Michael W. Davis
Ever hear the term absolute truth? It’s an attempt to paraphrase ground zero the way the big guy upstairs would see things. As humans, well least a lot of us, have problems dealing with reality. It’s much easier to turn away, stick our head in the sand, hide beneath the covers so we can ignore the boogey man below the bed. What in the world am I talking about? Okay, here’s an example all can, at least, relate to. If we examine the facts and look at the numbers, does anyone truly believe as an aggregate we can bring 1.6 trillion in per year as a nation, spend over 3.2 trillion and survive as a viable thriving economy entity? We’ve been doing this “temporary” deficit consumption of the next generation for decades, and yet it continues with no attempt to abate the loaming cliff. Actually, saw a politician other day who announced there is no problem with spending more than we take in, we’ll just keep stealing the future (fortunately no one can reach through a TV screen).
What’s this have to do with writing? Well, most wantabees struggling to break through the writer barrier, and the newbies just stepping through the door, have preconceived notions of what being “published” really means. For this post, we’ll focus on the subset of authors associated with a publishing company vs self publication. Why? Although they share certain myths, I think in most cases writers start out wanting to be picked up by a publishing entity instead of going out on their own. The point of this post is to share various myths about the mysterious world of being “published.” I know from personal experiences when I got the “call” for my first novel seven years ago, I was clueless about this strange and wacky rabbit hole I ventured into.
Where do these observations I’m about to share come from? Three sources:
(1) Data I’ve collected since 2008 on promotion experiments correlated to the resulting site hits/royalties.
(2) Ground truth (show me yours and I’ll show you mine) sessions with dozens of other authors.
(3) Reviewing posts on three key writer forums where they share their positive and negative experiences.
This post provides five myths then continues next month with another five, so here we go, in no special order:
Myth 1: Quality is everything – Yeah, I know, I thought that too. Write an “Ah damn” manuscript, one that can’t be put down and they’ll beg ya for the story. My first two novels both received multiple 5 star reviews yet it still took two years to get my foot in the door. How’s that possible? Because until you get them to read your work, they’ll never give ya a chance and the pre-filter reader at the publisher gets several hundred or more submissions a week. So how do you get through that barrier? Three words: Query, query, query letter (oh, that’s four). I spent 20 months and received over a hundred rejections. I totally redesigned the query and in one month received three offers. If interested, you can view two of my queries by going to Davisstories.com, scroll to the bottom of the page and click the “Copy right 2007” line then it’ll take you to a hidden page where the queries are storied.
Myth 2: A few typos don’t matter – You’d think a story that envelopes the reader is enough. That submission reviewers are tolerate of a few typos in your draft. No way, no how, it’s a definite killer. Even after 16 published stories, if my script has more than one or two typos a chapter, I receive the novel back with a strong note suggesting it’s not ready. That’s why, in your critique group, least one member should have supreme skills at catching typos and grammar no no’s, something I’m terrible at.
Myth 3: Once accepted, the works done – Every author I’ve had offline discussions with has suffered from initial belief of this myth. Forty percent of the time associated with being an author for me goes to promotion activities (that’s why the next myth is so so important). Some authors have admitted to spending more, some less, but the fewer hours allotted to promotion, the lower your sales. And if you think sales don’t matter, promotion is all the publisher’s job, here’s a real reality check: publishers do drop authors whose sales suck, and that’s a fact.
Myth 4: All promotion activities help – Really? I know that over the first year I was exposed to choice after choice of new promo avenues as I read the forums, articles, and chats. Problem is, all those raving as to their value were basing opinions on gut feelings. Point is, almost any promo activity might get someone to visit your site, but there are more things to do than you have time to commit. And the more promotion hours spend the less you can write that next masterpiece. So what’s the key? Choosing the right activities and ignoring the others. But how do you do that if you don’t know which are effective and which not. Of the hundreds of articles, forum posts, and chats I’ve seen that tout a particular promo thingy as key to their success only two or three support those assessments with stats. Another of our TWV authors has posted several articles on data based conclusions. I actually wrote a three part article published in an Ezine that discussed 24 promo avenues I actually correlated to the return on that investment by recorded stats. If interested, again go to Davisstories.com, scroll down the left side and clip the “So you what to write a novel” cover and it’ll take ya to a new page. At the lower left you’ll see a series of articles I’ve written that share data based observations of events and activities that affect sales.
Myth 5: You’re going to be rich – Go ahead, you can admit it. Once you got the call the dollar signs appeared in your dreams. I have yet to talk with any fellow author bud/budette who stated, “No, I never though writing would make me rich.” In fact, with the exception of two, every writer I know willing to share ground truth regarding royalty data (many will not) has been disappointed with the bottom line. I know what you’re thinking, “Well big guy, obviously you don’t know the right authors.” Maybe, but consider this stat easily obtained via the web. Of the one million titles published in the USA alone each year, the average book sales only 200 copies. Yeah, unbelievable, right? Then why keep going, locking yourself away hour after hour in that closest slaving over that script? Point is, many don’t. Of the sixty plus authors I’ve come to know in seven years, about 25% have stopped writing. Then why do the other 75% keep marching forward? Some keep hoping on the off chance a random search by a media producer will expose them to one of your creations. Others realize they write, not for the money, rather the whispering muse in their ear that wouldn’t stop buzzing new fictional stories. Where do I fall? In both those categories.
This post continues Part 2 next month and provides five more myths.