Since mid-2008, my husband and I have been touring the country, promoting our books at bookstores, festivals, and conventions. At every event, I inevitably get asked the same question: “How did you go about getting published.” Or some similar variation of that. However, in the middle of an event, I cannot really go into a lengthy discussion of the many avenues to publish one’s book, nor can I really go into the details of our complicated publishing history. It seems these people want some nice, concise answer. Some sort of formula they can follow, but there is no straight formula. What works for one writing might not work for the next. It depends on the writer’s goals, their work, and their time.
One day in Starbucks, because I just have to have my decaf nonfat nowhip mocha (with foam), the Barista asked what I did for a living. As I proceeded to tell her about our book and tour, she politely smiled, but her eyes glazed over in a matter of seconds. I wrapped it up quickly, not wanting to bore the poor woman. After all, this has become my life. Day and night, so once I have the time to get going, it can be rather hard for me to stop. But I do recognize that she was just making conversation and not asking about my personal life history.
However, as I went back to my comfy chair in the corner, a patron stopped me.
“Excuse me,” she said, “But I couldn’t help but overhear that you’re an author. How did you go about getting published?”
That’s when the proverbial light bulb went on inside my dark, twisted mind. Aspiring authors want to know because they want to do the same thing. This is their dream, too. They want to hear the long, convoluted story. They want to be a successful author, too; and they look to me as someone who is a successful author, if for no other reason than I’m a living, breathing, working, published author. They want to know my secret.
Of course, one can’t give them a complete assessment on how to go about getting published in a Starbucks or at a Renaissance Festival or a Fantasy Convention. Still, aspiring authors want to know, and I discovered that I wanted to show them, not only how to get published, as there are many options, but also how to avoid some of the common pitfalls.
The greatest problem with this is that there are so many options, especially in today’s fast-paced, ever-changing, electronic marketplace. There is not a single way that will work for all writers. In fact, each writer will need to thoroughly examine their goals, energy level, and budget to determine which path would best serve them and their book.
The information on these pages will help you make that decision, for you. Throughout the book, I will lay out the pros and cons of each of the four basic publishing avenues from which a writer must choose. I will delve into the all-consuming world of marketing, giving you my best practices and worst mistakes.
I’m not going to sugar coat anything. Rather, I’m going to give it to your straight. And I mean straight. I will not seduce you with promises of the New York Times Bestseller list or gala parties celebrating your genius as the latest Great American Novelist. Some of the information will sound quite harsh. Some of it will sound very discouraging. You might find yourself questioning whether or not it is all worth it.
And it is important to ask those kinds of questions.
But the information herein is not to burst your bubble but rather to give you a realistic snapshot of the options available to you and the benefits, or potential downfalls, of each. Everything in these pages I learned the hard way, so you don’t have to.
Utilizing my experiences, both successes and failures, you can effectively and realistically prepare yourself for the very long road ahead. Let’s stick with that metaphor for a moment. You’re embarking on a long road trip, one that will last for years. It is essential to have a map so you don’t take any wrong turns, which will only serve to make your journey longer.
First. The life of a working author is literally non-stop. Non-stop writing. Non-stop editing. Non-stop networking. Non-stop promotion. Non-stop work.
It becomes your life.
If you think you’re going to be living in a penthouse suite surrounded by your best sellers, then you have a better chance at winning the lottery. Seriously.
It certainly can and does happen, and, of course, if you don’t play, you can’t win; but you need to fully understand what you’re up against.
There are just under 800 books published every single day in the USA. That’s nearly 300,000 books a year (Bowker).
The average book sells under 500 copies in its lifetime. This average includes books that sell millions like Harry Potter or Twilight, so there are many, many, many, many books out there selling less than 50 copies. Decide now that yours won’t be one of those.
Quitting your day job and becoming a full-time author takes great courage because it’s very, very risky, as you can imagine from the above figures. In fact, I would not recommend it at this point. Even if you have a great book that packaged professionally and you have decent distribution, it generally takes years of marketing to ramp up to actually making enough money to support yourself from book sales alone.
The very first thing you must do is ask yourself these questions. You’ll need the answers to decide which publishing path to take. Get a pen and paper and give each question and answer considerable thought before you continue reading this book. Your honest answers will help you decide which publishing path is best for you and your book.
- What do you want to accomplish with your book?
- When do you want this done?
- Do you want to live solely off writing, or do you want to just see your work in print?
- Do you want to be a NYTimes Bestseller (who doesn’t?) By when?
- Do you want to travel extensively?
- How much time do you want to put into marketing your book? What is your initial marketing budget?
- Do you want to ultimately quit your day job? Why or why not?
- How much money are you willing to invest in this venture? How much time each day? week?
- What will you have to accomplish to feel like a “successful author”?
When is a big part of the equation here.
How much you want to work is also a big part of the equation.
Trust me. You will work way way way less at any other job, not to mention get a steady paycheck and benefits like health insurance, stock options, and a retirement plan, unless, of course, you’re in business for yourself. If you own and run your own business, then you already know the meaning of work.
The can become your entire life. There is nothing else.
That is what it means to be a working author. It becomes your life.
Every waking moment. Every single day.
As an emerging author, your four basic publishing choices are:
- New York “Big Boy” Publisher (this is like Penguin, HarperCollins, Scholastic, St. Martin’s, Harlequin, Simon&Schuster, etc.)
- Independent Publisher (aka Indie or Micro-Publisher)
- “Self-Publishing” (or an Independent Publishing House that you happen to own)
- Vanity/Subsidy/POD Publishing (many people call this Self-Publishing)
What are some of the most important things to consider when choosing a publishing path?