It is often said that everyone has a book in them. That’s certainly true given the number of times readers and fans approach authors at booksignings and confess their family’s history and/or antics would make the perfect book. But writing involves more than sitting down and crafting the perfect story. Writing is a business: the publishing business. And that means budding authors must do due diligence and learn about their industry and who the players are if they want to avoid the hucksters and cons that plague the all too eager to be published neophytes.
All too soon, the realities of publishing make themselves known. Yes, it’s hard to get your manuscript before an editor. No, they don’t want to see your entire book. Yes, you must write a query letter. No, they won’t accept your manuscripts without an agent representing you. These barriers that seem to come out of nowhere can quickly crush a budding author, and way too often these babes-in-the-woods writers turn too quickly to the promises whispered by companies that offer to produce their books for a slight fee or for the promise of the author purchasing a certain number of books–which happens to equate to the cost of publishing the said volume. Let me tell you right now: self-publishing is NOT for the faint-hearted. Even writers steeped in the ways and mores of the industry often fall short of their dreams when they turn to self-publishing.
While there are those stellar exceptions that seem to prove the cautionary tales wrong, you should understand that most writers who self-publish fail to execute the most necessary component in their publishing plan: distribution. I can’t tell you how important it is for any writer to take a deep breath, calm down, and really examine the industry you’re about to enter. Study the market, learn the players, and develop at least a rudimentary understanding of the various paths to publishing. In this day and age when the Internet is so accessible, information abounds but it must be digested slowly. Don’t accept the first load of pie-in-the-sky promises that burst upon the screen. For a thoughtful look at one part of the industry and a publisher that lures many first-time authors, take a look at the recent article in The Washington Post by Paula Span: Making Books.
(Note: You may need to register (free) with the Washington Post to read the January 23 article.)