Book marketing Modern-day novel writing Writing advice

J.K. Rowling on how to publish a book

If there’s one person we should all be taking writing advice from, it’s J.K. Rowling. Not only did she manage to write a book that spawned a series and a series of hugely successful movies, she transformed herself from a never-before-published writer into the first billionaire author on the planet. And all because she put the necessary work in and believed in the world she was creating. So here is advice from J.K. Rowling on how to publish a book:

1. “Even after you find an agent, it can take years to get published.”

J.K. Rowling is certainly a mistress of magic, but she’s also a mistress of patience. Even after she found an agent, it took that agent a full year to find anyone who was interested in publishing the first Harry Potter book. This is after J.K. Rowling spent five years developing the world of the Harry Potter books – and then wrote and re-wrote the first book until she was happy with it! So in essence, it took her seven years from first getting the idea to getting the book publishing, and that was with an agent. So it’s wise to remember that publishing isn’t always a quick and speedy process.

2. “Not everything successful writers produce is publishable.”

It’s easy to imagine that once a writer is published, everything he or she writes is instantly aimed for the bestseller list. But in fact, the opposite is often true. Once a writer has been published, that doesn’t mean their work is over – rather that this one piece of work, that the writer has written and re-written and edited and re-edited and crafted until it is finally ready for publication – this one piece of work is ready to be published.

Other pieces of work will take just as much time to be ready for publication, and some pieces should never see the light of publication (for both the writer’s sake, and the reader’s!) It’s good to remember, after all, that successful published authors are just one step ahead of you on the publishing ladder.

3. “Writing doesn’t always get easier. In fact, it can be more difficult for successful writers.”

Again, this seems counter-intuitive. But once a writer has had some success, there is an enormous amount of pressure to match (or better) that success – and there are a lot more people waiting to see what you produce next. Imagine having an agent and a publisher and a publicist calling you every week to check how your writing was going – wouldn’t it drive you mad? It’s a real challenge for successful writers to put the public aside when they write and just write for themselves, and the love of writing.

4. “I just write what I want to write. I write what amuses me. It’s totally for myself.”

This is perhaps J.K. Rowling’s best piece of advice for all of us. The goal isn’t publication, after all, but the joy of writing – to amuse ourselves! If you can remember this, then all writing will be a pleasure, no matter what the end publication goal is.

Before you can become a publishing phenomenon like J.K. Rowling, you first need to finish writing a book. Now Novel simplifies the process: Learn how to write a book: Find your central idea, create a blueprint for your novel and get constructive feedback to polish your draft until it’s publishable.

By Bridget McNulty

Bridget McNulty is a published author, content strategist, writer, editor and speaker. She is the co-founder of two non-profits: Sweet Life Diabetes Community, South Africa's largest online diabetes community, and the Diabetes Alliance, a coalition of all the organisations working in diabetes in South Africa. She is also the co-founder of Now Novel: an online novel-writing course where she coaches aspiring writers to start - and finish! - their novels. Bridget believes in the power of storytelling to create meaningful change.

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