K is for Knowledge – and Not Just Your Own

To some, today’s publishing definition – “K is for Knowledge” – may seem like a detour from my traditional publishing posts. Look again.

Without appropriate knowledge of the publishing industry a new author hasn’t got a chance.

While writing a publishable book (or other creative work) comes first, sooner or later the author must learn enough about publishing as a business to make the decisions about the future of the author’s work and career. Those decisions must not be made without adequate knowledge.

The Internet offers a wealth of information and educational materials for authors at every stage of every kind of writing career. Whether you choose to self-publish, represent yourself, or seek agency representation and/or a traditional publishing contract, resources abound to help you on your quest. Blogs, websites and social media can put you in touch with agents, attorneys, editors, and authors of every possible skill and stripe. These can be valuable sources of information (and knowledge) for the conscientious author seeking to learn about the publishing industry.

However, discretion plays a part. Expert researchers know that you don’t depend on a single source to establish historical facts. The same wisdom applies to other forms of research. Authors seeking to learn about publishing shouldn’t apply on a single opinion or source. Find at least one other website or trusted professional whose opinion, facts, or advice confirm what you believe to be true.

When you research the industry, or seek information to help with difficult publishing decisions, be sure to seek out reputable sources. “Reputable” means authors or industry professionals with real-world experience in the topics about which they speak. Inexperienced sources often provide less-reliable information even when their intentions are honorable.

That said, you shouldn’t discount information just because the source is not a household name. Self-published authors often have valuable insights about their experiences with the publishing process. Debut novelists whose works have not yet hit bookshelves may still have useful knowledge about the writing and publishing process. Evaluate each source on the basis of the information presented  – does this source agree with other reliable sources on other major points? Does the information comport with what you already know to be true?

No matter where you are in your publishing journey, it’s never too early to start acquiring knowledge about the publishing industry.

You’re never “too new” to start thinking about and planning your career. You might want to hold off on the business cards reading “New York Times Bestselling Author” – but if that’s where you want to end up someday, now is the time to start learning how people get there.

Rely on the knowledge of others who went before you. Build your own knowledge, and then “pay it forward” by sharing with those around you. Some writers do succeed without substantial knowledge of the industry, but far more often – almost all the time – it’s knowledge that provides the real key to writing success.

8 thoughts on “K is for Knowledge – and Not Just Your Own

  • April 12, 2012 at 1:16 pm

    Hi Susan. Thanks for this post; it’s such a handy reminder that, if your writing goals are to be published, knowing the business side of things is more than half the battle. Just doing the writing is the “glamorous” side of a publishing career, but knowing about and being involved in all the other aspects of getting your written words out in the world is where one has to roll up their sleeves. Another instance where knowledge is power, and also, peace of mind.

    • April 12, 2012 at 2:27 pm

      Thanks Tammy, and so true. It’s easy for us, as writers, to tuck our heads down and focus on the keys to the exclusion of everything else. Eventually, though, we have to pull our groundhog-esque selves out of the den to find a publisher, and when we do, the chances of success are higher if we know enough not to be scared of our shadows.

      • April 16, 2012 at 10:01 am

        Thanks for stopping by Shark and Melonie! And Emily too – nice to meet all three of you. I’m making my way through the list too – there are a lot of us this year!

        So true, Jeremy. In my house, we even make a joke about “well, I saw it on the Internet so it MUST be true!!” – discretion is something nobody can afford to be without, especially when dealing with electronic sources.

  • April 12, 2012 at 3:57 pm

    Lots of knowledge means we make fewer mistakes. I’m trying to visit all the A-Z Challenge Blogs this month.

  • April 12, 2012 at 4:11 pm

    Hey, nice meeting you! Great post. Good luck with the rest of the challenge!

    Emily Rose


  • April 12, 2012 at 11:34 pm

    You took the words out of my mouth with the paragraph on discretion. Many people take whatever is written on the Internet as truth, to their own (and others) error.

  • April 13, 2012 at 2:23 am

    I’m visiting from the A to Z challenge.
    Thanks for sharing these gems.(as a newbie, I’m very, very far from this part of the industry)
    Enjoy the rest of A to Z…

  • April 13, 2012 at 2:33 pm

    Very interesting blog, and great advice of all sorts for the beginning author.

    Just stopping by from the A to Z challenge. Good luck with the rest!

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