Oh, The Naïve Writer’s Rude Awakening

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Bonjour mes amis!

Alors,

I’ve been on a steep learning curve lately. Being a writer is one thing and being a published writer, apparently, is another.

Here’s an exposé on what I thought publishing my book would be like:

  1. I’ll write a killer manuscript on my first try, because of course, I’ll edit and perfect things as I write, making sure only my best is getting on that Word document; it’ll save me time and I’ll barely have any editing to do at the end.
  2. Maybe it’ll be tough to get published, but when I do, oh boy will that paycheck be sweet.
  3. I’m such a hermit, but that’s okay because people will automatically know about my book. The publishers will handle all the marketing. Maybe I’ll never even have to show my face!
  4. My book will probably sell thousands of copies, just like most other books do.
  5. My work will be famous.
  6. I’ll need to have thousands of fans to be successful.
  7. I’ll make a living off my work! Maybe I don’t need to finish that last year of university after all.
  8. The hardest part is writing the actual book. Everything after that should be a breeze.
  9. Once a publisher accepts my work, success will be instant. My book will be on the shelves in just a few months. Oh la la!

Since I’m nearing the completion of my first novel, I thought I’d do some research on book publishing, just so I knew what the next steps would be.

Here’s my face after the five minutes of that research:

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This is what pug-me realized:

  1. I will write many drafts of my manuscript before it’s presentable. The first version will be no better than the rough drafts we wrote in elementary school. This is why I was so slow to complete things before: I thought I had to have it perfect on the very first go. But in the words of Margaret Atwood, “If I waited for perfection I would never write a word.” That need for perfection and total control only ends up hindering your creative process. You start obsessing over the small stuff, and the big stuff never gets done.
  2. Most fist-time authors earn very little for their work. But you can finally get that super fancy mattress.
  3. I’ll have to promote the book myself. Publishers have limited budgets and lots of other books to work on. They’ll market your book–as in get it in stores– but not necessarily promote it as much as you’d like. They don’t focus exclusively on your book. If you want people to know your book actually exists, you’ll have to promote it like crazy. Media releases, word of mouth, book signings, book readings, talking to local bookstores, social media outreach, harassing relatives… the list of social endeavors is endless. This ain’t no place for a hermit.
  4. My book may barely sell a few hundred copies. Lots of published books never sell over a thousand…
  5. … so my work may not be famous.
  6. The strength of your fans is in quality, not quantity. Especially in fiction writing. A few people who actually care about your work are better than many who just see it as meh. If success to you means making people happy, even a few fans are enough to satisfy your heart. They’ll even help promote and support your work. If success to you means getting rich, fiction writing is the wrong place to be.
  7. I’m getting my uni degree. The majority of writers cannot survive financially on their writing alone.
  8. The hardest part is promoting your book. Writing is easy once you get organized and focused. Getting people to care about your book, however, is not as easy.
  9. Even after a publisher accepts your work, it could take up to two years until your book is in stores. The publishing process has many elements–editing, cover designing, a whole bunch of other fancy things–which take time, and again, your book isn’t the only one in line.

Overall, I’ve realized that becoming a successful writer requires business know-how, networking prowess and patience, not just writing talent. It’s the same thing with other creative endeavors–actors, artists, singers–you need to get noticed.

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Let me know what you think!

Thanks for reading 🙂

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