Dear Future Author,
Sometimes it’s good to be naive and fearless - at least, to a certain extent.
I was like you when I wrote my first book. I just did it! Although I joined Marco Island Writers, I had yet to make friends with any authors. Fortunately, I did have the sense to go to a writers’ conference before I published and met an amazing editor. I learned that the research and initial writing are the easy part. The real challenge is the rewrite after professional editing.
Your notion that you probably won’t get rich is accurate. According to the latest ProQuest Bowker Report (October 15, 2019), nearly 1.7 million books were self-published in the U.S. in 2018, which is an incredible 264% increase in just five years. By 2019, the total number of books published in the U.S. exceeded four million in that year alone - including both self-published books and commercially published books of all types. With that in mind, you can estimate what percentage of books reach the Best Selling list.
If you have your heart of acquiring an agent and getting published by one of the big five publishers, know that less than one percent of books are published through this channel. Beware of vanity presses. In my opinion, they’re often expensive for what you get. Much of what they do you can learn to do yourself.
However, if you self-publish, there are also costs if you, in my opinion, want to produce a professional product. These include buying your ISBN number (the barcode on the back of the book) and hiring an editor and professional interior and exterior designer. I justify the cost by saying to myself, “It’s cheaper than playing golf!”
However, you will receive unexpected rewards. Jeff Goins, American author, writes, “Writing is an introspective, thoughtful activity. The process of writing a book will force you to turn your thoughts inward. Through writing, you’ll gain perspective about what really matters to you.” It will also measure your willpower.
Here are some other things writing a book might do for you:
- It will humble you. At the age of being savvy about much, I was thrust into an environment where I knew little. At my first writers’ conference, I was the second oldest person in attendance. It was very humbling to be the newbie, the least experienced person in the room.
- It will give you respect. Once you write a book, you’ll never read a book quite the same again. It gives you greater respect for authors and the work they do.
- You’ll learn about yourself. When I wrote Mom’s Gone, Now What? I had to dig deep into my psyche to write authentically about my personal experience. When I wrote The Bookmaker’s Wife, I learned to have greater empathy for our foremothers as well as those living today in primitive environments.
- Writing a book will give you a platform to share ideas that matter to you.
- It will give you strength to do other hard things. Writing and publishing a good book is hard! There’s no denying it. When you do anything that’s hard, you gain confidence for what’s next. “If I can do THAT, I can surely conquer THIS.”
So, if you’re willing to work hard, be humbled, learn about yourself, and make a difference, go for it! If you don’t, you’ll always wonder if you could.
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