Happy New Year!! My friend, and fellow writer, Jennifer Coburn emailed me today. She’s giving a “Book Publishing 101” workshop at the San Diego Library next week and was asking published authors to help her broaden her “tips list.” Thought I’d share what I wrote back:

I had never attended a writing workshop, never attended a conference, didn’t have a Web site or a blog, and didn’t have drawers full of manuscripts written over the course of years when I was first published. I just had one manuscript and did my homework on agents.

I hear all the time about writers who attend critique groups, go to conferences, blog their hearts out, spend hours on developing their Web sites and book trailers and friending people on Facebook. I think that today so many writers get caught up in the “stuff” you can do instead of what you HAVE to do. Write a kick-ass book. Write a killer query letter. Know who reps the type of book you’ve written and contact them. Nothing substitutes for focusing on the writing and being smart about your submission. The writing comes first. Being smart about querying and submissions comes second. All that other stuff is icing for a never-been-published writer. There’s plenty of time once you’ve sold your book to blog about it, to put up a Web site, to network and get the word out there. Focusing on all that “stuff” is like picking the color of your car and the type of sound system you’ll have before you’ve built the motor. I don’t care how “pretty” it all looks and how “pretty” it all sounds. You need a solid motor that runs before you can get anywhere.