Whether you are an aspiring author or on your sixth or seventh book, professional development comes with the territory. The business of being an author can be overwhelming for many people who don’t have the background. How can you best prepare for today’s marketplace?

I’ve worked with writers on their craft for decades and these are the secrets to the success of their writing and publishing efforts.

Read. I mean read a lot. Obsessively. Read deeply in your genre. Read broadly beyond your comfort zone. Read for craft. Read for fun.

Patronize your local public library. Volunteer. Get to know your reference librarian. Attend events and participate in programs there.

Shop at your local brick and mortar bookstore. Befriend the bookseller and encourage others to frequent the store. Give books as gifts. Attend author events and buy a copy for the author to sign.

Join a book club. Reading titles you might not otherwise is good practice. You refine your sense of what you like and learn what other readers like, or don’t, and why.

Take a class or writing workshop. Continuing professional development is always encouraged. No matter how many books you’ve got under your belt, you continue to grow your writing talents.

Join a writer’s group. Meeting with other writers who commit to improve their work has many benefits. Not the least of which is the support and accountability you provide to one another.

Read your work-in-progress or poetry to an audience. Or tell your story at a community storytelling event.

Write fan letters to your favorite authors. Good writers read good writing. Good writers want to know their work had an impact on a reader. Pay it forward.

Celebrate at a book festival near you. Whether it’s the elementary school fundraiser or BookCon in New York City, spread the love of books.

Go to a writer’s conference. Find your peeps. Build your literary community.

Join professional organizations like Author’s Guild, AWP, PEN America, or one of the many associations like the Society for Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, Asian American Journalists Association, Military Writers Society of America, Romance Writers of America, National Association of Memoir Writers, National Association of Science Writers, etc. These affiliations offer a variety of professional development opportunities for aspiring authors. Many have journals or newsletters, annual conferences or regional workshops, scholarships and mentorships.

Read Poets & Writers, Publishers Weekly, Shelf Awareness, and Writer’s Digest. Regularly.

Get up early or stay up late. But schedule your writing practice into your daily life. Butt in chair. There are no shortcuts.

Listen. Take time, slow down, breathe, and take in the stories other people have to tell you. Listen to the voices in your head narrate the next paragraph, the next chapter, the next book. Listen as much as you read as much as you write.

Learn to take rejection before your submission is rejected. Learn to take critical feedback and take what you can from it. Learn to trust your voice and tell your story.

Submit. Apply.

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