There are a million different quotes on writing…I’m sure that isn’t an exact number, but you get my drift. I would say that the vast majority of people that write blogs are aspiring writers, and what does that mean? Well if you write with any consistency that in turn makes you a writer. However, the title of writer is always one that I have had an issue pinning to myself. Why? Well for obvious reasons; just because I write does not make me an author and to answer that question, What do you write, is a challenge in itself. We all know that there is a difference between those who write and those who publish what they write in a more official sense of the word.
Long ago I learned to embrace that title, the one of writer. It isn’t all that I am but it is certainly what I do. I read far more often than I write and sometimes that blurs the lines a bit. Not to mention I sometimes find it challenging to keep up with writing. My projects are vast and many of them unfinished manuscripts that lay dormant while I get on with the next one, all in the hopes of someday being finished. I have two “finished” works. I put that in quotations for a specific reason, that reason being is that those manuscripts have had nothing but rejections thus far, though one of them a very promising rejection and the other very promising critiques. The fact remains that there is work left to be done and I have rewritten here and there, changing this or that, but until they are truly ready they will sit and do nothing while I work on other things and think about how to further improve my finished works.
Writing is more than a hobby when you are a writer who aspires to be a published author in any sense of the word. Publishing is easy nowadays and therefore most anyone can try and claim the title as “published author.” That doesn’t necessarily mean that your work is any good. The same story can be told in several different ways, but it is a person’s individual voice and experience that separates one from another. Skill is something that comes 20% naturally and 80% educationally. I do not mean that only college graduates with a degree in English or Literature are to become authors. No, but there is a certain amount of learning involved. Books are complicated business and I am no expert by any means.
So, you want to be a published author? How do you do it? Seemingly simple questions with no simple answer. Read, read, read, write, read. Sounds a bit redundant, but it is necessary. Understand that being a writer isn’t going to necessarily pay the bills and that even published authors struggle. Think about the sheer number of books released in a year, the numbers are overwhelming. Especially when you consider the rise in self-published authors. You have to wear many hats whether you publish traditionally or not. You have to be a marketing expert, you have to build your own brand, you have to be the CEO of your own enterprise, you have to be the lowly employee that does the grunt work, and everything above and below that. It doesn’t just stop at writing, but do not let any of those other tasks consume you before you get that manuscript right.
I finished my first chapter on a work in progress today, I read it and reread it over and over. It wasn’t until the fourth read through that I realized that I still had to fix some things. I also questioned whether or not it was as good as I had intended. That is the joy of writing, or the bane of it…whichever. There seems to always be more work to be done. If you write something one time and you don’t revise it, chances are you are a long way from being finished. It takes a lot of work to make it good and even more work to make it great.
Do you want to be a storyteller or a status seeker? I was reading a book; The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass, this is an important question because we all have an end result in which we hope to achieve. Do you want to be famous and rich? You would fall under the category of a status seeker. However, this is unrealistic even for the most prolific of newcomers. Let’s say you self-publish your book, did you know that the average self-pubbed author only sells around 100 copies of their book? Let’s say that book is listed at $2.99 per copy, that is a mere $299.00 minus whatever cut the seller gets, and so on. That isn’t near enough to get rich off of. Not to say that it is impossible to be successful in any avenue you take to publish. There are several very lucky and very well off self-published authors…or should I say once self-published. Sometimes a nobody gets there with sheer determination and a damn good story. Not all of those people are status seekers, but it merely happened that fortune found them.
Storytellers are those people who just want to write, and want to be read. Though we all hope that we can have some kind of clout in the published world, perhaps even a fan-base, because let’s face it…if there are no readers there isn’t really a point in writing…right? Storytellers know that we may never get rich and we may never have fame or notoriety in the sense that we would like, but it is still worth it to tell our stories and hope that somebody out there loves them as much as we do. This is the main reason why anybody should write, because we enjoy it and we want to be able to have other people enjoy our work as well.
Just to jump off subject for a minute, I had a discussion with Rose Montague some time ago about publishing. We posed the question of why already established authors get more funds spent on advertising their books instead of giving the newbies a chance at those marketing dollars and thus providing a higher rate of return for their work. After-all, it’s a win win for author and publisher alike, right? Wrong. This is something that I learned recently…that publishers use those ad dollars and marketing efforts on already established authors because once they are on their second, third, or even sixteenth book, they have established a fan-base and so the higher return is on those authors. Even if their sixth, highly anticipated new novel, is crap…people will still buy it because they have a relationship with the writer. Perfect example of this…my favorite author, Amy Tan. When Saving Fish From Drowning was released many years after her last novel had come out I could not wait to purchase it. However, when I opened the book and started to read I noticed that this was not a typical Amy Tan book. The structure and flow had differed from previous works, the story was something I hadn’t anticipated. At first I hated the book and it took me much longer than I would like to admit to read it. This beautiful book of 400 or so pages left lying in a drawer waiting for me to decide to read the words contained within. My heart wasn’t in it and it took for me to be really bored during a period of work to force myself to read it.
It was a choice between the book from an author that I loved or a very strange book on Dianetics that I wasn’t really into but found the concept somewhat intriguing in my boredom. I picked back up Saving Fish From Drowning and started to read again from the beginning, throwing out all the preconceived notions of what this book should have been or how it should have been written. I was not the author and had to trust in the power of Amy Tan that this book would still be something I would love if given the chance, and I did. Took awhile for me to get there but when I did, when I opened my mind to the possibility that this could work…it did. So yes, those ad dollars did exactly as the publisher intended them to do…they kept a familiar reader buying a familiar author and thus returning their investment.
So, the point of all of this rambling is that if you are going to be an author it does take work. You have to do so much of it on your own that when you even think of the possibility that you will move from writer to author you need an education on how you are going to get that work done. Networking and building relationships with people in the business are always helpful, but jumping the gun in seeking out an agent before you are ready is unnecessary. The structures of how we tell stories have changed over the years. There were certain rules and formulas, etc that worked and now most of that has gone by the wayside. This makes it harder to publish traditionally but it opens up the doors for individual creativity that if you market yourself right you can move forward. There are a billion books out there telling you how to write a novel and through each of the guided speeches and advice you will find those gems that will inspire creativity and motivation to propel you forward. You will learn about the business and how to handle rejections.
There is no longer a right and a wrong way to doing it, and you can tell your story however you choose. However, don’t expect that it will get you to a place of fame and fortune, but only hope that your book will reach the hands of many and inspire in those many people some inner yearning or love, or motivation in their own lives. Make them fall in love with your characters and your words to the best of your ability. After you have accomplished that, keep reading, keep writing, and keep improving. Success is in the eye of the beholder. Happy writing.