noisy marketplace.

That certain something that will set you apart is what it has always been:

Writing quality.

Having been in the writing game for 50 years and the book business for 40, that is something I am able to tell you.

To use an ancient adage, cream rises. That may sound like something scratched on a cave wall. But it simply means that readers recognize quality.

You or your agent may be looking for a deal from a traditional publisher. Or you may have chosen to self-publish online, in print, or both.

Regardless, you want your manuscript to be of the highest editorial quality you can make it.

What does that mean?

It means you must:

  • Learn the craft and hone your skills. Rigorously study writing, do exercises, write stories. It can all pay off. Just as with physical exercise, the more the better, but anything is better than nothing.
  • Recognize that writing well is much harder and more involved than you ever dreamed. If you thought writing was merely a hobby, this realization could crush you. So, to push through, remember why you wanted to become a writer in the first place: You have a message, and people need to hear it.
  • Don’t trust friends’ and relatives’ flattery. Sure, they’re great for keeping you from quitting. But when you need solid input on your writing, their enthusiasm won’t translate to sales.
  • Accept criticism and input from people who know what they’re talking about. Find an experienced writer or editor who’ll offer honest feedback on your work. Join a writers group. Attend writers conferences. Get a mentor.

Free Download: Want your own copy of this guide? You can grab the full PDF version by clicking here or on the image below:

How to Become an Author Image4

If you really want to become an author, it can be done. You’ll know you’re ready when you’re willing to carve the time from your schedule to write.

So how badly do you want it? Tell me in the Comments below.

Related Posts:

How to Write a Book: Everything You Need to Know in 20 Steps

How to Write a Short Story That Captivates Your Reader

How to Write a Memoir: A 3-Step Guide

  • Mia Sherwood Landau

    Coming to recognize my inner Resistance (as Steven Pressfield calls it) has been a process that’s consumed many years. I finally realize it’s not laziness or an addiction to perfecting my preparedness, but a natural quality every writer has to overcome. Pushing past the Resistance is my goal, now that I’m no longer wondering if I’m just not good enough or simply not ready.

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      I hear you, Mia. And I think you’re going to be excited about what we’re announcing this month.

  • Thanks for the great information, Jerry. If I have done everything up to step #3, (trying to land a publishing contract), do you think getting an agent is better than attending a writing conference where I can pitch a book to publishers? I am referring to the kind of conferences where you reserve a time slot with a publisher. Thanks for your help.

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      Maybe, Sara, though the conference pitch can be helpful because you can get an idea from a few people at a time if you’re missing something or heading in a slightly wrong direction. And some of these conferences have agents present too.

      (I think you’re going to be excited about what we’re announcing this month.)

  • Karena God’sServant

    Great article. I am ready convert some of these points into a checklist. This is great coming from someone who has successfully done what I am striving to do. Many thanks!

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      Thanks, Karena. I think you’re going to be excited about what we’re announcing this month.

  • Dwight Clough

    more good stuff, Jerry … thanks!

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      Thanks, Dwight.

  • Kate Johnston

    Wonderful breakdown of the process, Jerry. If only you’d written this post 20 years ago, before I got started! :)

    What to do if you’ve been querying for 2+ years, gotten requests from agents and small publishers, but get turned down with little reason other than “this isn’t for me.”?

    I’m no stranger to revision, I handle constructive criticism well, I’ve had fellow writers read and provide feedback — but without a clearer understanding of where my book is going wrong in the eyes of the industry gatekeepers, it’s difficult to know what to do next. Keep querying? Revise? Self-publish? Find an expert who can give me their opinion on the marketability of my book?

    I guess what makes it difficult is that this field is so subjective, and that rejections from 50 agents don’t mean I need to start all over. It could simply mean #51 is the agent for me. That’s always in the back of my mind when I hit this kind of wall. Regardless, I need to take some kind of action that moves me forward, right?

    • Laurie Kehoe

      Same here. That’s all I got, just wasn’t for me. I know the book is good. I had several published authors read it and tell me so. Then there are those agents who don’t even bother to respond. You have no idea why. But I am glad I did what I did. I signed with Tate Publishing and they have really risen to my expectations so far. The cover is incredibly beautiful, as good as any traditional fantasy book on the shelves with a gorgeous painting of dragons. The editing was thorough and detailed. My next step is layout and I can’t wait to see what they will do. Although I did pay some money (not really a lot) – they have done so much more than what a self-published author has to do. I know. I’m friends with over 1,000 of them. Sometimes these companies aren’t so bad. And I did my research with The Christian Writer’s Market Guide as well.

      • Kate Johnston

        Congratulations, Laurie. It’s encouraging to hear there are stories of success as long as we keep at it!

        • Laurie Kehoe

          Thank you!

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      Right, Kate, and the reason publishers don’t tell you more than “this isn’t for me” is because they aren’t paid to.

      But I am, so I think you’re going to be excited about what we’re announcing later this month. Hate to be a tease, but stay tuned.

      • Kate Johnston


  • J. Eliot Mason

    I’m still on number one so, I’ll have to bookmark this. Mr. Jenkins, you are seriously making it difficult for people to keep making excuses.

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      Ha! Just here to serve, J.! :)

    • I bookmarked it, too.

  • Joy Becker

    WOW – great material. The author blog list is priceless for examples. My question is – if I start a blog about the book I want to write – am I giving away the farm with the cow ?? Thanks !!

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      No, you’ll be priming the pump, Joy. Trust me.

  • Althea Damgaard

    I went to check out the blog examples you linked and found three that did not exist and one where the author is not using it anymore and one that seemed to not want to load. I think that crew needs to recheck their list and update it. ;)

  • Althea Damgaard

    Now to dig through this info, but I know I got a lot of it in the lessons I got through the Christian Writers Guild when it was still up and running. You’ve already given me a mini thick skinned critique on a not well edited draft of a novel in your inspirational writing class. I just need to work some devotionals into the correct format for submission now that the idea for each has been worked out. And I did ressurrect my blog as another place to work on my writing and share my beliefs.

    Thanks for all the free and nearly free stuff you have out there to help us learn to be better writers and someday an author.

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      Thanks, Althea.

  • Rebecca Hricko

    Wow, this is almost an information overload! I’m glad I’ll be able to access it repeatedly, though, I am sure I will need it for years to come. This answers a lot of questions I had, and I will refer to it a lot. You are making the writing world a lot more navigable to this beginner. Thanks, Mr. Jenkins!

    Just an observation; Many of the times I have almost not written because I felt like I had writer’s block, I sat down and was able to do some writing (or editing) anyway.

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      Exactly, Rebecca! No other profession gets to claim worker’s block. They’d be laughed into the unemployment line.

  • Sharlene McCorkle

    I’m ready for more info and learning! I’m at a challenge spot in my written works. Not blocks, not discouraged, just a re-organization, but ready to get the book ready to get to the editor!

    • Jerry B Jenkins


  • Frances Wilson

    This is reality orientation. Thanks Jerry. It has helped to remove some cotton candy from my view, as well as provide me with some stepping stones for the path I need to take. What a perfect person to do the orientation. You have been down that road. I tend to be fear oriented, and if my focus is wrong, I see lions in the way. Thanks again, Jerry.

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      Thanks, Frances. I think you’re going to be excited about what we’re announcing this month too.

      • Frances Wilson

        I look forward to that Jerry, thanks and I know God will bless you continually as He is doing. Grace and peace in abundance to you and your wife!

  • Glenda

    Mr. Jenkins-Accepting criticism from people who know what they are talking about-yeah, so w i l l i n g! Thank you. :)

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      Thanks, Glenda. I think you’re going to be excited about what we’re announcing this month.

      • Glenda

        Will stay tuned…:)

      • Michelle Swenson

        Excited! How can we hear about your announcement?

  • Gwenny

    I’m also still at number one… I really want to join a group – any suggestions for good writers’ communities?

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      Google Word Weavers and see if they have any critique groups in your area. Short of that, Google writers critique groups, writers groups, etc.

  • Luan Erasmus

    Having announced yesterday that my second novel is finally complete, I now have to revisit that statement after reading this. Thank you so much Mr. Jenkins, you’ve given me some valuable insights.

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      Thanks, Luan, and stay tuned. Exciting announcement coming very soon.

  • Dayna

    Thank you so much for all your tips, Mr. Jenkins!

  • Elizabeth

    One thing that really shook me, and that will be the core for making changing, was the amount of time. I can’t comprehend my blindness. I read many interviews and knew that successful writers spend a great deal of their time writing. Sometimes 8,10,6 and I read about one, and she was the exception, she spent 4 hours a day. Now I spend half an hour a month writing. Am I out of my mind? I must be. The tragic thing is that I knew that and when I read about that years ago, I shrugged and thought “wow” and went on doing life the way I always did and, of course, nothing changed. But this time I spend a lot of time thinking about this, asking questions to myself. I guess on the back of my mind I still had some delusional thought that if I can master the craft then the book will come to me perfect and I won’t have to work and every typing moment will be a publishable sentence. Anyhow, for me information without revelation doesn’t make an impact on my life and I think I had a revelation about “time”. And talking about revelation, as you probably know, Stephen King’s book was going for an exorbitant amount of money, so what I did was to check the book out from a library and xeroxed the book. Now, you can find a recent reprint (not available when I was searching for the book) at Amazon for only $10.00. My house is a house of books (from top to bottom side to side, everywhere, simply bc I love reading but I don’t suggest anyone keeping books from the library, particularly irreplaceable ones bc someone else will not have them when they need. There’s a place called thriftbooks dot com where one can find used books in perfect condition for about $3.00 to $5.00. If you are reading Stephen King on writing, please be patient bc he saved the best for the last and not knowing that I had –years ago–sent the book back to the library bc I thought it didn’t address the writing craft ?? Today I think quite differently–thanks to Jerry’s recommendation– and this is one of the best books (in my opinion) in the market for writers. Then there’s Dean Koontz, that I too sent back and for a different reason: I didn’t understand his points simply bc at that time I was so limited in my understanding of the craft that I didn’t think it was important (we are talking 15 years ago). Again, since Jerry suggested the book I got the book- xeroxed it bc this too could not be found– and what a master piece that was in guiding the writer to an understanding of the craft. Anyhow I am so glad for this community of writers. If anyone knows of a good software for writers, please let me know. Thanks.

    • Jerry B Jenkins


  • I have bookmarked this post and I have also copy/pasted it into a Word document, but it would be great if Jerry would provide folks with a PDF version.

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      Anything else you’d like free, Venkatesh? :)

  • David Gaughran

    With all due respect Jerry, Westbow Press is not recommended. At all. Every single writers’ group worth their salt has slammed the company. It’s one of the many imprints owned by the scuzzy Author Solutions – a company you might have heard of, which was subject to two class actions this year. Writer Beware regularly warns against Westbow, as does the SFWA, the RWA, the HWA, the RWA, the Alliance of Independent Authors – you name it.

    I’ve been campaigning against Author Solutions and its abuses for the last four years. I’m a professional author and long-time self-publisher myself, and a huge fan of that path, but this is not the way to get your work out there. You simply can’t, in good conscience, recommend Westbow or any other Author Solutions company. I’m happy to share some posts giving you the background, but I don’t want this comment going into your spam filter.

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      My point was self-publishers’ attitudes toward trad publishing, and I would rather discuss this outside the pubic forum (as I don’t, as a rule, like to badmouth companies public companies in a public forum). But I don’t want to be naive either. I assume my red carpet treatment from WestBow on The Christian Writer’s Market Guide 2015-16 was due to my visibility, so I would not personally be aware of these issues–though I’m not unaware of the controversy that surrounds most such companies.

      Why do you feel sharing with me in the background would go into my spam filter?

      • David Gaughran

        I figured if I dropped a link or two for background it might trigger your spam filter. It does on some blogs. Anyway, this post of mine is a good starting off point and I can give you any more details you like:

        • Jerry B Jenkins

          OK, what I’d like to do, to keep this forum focused specifically on writing training, is to collapse our back-and-forth (not to be mistaken for a spam filter) and ask that we continue our discussion at Be assured that I very much appreciate your input on this and will take it seriously. In fact I am visiting my managers in Franklin TN next week and will see if I can get over to WestBow for a face-to-face. Thanks, David.

          • David Gaughran

            Understood – it’s your house. Emailing you now.

      • David Gaughran

        And here is Writer Beware on Author Solutions so you know I’m not talking through my hat. Scroll down to the second last para and you will get a quick summary of the ongoing issues and complaints:

  • Deb Kinnard

    True self-publishing is done by the author, not a “self-publishing company” that attempts to sell bogus services for inflated prices to the uninformed. From being a complete newbie to the self-publishing world, though not to writing and publishing, I was able to put together a package of formatting, professional cover design, and professional, stellar editing for my three self-published books.

    Call these “companies” by their true name — scam corporations whose only interest is parting writers from their money.

  • froth9

    Just a quick question. I am new to this industry of writing and i have written a few short stories and self-published a children’s book. I am working on 2 novellas. What tip would you give me? Should I publish everything I write and choose them selectively and publish?

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      Be very selective and try traditional publishing, where they pay you.

      • froth9

        Thanks sure looks like a rocky journey but the path is one which I choose to stick by..

  • Amy Costello

    I have been through hell and back and I know that my story needs to be told. If not for everyone I know then atleast it will be a legacy left behind for my son. I am so excited to start on my writing journey. Its a privilege to get advice from one of the best. Thank you Mr. Jenkins for all of your wisdom and advice.

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      Thank you, Amy.

  • David Gaughran

    So, Jerry, it appears that you lied to me. Not only do you know all about Westbow, you also give (paid, presumably) webinars on their behalf:

    You also appear to have a long and sordid history in the vanity business. Shame.

  • flat
  • Deb Kinnard

    Since my earlier comment disappeared somehow, I’ll go on record to state: I have now eleven books out with a small press, five titles whose rights have now reverted to me, and three self-published by me without help from any middleman. I have had reputable literary agents in the past, who sold NOTHING of mine to any publisher. Please understand, those who are new to this endeavor, a writer needs no help from a “self-publishing company” to publish your work. You need only find a competent cover artist, a great design, and an editor whose input you trust.

    Let’s see if this post is allowed to remain.

    • flat

      I wonder how long my post is going to stay…

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      Hi, Deb. Help me with what you’re trying to say. I’m not saying a writer needs a self-publishing company either, just that if they opt for one they need to be careful to look for one that’s reputable. As you know, lots of predators out there.

      What did “reputable literary agents” tell you was the reason they couldn’t place your books? Did they get any response from publishers?

      Is the small press traditional or is that where you’re self-publishing?

      And how satisfied are you with the small press (must be fairly happy to have that many titles with them)? Decent numbers?

      Look forward to hearing from you.

    • Hello Deb. I am curious – have your sold many books using your method? Thank you in advance for your reply.

  • Jerry, my biggest fear is getting sued. Not because I have done something wrong, but by accidentally not citing something correctly or using too many verses of a particular Bible. Even if you win in court, the attorney fees are astronomical. Any advice?

    • flat

      Start writing fanfiction on the internet, then go to a publisher, remember there are no bad characters just bad writers.
      Besides you write fiction isn’t it?
      Just say that it is fiction.

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      I can’t remember the last time I heard of other than a very famous writer being sued over anything. I really wouldn’t worry about it.

      • Are you saying that I’m not going to be famous? LOL! Thanks for the answer. :)

        • Jerry B Jenkins

          Well, you may be, but it won’t be for getting in legal trouble. :). With all my titles and years in the business, I was accused once of stealing someone’s idea–for Left Behind–and as soon as Dr. LaHaye (and Tyndale) and I threatened to charge the complainant with court costs if they lost, end of story.

  • Robert Murphy

    I’ve taken a different approach with my first chapter and have rewritten most of it, which has turned out to be a big improvement, but I’m still not comfortable with the beginning so more rewriting is in order. But at what point do you consider your book “good enough” to actually submit?

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      That’s the trick, Robert, to trust your gut and know when you’ve gone from making it better to just making it different. For sure, you don’t want to transmit one word you’re not satisfied with. You might let it sit for a few days and give it a final read-through, or have someone you trust give it a peek. You’ll develop a feel for it though.

  • Elizabeth

    Thank you Jerry. Yes, I wrote to them, Scrivener, and they have provided me with several you- tube segments to learn how to use it. I also received a free copy trial (I am a bit scared to try, afraid that something so technical can scrambled my brain…further…but on behalf of your advice, I will try; after all I have nothing to lose, bc there are not strings attached. I want to make a comment on this law-suit stuff, perhaps people are not aware that someone needs to prove that there has been a loss before they can take win a law suit of this nature, and to be honest, let’s say someone like me–implying ‘not a famous person’, make a comment, a debatable comment; no one would take me to court because they can’t extract the amount of money worth doing that, even if they win and get a judgment against me, lack of payment is not a crime and has to be resolved in a civil court (am I an attorney? No, but I learned a bit here and there bc my father was a judge and you can’t help to hear things and learn a bit from it ). Of course I may be missing a lot of technical stuff about the situation but it is just a comment to imply that people usually do not try to sue ordinary people, they go after people who they think they can get great amounts of money or demoralize them publicly. I am not disregarding this author’s concern. Every concern is valid and this is why I am placing my ‘two cents’ here.
    A note on vampire stuff: don’t know-at the moment– the name of the lady who first wrote about a vampire..Ann? Anne? I invite someone that is planning to write about vampires to read her personal story. She became a true Christian and regretted many times over have written those books (those were her words, not mine) that almost cost her son’s life. The occult is the satanic realm of demons. Everybody is entitled to his or her opinion but I would be remiss if, as a Christian I would not share this piece of information with the author.
    On another note: does anyone in the community study or teach structure of movies? If so, and if you have studied the structure of “left Behind” series (the movie , not the book) please let me know. I appreciate you sharing the insights about the structure. I am showing the movie at the library to ‘dissect’ the structure, the way we do with other movies as well. Thank you Jerry (and other authors) for reading my note here and for sharing your knowledge with me.

  • Elizabeth

    It looks like a great movie. Can’t wait to see it. Love the spine of the story (the idea of a ‘second chance’ just thrills the human heart, doesn’t it? It does to mine– Thank you.

  • Elizabeth

    Well, I worked on that chapter (one) previous to that I had a prologue where a judge is assassinated and it is told from his point of view. Now Donald Thompson (ex-FBI director now Counter Terrorism something, I need to find a better name for this unit) will have a dialogue with another director intent to close the case of 4 astrophysicists that were killed at the NASA observatory. One of the agents assigned to the case, Suzan Davenport is the main character but she won’t show up until chapter 3. I asked a few questions and realized that I need a better description of the Setting and here is what I came up with ( I don’t expect this to be the last change but I think it is better than the previous one): Is it a little chopped or is it my imagination?


    Washington D.C. didn’t look the same after the construction of the second most powerful building in the history of the New World Order. Fuji Moto designed The Tower, a 15,300 ft tall Babel technostructure that refused to be obliterated by any other site. In its iconic Mount Fuji shape, the self-contained teepee-like held a hyper-structure supported by a frame of habitable pillars, so large that each had the capacity of housing a family of ten.

    This sun-powered conglomerate came at a cost of one trillion dollars, housed 900 floors with 30 square miles of space and provided high-speed elevators.

    Thompson looked at the mini- model of the iconic building on his desk. There had to be a momentum, a pendulum that moved with an unseen energy that builds up before a catastrophe. History was filled with examples.

    In his estimation, the pendulum had been moving closer to its apex. Hard to imagine the raging forces competing for the human heart to continue at the extreme levels they have been without a collision of some sort. He could envision the profile of a catastrophe, perhaps even more so now when the day of Armageddon approaches.

    Blinking red lights of the Tower with its rotating mega gyroscope looked at him. He would like to think the commanding camera would miss his activities and he would escape, by some divine intervention the scrutiny of the Station.

    Demonstrators encircled the dark gray Counter Terrorism wing of the Tower building, chanting and raising their signs:

    ” Bring back the people from the Space Platforms.”

    Donald Thompson turned from the window and settled behind his desk. He had just come back from Carl Bunion’s funeral.

    The judge was about to retire when his body was found twenty-five stories below on the sidewalk of the Cornucopia building.

    Donald shuffled some papers into the drawer, his hand trembling. He thought about his career and his existence, and the uncomfortable silence that resulted from questioning oneself about death and dying.

    As a director of Counter Terrorism, he did not lose sight that the Political New World Order was an enterprise controlled by a small group of people, and the facade of a Federal branch was no assurance to act on the interest of the Nation.

    Donald Thompson was convinced the hidden technology aimed not to protect the citizens during the war, but to deliver to death anyone who opposed it.

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      Not sure what a publisher would think about a building 2.9 miles high and more than 5.5 times higher than the current tallest building in the world, but it’s a concept. :)

  • Elizabeth

    To be honest, writing has almost always been with me. I started writing poetry by the age of nine. My first dream was to become a classical ballerina, but my family thought it disquieting and pushed me out of it after a training of six years, for they knew I was serious about it, and they had a different plan for my life, which never came to pass anyway.

    I think i started writing to express my emotions and enjoying to be able to share those emotions with whomever would read my stories and see, or imagined that I did, the same emotions in them.

    But, presently, I truly would like to write a book with a message that the time we have left here on Earth is short, that Armageddon is real and that people can look at prophecies and see how they compare to the world we live in.

    The story would happen in 2040 portraying the chaos in the world . It would focus on one Agent that risks her life to destroy NASA lab to engineer a human DNA, and that is pretty much why I want to write this story, to alert people to what is to come and how science can be misused.

    It is not a book about Armageddon, it is a thriller with lot’s of scenes of perils and a killer on the lose, but the background is one of a society about to collapse (perhaps almost dystopia).

  • Ted Finch

    #1 was exactly what I needed to hear. I’ve been praying about what my next steps should be. I have a story I am starting, but I just felt like I was writing before it was ready. Thank you for sharing this.

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      Thank you, Ted.

  • Elizabeth

    That was funny, Jerry. Often your jokes bring a smile to my face and I appreciate that.
    As you know the architect that built the tower took his business to Japan–bc of the bombing–and Japan is actually building such a building- described in chapter one. All measurements and details are coming from their plan (of course they have the most crazy building design anyone ever saw; with tunnels that are transparent, connecting the highest buildings ever made and inside those tunnels that looked like plexiglas one can experience snow, or a desert or just look down and have some panic attack :) But I found out what was wrong with that description, I need some kind of dialogue to weave that bc it is kind of long, don’t you think so?

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      Dialogue is always good.

  • Elizabeth

    I fixed all that. That was horrible but I coudln’t see it until I “listened” to the copy. I kept only a some limited information and truly made it personal to the character in that chapter (hearing the copy makes such an impact on the way I perceive my writing; then again, after a while I knew something was wrong but until I listened to the copy I didn’t know what to do except for adding some dialogue. Tomorrow I’ll work some more on that chapter, but it is so much better now, after plain listening to it :) thanks Jerry

  • I have written a couple of non-fiction books and am interested in novel writing and probably have way more of it written already than I realize! I love the post (all of them) and I agree with J. Eliot Mason… making it tough for excuse makers and procrastinators! Keep lighting that fire Jerry! :-)

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      Thanks, Angi.

  • Absolutely the most concise guide I’ve read on the subject of becoming an author, Jerry, and I’ve read a lot. :) Thank you. Thank you. And thank you.

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      Thank you, Brock.

  • Kathleen Thackham

    Wow Jerry, I learned so much from you today just in 2 blogs. When I clown we always look for one moment in the day that touches us or resonates with us. This blog is so full of vital information I can’t help but think you could have turned it into a class and charged us for it but you graciously gave this to us as a gift. With that said, the one thing that is stuck in my head is this: “DON’T Attempt Writing a Book Until You’ve…Studied the Craft and Polished Your Skills”
    I feel so inadequate not having a degree or certificate and not having any formal training but a few college classes. Do you recommend any online schools? Do you have an opinion on The institute of Children’s Literature? Also I remember you were going to be offering more classes this January am I correct? Is that still happening? Thank you so much!

    • Support

      Hi, Kathleen! We’re so glad you’ve found value in Jerry’s blog.

      Jerry is traveling today but saw your comment and wanted to make sure we sent you some more resources.

      He just released a 3-part free writing course we think you’ll find useful:

      There are also several in-depth courses you can find here:

      Also, stay tuned — next week he’ll have a big announcement we think you’re going to like.

      • Kathleen Thackham

        This is wonderful news! Thank you so much. I have a feeling I will like it too.

  • What a treasure you are to the writing community, Jerry, sharing everything you’ve learned. On behalf of writers at every level, THANK YOU!

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      Thanks, Lizzie. You’re the best! Hope you’re well.

  • Penelope Silvers

    Jerry, This guide is so complete for the first-time author, I just gotta scoop and share it! Thx for sharing your wisdom with us. :)

    • Thanks, Penelope. Hope you can join us for the free webinar Thursday night.

  • Tia Lord

    Thank you, Jerry, so much for this absolutely indispensable guide every fresh writer has to read. It becomes difficult to mark out a professional-written articles of the Internet. Self-editing is my issue of the day. It must be admitted that I’m a kind of metaphorical maniac. Also, I prefer to choose difficult and sometimes utterly specific words to express my thoughts, thus oppressing my readers by such vocabulary. The other problem which overtook me was unintentional plagiarism. As a bookworm, I started to copy out interesting phrases and as a result of such activity, I started to use some expressions. But, thinking this, in a desperate effort to find a solution to this copyright problem, I’ve made a decision to check for plagiarism all my works. My head is still an figurative mess, but this tool provides me a firm guarantee that I won’t fall into the hole of troubles. And I also agree with you about criticism! It makes me move, move ahead!

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      Interesting, checking your own work for plagiarism. Here’s what I do: when I’m doing my research, I synopsize the original source at the time I find it, as the same time careful citing the reference. That way, I never copy it exactly.

  • I’m going to have to print this out. I have a quick question for Jerry, or anyone else on here. I have been posting a great deal of my work (short stories and poetry) on my webpage. Is that a good idea or a bad one?

  • Debbi Vaughn

    Excellent and specific. Love!

  • Locke Cole

    Mr. Jenkins, I am someone who prefers the comfort of home and do my best
    work alone. I am also someone who suffered a debilitating illness that
    left me unable to work and struggling on partial disability welfare. I
    have also lost all sense in life since the illness and the loss of my
    old life and fiance of 14 years who left me shortly after. I question my
    motive for considering writing. I have only recently started reading
    again after 10 years, I have only a diploma in computer networking and
    technical support. It seemed to me like the life of an author would suit
    me well both from a practical and personal point of vie. But I fear my
    lack of exposure to a great many things in life along with lack of
    experience in reading/writing may disqualify me already.

    Do you think this is a valid motive or should I look elsewhere? I truly value your input.

    Many thanks

    • Authors do work a home alone. I wouldn’t concentrate on what disqualifies you but whether you’re willing to devote yourself to the training and discipline writing takes. To do it right requires a lot of humility and work. It’s not a hobby.

      • Locke Cole

        That is very true and I would not consider it a mere hobby. I know that writing is a craft and that it entails a lot more work than simply putting words on a page. It not only appeals to me for practical purposes but also, I find it is an elegant pursuit. The more I read and study about writing the more it intrigues me. I also realize there is a business aspect to it as you have mentioned, but that too is something that I would find enjoyable, as strange as it may seem. It also would be a way of life which would match my value system. Thank you kindly for your input, I truly appreciate it.

    • Jimmy Necktie

      Hey, fella!…you sound a bit like the sewerage that has been dumped on me for the last 70 years. You’ve got so much to write about, I don’t know how come you appear so lost and spending your time as a mendicant seeking what’s already inside of you just bursting to come out.
      One volume I’d recommend is Dr. Allan Hunter’s “Write Your Memoir”. Very therapeutic and a revelation at the same time. And it is very confronting at the same time. If you can own your “stuff”, your life can often begin to heal.
      But as a Texan told me once, “You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge”.

  • Esther

    I’ve accomplished the first two. But I have not moved beyond that. Still looking for that one community of writers. I’m in Los Angeles. Any suggestions? A little background information: I’m almost 24, I work as a nanny, I’ve written my own memoir and a novella, I majored in English and dabbled in Paralegal Studies. Thanks.

  • Ava

    Hi Jerry, I think I posted this on another article but didn’t see it – anyways, I’m a 12 year-old girl whose dream is to become an author. I’ve ‘finished’ my first ‘novel’ (about 105,000 words) and I’m currently in the process of editing it. I hope to get it published, but I go through periods where I don’t think I’m good enough – especially when I look up tips and articles like this one. I don’t think any publishers, agents, or editors will take me seriously. Do you have any writing/editing/general tips for a beginner like me? Thanks – and I love your articles. ~Ava

    • Sorry, I didn’t see a previous post, Ava. I applaud your dream.

      Why do you think professionals won’t take you seriously? Because it’s not good enough or because you would feel obligated to tell them how young you are? (That’s not really relevant unless and until a publisher signs you and needs you to help with promotion [media interviews, etc.].)

      If you did sell the book, however, your youth would be a nice thing for the publisher to promote.

      What age reader is your novel aimed at? (It’s the length of an adult novel, so if it’s for Young Adults, it may be too long.)

      You realize that the odds of even accomplished writers getting a book published is about 1 in 1,000. So naturally, the question is what kind of experience and knowledge did you bring to the project?

      I would have recommended–as I do to adults–that you not start your writing career with a book. That’s like starting your education in graduate school when you should be in kindergarten. Writing a book is where you arrive after studying the craft, honing your skills, learning to work with an editor, selling shorter pieces, etc.

      That said, I haven’t seen your manuscript or any of your writing, so who knows–maybe you’re that one in a million beginner who succeeds. Would you be willing to paste the first page of the first chapter here for me to take a peek at? I’ll give you an honest (and kind) evaluation.

      Regardless the quality of what you have done, finishing a manuscript of that length is an accomplishment.

      • Ava

        Thanks for your reply, and yes, I am aware that, if my book even were to get published at all, I would have to go through many, many rejections.

        My book is aimed at young adults and I also understand that it is pretty long for the age range – though I hope the length would help it be viewed as a book like ‘Throne of Glass’ or ‘Harry Potter’. Sometimes I write random articles or short stories just to practice a bit more in the nonfiction range and broaden my style, though you’re right; I should start small. Articles, poems, etc. Maybe enter in some writing contests.

        When I started the book a year ago I never expected it to bring me to this point. Therefore, my style has changed greatly from when I was younger and, in result, I have to do heavy editing and more research. I’m glad to hear age doesn’t matter greatly, though it is still a factor.

        I’ll take your advice into account and keep reviewing your various (and helpful) articles on writing. Again, thank you for replying – I’m still trying to decide whether or not I should send you the page, as you are a professional author. Instead, I’ll send you the first page of another serious story, one that’s not yet finished. I’ll paste it in a different post.

        Once again, thank you for the advice.

        • Ava

          (This one is more of a fantasy.)
          The chef clutched the daughter of the assassinated king.
          It all happened so fast – too fast. The flash of darkness, the men dressed in black swooping down from above. The flood of crimson blood, thick and metallic, lapping at his feet like waves. The screams, soon silenced by glints of knives.
          And the dark magic. It kept coming back to him – dark magic. The swarm of black that swept through the court like smoke, choking and toxic. The chef could feel it in the air before it happened- a tingle, maybe even a tickle or a twitch, like the air before the storm. Unsettling. Unnatural. It gave you a sense of foreboding, a sense that warned you to run, to escape.
          But it was too late. Too late for the High Court and the Houses of Spring, too late for the King and Prince Therin. But not too late for the princess, the chef told himself. It wasn’t too late for her.
          The poor child was hugging his shoulders, her legs wrapped around his waist, crying into his neck.
          “Please be quiet,” the chef whispered to her, patting her head softly with his hand. But the girl didn’t stop, if not the tears flowed faster, the sobs grew louder.
          The trees of the forest that surrounded the capital blurred past the chef, a mix of dark green and umber. Dry leaves and twigs cracked underfoot as he blindly raced through the darkening wood.
          Fragments of moonlight pierced the protective canopy of leaves overhead, lighting the path for the chef, if not just a little bit. And the stars that were woven into the vast navy canvas twinkled their encouragement far, far above in the sky. But the adrenaline was fading and his breath was coming in ragged gasps. He was so, so tired – after all, he was just a cook.


          Thank you so much for taking time to review this, if you did. It means a lot. :)

        • “I’m still trying to decide whether or not I should send you the page, as you are a professional author.”

          I’m not following. Evaluating writers’ first pages is what I do–besides working on my 193rd book. Who else would you want to send it to? :)

          Wait, you’re not saying your writing wouldn’t be safe with me? I have 2,000 online students who pay to have me do this everyday, and I’m offering it to you with my compliments. Really, you want to do this. :)

  • Honey Halley

    Thank you Jerry! Your step by step method of relaying this invaluable information will make working on my first novel a breeze…haha…just kidding…I know it will be hard work but at least by following your guidelines my time will be better spent. I have completed all you suggested to get done before I start so now I’m ready to get to it! I appreciate you sharing your expertise with me. You have changed my life more than you or I even know yet. Ready, Set, Here I go … Thanks again!

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      Thanks so much!

  • Great article, In the topic of “How to become a Author”. Thanks for sharing.

  • Yongbeom Kim

    Hey Jerry, I’m 15, and is an aspiring author. However, I only have about a year or so (by late 2018) to become one. Given that I haven’t done anything on the list yet, what do you think are my chances of completing it in the time frame?

  • Yongbeom Kim

    Hey Jerry, I’m 15, and is an aspiring author. However, I only have about a year or so (by late 2018) to become one. What do you think are my chances of finishing this list by that time period?

  • simon victor

    thanks Mr. Jenkins i have dreamt of becoming a writer but never had the boldness to, due to the fact that i lacked guardiance and the necessary knowledge on how to start. This has been really helpful.

  • Kjames813

    I have one devotional published in Keys for Kids. I was thinking of doing NaNoWrimo, but now I’m unsure. I want to be a writer. Thank you, Mr. Jenkins, for helping us. I have adopted you as writing mentor. I hope that’s okay.