If you have a story to tell, or even better lots of stories to tell, you can be an author, and a successful one at that. When you make the choice to be a successful author, you will one day find yourself sitting at home, typing away, when it hits you. I’m writing a book. That other people want to buy. Mine. This will be a wonderful moment, one I hope to nudge you in the direction of sooner than later.
Many would be writers with a book in their hearts have no idea how easily they can be published. I’ve had several conversations about this topic and they all end in two-fold bewilderment.
They can’t believe that I do this and I can’t believe that they are not.
My fault is that I’m so passionate about seeing other people succeed that I often get just short of demanding whenever I catch even the faintest whiff of creative passion. What galls me is when that passion is immediately followed by a calm acceptance that passion is silly and their dreams will never happen.
No. Bad writer. Stop it. Go write now.
I find that this is often the case with folks who accepted the same tired narrative of an author’s arduous journey to rejection that I did. Of course, when I tell them about the new promised land, they often don’t believe me. They don’t say that to my face, but they give that polite nod that people employ when dealing with friendly but unwanted salesmen or charity drives when you don’t want to donate. In short, they think it’s a scam.
Nothing could be farther from the truth.
There are thousands of pages and millions of words out there on the internet, detailing the difference in self-publishing now versus ten years ago and how it differs from old ways of publishing. They are free and wonderful if you have time to read all of them, but here’s the short and sweet version.
Ten years ago, you had three options if you wrote a novel or book. Option number onewas to pay for a vanity press to “publish” (see print) your book and then travel the long degrading road of individually selling your own books. This only served to increase clutter in American garages and strain marriages. Option twowas creating a PDF and selling it on your website or posting your book for free on a website you created. This option was bursting with difficulties, not the least of which was that few writers could build their own websites (or afford to have a quality professional do it), and even worse is the fact that people do not enjoy reading over long periods on the computer screen.
The first option would often have you pay out of pocket for shoddy covers, poor editing, and 1,000 or more copies of your book delivered to your door for the bargain price of thousands of dollars. Nearly every author who pursued this option lost money. The second option had the benefit of being cheaper and allowing the author to make money without actually being present, a great benefit indeed. But sales of anything on the web not related to get rich quick marketing schemes failed miserably, mainly related to the fact that people thought that anything on the internet, not published by a major publisher, was of questionable value and not worth the eyesore that would be surely inflicted on them if they attempted to read this 600 page historical fiction tome. That left the third option,the one that had existed for over a century; agents and publishing houses.
The process of querying agents and publishers was, and continues to be, an absolute brutal assault on one’s character and fortitude. Querying meant that you copied your manuscript, with a personalized letter on top, and sent it to the agent or publishing house contact directly. It was (is) expensive and nearly always fruitless. Even bestsellers have to struggle to prevail.
For example, Kathryn Stockett’s “The Help” went on to sell 5 million copies, but not before it garnered over 60 rejections from literary publishers. Mark Victor Hansen’s Chicken Soup for the Soul was rejected by 140 publishers, even receiving a comment that anthologies just don’t sell and that the book was “too positive”. 80 million copies later, who was right? From Gone With the Wind, to Frank Herbert’s Dune, to A Wrinkle In Time, publishers and agents are famous for rejecting future bestsellers. Trying to land a publishing deal is a long hard road.
Not that one should avoid a journey simply because it’s difficult. It wasn’t because I was afraid of the hard work. Running from hard work would lead to an unfulfilling life of boredom and lots of reality TV. I shudder at the thought.
My hesitation in trying to get a book deal wasn’t just the desire to avoid hard work or the rejection process, being a Publishing Author has those in spades. There was also the lack of financial reward.
Today, the average advance for a new author is around $5000. That’s when your book is accepted and bought by a publisher after months, and sometimes years of struggling to get them accept you. Unfortunately, you only receive a third of that up front, and 15% is going to your agent. At that point, your agent and publisher would probably advise you to start blogging and set up some kind of Twitter account, in an effort to engage your audience. You would think that since the publisher bought your book, they will want to promote it, but alas, this is not the case with first time authors. On a book the publisher bought for $5,000, the promotional burden is going to fall on your shoulders.
The book wouldn’t be released for about a year, and that’s when you receive the final third of your advance, the second check being on acceptance of the final manuscript. After that you would most likely never see another penny from the publisher. You could catch a break and make a few grand from foreign rights sales, but that wouldn’t be for some time.
And that’s your best case scenario when dealing with the Major Publishing Houses.
Being a Publishing Author, doing everything yourself, is a bit different, and by different I mean awesome.