Hang in there. Being an author isn’t about making loads of money and gathering fame. In fact, for ninety-nine percent of us, it’s anything but glamorous or our ticket away from our regular 9 to 5 job.
No one ever told me how brutal the publishing business can be. And I am grateful. If they had, I probably wouldn’t have written one word. The hard truth is that being an author requires putting your heart into a book only to risk having your heart ripped apart.
My first book came out in 2005. I was, of course, excited, jubilant, and ready to see my name on the bestsellers’ list. Okay, maybe I didn’t dream of the bestsellers’ list, but I did think I’d found a way to make decent money while staying home with my child.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. In fact, for the first two years of my publishing career I went into the red. That’s right. I lost money. Not because my books didn’t sell (by then I had five eBooks out), but because I’d made every mistake a newly published author could make.
Think that was bad? I did at the time. Then the real blankety-blank hit the fan. My publisher filed for bankruptcy. Not only were my books no longer available for sale, but worst of all, the publisher still held the rights to my work.
Fortunately, the something-something deep inside me that makes me write wasn’t squashed by all this bad news. Plus, I had a husband who supported my dream and wouldn’t let me quit. So I kept kicking, found not one, but two different publishers and started writing again. I’m proud to say that today I am definitely well into the black.
So, here’s my point. Publishing is hard enough when you know what you’re doing. But it can be absolute career suicide if you don’t. Take a few hints from me so you don’t go down the same path I did.
Learn the business. Publishers don’t change the rules for you. You have to do it their way. Study their submission guidelines and follow them to the letter. Read about other authors’ experiences. Check out your targeted publisher’s website and note which books sell and which don’t. Take classes to improve your writing.
Watch the money. Don’t go wild with advertising. Find out what really works by talking to other authors. I hate to say it, but most advertising isn’t worth the dollars thrown at it.
Take it slow and steady. Although you’re itching to sign that first contract that comes your way, check it out. Read it thoroughly, preferably with either an agent or a lawyer. If you don’t have one of those, find an experienced author to look it over. Check out samples of good contracts (you can find a few on the internet) and compare them to yours. Most of all, understand exactly what you’re signing.
Keep aware of what’s going on in the business. Join a critique group. Join an organization like Romance Writers of America. Talk to other authors whenever you can. Ask for suggestions, recommendations from published authors. Read trade magazines. Keep abreast of the latest trends.
Keep writing. If you hit a snag—and you will hit many along the way—don’t give up. If you get tangled up with a bad publisher or agent, cut the ties and move on. Don’t look back. Don’t mourn what you’ve lost. Just keep learning and writing.
It’s a strange thing, but publishing changes while remaining the same. eBooks have changed the face of reading, but most publishers still do business the same way they have for years. So hang in there. If you’re meant to be an author and willing to do the work to get published, you’ll get there.Beverly Rae