The Art of Writing

The Art of Writing

the art of writingThe art of writing: I'm not sure how many people are interested in this topic. But I thought I'd present some thoughts and ideas from being a full time writer since 2008. First a little bit of history…

I've written several non fiction works. Some of which did quite well. We're niot talking huge, massive, success, but well enough to allow me to write full time. I decided to try my hand at fiction because the creativity had gone out of non fiction. It just wasn't "doing it" for me anymore.

It's said that "everyone has a book inside them." I don't know if it's true, but lots of people THINK they have one inside. Many of them try to publish.

OK, so here you are, you've written your heart and soul out on paper. You've polished it, had your old English teacher proof-read it, even hired an "editor" off of e-lance to "tighten up the manuscript a little." So far, so good. Now you're ready to throw your baby to the wolves and enter the marketplace.

If it's your first time, you'll first be faced with a decision, namely, do I self-publish, or go the traditional, time tested, route. Of course, everyone wants to go on Jay Leno and Oprah and tell the breathless audience your personal story of adversity and triumph. Everyone wants to go into bookstores and see YOUR book being showcased. Just imagine the cocktail circuit, where are collecting phone numbers from a bevy of models, goes like this and you let it casually slip…

"I'm a writer."
"Oh, really? Have you written anything I've read?"
"Have you ever read 'Romero and Juliet' by William Shakespere?"
"You're THAT Shakespere? I LOVED that book! It so, so, GOT me, it changed my life, it…" (Thiink Hank Moody in "Californication.")

But BEFORE you get to the cocktail party, you need to make a decision. Self-publish, or traditional publishing. Here are the pros and cons of each:

Traditional Publishing: (Big, reputable, houses, i.e. Random House)

Pros:

  • If you can get a big name publisher behind you, you ARE big time.
  • Good editors who understand your market, and how to reach it.
  • Good contacts within the industry itself. Experiences you can't find anywhere else.
  • They should pay for a lot of the production costs, (But this is changing) artwork, cover design, etc.
  • Expanded reach into the marketplace itself. They DO have the connections to get you on Oprah and displayed in bookstores.
  • You CAN get an (non-refundable) advance on FUTURE SALES, of the book. In the beginning, don't count on much. ($500-$2000)

Cons:

  • They CAN BE (not always) extremely difficult to deal with.
  • Most will not accept unsolicited manuscripts. (Meaning you need an agent…Finding an agent is just as difficult.)
  • If you do find one who will accept unsolicited manuscripts (Writers Market) You MIGHT get a reply (a rejection, usually) within 6 months, if you're lucky.
  • A lot won't accept "multiple submissions" Meaning you can't submit to a dozen publishers at once. That's right Kiddies, submit to ONE, then wait, six months for a rejection.
  • Different publishers want manuscripts formatted in different ways. If you aren't using a computer, this can be impossible, if you are, then it can be time-consuming, or expensive, submitting the correct formatting for every Tom, Dick and Publisher.
  • If you get one of their (many) submission requirements wrong, many will toss your work, on that basis alone.
  • Most now do not want to proofread your manuscript. So if you can't do it yourself PROFESSIONALLY, you'll have to pay for it.
  • Most don't want to do extensive editing either. Finding a good editor, in your niche, can be HARD.
  • They will NOT fork over much money to market your book. More and more big publishers are expecting authors to self-market. The exception to this rule is, if you're a big name author, or have a proven track record of sales. Then you get to wheedle them to spend money.
  • They are going to collect 90% of any profits off the top. You'll get a royalty of 10%-15%, minus refund, remands, etc.
  • Time from acceptance to market CAN BE as long as 18 to 24 months. If you have a non-fiction book, it could be irrelevant by the time it hits the bookstores.
  • If you are successful they'll want to put you on a treadmill of one book a year. Writing isn't half as much fun when YOU HAVE TO DO IT to a deadline.

However, a lot of this is also fluid, because you have many different kinds of publishers, namely,

  • Vanity Presses: Exactly what the name implies, they'll polish your ego…for a price.
  • Small Presses: Run the gamut, from very professional to fly-by-night rip-offs.

In which case, anything goes.

So the question at this point in your mind might be, "If I have to do all the work anyway, and only get 10% of the profits, why shouldn't I self-publish? Good question.

Self-Publishing

Pros:

  • Most times, 70% to 90% profit goes in your pocket.
  • Time to market is short, as little as one week.
  • No dealing with New York literary snobs and prima Donnas.
  • No dealing with excessive time frames from submission of your manuscript to rejection.
  • No twiddling your thumbs while waiting for said rejection.
  • Able to reach, and serve small niches that publishers won't touch.
  • Pay on Demand publishing CAN BE (Not always) very affordable. You only pay for what is sold.
  • Publishing quality is as good as any mainstream publisher. You can't tell the difference.
  • Self publishing, once the realm of hacks and wannabes, is becoming more and more respectable.
  • No agents taking 15% of the profits, or trying to get accepted by an agent.
  • No endless stream of rejection letters, or years of beating your head against the wall.
  • No waiting 6 months for a publisher to get around to reading your manuscript.
  • No publisher demanding radical changes to your work before publishing.
  • Publishing houses WILL approach a successful self-published author and offer to take them on. (Why not? It's no risk to them. John Grisham did it, so did Vince Flynn, R.I.P, so it IS possible.)

Cons:

  • Can be summed up in one sentence: You are on your own, in anything and everything. The responsibility for everything is on your shoulders.

The biggest thing to know and understand is that the marketing of your book is, or can be, a difficult and time consuming job. Much more than writing and editing your book(like paperhelp). It requires far more skills than writing. If you sub-contract this part out, expect to pay big bucks for someone decent to do it.

However, Amazon can go a long way to helping you with that, especially if you use Amazon Createspace as your Print on Demand publisher (POD) Createspace, for $25 can make your title available in just about any bookstore, library, or big publisher. In addition, their prices are the best. Most of the "Boutique" POD printers on the internet use them and then charge a hefty markup for the privilege.

However, just sticking the book up on Amazon is just the beginning of the (Marketing) journey.

In a nutshell,

  • Traditional publishing is weighted down with negatives, mostly against you.
  • Self-publishing has abolished those negatives, but you'll still have to contend with the 800 pound gorilla called "Marketing."

In any event, either direction you take, you should take with your eyes open. On both sides, the pitfalls are many, and the positive results are few and far in between.

I hope this helps,

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