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What are common traps for aspiring writers?
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I wish that I had someone like me back when I was starting this writing thing in earnest. Instead, I met with doubt, sometimes ridicule, but mostly resistance. Certainly, I had my chances, too. I had an agent nearly straight out of the gate, but that died out. Editors of varying ability have helped me shape my books up. I’ve been published by a press but they closed. I’ve been with a great indie publishing group, but they got swallowed by a giant corporation, and things aren’t at all great anymore. If I had someone connected, willing to help, things would have been immensely different. That is an absolute truth. So let me use what I have learned to help you get further on your journey. Okay?
A to B
The main trap that aspiring writers fall into is that this journey is linear, and that once you hit a goal, you’ve arrived—whatever arrived means. Trust me and my over 20 years working at this, that is just not how any of this works. Unless you have all the connections in the world, along with the talent (sometimes that’s questionable), and the likability of The Beatles, you will never find that becoming an author is a linear trip from here to success. And, that is perfectly okay. Everyone’s journey is unique. Don’t compare your path to that of another. You can look at what they did to see if you could use the tactics to meet your battle, but don’t go breaking yourself to make it work for you. Just because a gimmick or trick worked for someone else, it does not mean it works for you. Be mindful of those folks selling you all the answers, if you spend a couple hundred to sit in their class. I’ve found that they don’t have much to share that is of any use, just a lot of motivational speaking, and selling you their book.
Success has many faces. Accept that. Celebrate the small wins right along with the milestones. That’s what will keep you working at this. If you don’t, you’re likely to burn out on the struggle that is actually a writing career. I know, because keeping my eye on that long term prize, and accepting no little wins between here and there as good enough, broke my writer heart. I nearly stopped (as if you can when it’s in your blood—read that as too stubborn to stop).
Make a Living
The fact is, almost all of us will need to work a day job in order to get the bills paid and keep our hobby alive, until we can make that side gig our main gig. Keeping a job outside of the writing is quite seriously a common thing for authors. It helps provide distraction as well as material, even when we’re not aware of it, even when we feel it’s all so much bother. You’ll be thankful it gets you out of the house.
Being a published author doesn’t come with just getting picked up by a major publishing house, or any house. You’re published when you put your book out for sale, in print or digital. You’re published when you post your work on sites like Wattpad, too.
Cold As Ice
Another trap is thinking that the people you’ll reach out to for help are going to be welcoming. Agents and publishing houses (not necessarily Indie), are machines that are only interested in cranking out money makers. They get so much material on a daily basis, they’re probably the industry responsible for deforestation. Someone has to go through it all—whether that is just returning something, attaching a letter and returning it unread, or reading it and rejecting it. Very few get through that trap called the slush pile. Very few. And they’re pretty touchy from having to field all the work they do. Agents I approached during my tenure were clipped, if not cutting. They have no compunctions about insulting your work, or treating you like a child novice. Be prepared for it. They feel justified for their reasons, and they are the gatekeepers of publishing. I know it makes little sense when it’s our work that could make them a ton of money, and they rely on our intellectual property to do their work. I know. They treat us worse than dogs despite that. I wish I could change publishing for you, but this is the way it is. Maybe when you get in there and get up high enough, you can make that change. We would all love to see a better system.
We Don’t Do Edits in Publishing
If you don’t have your work edited and proofread, you can expect to get a lot of rejections. Your work will have to be so pristine that it doesn’t need a publishing house editor to do anything with it. That sounds bogus, but it’s true. Don’t ask me to tell you what they actually do anymore, maybe it’s just final polish work, or changing what you wrote to better suit their focus that year. Expect to get an editor, and spend your money wisely. It will be the largest cost on your road to publishing, whether you go indie or mainstream.
Publishing is Virtually Free
Be prepared to spend a little money, because you’re going to need an editor, designer (interior/exterior), proofreader, a copyright, and an ISBN. A well situated book can cost between $1,000 and $4,000. It depends on the marketing you want to undertake, because that can drive up the cost into the tens of thousands easily. This is why it helps to have a job, or some kind of large income. Oh, the things we’d do with an advertising budget!
The last thing I’ll leave you with: a lot of aspiring writers (and those around them) think that writing is easy. First of all, if I had a dollar for every person I met who told me they wanted to write a book, too, I’d be able to stay at home instead of working to make ends meet. There is this old adage that everyone has at least one book in them. Maybe they do, but they would need to learn how to craft, how to tell a story in a compelling manner, and take legitimate feedback. Writing is hard work and a lot goes into crafting a book.
Don’t let any of this drive you away from the art of writing. There are ways to negotiate it all. Everything you’ll go through will happen over time, so, although it can be exhausting, you won’t be doing it all in one day. Taking your time matters, and it will show in a positive way in the end.
Be sure to look at the answers of the other authors in the hop, so that you get all that you need to know about writing and publishing a book. Let our experience propel you forward.
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