Well, you might, but there is going to be a good amount of “reality check” material in this post, so be prepared.
I’ve only been working in the publishing industry for a few years, but through ads and clients and my website, I have come across a lot of first time authors who are trying to take their book to the next level. A lot of times, these people turn out to be flaky in the sense that they don’t want to pay for services, or they want to receive services for a very low price. That is to be expected, since I know that just because you are a writer it doesn’t mean that you are made of money. However, it’s important to be realistic about your manuscript and your work when you bring it to a publisher, editor, or marketer. Especially if you haven’t done anything but write it.
I often hear that authors know that their book will be the next bestseller and that it will go to heights similar to Rowling’s. While this may be true for a few, it is certainly not true for all. The amount of interest your book gleans doesn’t necessarily depend on the content alone, it also depends on the marketability and genre. My point is that you need to be educated on your market, genre, and also be mindful that, although you are unique, there are still a large number of manuscripts circulating right now that are within your genre, market, and area. Be reasonable about your expectations.
Even if your book is picked up by a publisher, your work is not done. You will still have to go on tour, engage your fans, assist with promotions, and sometimes even plan and arrange all of these things on your own. Depending on the publisher’s budget, they may or may not be willing to pay for the marketing plan that you were hoping for. A huge factor in determining the success or interest for and in your book will be the uniqueness of it. It’s not likely that another romance novel (sorry, romance writers!) will be taken to extreme marketing heights unless it really is completely different from everything out there. Fifty Shades wouldn’t be what it is if James hadn’t first received a huge amount of positive reviews and then took it to a publisher. Publishers sometimes want different things than the general public.
Putting no money into your manuscript prior to publishing can damage your success. If you aren’t willing to put money into it, why should anyone else? If you have ever been on Amazon and looked at the reviews, you can understand how picky and nasty people can be about self-published books. People can even be nasty about extremely popular and professionally published books. Those reviews can sting, but if they are legitimate concerns, such as with spelling, grammar, or a major hole in the story, maybe the manuscript wasn’t ready to be published. It doesn’t hurt to have your manuscript reviewed prior to publishing or even submitting to a publisher. Although every publishing house will edit your manuscript, the amount of work it will take to get your book to the right level will influence the likelihood of them taking it on.
Personally, I am less likely to read something that has too many negative reviews in terms of spelling and grammar. Not because I don’t think the story will be good, and not even because I think money should be put into it, but because it seems more to me like a notch on the writer’s belt (bucket list: publish book, check!) than a labour of love. Writing should be hard, and so should editing. I don’t expect perfection, but I do expect a certain level of effort since I am expected to put in the time to read it.
There used to be fewer writers. It used to be a profession that could feed your family, get you a decent car, and even a little bit of fame. It’s not like that anymore. There are so many of us out there that publishers can be choosy, and so can readers. What might have passed as a brilliant story years ago might not cut it today because there are ten more like it sitting in the pile. The internet has given us a platform to write, to submit, to publish, to promote, and everything else in between. There weren’t so many writers competing before online publishing became an option, now everyone wants to write a book, even if they aren’t writers.
This post isn’t meant to discourage, it’s meant to inspire you to think realistically about your work and what you want to do with it. Being published by a large publishing house requires drive, tough skin, skill, imagination, obsession, and the ability to get back up should you get pushed down. Even becoming successful as a self-published author requires that. If you aren’t willing to bleed for it (metaphorically) then be realistic about where you want to go with it.
To all of you, wherever you are on your journeys, I applaud you. To start writing is a beautiful thing, no matter why you are doing it. Whether it’s for pleasure, relaxation, fame, or anything else, the fact that you are doing it means something. If you’re struggling with it, just remember that there’s a crazy amount of us struggling along with you.
Where are you with your publishing or writing goals? Where do you want to be with them?