I say this little introduction to each new parts… New fiction writers coming in now are really torn between all the myths and hype of traditional publishing and all the myths and hype of indie publishing.
But as I said back in the first post of this series, the paperback era of big publishing is pretty much done, and the distribution of fiction is changing over to the electronic era of indie publishing, with indie writers in charge.
These kinds of major shifts in fiction distribution to the readers has happened four major times through the history of this country, with each new era lasting about 50 years and the transitions lasting about 25 years. Again, see my first post.
New writers coming in today don’t know this history, don’t realize they are coming in smack in the middle of a transition. And to make matters worse, the myths passed on by writers on both sides make it often impossible to know what is truth and what is myth.
THE EVIL OF MYTH AND EXPECTATIONS… TRADITIONALLY FOCUSED WRITERS
Traditionally focused new writers have a huge belief system, and expectation that no one can talk them out of until they get into what is left of the traditional system and it chews them up and destroys their dreams and often their souls.
This belief, this expectation, the myth, is that once they sell to a traditional publisher, they will be taken care of. (It happens, but not in a good way.)
Here are just some of the expectations of a new traditional writer…
- They have a good agent.
- They have a good editor.
- They will sell more books and get paid more.
- They will hit bestseller lists.
- Their books will be in bookstores.
- In just a few years they will make enough to live on.
- Their book will be made into a movie.
- Their calls are important to both their editor and their agent.
- They will have a book tour.
So let me add in the truth to each of those expectations…
- They have a good agent. (Nope… Any agent you can get as a new writer is not an agent you want as an experienced writer. Plus the agency model, with lower writer advances, no longer works and the agent has to support the high overhead by other ways, often theft.)
- They have a good editor. (Nope… Their editor will be right out of a college English class and wouldn’t know what makes good commercial fiction if it bit her. She will pretend to know it all and destroy your voice and your book in the process.)
- They will sell more books and get paid more. (Nope… As a CEO of one of the major firms said under oath (and no one disagreed in the press or in other companies) over half of the 98 thousand books published by the big companies in 2021 sold less than 12 copies.
- They will hit bestseller lists. (Nope… You would be better off buying lottery tickets, especially since the New York Times list has proven rigged and theUSA Today list is gone.
- Their books will be in bookstores. (Maybe, maybe not. Publishers don’t have sales forces anymore to sell your books to bookstore owners and buyers. A large percentage of all traditionally published books never make it to the bookstores.)
- In just a few years they will make enough to live on…. (Don’t have expenses, be supported by a spouse, get a job teaching English, and then buy lottery tickets. Not happening.)
- Their book will be made into a movie. (The odds are better buying lottery tickets. Traditional publishers also never try to market your work to any licenses. They have no staff for it. And neither does your crook of an agent.)
- Their calls are important to both their editor and their agent. (Only when the contract and publication is in process. You know the term “ghosted?” Both your editor and your agent will do that to you for years in a row.
- They will have a book tour. (In my day editors and publishers in traditional publishing called writer tours “mercy tours” to pat the writer’s ego and keep them busy. Now they don’t even bother with that.
THE EVIL OF MYTH AND EXPECTATIONS… INDIE FOCUSED WRITERS
Expectations of writers (who make stuff up not only in fiction but in business) have not vanished just because they took control of their own writing and publishing. Problem is the expectations are played up in the indie world by people spreading the rumors and writers who need to brag and made worse by the insecurity of the writers themselves.
So here are some of the expectations and myths of new indie writers.
- They can start making good money after only one or two novels.
- Indie publishing is easy and anyone can do it and make money.
- In just a few years they will be making a living.
- They can’t learn how to do their own covers or publishing.
- They need story editors or whatever they are called and that costs a lot.
- They are writing and publishing and don’t have to learn anymore and keep up with new things.
- They will never get any kind of licensing deal or translation deal because that takes an agent.
- They must always make a big deal out of launching a new book.
- They no longer need to write short stories or send them to magazines.
Okay, let me take on each one and talk about the reality.
- They can start making good money after only one or two novels... (Nope… You might make coffee money, but odds are only your family and a few friends will buy the first book. Doesn’t mean it is bad, just no reach unless you have a major following on social media. Since launches do not matter in indie publishing, those books will keep selling as time goes on.)
- Indie publishing is easy and anyone can do it and make money. (Nope… It is a ton easier than making it through the years of rewriting one book and trying to get an agent, but doing Indie Publishing you need to be a writer, a promoter, an innovator, and a business person. Most people can’t do that combination.)
- In just a few years they will be making a living. (Maybe, if you can write a novel a month and can do great covers and build a presences on social media and learn Kickstarters and your income needs are low, very low. But for most, making really good money takes upwards of ten years.)
- They can’t learn how to do their own covers or publishing. (The whining is epic and this stops a large percentage of writers because of fear. It is stupidly easy to do book covers. Slight learning curve, some imitation of top writers, and you got it. But wow do I hear this stupid myth all the time, so the writer goes and pays for covers and the writing slows down because of the cost of covers.)
- They need story editors or whatever they are called and that costs a lot. (Nope, a myth left over from traditional publishing that is actually deadly to a writer’s voice and original story. All you need is someone to find typos. But this myth kills another large percentage of indie writers and there are a ton of scammers out there willing to bilk thousands from young writers and help kill their dreams in the belief they are helping them.)
- They are writing and publishing and don’t have to learn anymore and keep up with new things. (This belief sends hundreds of thousands of writers down the road in a short few years after they start. They compare their sales to other writers, don’t want to learn anything new, and pretty soon everything has gone by them and they quit.)
- They will never get any kind of licensing deal or translation deal because that takes an agent. (Nope. In fact, an agent will get in your way. But the licensing part is a part of business that needs to be learned.)
- They must always make a big deal out of launching a new book. (This book launch garbage is left over from traditional publishing when a book had to sell quickly or spoil and be pulled from the shelves. Most indie books do not launch quickly, but slowly grow in sales over years. But new writers believe the old myth, do a huge book launch, sell five copies, and quit writing. A really sad myth that needs to be killed.
- They no longer need to write short stories or send them to magazines. (Best promotion you can do for your publishing company and your novels is to write short stories. And if you can sell them to top magazines, they pay you and thus let focused readers read your work and them come buy your books. Plus you can use short fiction in about a thousand different ways. Suck it up, buttercup, and write short fiction at times.)
That is just a few of the many, many expectations that both traditionally published new writers have and indie published new writers have. Sadly, these expectations kill writing careers.