“Can you help me out? I just wrote my first manuscript and don’t really know what to do with it from here. Seeking some wisdom.”
I can’t tell you how many times I get an email, Facebook message, or text from someone asking this question. The road writers have ahead of them is long and difficult, so here’s a little advice for all of you aspiring authors.
The first question any writer must ask themselves is “Why?” Why did you decide to write the piece in the first place? What was the point? Did you do it for cathartic reasons? For family? For fame and fortune (now that’s hysterical)?
Now that you’ve answered the why, you must identify your audience. Who is your reader? How old is he? How much does he have to spend? How educated is he? Is he even a he or a she? If you say, “I want everyone to read my book,” punch yourself in the face. That’s like saying I wish I had a million dollars on an advance from a big publisher—it’s not gonna happen. Stay realistic, identify your reader, and write with that person in mind.
How big of a following do you have? What does your social media look like—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.? Do you know how to properly use social media to your advantage? How many people on your social media will actually want to buy your book (again, go back to the demographic question). Besides social media, what other outlets do you have at your disposal to tap into?
There’s a reason I ask the aforementioned questions. The publishing world isn’t what it once was. I’ve been published by two of the biggest publishing monsters out there (St. Martin’s Press and Bloomsbury) and I’ll tell you honestly, one of my greatest mistakes was going through a big publisher for one of my books. I should have self-published it instead.
Self publishing has some serious advantages over the traditional publishing route. (Of note, the books I self published sold far better than the two traditionally published). Do you know exactly how much your book is really worth? Of course you don’t, neither does the big publisher. By self publishing, you can control the price of your book. You can lower the price, increase it, offer discounts, etc. The sky is the limit and if you are a good business person, you will constantly check how your book is selling and do some pricing research to determine if your book is listed at the proper dollar value.
Self publishing mandates you control your own marketing campaign. So do traditional publishers these days, but if a traditional publisher puts your book out there and is making money off of your story then why in the hell should you do anything other than just write? A traditional publisher wants you to write AND sell so they can put money in their pockets. No thanks, I can do that through self publishing.
If you believe you need a big publisher because they have the best editors in the world then dispel that bloody bollocks right now. First and foremost, every single author needs an editor, preferably two, and often have three. But here’s a dirty little publishing sceret…editors are everywhere. And some come at a lower cost than others. I hated one of my editors from a big publishing house while I loved another (from India mind you who spoke, read, and writes in true English mind you—not “Ameriglish”). Take a cruise through eLance and hire an editor or two that you like. There are literally kajillions of them eager to work. And DO NOT think that only big publishers have the best editors out there because I’ll tell you that many of their editors are shit.
I love the self publishing process much more than going through a traditional publishing house. I don’t like being raped and that is exactly how I feel about big publishers—they are rapists. But, I also understand not everyone is comfortable with self publishing. So, what to do?
Luckily in today’s day and age, there are publishing houses that are a hybrid between the big publishers and self publishing. These are Indie publishers like my friends at Graybeard Publishing. For a relatively small fee, you can use an Indie publisher who will basically do everything a big publisher will do, but YOU control the sales and marketing (which they will assist with if they are worth anything), and you maintain all the rights. That’s huge because big publishers (no matter how often they try and say otherwise) often maintain your rights. Not you.
Now, I said I love the self publishing process. Full disclosure here: I REALLY love the Indie publishing scene even more. First and foremost, I like teams. As a writer, you need a team surrounding you which includes editors, graphic designers, cheerleaders, and marketers. Indie publishers are amazingly awesome to deal with as they have everything a big publisher has excluding the mentality of a rapists. A good Indie Publishing house should feel like a team or even more like a family.
The downside of using Inide publishers is this: you must shop around for the right Indie publisher as they’re not all created equal. Some are just looking for upfront payments, use shitty software for editing, and some don’t really give a damn about you or your product once they receive the money YOU give them. So, like everything else, even the Indie publishing scene comes with risk. In full disclosure my first book was published through an Indie publisher and I swore I would never write again after that experience. Luckily I had a change of heart, learned from my mistakes, and continued the writing journey as an author putting out several much more successful books after that debacle.
A lot to process here but let me leave you with the bottom line if you’re considering becoming a published author: anyone can write a book, but can you sell a book? If you can honestly answer that question, you will know whether or not you should continue to explore the art of being an author. Be it traditional publishing, self publishing, or Indie publishing, you must be capable in selling your own product. Why? Because the truth is, anyone can write but not everyone can sell.