Following that, she wrote a fascinating article for an online magazine I edit about failure. Ever since then, I was hooked. I'm a fan of Mary — she lives what she preaches.
Not to mention, she's a real, live published author. So I wanted to get her perspective on some topics that I thought would be relevant to this community.
Here's an interview I recently did with Mary:
Jeff Goins (JG): Mary, what does it mean to be a writer?
Mary DeMuth (MD): It means that I process life through written words. And I can’t help but write every single day, particularly for an audience.
JG: How did you get published? Can you share some of your journey?
MD: I wrote my 10,000 hours (if you don’t know what I mean, read Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell) in the 90s when my children were wee ones and I was a stay at home mommy. I wrote miles and miles of unpublished words in obscurity.
In the early 2000s, when my youngest started attending preschool, I got serious about my writing. I joined two critique groups, found a mentor, became a local newspaper columnist, and wrote my first novel. I attended my first major writing conference in 2003, where I met my first agent.
That year, I sold two parenting books to two different publishers. Since then I’ve published a total of eleven books. It took me a decade of behind the scenes work to hone my voice.
JG: When does a writer know that she is called to write full time?
MD: When she has a spouse who makes a decent living wage. I’m serious. I still don’t make good income (yet). I make a little more than minimum wage when you calculate the hours I spend writing. If my husband quit his job, we couldn’t live on my salary without doing some extreme things (like choosing to live in a box!)
JG: I've heard you before mention the struggles of writing, that it is a hard calling. Can you unpack that some more. How is it hard?
MD: Financially, it’s very frustrating. You have to settle your worth before you start the journey. It can’t be based on fame, sales, wealth. It must be based in Jesus’ love for you. Also, it’s a profession fraught with rejection.
You may think that getting published ends rejection, but it’s only the beginning. And each rejection gets harder and more personal. If you can’t handle rejection, or learn to deal with it, you shouldn’t become a writer.
You also must settle the calling on your life. When things get hard (and they will), you will have that calling to fall back on.
JG: Do you recommend working with a publisher or going the self-publishing or e-publishing route?
MD: I personally recommend creating such amazing content that a publisher picks you up. Why? Because you will learn so much about editing and creating a readable, non-put-downable book through the editorial process.
Also, it’s not good to circumvent the process just because you want your name in print. Learn first. Apprentice. Become teachable. If you do choose to self-publish, be sure you hire a professional editor, a terrific cover designer, and a trustworthy company to print your book.
JG: How does a writer establish his platform? How has blogging and other online media helped you connect with readers and gain new ones?
MD: Lots of work. I’ve been blogging since 2004. I’m practically a blogging veteran! That blog has opened a lot of doors for me. Twitter and Facebook both have driven traffic to my site.
I’d also advise having your blog on the front page of your website. It helps with traffic. Also, a good idea is to cultivate a large email distribution list. I put out a monthly ezine called “Inside Renewal.” It’s taken me several years to build up to 4000 people, but it’s been a blessing.
Remember to take the long view; building a platform doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a series of small decisions made over the long haul.
JG: You seem to do a lot of writing online; how do you find time to write books, as well? How do you balance it all?
MD: That’s a good question. When I’m under deadline, the book trumps everything else. I must write 1000-3000 words a day no matter what. Only after I do that can I stray to newsletters and blogs.
JG: What advice do you have for aspiring authors? How should they get started?
MD: Write, write, write. You won’t improve by wanting to write. You improve your writing muscle by exercising it. Get your BOC (butt on chair) and write. Give yourself daily goals (one page, 500 words, one query letter, etc.) then meet that goal.
Treat it like a profession. Be tenacious and diligent and dogged.
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Check out Mary's eBook: The 11 Secrets of Getting Published
Question for you writers: How is the writing life a hard one?
*Disclosure: Some of the above links are affiliate links.