Way too often, I see evidence of a new writer publishing well before they’re ready. Writers in too much of a rush to get their stories out there, some simply for the accolades of being able to say “I am a published author,” while others truly have a desire to tell stories and a dream of writing many more, but simply no patience. Or some might say, no discipline.
What do I mean by that? Well, simply put, the writers who make this critical mistake lack the knowledge and skill it takes to put together a good, well-written story because they simply haven’t taken the time or made an effort to learn how. I’m talking about honing not just your writing skills but your story-crafting skills as well.
Now, some of you may have a natural talent for writing, and some may even have a degree in creative writing, while others may have both. But you need more than that.
Do you need a degree in creative writing to become an established, best-selling author and one who truly writes a great story? No. You don’t. And even natural talent isn’t a make it or break it requirement.
I say “and one who truly writes a great story” because you can be a decent writer or a mediocre one and put out a story that isn’t particularly well-written, with poor editing and lots of plot issues or lousy character development and still end up on Amazon’s best-seller list. Just peruse some of the reviews out there, and you’ll see what I mean. But will you stay there or make it there again? And what about your reputation? Is that the first impression you want to make with your reading audience?
If you only plan to write one book and leave it at that, then your answer probably consists of no more than a shrug. And that’s fine for you, but not for the rest of us.
The publishing world has changed significantly over the past few decades. There are fewer big publishing houses left to solicit at all, and barely any, whether big, medium, or small, who will accept submissions directly from an author. In addition, these publishers are publishing far fewer books than they did once upon a time, and their budgets only allow the in-house editors to take a chance on a handful of new authors (if that) each year. Advances are not what they once were either, and the odds of making it big and getting rich off your writing are now akin to your odds of winning the lottery.
Why? Well, simply put, the world she is a-changing. Progress, technology, life... Chalk it up to the convenience, simplicity, and availability of self-publishing. Just as newspapers have undergone a major change due to the invention of the World Wide Web, so has the publishing business due to the invention of ebooks. Authors now have options. No longer are we at the mercy of literary agents who, on average, take on one new client per year. Yes, I said one. And that’s after wading through the slog of more than a hundred query letters received on a daily basis. Then, if you’re lucky enough to beat those odds and secure a literary agent willing to represent you, that literary agent must now fight to sell your book to one of the few publishing houses willing to give it a look-see. And remember, your agent is then fighting against every other literary agent out there soliciting their clients’ books as well.
Now, my purpose for pointing all this out isn’t to discourage anyone from trying the “traditional” publishing route. On the contrary, if you’ve decided this is the route to publishing for you, I truly wish you great success. However, (and yes, there is a however) I caution you that if you really want this, be aware that professional literary agents and the in-house editors at these publishing houses will spot an author who isn’t ready for primetime in an instant. And that, my friends, is where the systemic prejudice again self-published authors began.
It used to be that reputable publishing houses and literary agents frowned on self-published authors and wouldn’t give us the time of day should we attempt to solicit them. Why? Because they believed that the vast majority of self-published authors were among the thousands who tried securing a literary agent but couldn’t get past the preverbal front door because they had no business putting their work up against authors who had clearly put in the time and effort to hone their craft. Meaning, they believed that simply because we chose the self-publishing route, that automatically meant we weren’t good enough; that we couldn’t make it in the real publishing world.
Although self-published authors no longer suffer this instantaneous ostracization in the publishing world, we do still suffer a blatant prejudicial view from many an avid reader. Just ask your friends or other readers you come across. Ask how many will check reviews or look to see who the publisher is on a book before taking the risk and giving that new author a try. Many have admitted to steering away from self-published authors simply because they’ve seen too many selling a shoddy product.
As an author, we’ve got a lot more competition out there than published authors did before the turn of the century. And so many of us are so good that we’re giving the publishing houses a run for their money. Still, mixed in with all of that competition are thousands of self-published authors giving the rest of us a bad rap.
My biggest beef (or really my only beef) with the convenience and simplicity of self-publishing is that many who choose to go the self-publishing route consider it a short-cut, specifically for the purpose referenced at the top of this article. Because they have neither the patience nor the discipline to take the time and make an effort to hone their writing skills first.