What I like about the book industry is that someone has an idea and then shares it. Something didn’t exist, and then it does. Writing makes ideas happen. It’s one of the purest forms of capitalism. From nothing comes something, and that something can be tweaked, prodded, and then sent out into the world. This year alone, The Hate U Give and All-American Boys reshaped my understanding of prejudice. That’s real power, with real currency.
During the initial conversation I have with a new author, I typically ask what she or he is writing next. I always want to know what’s coming down the line. In general, there are three responses:
Ernest Hemingway once offered, “The first draft of anything is sh!t.” In his posthumous 1984 memoir, With Hemingway: A Year in Key West and Cuba, Arnold Samuelson shares his experiences working as a deckhand on Hemingway’s fishing boat for ten months in 1934. During their sea-faring adventure, Hemingway offered Samuelson, then a nineteen-year-old struggling writer, the following advice:
Just over a decade ago, most print-on-demand (POD) service providers were cutting their baby teeth. It was exciting; it felt good to be a subversive, if small, cog in disrupting an industry where six traditional publishers (now the Big Five) had long decided, in no uncertain terms, what readers read and how. During the reign of traditional publishers, indie and hybrid publishing were dismissed as “vanity.”
Writing a book series takes a lot of planning, and it takes a little extra effort when it comes to choosing a book editor. Assuming you have one humdinger of a book series, you’ll want an editor who’s familiar with it or who’s able to quickly be brought up to speed. If you haven’t kept in contact with the original editor, or, for whatever reason, you want a different editor than the first, it’s critical he or she be willing to read previous editions. Typically, depending on the word count, this will set you back a few hundred dollars. If this isn’t in the budget, then be able to offer summaries and a few excerpts.
To every writer who tells me, “It’s not about the money,” I first say, “Good.” (Something like 1 percent of writers are able to support themselves through writing.) Next, I say, “Think like a publisher.” Some authors aren’t keen to view their books as commodities, but books are products, and it’s best to make financial decisions with a publisher’s mindset.
I recently performed an editorial review on a book that came to me through IngramSpark, and when the author, Dave, decided to move forward with editing services, I cherry-picked it. Our schedule was tight, and a week or so later, I recommended 2,523 total edits and offered 78 comments . . . only some of which he decided to accept.
Depending on my mood I introduce myself as a writer, ghostwriter, or editor. The thing is, a lot of what I do is project management. It doesn’t sound as glamorous, and I doubt anyone has ever bought a project manager a drink, still, when you own an editing company, it is part of the gig. Now that publishing is fully and wholly digital—and even though it’s increasingly Cloud-based—project management and keeping track of native files is an important part of the gig, especially for those who are self-publishing and depending on freelance book designers.
If you want to write for a living then you need to—and I mean doggedly—set yourself up to write. Sounds easy, right? It isn’t, at least not for most of us. There’s carving out time. There’s finding a physical space, someplace quiet without distractions. There’s finding inspiration, and there’s also learning and perfecting the craft. Not to mention that beyond this, there’s finding someone to read what you’ve written and, hopefully, monetizing your efforts. Here are a few writing tips for becoming an author.
This is one part love letter to independent booksellers and the other part encouragement to independent authors on how to approach them.
Dear independent booksellers, I can’t remember our first kiss. Even so, my love for you is real. It’s almost as if you know me better than I know myself. Like the time you pointed me to Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore. Murakami is a favorite, but you, my paramour, saw me wander book-lined aisles, restless in want of something I couldn’t quite articulate. Then voila! You nudge me to “staff picks,” and there before me is my next big read.