Since every literate person can write, most people think they can be writers. Interestingly enough, we all can speak quite well, but few of us would deem ourselves ‘speakers.’ However, this prevalent belief encourages beginners to say the oddest things that make professional writers cringe. If you find yourself saying the following, please stop:
“I can write a book in a weekend.”
I’m certain you can mutilate a couple hundred pages with words. However, that doesn’t mean that anyone will want to read them. Yes, I know there are prolific writers who can write a book in two weeks. Usually, they are professionals who have mastered a style and understand the craft of writing. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve written a first draft in two weeks. However, in the words of Michael Crichton, “Books aren’t written — they’re rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn’t quite done it.”
“I can write those ‘trashy’ books and make tons of money.”
Bwahaha! I love this one.
Many new writers see a 200-page romance or mystery and scoff. These things are so easy, they tell themselves. I can write this in a day. I doubt it, but maybe you can. If you do, will anyone pay you to read it? That is the difference. Those who sell in these genres usually have a passion for the craft that translates onto the page. Hate romance? Think mysteries are ridiculous? Believe sci-fi is for loonies? Then don’t write it, editors and especially readers can tell. Furthermore, there is a lot to learn about the expectations readers have for these different genres. If you violate these expectations, then you’re going to run into problems hooking and keeping readers.
“If this crap gets published, I bet I could get a contract in six months.”
Define crap. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Don’t be arrogant and think the world should concede to your every taste (that’s what critics are for). Every writer is not meant for every reader. Just because you don’t like a book doesn’t mean it’s not good. It’s just not good for you. I don’t like okra; however, that doesn’t mean I need to start an anti-okra campaign. Diversity is what makes life interesting.
Okay, okay you’re not talking about taste. You’re talking about horrible, poorly written books. Yes, I know there are some truly bad books out there (some with traditional publishers and others self-published). Here’s the hard truth. Some bad books (poor grammar, poor structure and poor execution of a plot simpler than a fairy tale) get published (even by major publishers). However, these books are probably ‘placement’ books to fill a hole in a publishing list. Usually, these books sink and their authors are rarely heard from again.
Unfortunately, the existence of these books convinces people that getting their book published should be a breeze. Sure, and every person with a dream to sing will become the next American Idol. Is it fair? No. Do they care? No.
“I can write better than that.”
If you can, shut up and write. Nobody wants to hear about it. It’s as annoying as listening to someone explain what they would do if they ruled the world. Writing is hard. Trust me, I’ve been writing for 20+ years now in both the academic and non-academic realms. If writing was easy, there would be a lot more people finishing that novel that’s been sitting on their shelf for the past few decades.
“It’s all about quantity, not quality.”
Okay, so this one is a bit complex, but I wanted to add it because there is a myth that publishing is all about the quantity of books and not the quality of books. Sure, you may get a lot of initial readers, but you want to keep your readers. If you keep pounding out trash, then readers will get wind of this and you’ll have a hard time selling anything. You need to make sure that the work that you put out there is good.
With that said, there is some truth to the fact that authors who have more books on the market make more money. BUT, it’s not just about the quantity.
“Books sell themselves.”
The very first book I self-published sold exactly three copies (all to me). Yep, it bombed. That’s not to say the book was bad. In fact, I think the book is quite good. Those who have read it (not just family and friends), really enjoyed it. I decided to make it a perma-free (book that is always freely available) to get people into my writing.
The reality is, being an author (whether self-published or traditionally published) means you have to be your own marketing master. You have to create an author platform and brand, and get yourself out there in front of your readers. So, you need to make sure that you budget for necessary marketing. As the old saying goes, you need to spend money to make money.
Parts of this blog post are from a PLR.