After reading from some of my most inspiring authors, I would always think, “wow, I wish I could do that.” Maybe all authors start out that way – did you? With me, good stories came in two parts: having a good plot/characters, and writing it well. That may seem painfully obvious, but what may be more subtle is “how” to write it well. What was it that made the story a story, rather than a laundry list of interesting events? Why was I on the edge of my seat – how did he/she accomplish that? Why did I have dreams of being Lady Mara, why could I envision the rage flowing through me from holding the Sword of Truth?
I came to realize that it wasn’t just the story that made it so engrossing, but it was the skillful way the author told me that story. That’s when I started really paying attention to the details, and re-read the same books. Did the author just mention the mirror in the description of the bedroom? Isn’t it that same mirror that the monster will emerge from several chapters later? But it seemed such a casual mention and not at all forced…how’d he do that?
Therefore when my own story began to take substance, I asked myself – can I do for others what my favorite authors did for me? Can I engage them in my own inspiring story?
This immediately led to my first dilemma: do I want to publish this book? Well, why wouldn’t I? If I have a really great story (which of course I do) don’t I want to share it with others, as many as possible? Don’t be greedy, I thought, give your story to the world.
I had no concept of what it takes to write or publish a book. Truth be told, I assumed that with my vast experience of reading great books, that alone would make me a fantastic author, surely. Let’s save that topic for later – it’s another one with very diverse opinions.
I had this notion that in order to get a book published “for real” (as in to an established publishing house), I would have to shell out thousands of dollars for some big company to buy my book. I wasn’t in this for the money (I’m still not, but that’s misleading). I was in this to get my books widely read. However at the same time, I have bills to pay, and I pictured spending upwards of twenty thousand dollars to entice someone to purchase my book. I have no idea why I thought that.
Somewhere along the line, I learned about the Self-Publishing route. I think I found that from a Google search just before also being told by my very good friend, Doug. Doug also is a fan of Fantasy, and knows about self-publishing. He also had some advice about brushing up on things like plot flow. Of course I didn’t need that, as I was already an expert. Oh, how our minds can mislead us.
Without having anything to back it up, I thought that Self-Publishing was a way for me to get my book published either for free, or for very, very little money. So for my first two weeks or so, I had that in mind – when I finally finish, I will go to one of many Self-Publishing sites and upload my story. I settled on Amazon’s CreateSpace. Mainly because I was lazy and didn’t research anyone else.
In that time, my writing was sporadic – I wasn’t “on fire” yet. Suddenly it finally kicked in, and I was ready. I was obsessed.
When I get excited, I tend to put the cart before the horse. I had barely begun writing, but I stopped and took a good look at CreateSpace, in anticipation. I found that they had Editing services. Oh, huh, editing, didn’t think of that. I guess that would be good, right? I mean, they can check over my book for – well – spelling? Grammar? Oh look, they can even give tips on plot and sentence structure. Sure, that would be helpful, I suppose. OK, so how much? 3 cents per word, roughly? Um, ok, I guess. That can’t be that much, right? Wait – this site says Fantasy can range up to 120,000 words – that would be – SERIOUSLY? $3,600?? And that’s only for one single round of editing. They also had services for creating your cover, tips on marketing, and interior design.
While you may laugh hysterically at how cheap that is, I had thought it would be practically free. Seeing this would be an investment, I began to wonder – do I really want to have this published? The kicker was, however, that insidious little service they offered that meant oh, so much more: marketing. So you proudly upload your book to CreateSpace, and then…what? Again, my point here was not so much becoming a millionaire, but in getting my book out to readers. How would they know to look for my book, that it even existed? I knew from business experience that marketing was difficult and expensive, if you did not already have a contact list, an established following.
Out of curiosity, I picked up my favorite author’s latest book. Tor was the publisher. I figured I’d go to their website and see what I could see, but I didn’t know what I was looking for. So I decided on a simple Google search – “How to Publish a Book.”
I found a great and very informative article by Jane Friedman – Start Here: How to Get Your Book Published. This opened a floodgate and led to more questions than it answered. I dug through her site, reading article after article, following link after link. I got confused and frustrated; however my research has revealed at least the following important pieces of information:
- If you can get traditionally published, they pay you – not the other way around.
- Not only that, but traditionally that consists of an initial lump sum followed by royalties (more on this in a later post).
- It’s almost impossible to get directly published, you need a literary agent, and you have to be really good and really convincing before one will represent you.
- Not everyone gets published.
- Let me repeat – not everyone gets published.
- Publishing is a business. It’s about convincing the agents and publishers that your book can make money.
- While I wasn’t all about money, it works anyway; my goal is to get my story out to as many people as possible, and that would incidentally sell books, making lots of money for both the publisher and myself.
- Not everyone gets published.
- Why am I harping on this? Publishing is a business. If you don’t know how to sell your product, you risk it not selling no matter how good it is. I have found conflicting opinions on this, but the majority warn that you have to learn the business part of writing if you intend to publish it (more on this in a later post). This is true for either traditionally published or self-published books.
- Maybe the most important point here, and a temporary blow to my ego – everyone (EVERYONE) who writes their first book assumes their story is stellar, their writing without peer. They are a genius and everyone will agree. Their story is fresh and original, and will instantly capture the hearts of readers young and old. No really, we ALL think that. If we aren’t passionate about our story, we wouldn’t be writing it in the first place.
My takeaways from this are threefold. First, I can get published with little to no money, but by going the traditional route versus self-publishing. That’s not for everyone, but this was what I decided would be best for me, especially because I have no “platform” (social media / website following). Second, I had absolutely no concept – zero, zilch, nada – of what it takes to become a writer. A published writer – one who can get their books in the hands of complete strangers. And last, this is going to be hard work. I might be a naturally born bestseller (who knows, maybe?) and the perfect story will flow from my fingertips and millions will love it instantly. And I might win the lottery, too. For the 99.99% of writers out there who are not naturally born instant hits, yet still have great stories, writing is intense, difficult, time-consuming, frustrating, depressing…basically exactly the same as any other business out there.
I am not discouraged, but I learned that there was much to learn. I shouldn’t have been surprised, that statement is true everywhere in life.
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