I like to write in a way that supports you and is a kind companion to you as you walk through your own unique life. I like to write in a way that encourages you and helps you gather hope along the way.
And while I know not all of you are writers, I know a portion of you are. So I wondered if that portion of women–especially those who desire to write a book themselves–might find value in a post that lends insight into my own journey toward a book deal?
Plenty of big deal writer folks have already talked about this before, I know. But when I first felt a stirring to seriously pursue writing a book, the impact of their good advice was dampened because they were already so many steps ahead of me. So if like me you have a modest but meaningful platform and desire to publish a book, perhaps my story will encourage you to keep on keeping on in that direction.
Here are 7 things to keep in mind if you have a small (or smallish) platform and dream of publishing a book:
1. Don’t wait to put your work out there. If you blog inconsistently or have only written in journals, I gently encourage you to move toward getting your work out in front of others more regularly. I first began to write in 2008 when my husband was deployed–a year before I started to blog. The first piece I ever wrote was an article for MOPS’s MOMSense magazine, and that article was picked up and published. Let me mention, however, that after this first article, I submitted several other articles to different online and print magazines. Most were rejected. However, I kept writing anyway.
I’ve made it known more than once that I desired to write a book since I was 10 years old. But for the first 2-3 years of writing more regularly, I did so because I felt a strong stirring in my heart that God was doing a new thing in me. I did it for my own personal fulfillment because writing was how I settled that stirring. During this time, few people noticed my work. I had either a non-existant readership (before I started to blog) or a small one afterwards. I certainly didn’t have an agent. But with those heart stirring pointing me toward a book, I went ahead and drafted a book proposal (using Mary DeMuth’s stellar book proposal guide as a road map) and showed it to 2 different agents at the 2011 She Speaks Conference. One agent flatly rejected it, but the other agent liked it and took it back to her publishing committee. While the pub committee eventually rejected it, I learned a lot about how to push through the proposal writing process and how to present my work in spite of being super scared (and super small).
2. Write an e-book. Speaking of presenting your work, writing an ebook is another good way to do just that. This really falls under the heading above, but I think it was enough of a game-changer for me to get its own category.
In late 2012, I began writing an e-book for military wives called Serving You: 31 Days of Encouragement for the Military Wife. I released it on Memorial Day 2013 and offered it as a freebie to those who subscribed to Chasing Blue Skies. Since my goal with this ebook was to encourage military wives as well as get my work noticed by more folks, offering it for free to subscribers was a good way to accomplish both.
In addition to expanding my readership while enjoying the privilege of offering a hopeful vision to military wives, writing an e-book was wonderful practice at writing something more book length than post length. Also, this e-book (as well as other writings of mine on the blog and at (in)courage) is what grabbed the attention of my amazing agent Ruth. I signed on with her in late summer 2013.
So all in all, you can see how writing an e-book was a very good move for me.
3. Cultivate relationships. Well before I had an agent or wrote an e-book or a book proposal, I cultivated relationships with people. That is, I naturally and authentically engaged with other writers whose work I found meaningful and beautiful. Many of those folks blogged, so I told them what their writing genuinely meant to me in the comments. In my early blogging days I was much more active on twitter, enjoying conversation with good people–writers and otherwise–all over. After a bit of time, a few of those writers began to return the encouragement and friendships developed. One writer friend introduced me to a publishing acquisitions editor in 2011. And as God would have it, that publishing editor ended up being one who accepted my book proposal for Girl Meets Change in 2014.
Honestly, the friendships I’ve formed throughout this journey mean more to me than the published book. The secondary benefit to authentically and genuinely engaging in a writing community is how it formed the foundation of forward movement in my book writing.
4. Focus more on your writing than your platform. I spend a lot more time learning to write better than learning how to build my platform. In all honesty, I should learn more about building my platform, but that doesn’t excite me like it does others. What excites me is learning a better way to say something. And since that makes me come alive — and a better artist — that’s where I invest most of my energy. Some folks will disagree with me on this, but I’ve found better writing takes you further than bigger numbers.
5. Be willing to take constructive criticism. When my proposal for Girl Meets Change landed at publishers, it was rejected many times. However, one editor kindly and generously offered constructive criticism, and I studied her comments like it was my job. Something clicked after I received those comments, and I was able to edit my proposal and re-submit an improved version that was accepted by two different publishers. And because I had a well-organized, focused proposal, I had an excellent roadmap for writing my book.
If you have received a no or twenty *but* have been blessed with constructive criticism, do yourself a favor and take that feedback to heart. They are gifts because they show your no may really be a not yet.
6. Have your when people. That is, have someone who believes in your writing and encourages you to keep at it. This business has more ups and downs than a Six Flags rollercoaster. When you hear a voice inside say, “Stop this foolishness right now and do something productive!” you need an out-loud voice to say, “Keep writing and hoping in things unseen.”
In 2009, my friend Alli wrote me a text that said, “God has gifted you with the ability to write well, and I believe you will be published one day.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve clung to those words. Along with my husband David, Alli has always talked about my dreams of book writing in terms of when, not if. And that has made all the difference.
7. Remember slow growth is still growth. Here and there I’ve had a platform growth surge (i.e. the e-book I wrote tripled my subscribers), but when I look over my writing history, I generally see slow but consistent growth. I see how my relationships, early articles, blog posts, e-book, and plain ol’ hard work formed a trail from desire to fulfillment. It can be hard to hold onto hope when you are middling, don’t I know. But it helps to practice looking over your history and connect your own dots of progress. Can you find growth–even painfully slow growth–in one form or another?
I know there are no guarantees and not everyone who desires a book deal gets one. But if you are one who desires this yet is letting fear stop you, then perhaps my story will encourage you to keep going. If like me you are one with a modest but meaningful platform, take heart. Your quality writing talent will take you further than your quantity of followers and subscribers. I’m living proof of that.
If you have any specific questions about writing and publishing, fire away in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer. xoxo
Bethany Lotulelei says
And my soul takes a deep breath of life giving air. Thank you for this! Sometimes I am so discouraged because other bloggers started a blog six months ago, and have thousands followers–and I do not have that large of a platform. The truth is, I would rather focus on writing then building my platform, but I have always felt a bit guilty about that! Thanks for making me feel a bit of peace, and hope in regards to my dreams. 🙂
Here’s to losing the guilt, sister. *clink clink* I’m thankful for you and your writing, Bethany.
I love adore your big heart!!!
Right backatcha, beautiful. xoxo
Ah thank you! This was for me for sure. So good to hear this word and know that everyone’s journey is different. We don’t all need to have a million readers to achieve the dreams God has placed in us.
Thank goodness, right?
Thank you. I have had a book-dream in my heart since I was nine or ten, too; what is it about that age? This is encouraging to me to keep plugging along.
I love you, Pattie! xo
Jamie S. Harper says
This blessed me today, me and my tee-tiny platform. 🙂 Thank you!
Oh, Kristen…the timing of this post. It actually makes my stomach flip and flop. A lot. I was just telling my husband last night that a big platform and presence are what I’d need to have when I want to publish my book. And they’re precisely what I DON’T have. His response? ‘Well, you never know.’ Then, these words of yours today. Thank you for sharing your story. I’m grateful for God’s creativity in communicating with those of us who loudly sing ‘la la la la la la laaa’ with our fingers in our ears sometimes. 😉
Thank you, Kristen… I needed to hear all of this.
Shauna Letellier says
“I’ve found better writing takes you further than bigger numbers.”…that is a breath of fresh air 🙂 and I agree. I can study to be a better writer, but the numbers seem to be up to God. And He’s been known to do some remarkable things with “unremarkable” people. Thanks for writing.
Beth Williams says
Great information for potential writers! I have a knack for good/decent writing. Got a perfect 7 out of 7 on my ACT score for writing-we had to pick 2 or 3 topics and write on them. Seem to write great blog post replies. Not sure if I could write a whole book or even what the topic would be. I am proud of all the In Courage women who have written and published books!
Congratulations to you on your book!!
Charissa Steyn says
Thank you for this post! I loved the wisdom you shared …currently im in the stages of writing a book but always battling that voice that says. ..do something more productive! I’ve been writing faithfully for five years on my blog because it’s my passion, but the growth has been soooo slow. It’s hard not to get discouraged and to keep writing even if just one person reads.
Virginia aka "Vava" says
God is in ALL! Just this very morning, I re-read “Let Your Life Speak” by Parker Palmer. Had the thought – what is it that I can NOT do???????? And bam! Your post. Grateful beyond measure for these tips. God bless you big time! xoxo
Thank you for writing this post! I often tell myself “why would God place such a deep desire to glorify Him in this way of written words and the pace is so slow?” Then I’m reminded it’s His pace and timing and not mine. Hugs to you!
Katie M. Reid says
Kristen! Thank you so very much for this post. I feel encouraged and inspired. ?
Jessica Barrett Halcom says
This post is so encouraging. I work really long days, 5-6 days a week, and I usually feel like I’m not getting anywhere very fast or far. It’s so frustrating, and like you, I feel like I’m being a fool most of time for pushing ahead like I do. I just can’t seem to quit-I have always felt like I was born for this.
I appreciate everything you wrote here. Thank you!
I loved all of this, Kristen. Thank you for taking the time to share your journey in order to encourage others in theirs.
Deb Weaver says
Helpful, encouraging advice! Thank you! I do have some “When not If” kinds of friends, and it’s such a blessing!
Kristen, once again you are very encouraging. I appreciate the tips. Some day I will join you as a published book.
Thanks for sharing your story. It is very encouraging.
Thank you for this. I especially loved the part where you encouraged us to find our supporters. They mean so much to me. PS Your book is on my list to review. Soon.
I hope it blesses you, Traci! xo
Kim Stewart says
Kristen, what a beautiful article! Thank you for sharing your tips, Kim Stewart
This is so great Kristen. Love your advice and encouragement! So happy for you and cannot wait to have a chance to read your new book. 🙂 Blessings, Kristin
I would love to hear all. the. thoughts. about having an agent! And if you’re not going the traditional publishing route, what would you say then about having an agent? Also, all the xoxo for this post, lady.
Thanks girly. Adore you!
If someone wants to go the traditional publishing route, I would highly suggest an agent. This writing business can be rather lonely, and an agent helps it be much less so. They are your cheerleader, advocate, and go-between. Plus, they have connections and can go a long way to get your proposal in the right doors. I absolutely *adore* my agent. She is worth every penny–and so much more.
Honestly, I’m not sure how an agent would fit in with a new author going the nontraditional route. Do you mean what I think about having an agent if you were going to, say, self publish your own e-book? It would be harder for them to receive any kind of substantial income since there wouldn’t be an advance (although there would be royalties to at least some degree). I think it would be hard for a brand new author to sign with an agent if that author was *only* interested in nontraditional publishing. That’s my guess, anyway.
Love your response and advice.. thanks girl!
This is such a helpful, practical post, Kristen, thank you. I’m inspired!
Kristen, thank you for this post! You continue to be such an encourager–one of the many things I love about your writing style. I have been struggling in my writing because I don’t have anyone who will give me constructive criticism. I want to know how to be a better writer, but who do you ask? Friends and family are so kind in their feedback, but I would love for someone to tell me where to improve and how to communicate more effectively. How do you go about finding people like this? I’d love a writing mentor. Did you ever have one? If so, how did you go about finding one?
Lauren, I do have a couple writing mentors. I didn’t find them, per se, but those connections just naturally developed through those early days of cultivating relationships in online writing circles. Is there someone in your own writing circles you could approach about offering critique? I’ve been known to just email writing friends (outside my mentors) and ask if they would look a project over and offer me their honest feedback.
Other than that, perhaps your own town has writing groups that offer critiques? I know many do (including mine). I hope some of this helps! In the meantime, I’m praying God brings someone into your life that fills this role. xo
Kelly Basham says
Kristen, I am so glad I found this post. I needed to hear these words this morning “Focus on your writing than your platform.” It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all of this talk about platforms. Thank you for sharing your story. It blessed me this morning.
Thank you for this helpful and encouraging post for us fledglings. 🙂
Lyli @3dlessons4life.com says
This is so encouraging, Kristen. Thank you 🙂
Pamela Truax says
Kristen, I am one of those that started following your blog after you offered the free e-book to military wives. What a blessing that was and all your blog posts since!
Just last week I told my husband that I had a “germ of an idea.” And it scares me to death to become so vulnerable by putting it out there to the big wide world. But every day since then there has been some gentle nudge to begin this project. This being one of them. Thank you for the encouragement to step out into a world unknown, believing that there are others out there who come alongside and encourage us along the way.
Your big heart and generosity never ceases to amaze me, Kristen! What an encouraging post. Thank you for sharing.
Angie Ryg says
What great insight and encouragement! Your writing is such a ministry and I just adore you!
Oh thank you thank you for these words! Sounds crazy but I’ve been getting back to writing since having my 5th and LAST baby with hopes to expand my encouragement to parents and women especially. Tonight I received my first little offer to write a guest submission for a family online mag and I’m thrilled but know that there are so many strong voices out there. I love the saying, “Its all been done but not by you.” Your encouragement and ability to keep it real is so valuable for us venturing out!
Becky Hastings says
Thank you for this insight. I have stifled so much with the pull to have a platform, a tribe, a following. But I keep feeling like God wants me writing my best right now and having the rest come organically. This is scary as it is not the norm or what all The experts say. Of course I’ve never been one to follow the rules! Thanks again for sharing your experience and advice!
Felicia Salgado says
I’m so proud of you my friend! You’ve got such a generous heart (I remember that from when we went to church together) and I know God is proud of you, girl.
Thanks so much for posting this. I don’t know why I’ve waited so long to “get out there” but now is the time, and you’re adding to my stash of tools to help me get started. 🙂
*** I do have one question…Did you ever get nervous about putting your words and your heart out there? And, if so, how’d you overcome that hurdle? (OK, two Q’s!) ***
That’s my biggest challenge…that someone might actually READ my heart (in more ways than one) and then there’s no more hiding.
Love and God bless!
FELICIA! Oh how fun to see you here!
I’m so glad you’re writing too. You are such a hope-filled light, I’m sure your words will encourage many!
In regards to your questions:
1. Yes. YES. All the caps for all the nervous feelings. In many ways I’m very private, so it felt quite huge to begin this endeavor. But if also felt like I’d stepped into God’s next thing for me, so that gave me the peace and courage to write in spite of all that.
2. Holley Gerth says that bravery is just doing the thing scared, so the main way I overcame that hurdle is just writing scared. It also helped tremendously to have a few encouragers along the way that were in the writing community themselves. Have you heard of http://www.hopewriters.com? I ADORE the people behind this community that helps folks gather hope in their own desire to take writing seriously. Check it out?
Miss you girl! Take care. xo
Lisa Appelo says
Yours is the book I just bought with my black Friday Amazon discount. I have a friend facing an unknown *where* with her family and I immediately thought of your book. I know this is an older post, but thank you so much for opening up about your process. Thank you, thank you for nailing that voice in my head. You *are* a great writer and I’m so glad you listened to Alli. 🙂 I have a book dream as well and the rejection/feedback at She Speaks this year from one editor in particular was fabulous. If it’s not too late for a question: would you do anything different in those first one or two years of blogging given what you know now?
Kellee Kroll says
Great encouragement! I’ve been writing “books” since 2nd grade. I’ve renewed my passion with a blog and dream of a book. Thanks for reminding me All things are possible, even with my tiny audience right now.
I stumbled across this post today, Kristen. It blessed me so. It confirm what I was believing for my life. Thank you! and I look forward to reading Girl Meets Change.
Ok Kristen I’m back for another dose of this post :). The way you went back to that encouraging text about a friend believing in your writing…that is how I feel about these words. I’ve heard lots and lots of cheering over the years to write more. I’ve been encouraged by real life women who are connecting with the story God is asking me to write and that excites and gives me mission. I don’t have a platform lol but I have a couple hundred readers who I love writing for… that being said after I first read this post I believed you and kept at it. My platform is the same BUT I gathered up some bravery and submitted to (in)courage (insert wide eyed gasp) several weeks ago and to my unexpected surprise… my first Yes. That is not the most important part. The real value in this message you have shared for writers is that lots of rejection and refinement will come and I want to welcome that. So, thanks again and I’m sure I’ll be back sooner than later.
!!!! Jenny, I’m just thrilled for you. THRILLED! I’m looking forward to your words at (in)courage!
May you hold the hand of trust as you wait for future “yes’s” down the road. Much love.
So kind! Thank you for getting my excitement!!! – and nerves. I will hold the hand of trust …promise. Trusting is an area I am “growing up” in. Its the waiting thats terrible. 🙂
Appreciate ya, Jenny
This post means the world to me. Thank you for taking the time to share bits of your journey with those of us who are not huge but have huge dreams. I will hold on to this post for the hard days. ❤️
Gwen Rutz says
Kristen, thank you for your encouragement. I did a google search on book publishing and your blog post came up. The title fit my question so here I am. I appreciate your sharing your story. I’m one with a small platform and a big dream. Your article is encouragement to keep working to see the book in my heart printed on the page.
Thank you for blessing me today!
Such an inspiring post for a fellow blogger and writer. Thank you and congratulations on achieving a dream.
April Adams Pertuis says
Thank you Kristen. Yes — the fact that you share this information as an author with a “smaller” audience is what makes the imparting of information so helpful and encouraging.
My writing is still so new (I only started labeling myself as a writer in 2015!), my platform so small, my email list minimal (less than 100!), no real clarity on what to do next other than to just keep writing and keep sharing. My social platform is a bit larger and I’m getting traction by submitting articles and getting them published (Elephant Journal and Huffington Post are recent big wins!), and I’ve begun to write pieces that I do believe will eventually become part of a book. All of this to say, I still feel so small, so fearful, so not sure how to proceed …. so THANK YOU for sharing your story, your ideas, and your encouragement. I’ve been a follower of your blog for over a year now and I always find your writing a warm, comfortable place to land.
GIRL. Those are big wins indeed! Your platform may be small, but your talent is BIG. Please keep on keepin’ on–your words matter and we need them! Much love. xo
Claire Kohler says
Thank you for the encouragement! I’ve dreamt of writing a novel since I was a child, but I don’t have a platform and life and discouragement have gotten in my way. I’ve almost finished a fantasy novel, but I’m not really sure what to do with it once it’s done. Do you have any suggestions for fiction proposals to publishers?
Hi, Claire! I don’t know as much about fiction proposals, but I’ve heard that one “back door” way to get fiction material in front of agents and publishers is to submit it to an online fiction contest. Other than that, attending a writing conference like She Speaks in North Carolina could open the door to meetings with publishers. Hope this helps, and best wishes to you as you write on!