Friday, September 28, 2012

Advice From Writer's Digest Chief Editor

Interview With Writer’s Digest Chief Editor Jessica Strawser,

1.      How does Writer's Digest magazine help today's writer navigate through the publishing maze? Ever since our first issue was published in 1920, our mission has remained steadfast: to inform writers about the craft and business of publishing, to inspire them in their work, and to celebrate the writing life.

2.      What trends are you seeing in the world of book publishing? I think most writers and publishing pros agree that the increase in ebook sales and the rise of more accessible, affordable and viable self-publishing methods are without question the biggest trends shaking up the industry today.

3.      What types of challenges do today's writers face? Publishing is evolving so rapidly that it's difficult for even those of us working in it to keep up. Writers have more potentially viable outlets for their writing than ever before, and with more options comes more confusion about which path to pursue, and more pressure to make the right decisions for their individual career goals and writing projects. The flip side of that is that today's writers also have more control over what becomes of their hard work than ever before.

4.      What advice would you give to a novice writer? In addition to working on your craft, which is always paramount, the best thing you can do for yourself is to stay educated about how the industry is evolving and what new opportunities are at your disposal. There are so many resources readily available to writers today—publications like Writer's Digest (which now offers both digital and print subscriptions, and has supplementary content available for free through our website and weekly e-newsletter), countless websites devoted to writing and publishing, blogs maintained by top literary agents and generous writers willing to share what has worked for them—that there's really no excuse not to be savvy, so agents and editors these days tend to perceive uneducated writers as simply lazy or unmotivated. And you don't want that.

5.      What do you believe motivates most writers to keep on writing, regardless of rejections or sales? The craft of writing and the business of publishing are two very different things, and they certainly don't have to go hand and hand. I've interviewed some of the most commercially successful writers in the world on behalf of Writer's Digest, and you might be surprised to learn that one of the most common pieces of advice they offer up is that the best work comes from simply writing what you feel driven to write, without trying to write what you think might become a bestseller. I think there's a lot to be said for treating writing and the pursuit of publication as separate entities. Most of our readers tell us they write for the joy of it, because that's how they express themselves, because they feel compelled to do so. While rejection stings, it's such an inevitable part of the writing life that writers don't have to go far for support or inspiration to help them shake it off and get back to doing what they love. All of us on the editorial team at Writer's Digest are writers, too—so we can relate! It helps to remember that you'd be hard pressed to find a bestselling author who has not been rejected more times than he or she can count. We're all in this together.

6.      What should today's writer do to embrace the opportunities that social media offers them? Social media is all about give and take. If you wait until your book has been published and then set up a Twitter account and start tweeting about how everyone should buy your book, you're likely to be disappointed by the results. The writers who are most successful at platform building through social media are those who build genuine connections with fellow writers and potential readers—exchanging writing tips and book recommendations, cheering one another on in even small successes (such as meeting a daily or weekly writing goal, or getting up the courage to start submitting), and the like—long before they have a book or other writing project to promote. 

7.      Where do you see publishing heading in five years? I'm not too big on speculating about the future—but you don't have to look far to find myriad conflicting views about where publishing is headed. I'll just say that I think it's an exciting time to be a writer, and that all of us at Writer's Digest are deeply committed to keeping our readers informed every step of the way.

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, the nation’s largest book promoter, Media Connect ( . You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. Copyright 2012 Brian Feinblum

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