5 Things They Never Teach You About Being a Published Author
An aspiring writer looking for an agent or publisher to take on their work really only has a couple of things to worry about. Mainly, writing and getting published. That’s pretty much it. Very little consideration is given to what happens after you get published, except to drunkenly celebrate the fact that you ARE published. And, anyone who gets published SHOULD celebrate. It’s a huge accomplishment. Except… there are so many more things to worry about once the threshold into being a published author is crossed.
1. Be prepared to spend money. Lots of it. A publisher is only going to do so much marketing for an author, especially a debut author. Most debut authors are lucky to sell 1,000 copies of that first book. But, writers still have to get the word out about their book, and that means MARKETING. And marketing ain’t cheap. From blog tours to advertisements to entering contests, a writer has to utilize every tool they can to help increase exposure to their book. And that’s not cheap. What if you want to appear at a book festival… that’s a time zone away? Your publisher won’t pay for the entire trip. They might help a little, but the majority of those costs are on the writer. I really, really wish I’d known that beforehand.
2. Being published is not an indicator of success, present or future. It’s so difficult not thinking you’ve “made it” after the contract for that first book has been signed. In a way, a writer getting published has made it. In another way, they’re once again starting at the bottom, staring up at the more successful authors. Having one novel published also doesn’t mean every novel from then on will be published. A publisher may not feel like a good fit for this new book. They may think it’s riddled with problems. Becoming published is clearing a huge hurdle, but just because it’s been cleared doesn’t mean it’s smooth sailing from then on. A writer has to keep writing and improving, or the game will move on without them.
3. That there’s a business side to books, and you better learn it fast. A lot of this ties into item No. 2. Unpublished writers are only concerned with one thing: getting published. Published authors, meanwhile, have a million things to worry about, from hitting editing deadlines, expanding their brand via social media and public appearances, trying to drum up reviews for a book, working on a new book, making sure people who win free copies of your book get them, creating promotional swag, like bookmarks or cover cards, thinking of new ways to promote your book, etc., etc., etc. All of this plays into the business side of books, and the sooner a writer learns them, the better. The biggest part about the business of books, however, is…
4. Your first novel probably won’t be successful enough to let a writer quit their day job. In the business of books, quantity is as important, maybe even more so, than quality. The more books a writer has released, the more opportunities there are for people to buy them. Most writers don’t get to quit their day job until at least their fifth book has been released. Somewhere around that. Lee Child didn’t get to quit his day job until the NINTH Jack Reacher novel came out. Think about that.
5. Being a publisher author is equally wonderful and equal parts harrowing. Being published is as wonderful as aspiring writers imagine it to be. On a personal note, I can say it hasn’t hurt in the dating scene either ;). While the highs may be higher, the lows are even lower. Instead of worrying if one agent will like your book enough to represent you, a writer now has to worry about the world liking their book enough to buy it. Writers are insecure by nature, and those insecurities can become exponentially worse. It’s one thing to put your heart and soul into a book, it’s another to do that, AND put everything else you have into promoting the book in the hopes it will be a success. The stakes are higher. That said, at this point the writer is still a PUBLISHED AUTHOR! They get to put THE BOOK THEY WROTE on their bookshelf next to JK ROWLING! A published author gets to call Rowling, Stephen King, etc., COLLEAGUES. Good luck getting either of them to speak to you, but you have one very important thing in common with them: YOU’RE ALL PUBLISHED AUTHORS!
About Ryan Hill:
Growing up, Ryan Hill used to spend his time reading and writing instead of doing homework. This resulted in an obsession with becoming a writer, but also a gross incompetence in the fields of science and mathematics. A graduate of North Carolina State University, Ryan has been a film critic for over five years. He lives in Raleigh, NC, with his dog/shadow Maggie. Ryan also feels strange about referring to himself in the third person.