Most people have little to no idea what’s involved in being a published author. The general public thinks it’s merely a question of stringing a few words into sentences, sentences into paragraphs, paragraphs into chapters, and voila! A complete manuscript. Send it to your favorite publisher, who will print it, advertise it, and place it in bookstores, then get ready for a call from Oprah.

The reality is that being a published author is considerably more complex. Below are six truths about becoming a published author. (Six more will follow next week.)

Becoming a Published Author

Most successful book authors did not start out by writing a book. Almost without exception, they all cut their teeth on smaller pieces: magazine articles, short stories, devotionals, play scripts, curriculum, etc. Why?

1. Writing is a craft. It is learned by practice. Short pieces allow an aspiring writer to gain experience.

2. Writing is a business. Getting short pieces published provides an aspiring writer with a résumé to send to a book publisher.

3. Writing is an industry. Getting short pieces published helps a writer get to know people in the industry and make contacts that will be valuable when the time comes for him to start pitching his book-length manuscript.

4. Writing is long-term. It usually takes months to write a good magazine article, short story, etc. It then takes more months to find a publisher that will accept it. Then it takes several months to actually see what you wrote in print. A book, however, takes years to write, years to find a publisher, and years to get into print.

5. Writing is personal. Before you send a manuscript to a publisher, you will have to show it to other people, including friends and family, a critique group, a professional editor, all of whom will have different suggestions for how your manuscript can be improved. Seriously considering the suggestions you receive helps you look at your work more objectively. Your manuscript will eventually have to be sent to an acquisitions editor, who will either accept or reject it. Far more often than not, you will receive a form rejection letter. That’s the nature of the business. Starting off with shorter pieces helps you learn how to deal with rejection. Revising those pieces and resubmitting them will enable you to develop persistence. Eventually getting pieces accepted will allow you to build confidence in yourself as a writer. This, in turn, will improve your writing.

6. Writing is a profession. Like any other profession, it requires skill, even if you are only doing it part time and/or freelance. Learning any new profession requires time, training, determination, persistence, and discipline. This is true of any kind of writing, but far more so with book writing than with shorter pieces, and even more so with novels than with nonfiction.