Are you absotively, posilutely sure you really want to write a book?

5 May

Are you really, really sure you want to write a book? It isn’t easy! You could easily go broke in the trying. Honest.

Why does everyone want to have written a book? If you think you can get rich by writing a book, forget it. You may think that’s harsh, but really, I’m just being facatual. I would respectfully suggest that you find another get-rich-quick venture to try.

Of course, there are more than a few authors who command huge advances and earn healthy royalties, but they’re pretty few and far between. Chances are they’re already famous (former Presidents or some other variety of politician, athlete or other celebrity come quickly to mind) or they’ve been writing (and selling) books for a good many years: Stephen King, Mary Higgins Clark, John Gresham, Danielle Steele, Tom Clancy, Dean Koontz, Nora Roberts, etc. They’ve proven themselves to be knowledgeable, reliable and have, over the years, developed a built-in audience for each new book. Furthermore, all of the above started writing more than twenty years ago, when the publishing world was an entirely different place than it is today.

Generally speaking, however, today’s world has many more options available to the new writer. It is very possible for you to have your book published for less than an arm and a leg, or the cost of a second mortgage on your home. Furthermore, the stigma of self-publishing in this techno age is not anywhere near what it used to be. In fact, it’s sometimes impossible to tell a self-published book from a commercially-published volume.

There is, however, a major difference between writing a book, and then having it published. The same person can indeed do both things, and even though it is more common these days, it’s still not quite the norm.

The process for writing a book and seeing it in print is this:

First – someone (you? me?) writes a book. (We’ll talk about content and length and other such fascinating topics in future editions.) Once the manuscript has been cleaned up and perfected to within an inch of its life, the author then embarks on the quest for the Holy Grail – a publisher.

Although a publisher may well be a person, (frequently the owner of the company) the term publisher usually applies to the entity that actually produces the book. The publishing company, if you will. Laboring for this company will be editors (in several different categories); marketing gurus; visual artists; accountants; salespeople; production specialists; designers; typographers, and probably others. Time was when there were also proof-readers and fact-checkers, too, and even maybe indexers. These days, those tasks are assigned to free-lancers. Or else ignored. They’ll protest and say ‘not ignored’ but let’s face it, they are. There is no time—and less money—available in today’s world, to indulge in the leisurely schedule of bringing a book to market, at least in the way it was done fifty or so years ago.

And let’s face it. In today’s world, painful as it is to acknowledge, books are largely a throw-away commodity. In the 1940s through the 1970s, a new book by one’s favorite author was issued no more often than once a year—generally in hard-cover, and possibly followed the next year by the paperback version, about the same time as the next NEW book by said author would come out in hardcover. Some books (literary or major non-fiction bios or historical topics) actually took more than a year from time of submission by the author’s agent to release date. These were hard-cover (with dust jacket) books meant to be kept on one’s shelf forever. They were made to last and be lovingly treasured by the owner.

In today’s paperback romance market it’s not uncommon for an author to have 2 to 4—or even more!—new books issued each year! The market is insatiable for some genres, but once read – what happens to the book? 99% of the time it gets re-sold (for which the author and the publisher receive NOT ONE CENT!) or given to a library book sale, or – heaven forfend! – thrown away. (Ouch. That hurts, even to write those words!) That is also as opposed to the ‘throw the book across the room in disgust’ pitch. We’ll talk about that in a future blog post.

If you have questions about any of this, please ask? My e-mail is:


2 Responses to “Are you absotively, posilutely sure you really want to write a book?”

  1. Judy Scott May 5, 2010 at 7:46 pm #

    I thought you and your readers might find this interesting.

    NY Times SundayMAGAZINE | May 02, 2010 
    The Medium: The Rise of Self-Publishing 

    • bookmechanic May 5, 2010 at 10:58 pm #

      Fascinating! Thank you very much! Don’t you love that illustration?

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