Saturday, January 24, 2009

Woes of the Newbie Author

As a published author, I get lots of questions about this elusive business. I say elusive because it's damned difficult to get your foot in the door. I like to think of myself as being knowledgeable about much of it, but find that there are still many things I don't quite understand.

Like, why don't authors get more of the money the publishers make off of them. It's silly, really. We make 12-15% royalty on what we've toiled over for usually a minimum of a year; many more, in most cases. That's literally $1.00 to $3.00 for every sale we make.

The average book sells between 300-600 books for it's average shelf life of six months. As you can see, I won't be retiring anytime soon! We can't all be best selling authors like James Paterson, Stephen King, or Nora Roberts, where they sell in the millions.

I always laugh when people assume I'm now a wealthy woman solely due to being an author. The layman hasn't a clue.

I am a researcher, so if I want to do something I've never done before, I research out the facts on how to get it done, where to apply it, what it will entail, and in the end, why the hell I would want to put myself through all of that!

But, lately, I've had several emails from new authors about these struggles. I'm always willing to help, if I can. We have to stick together in this, after all. Anyway, I think many new writers assume many things about their publisher. Like, they'll send you on a national tour; they'll schedule all your signings for you; they'll help you write (allowing you to overlook spelling and grammatical errors); and they'll get your book into every bookstore on the planet.

Tcha, right! In my experience—and this includes the big publishers of new authors—once the book has been released, you're on your own. Granted, the big publishers will get your book into more of the big chains, but those stores still have the right to pass over your work if they deem it not interesting or salable enough. Herein lies the largest struggle of them all.


As a POD author, there is even less of a chance of getting my work to a distributor. They don't want to take the chance that they'll be peddling a writer no one's ever heard of with no following.

Hard to blame them, if you think about it, so I've spent a lot of time nurturing a following. Oh, I know it's not all that big, but by god, my readers are loyal! I have a good many great promoters of my Eyes of Garnet trilogy who tout me to all their friends as someone they have to read.

Will I become a best selling author simply through word of mouth? Not terribly likely with only three books under my belt. But as long as I don't stop writing, keep improving my craft, and keep adding to my following of merry readers, perhaps someday.

And when those snooty customers come up to me at signings and ask if I've made the bestseller's list (because those are the only authors they'll read!), I'll just say, "Not yet, but if you buy this book and tell all your friends to buy it, I will!" You certainly can't be shy in this business.

Hang in there, newbies. Unless, of course, you don't deem the struggle worth your while.

Apparently, I've decided writing is worth my while, and find the struggle—and yes, it is a struggle—something I'm willing to put up with. Remember, I'm a Taurus born in the sign of the dog. Can you say ox stubborn and pit bull tenacious?


Catherine said...

As the saying goes, anything that's worthwhile doesn't come easy and I think that certainly applies to your struggles. As an avid reader and a dauntless fan of your work, I'm happy that you find it worth your while! As for "snooty" customers who only read best sellers, they are severely limiting themselves to all the possibilities that exist for marvelous reading and it's their loss. To me, that's letting other people make decisions for you and not being adventurous even a little.
I think my biggest problem with touting your work is that people always want to borrow my copy and then they don't want to buy a book they've already read! Sheesh people, get with it and support these struggling authors who make such great but unsung contributions!!

Mary Duncan said...

Yeah! What she said!

Thanks, Cathy. I wholeheartedly agree with the limiting of oneself if only bestsellers are read. There are myriad genres and authors out there awaiting discovery.

It would be like only trying one dessert on the menu at your favorite restaurant! How boring! Live a little people, and try something new.

neville765 said...

Mary is a really a nice rest stop on this bumpy highway known as "get my book to market." She helped me understand quite a few things about the publishing world and what a publisher will do and will not do. It's been an eye opening experience, as I always thought that getting your book written and accepted would be the hardest battle, but it seems that that is only the opening engagement of a much larger war. A fun engagement to be sure, but a struggle none the less.

I agree about our percentages as far as book sales go. I think most publishers (not all) see writers as a bottomless commodity that they can wade through without worry that any mistake they make will dry up the pool and leave them without a product to sell. It's a hard reality but one that I must accept. The people with books to sell vastly outnumber the people with the resources to sell them.

I am having some trouble in getting my book actually on the racks even though it has been taken in by a solid publisher and is already advertised on many web sites including ol' faithful, AKA I think it's only a matter of time. Looking at this positively I must say that it has given me plenty of time to plan a strategy for promotion when the title actually becomes available.

So many mysteries to solve about how things work in the literary business, but it's always nice to know I my own personal Sherlock Holmes in the guise of a great gal and wonderful writer named Mary.

Thanks a million and a 1/2

Keep it cosmic,

James Stambaugh

author - Second Summer: The Turnback Time

Mary Duncan said...

Nicely said, James, and thanks for the kind words.

I've always loved Sherlock Holmes, but I've got my Zena, Warrior Princess costume outfit on right now. Got to do some big stick beating on a certain publishing company.

A warrior's work is never done!

Jessa Slade said...

Yay, Catherine for supporting strugging authors -- with is 99.9 repeating%, I think :)

Mary, I saw your comment on JA Konrath's blog and thought if you are on Facebook as he suggests, I'd love to be woeful together! You can find me as Jessa Slade with the blue eyeball.

Mary Duncan said...

Well, Jessa, for now, I'm keeping my presence limited to the seven sites I'm on right now for lack of time to keep up with it all. Perhaps in the future I'll add on a couple more, but like I said on Joe's blog, if you can't input anything into it, there's no sense being there in the first place.

Keep checking here, though, as I expound on the publishing world as it relates to me.

Mary Duncan said...

PS Jessa, you're books sound very interesting. I'll have to read them!