There are a myriad of publishing myths that the general public believes about the book world. Of course most folks assume that if an author publishes a book, that author is rolling in cash. Now, I am technologically stunted, a Luddite in many ways, but I’m going to attempt to upload sound effects here to dispel all myths once and for all.
Myth One: Authors are rich. bronx cheer sound
Most writers earn piddling amounts of money in this business. Most authors have day jobs in addition to their writing careers. Most writers do not float off into the sunset with a check for a half million dollars clutched tightly in their hand. Most writers, if you took into account the time it took to write the book, the time it took to solicit agents, the time it took to land a publisher, the time it took for revisions, the time it took for marketing, the time it took for publicity, the time it took for anything you can’t imagine one has to do as a writer, would ultimately earn about two cents an hour. Most of us aren’t in it for the money 😉 .
Next off, everyone assumes that because you are publishing a book, you are about to be launched onto a book tour more grand than something Queen Elizabeth would do while touring the Commonwealth nations.
Myth Two: Book Tours happen. bronx cheer.mp3
No, no, no, no, no. Okay, sure, book tours *do* happen to a couple of very lucky authors. Those who have drivers pick them up and chauffeur them to the awaiting plane that takes them to lovely hotels with down featherbeds and at which they can enjoy the mini-bar per diems and the food allotments and are wined and dined by their publishers with $40 lobster entrees and fine wines.
But for the rest of us? Our book tour is essentially what we can patchwork together on our own. At our own expense. Most often it involves things within driving distance, or places we incorporate into a weekend road trip to a family reunion.
Myth Three: your publisher will set up your book tour. bronx cheer.mp3
Refer back to Myth Two for background. There is no book tour but for what you set up on your own. Sure, if you’re lucky, there’ll be some support from the in-house publicity department. But I’ve got news for you: many authors rarely if ever hear from their in-house publicity departments, let alone get much support from them. I know of authors who have never gotten a call from the in-house publicist, even after the book is launched. I kid you not. In-house publicity departments are manned by staffers who are overworked and underpaid and they probably spend most of their waking hours putting out fires with the many authors who they are tasked with flacking.
Myth Four: Oprah actually might care about your book’s existence. bronx cheer.mp3
Of course we’d all love to court Oprah. Hell, I’d court Oprah’s golden retrievers if it’d get me somewhere with her. I’d walk ’em, brush their coats till they were glossy, I’d even consider brushing their teeth. And certainly I’d pick up their poop, if only Oprah would come a-callin’.
Fact is, Oprah isn’t going to be knocking on our doors. Which in some ways I can’t understand because Sleeping with Ward Cleaver is perfect for her demographics. I mean, who watches Oprah in enormous numbers but middle-aged housewives, the very same women who are especially drawn to my book?
Which leads me to
Myth Five: Media Access. Everyone assumes because you have a book published you have the direct link not only to Oprah but to the Today Show, NPR, The Washington Post, the New York Times, and every major glossy magazine on the newsstands each month. bronx cheer4.mp3
Would that life were that easy. Fact is, it’s nigh impossible to get media attention for a book unless you are of that chosen few who got gargantuan book deals. Why? Because with gargantuan book deals your publishing house has invested a large chunk of cash into your guaranteed success, and dammit, they’re going to make good and sure your book succeeds. Therefore they call in their chips and are able to pony up the big interviews. It has to do with street cred. Media outlets only find credibility if they are told by the powers that be that the book is fabulous. Many a fabulous book died a slow death in the remains pile absent the muscle of a powerful publishing house intent on pushing for the book’s ultimate success. Truth is, through my freelance journalism work, I even have connections with a few major publications and media outlets, and I can’t get them to bite. Alas, the media is a fickle mistress.
Myth Six: Once you sell one book, you’ll sell your entire back list. bronx cheer4.mp3
Even a few short years ago, this myth was more like a reality. However…the industry has gotten more fearful, more risk-averse, more craving a guaranteed blockbuster, not content with a simmering moderate success that grows a readership over time. And unless you happen to be in the right genre at the right time, or just be in line when the fairy dust blows your way, you might very well not sell your backlist, let alone your next book, or your next book, or any book after that. I know many, many authors of women’s fiction, for instance, who cannot sell their next book. Word is that the market is “tight” and no one’s buying women’s fiction. Which I don’t understand because I’m a woman and I buy women’s fiction and my friends are women and they buy women’s fiction and I seem to encounter women all the time who like to read women’s fiction. But somewhere along the line, women’s fiction lost whatever meager cachet it held, and now it’s viewed with a wary eye and a shallow pocket book (make that change purse) and apparently not many avid industry insider supporters of it willing to take a chance.
You might think that all of these myths are enough to discourage one away from a career in writing. And you’d be right to think this should discourage folks away from it. After all, good writers are a dime a dozen. Hitting it big as a writer is akin to Lana Turner’s discovery at Schwab’s Drug Store. The odds are not so great.
But there’s one thing about writing that holds true for those of us who stick with it despite the discouraging myths in whose shadows we occasionally cower and at whose behest we can at times be found sobbing for our lost dreams.
And that is that the writers who stick it out, usually, are the writers who have to write. The ones whose internal mandate dictates that they write, win, lose or draw. Despite the general lack of a support network, despite the meager pay, despite the frustrations from banging one’s head against the wall trying to even garner a tiny bit of local media from a cynical press corps.
As damning as the occupation can be, the freedom and power we writers garner from the act of writing supersedes the other nonsense and keeps us coming back for more. And the enormous rewards when we get feedback from readers whose lives have been touched by our words is beyond gratifying. It keeps us coming back again and again.
Sure, you might think to compare us to an abused spouse, returning to the abuser (and I don’t mean the readers, I mean the vagaries of the industry). But I like to think we remain optimistic in the face of daunting odds, and maintain a faith in ourselves that enables us to look beyond the dark shadows, view that brilliant rainbow just off in the distance, and keep working our way toward that pot of gold. Whether or not we find it is really ancillary. We’ve found it merely by having the glorious luxury of being writers, and for that we are so very lucky.