It is easy for a reader to see various activities in which writers become involved and automatically assume that this is a really cool life to live. But the cold reality sometimes takes a while to set in. There are many myths about writing that some people never realize until they spend a lot of time and money pursuing activities that they were never truly ready to tackle.
Myth #1: Writing is an easy life to live.
Nothing can be further than the truth. Many people think that writers just sit down at a computer and pound away at the keyboard producing flowery descriptions with little effort more than utilizing their imaginations. Yes, you do spend a lot of time at the keyboard. But when you consider how much time is needed to prepare your work for reading and then promoting it enough to become successful, you will quickly see that the time spent at the keyboard is actually
minimal at best!
My breakout novel, 2018: An Uncivil War, was released only three months ago. And I’ve been working day and night just to sell the small number of e-books that I’ve been fortunate enough to sell. I’ve only sold slightly more than 25 copies! And the price of my book has fluctuated between only 99 cents and $6.99. You would think that at that price, I would have sold more.
Basically, I’m finding out fast that the writing of the book seems to be only about a quarter of the battle. Even before I thought about touching the keyboard, I had to conduct a lot of research and set up various interviews with people who would act as technical advisers for my project. Then after my work was written, I had to work with an editor to clear up a lot of inconsistencies and human mistakes. Furthermore, I had to read and re-read my story in an effort to spot things that both me and my editor had initially missed. Finally, I had to spend time publishing my e-book on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
So that was everything, right? Wrong!
Next I had to get out and promote my story, and convince readers to buy it. This was perhaps the hardest part of the process! Let’s face it. Writers like Tom Clancy and Vince Flynn may be gone, but their work is hardly forgotten. Then established writers like James Patterson and Brad Thor make it very difficult for anyone to even consider reading my work. After all, who the hell has heard of Phil Sanderson? Hardly no one, yet. So thus, my work is cut out for me. Now I am
finding out that the bulk of activity for new writers is in getting their names out in this cruel, unforgiving literary market.
Myth #2: It won’t take too much to get your name out there.
Some of the other myths I dispel hereafter will clear this myth away. It has been my goal from the very beginning to light a match and ignite my novel. I don’t mean to sarcastically and literally burn the damned thing, but to get it to where it catches fire with the general public, and they begin to become aware of it and embrace it. But if my novel was charcoal to be used for a cookout, perhaps it is old and not up to the task. Or maybe it is, and I just haven’t found the right fluid to use. Only time and fortune will tell!
Actually, there was a time for a moment when the flames seemed like they were coming along well, but now they seem to have died down. And every effort I make now to fan the flames doesn’t seem to be enough. I feel as though I am having to go back again and again and squeeze out more fluid onto these deceptive coal clumps in an effort to get it going again. And this can be very disheartening to the beginning writer. And — as I mentioned before! — writing seems like it is an easy job. But the cold, hard truth of the matter is that writing is not for sissies!
Myth #3: Book signings are the key to success.
I have set up five e-book signings to promote my novel so far. I set them up in some local coffee shops, a pawn shop, and two college campus book stores. I thought that my ingenuity of creating an e-book signing would be enough to peak people’s interest into curious attendance. But every turnout I had was minimal at best. It would, no doubt, have been much different if my name was James Patterson or Brad Thor! I had even taken the time to create my own posters and fliers (announcing my novel and boasting my author image), but that was not enough to have a hugely successful turnout. On average, each book signing only sold one of my novels. But for a brand-new, unheard-of fiction writer, I didn’t consider that too bad at all. But the scary truth of the matter is that I spent more money preparing for these book signings than I ended up receiving through book royalties. So why do I consider it a success at all if I found myself in the hole afterward? Because the life of every writer depends on how well he or she can get her name out there. I consider the time spent as an investment. But it was hardly the key to any overall success.
Myth #4: To become a successful writer in the modern world requires little start-up costs.
The advent of the e-book revolution has been a blessing in the regard that writers no longer need to impress agents and publishers in order to get their book out on the market. Nor do they have to pay an independent publisher or book printer in order to have a book out there. But realistically, traditional publishing still wins out at the end of the day due to the simple fact that these corporate publishing houses have a lot more money to invest in publicity and promotion than your unheard-of struggling writers like myself.
But this is not to say that it cannot be done! Vince Flynn is perfect proof of this. His very first novel, Term Limits, was self-published. It wasn’t too long before he was discovered, and the rest of his story is just that: history!
Sure, you can substitute time for money in getting your first novel out there, simply by publishing on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and maybe some other small e-book publishers out there on the web; but this is no guarantee of success.
Myth #5: Another key to success is getting endorsements.
I’ve watched seminars and read articles that suggest getting endorsements for your novel. A couple of weeks ago, I sent out some endorsement requests to Glenn Beck, Bill O’Rielly, Stuart Woods, Gillian Flynn, and other key celebrities, and I only heard back from three of them — and these three rejected me, explaining that they did not have the time to read my book due to very busy schedules.
If you can get a worthy endorsement, then maybe that will help your novel find some well-deserved success. But that is one big if, because the truth of the matter is that very few people have the time to endorse you these days. I’ve also heard that in order to get an endorsement, you already have to know someone and / or be part of a circle of influential figures.
As you can see, the writing life is not for the feint of heart! The purpose of this article is not to discourage you, but to prepare you for the truth of what it really takes to become a successful writer from relative obscurity. I once again draw your attention to the late and great Vince Flynn! He was self-published. And he pulled it off nicely! So maybe we can too!