It seems that, for a lot of new writers, becoming published is the end game. I remember when I was still lost in the dream that publishing a book will mean that I am an official “author” and that perhaps I could make a living off of my writing. My novel, Butterfly Warrior, was published in 2006. I’ve published two (2) other books since then. And I’m still doing other things to fund my hopeless addiction to writing.
To all aspiring writers thinking that publishing is their goal: Take a business course, or two, or three. To be honest, I wish I had learned that selling books (for me anyway) is a helluva lot harder than writing them. I mean, I’ve written and published three (3) books, but I make more money finding change on the floor than I do from my writing. Really. At my favorite supermarket the other night, I found 75 cents. That’s exactly 75 cents more than I’ve made off of any of my books for the entire year! Had I known that selling books is really the goal, I would’ve taken at least as many business courses as I did writing courses.
I’ve spent quite a bit of time learning the craft of writing. I’ve learned poetic techniques, I’ve studied great writers. I’ve even attended playwriting workshops. I can say that I love writing and I love learning all I can about how to become better and better at it. However…
Publishing a book hasn’t amounted to a hill of beans for me. The primary thing that any book needs (other than a premise and words), is a marketing plan that the author can execute. Regardless of the publisher, the writer is the primary salesperson for his or her book. Since I’m a horrible salesman, I don’t move a lot of books. I mean, I’m sure I can sell water to a man who’s been in the desert for a month, but even then I’d probably struggle. Therefore, selling a book that I’ve spent months (or even years) writing is dang near impossible for me.
The problem is see is that as an artist, I thought that someone else would be responsible for the business part of my art. I thought that the publishing house would take care of booking readings and appearances. I figured that the publisher would find venues where my books would sell. I assumed that publishers had people to take care of the money and bean-counting details. But I was wrong on all counts.
I’m sure there are those lucky writers who get movie deals and six (6) figure advances just from their manuscripts. But luck like that and I haven’t been introduced. I’m pretty sure it’s more normal that I, as an author, am the primary seller of my wares. And as the primary seller of my books, I can only hope that more people drop change at the supermarket so that I can buy a cup of coffee at my favorite coffee shop and write my next book.