Sunday, January 10, 2016

6 Secrets Every New Author Should Know. #writerprobs #publishing

January is here!

With it comes a chance to make 2016 your year. For many authors, that means finishing the manuscript you've fiddled with for months (years?) and submitting it to publishers.

If you're one of them this blog post is for you.

The publishing world holds numerous secrets unpublished authors seldom hear. The pressure. The marketing demands. The steadily-growing competition. How the wrong publisher can kill your career before it starts.

I know several people who learned that last one the hard way. The problem is until you begin associating with published authors you seldom hear any of these necessary bits. So I'm going to give you a few things to keep in mind before you dive into your new career.

1. Don't choose publishers by their genre representation alone. That's antiquated advice that doesn't apply in the current market. There is no governing body in the publishing industry. Anyone can set up shop as a publisher regardless of their experience just as anyone can self-publish a novel. If you don't know what to look for, you could sign with an imprint that lacks the ability to sell your book.

For example, in one of the romance sub-genres, a group of beta readers created a publishing company without any formal training in editing, cover design, marketing, or even business management. How would a new author know this company offering them a contract was a bunch of average readers posing as experts? 

They wouldn't.

The lesson here is always do your research! Even notorious publishers will have a stable of authors who write the same stories you do. That doesn't make them reputable or worthy of the manuscript you worked so hard to finish. Before you sign, make sure you can answer these questions:   
  • How do their covers look? 
  • Are their books well edited and well written? 
  • How many of their authors have reached NYT Best Seller status or won national awards?

If the answer is bad covers, lazy writing, and a lack of notable success, keep walking. That combination is a clear sign of a short-sighted publisher. If they're not working to build a solid reputation for their own imprint, they won't care about building one for you as their author. 

2. It's okay to change publishers.  Don't be afraid to submit to a different publisher mid-career. You're not in this to further the reputation of an imprint. You're in this to build your career, and if a publisher isn't working for you, it's okay to find one that's a better fit. No one will think any less of you.  

3. Be realistic. Contracts don't guarantee sales. Publishers have a limited marketing budget, even more so these days with fewer authors submitting manuscripts (making publishers less money in turn). Even with a contract, you will still have to do 100% of the marketing yourself. Anyone who tells you differently is probably selling a DIY book promising short cuts. 

There aren't any.

Be prepared because promotion will take at least as many hours as your writing. Unfortunately, it's not optional. If you don't want to promote your book, don't expect it to sell. In today's market, Amazon releases over 200 new titles every week. You have to compete with that deluge, and few readers will find you by accident.

Side note: NEVER NEVER NEVER reach out to another author and ask them to read or promote your book unless you know them personally. They don't owe you that courtesy and asking is extremely rude. When you wade into the center of the publishing pool you'll understand how outlandish that request is. Between marketing, writing, and editing, few authors have time to read for fun, let alone to do you the favor of spending precious hours reviewing your novel when they could be working on their own. 

4. Yes, you need a social media presence. You're at least a decade too late for the era of the reclusive author. An established social media network is vital to your marketing effort and can also help you land that first contract. Smart authors begin building one before they're ready to publish.

5. Be aware of the rules. You probably know publishers have rules about not contracting a manuscript that has been published somewhere else. Did you know posting chapters online is considered publishing? 

It used to be common practice for aspiring and newbie authors to post rough chapters online as a teaser before the book was officially published. Many of them learned too late that doing so means no one will contract the manuscript. Unless they are merely excerpts and represent a tiny percentage of the whole, most publishers won't put out a book people have already read for free. There's no money in it, and profit is the law of publishing. 

If it won't sell, they don't want it.

6. Your writing career does not get easier after the first contract. If you hate editing, can't take criticism, and loathe books about the writing craft, publishing is not for you. Every book you write (that isn't part of a series) will follow the same path as the first one. You have to submit it and hope the publisher offers a contract. If your first book didn't sell, they're not likely to take a chance on a second.

This is the point where your consuming hobby becomes a job and you learn the stark difference between the fanfiction world and writing as a professional author. They're nothing alike. The expectations out here are greater, the expenses larger, and the criticism harsher. Once you cross that line, you lose the ability to write only when the mood strikes and with only as much energy as you want to give it. Careers are built on consistent, determined effort to create an author platform. 

Publishing, whether traditional or Indie, is a long-term commitment that doesn't payoff for a majority of authors until they have well over a dozen titles on the shelf and several years of relentless effort behind them. The smaller your sub-genre, the longer it will take to reach a point of supporting yourself with your writing.

photo credit: via photopin (license)

WTF, man? I'm not telling you this to discourage you from publishing. If that's your dream, then welcome to the community! There's always room for another dedicated author, but knowing what's ahead can spare you the discouragement and depression of realizing that for the first several years, publishing pays in bragging rights rather than cash.

Yes, Tami Hoag and Stephen King rocketed to stardom with their first book. That was a different era. If you think 50 Shades was one of those 'overnight success' stories, you should research the author's aggressive marketing strategy. She started long before the book went to print. 

So take your vitamins. Organize your writing space. Start planning your schedule and we'll see you at your first book signing!

Coming Soon!
What's a little treachery among friends?
Book 2 of the Blue Series

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