Friday, January 16, 2015

So You Want to Be An Author

The last event I did was a talk for National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo, as you may know it) at Gum Springs Library in Virginia, and it quickly went from a session on creating and sustaining conflict in your story to what book publishing is really like. I'd say this is true of almost all of my book events and it's understandable: that's certainly what I was interested in when I was trying my hardest to be published.

So I thought I'd post some links to some of the most sober and honest thoughts I've seen recently on the book publishing business. Now don't get me wrong: the writing comes first, the writing should always come first (meaning you should be writing for the joy--painful as it is sometimes!--of writing) but often in the process we let our minds wander from the keyboards to wonder what it would be like to sign a contract and have a book put out by a major publisher. The truth is that it's a business and you'll be a much better business partner for a publisher if you are clear about what you're getting into.

Best-selling author of "Prep" Curtis Sittenfeld gives the real low-down at BuzzFeed in "24 Things No One Tells You About Book Publishing". Among her nuggets of wisdom: "Unless you're Stephen King or you're standing inside your own publishing house, assume that nobody has heard of you or your books. If they have, you can be pleasantly surprised" and "The goal is not to be a media darling; the goal is to have a career."

The awful truth: This post, "The Ten Awful Truths--and the Ten Wonderful Truths--About Book Publishing" was written in 2012 but a lot of it is still true, if not even worse. If you want to get a book deal with a major house, you have to be able to accept a fact like "A book has less than a 1 percent chance of being stocked in an average bookstore" and know what you're going to do to overcome such odds. Because the author is the major reason for a book's sales success or failure.

Chuck Wendig is known for giving clear-eyed advice about writing and publishing, and his post "25 Hard Truths About Writing and Publishing" is no exception. 

Matt Haig (author of "The Radleys") is both clever and insightful in his "30 Things That Every Writer Should Know" such as: "Authors shouldn't go to book fairs any more than chickens should go to Nando's" and "Being published doesn't make you happy. It just swaps your old neuroses for new ones." 

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