Want to know what it takes and how long it takes to become a published author? Read this…

April 20, 2022



Becoming a published author is like anything in the creative arts department, whether that be a musician securing a record deal, an actor securing a movie role. It’s hard, it’s lonely, you need time, money and so much patience. As a teenager, people told me all the time just how hard it would be. Some compare the odds to winning lotto. But guess what? It’s doable, it’s not impossible and I’m here to tell you why.

I always knew it would be hard, long and full of disparaging rejections and hurdles along the way. But the fact is, the hurdles never prevented me from moving forward and trying harder.

The other day, I read a post on Instagram by Meera Shah talking about the end result of a book on the shelf and what it took to get there. It really resonated with a lot of people. Like a movie you watch, or a song you hear on the radio, we enjoy the end result and rarely give any consideration to the amount of hours, people, money and determination it took to get behind that product and create something tangible for audiences to enjoy.

Let’s look at what it took me to get this far.

  • As a child, I decided I wanted to be an author after writing and writing and writing and reading.
  • As a teenager, I wrote novels and then heard about people called literary agents. I researched the main ones which were in London. Curtis Brown was the one I kept looking at. I read blogs by authors and realised how hard this would be for me. I read the acknowledgements in the back of books and found out how many people were involved.
  • At the age of 19,  I sent my **embarrassing** manuscript to Curtis Brown and got my first ever rejection.
  • In my early twenties, I paid for another manuscript to get edited and appraised. I got professional feedback and felt equally embarrassed. But I started seeing what structure, characterisation and plot should look like. I kept writing and submitting to other literary agents in Australia. I kept getting rejections.
  • At the age of 25, I attended a writers club with a Western Australian author and gained personal, insightful feedback and she told me to go to university and learn how to write. I had it there, I had the “gift” but I didn’t know how to implement it properly.
  • I went back to Uni and learnt how to write properly. I kept submitting to agents and getting more personalised feedback. I felt like I was finally getting somewhere, getting recognition.
  • At 30, I was working with a supervisor and polishing my manuscript. Two Australian agents were interested and contacted me to talk about my story. Both ended up rejecting me. I was so close!
  • At 35, I wrote a different genre and entered the Curtis Brown Write Your Novel Course. I got in and got to work with amazing agents, authors and writers.
  • 2020 (35-year-old me) FINALLY got an agent!
  • Now, in 2022, I have a publisher and my novels are coming out in 2023 & 2024

I’ve heard other authors who only started writing two years ago and already have a publisher. I’ve heard heaps that have followed the same trajectory as me. Most will discuss how long, hard and full of rejections this road to publication is.

But there ARE qualities I truly believe you can adopt in order to become a published author and succeed. Here’s my top 5.

  1. The Ability To Write.

Of course, it goes without saying, you need to know how to write. It’s all well and good to think if you read then you can write. But you have to know how to turn your imagination into well-crafted sentences that not only flow and make sense, but allow the reader to feel. Then there’s the structure of paragraphs and chapters and the story as a whole. Then there’s characterisation and knowing how to write believable people with thoughts and ideas and emotions. This is where creative writing workshops come in. If your want to be a famous visual artist, you may have the gift, but you also need to learn how to use the brush. Writing’s the same. Once you learn, then you need to…

2.  Practice.

Heard of the 10,000 hour rule? That’s what it takes to master any skill. So if you want to write, you need to write every day to become fluent in your writing. We’re talking about mastering the skill, to stand out above others. The more you write, the greater you’ll become and the more chances you have to attract attention from agents/publishers.

3. Determination.

Everyone says this, but it really is a skill you need in order to take your writing into the next stage of:

-Turning your writing into a full-length novel

-Then editing that novel (going over it roughly five times)

-Then seeking feedback

-Then altering it again.

-Then preparing yourself for submissions by writing query letters, synopsis and cover letter.

-Then researching agents/publishers who will fit your genre.

-Then waiting months to hear back.

-Then possibly getting rejections.

-Then when you secure an agent/publisher, starting the editing process again.

4. Patience.

For all the reasons above and some I haven’t mentioned.

5. Self-Belief and a strong will.

It’s isolating, lonely and you are the only one who cares about your writing, ideas and story. You REALLY have to have self-belief and confidence because until you have an agent, you only have yourself to motivate you. It’s a hard slog and it doesn’t seem worth it at times. But after you’ve achieved that goal, nothing will ever feel as good, powerful, self-fulling as knowing that YOU DID IT!

So there we have it. It IS possible. You CAN do it, if you really, really, really want it.

Hope this inspires you, not frightens you.

Holly x