Not quite the rainbow I was looking for….
By Frank Zubek
We all have a book inside of us. So they say. Here is my story.
I started writing in 1999 and to date, I have made sixty dollars. And the bulk of that has been just in the past two years from Kindle. I started out submitting to traditional publishers and in the end, wound up on Kindle. And all that time, if I accomplished nothing else, I was getting very good at the work ethic needed in order to be an author. Successful writing requires the same dedication as any day job, if not more.
On December of 2008, I did it. I got published on Every Day Fiction and earned myself
One advantage to Kindle as opposed to traditional publishing is that instead of stuffing an envelope and waiting up to three months for a response, a writer could submit the same material to Amazon and – in theory- within 24 hours, have the POTENTIAL of making hard cash from their creative work.
Interested in self- publishing? It isn’t as easy as it sounds. There are the same important steps to take as there are to submitting to traditional publishers. Kindle is just another way to read someone’s story. You should do some research first and I recommend the kindle boards: www.kboards.com/ a community of kindle writers who help and encourage each other.
First, you need a manuscript. If you haven’t yet, I’ll say this, the faster you can produce at least two or three finished pages per day, the sooner you’ll be able to edit it and send it off.
You finish the manuscript, right? Great. Have a total stranger read it. Find a local writing group or maybe pay a local English teacher who loves to read. Maybe you have a Meet Up group nearby. http://international.meetup.com/ And don’t become close friends. You need them to cut your story apart to improve it, not to have them over for weekend picnics.
Now you need to find a good editor you can trust. And yes, they do average a few bucks a page or by chapter. But do your own math. Work within a budget and do homework on the genre you are in. Don’t spend $ 2,000.00 for an editor when the book you will publish (depending on the genre), will be selling for $2.99 and only bring in fourteen sales a month. Unless that’s okay with you long term. Your choice.
During the editing process, ask these questions. Can my story be improved? Tighter? Expanded? Does my dialogue need work? Do I describe enough of each scene? Do I really need this chapter? Do the characters each have their own pattern of speech? And this is tough one…Should I just scrap the whole thing and start over?
Now if this is a self- published book you need a cover. Ask around and don’t go over your budget. A good cover can be had for under a few hundred dollars. I have done my own cover by using free public domain photos and typing in my own titles, though it is best to find a pro. I do what I do because I am quite broke. I do sell copies of my stories, but chances are I’d do better with professional artwork.
But then again, this is why I am here talking to you. Maybe you can get further than I did. Maybe you can excel where I failed. Take notes.
This self- publishing stuff is hard work. For one thing, with self-publishing, you don’t have a publisher backing you and flying you to a dozen cities for book signings. Even the lucky few who get published don’t automatically get royal treatment like that. Granted, that DOES happen. But truthfully, you’ll have better odds with winning the lottery.
So self-publishing sounds a bit better. I have more control, right? To a degree, yes, you do. But remember, being self published means YOU run the show. YOU are the marketing department. YOU have to make up e-mail lists. YOU have to think up guest-blog campaigns. YOU have to keep track of sales and taxes. YOU have to update the face book blurbs. John Jones isn’t there to back you up if you call in sick.
But then, you may be squeamish about self- publishing. That’s understandable.
“I like the feel of paper.” Fine. Draw up a dozen query letters and send them off.
I’ll even give you a one time saving tip. If you really want to try the traditional route, the smart thing to do is submit to publishers or agents who accept e-mailed simultaneous submissions. There is an annual Writers Guide that has updated addresses. This cuts down a bit on your waiting period. If you exhaust those, THEN start licking stamps.
Still with me? Lets take a hard look at traditional publishing numbers.
Let’s imagine the moment. You did it. You got published. Now if you weren’t aware, your book has to be scheduled in the printing pipeline, which can take six months to a year. But to speed things up here we’ll flash forward to the big day. It’s Tuesday. Your book is out there on store shelves. You’ve managed a small interview in the local paper or an interview with a local college station. THE READING PUBLIC is well aware your book is on sale today.
But the reality of it is this: The book has maybe three weeks to sell. If not, there are a number of other books waiting in line for YOUR spot on the shelf. It’s not personal, its business. The bookstore, after a few weeks, HAS to send your book back for credit to make room for dozens and dozens of other books. After all, the book coming out next might make them money whereas yours didn’t. Which isn’t your fault. That’s just the nature of this business.
Luckily, these days, a traditional book is published in hardcover and e-book. But even so, the publisher may not provide a marketing budget for you, so you’d better be on Twitter and Facebook letting people know the e-book version is out there as this may help sales. Still, your book is competing with not only a few dozen other books on actual shelves, but with a few HUNDRED e-books PER WEEK on Kindle- many of them in the same genre! Maybe with better covers! Maybe a dollar or two less than what your book is selling for!
And to stay balanced here, this goes for the self-published folks too. Each of them had to really work at getting where they are. Yes, a few dozen of them have absolutely made thousands of dollars a month from their books on Kindle and they were able to go into work and put in a two week notice and they haven’t looked back.
Heck, that was MY dream. But I’m still working the day job. And every day I hammer out a page or two. I ignore the wife, skip some meals, lose some sleep and the whole time I ask myself questions…. Will the fantasy novel I’m working on for next year sell? Will my sales double if I also release the book as an audio book? (so far, no). Should I go back to cartooning?
Please pay attention to me. This thing called writing is NOT easy. You have to sit at the computer and type. And retype and re-edit and retype some more. You have to decide to go traditional and wait for a response or try self- publishing and work even harder to just get a few sales. For all I know you’ll get lucky on the first try. If so, congrats.
And no matter which route you may choose, you need to be writing the next book. Writing takes tenacity and dedication and sacrifice. Much, much more than you might ever think. Best of luck to each of you, you’ll certainly need it. But it's worth it. We wouldn't do it if we didn't love it.
Frank Zubek is based in Ohio, and his stories and novellas can be found here: www.frankzubek.net/ Frank can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org . Check out his books on Amazon by clicking HERE. Follow him on Twitter @FrankZubek