The Failures on Both Paths…
In fiction writing, the only time you fail is if you stop writing fiction.
There is no other marker. You stop writing, you fail.
It really is that simple.
So in this series, I have been talking about the choices of paths new writers can take to get their books to readers. Traditional path and indie path.
So what forces in those two distribution paths make a writer think they should quit writing and thus fail?
On this path, the dreams can be crushed in a number of points along the way, causing maybe a great writer to stop writing.
Understand clearly… Nothing in traditional publishing is about quality of story. Nothing. It is totally about being in the right place at the right time with the correct product that some untrained gatekeeper will think might work for some unknown specifications of a book line.
In other words, as proved in court under oath in the Simon and Schuster case, no one knows what will sell and quality does not matter. In fact, by the time a book is published, any new writer’s book has been rewritten two or three times into mush, mostly by people who do not know how to write fiction but believe themselves to be experts in what will sell.
The process can be soul-crushing, but keep in mind that is the success. Most writers who go at traditional publishing never get that far. Most spend years and years and years rewriting the same book or the same story to constantly have it rejected and never see a reader.
Not one reader.
That spot is where most writers give up on their dream and put the books on thumb drives, stored in a box with old pictures, and move on.
The second spot souls are crushed is when you have won the first battle and have a two-book contract, and your book does not explode and reach some imagined goal as the gatekeepers hoped and you can’t sell another book and your agent stops returning your calls, or worse doesn’t like your new book and can’t sell it and drops you.
At this point the writer just quits. The reality of real (vs the myth of) traditional publishing has hit home. The writer has a book or two published, has set in a book signing when no one shows up, and the book is on their shelf, and that is where they leave it, all because of some marketing thing.
It will be a great story to tell the grandkids in thirty years, about how they were once a published novelist.
Again, nothing at all to do with the quality of the writing.
From these two spots, almost no writers recover. I have seen a few who have after years gotten help from friends to shift over to indie. But almost none survive. The dream was to be a “published writer” by some major house and that failed. That dream does not shift out of that myth into indie easily.
Sadly. (And I say sadly from far, far too much experience watching great writers vanish.)
The indie writers who fail by quitting on this side are often the ones who bought into a ton of myths and are writing for the wrong reasons.
Often they are the writers who spout the stupidity “I hate writing but love to have written.” You hear someone say that, just ease away slowly. (On second thought… RUN!!)
The writers who quit are the writers always in a hurry and looking for shortcuts. (There are none.)
These are the writers who buy into every marketing ploy for their first novel and spend thousands and thousands and then boast to other writers how much they “made” on their novel (never once saying how much they spent to make that many sales).
There are lots and lots and lots of these types of writers and they go away quickly.
And then a new batch washes up on the shores.
Back in my day in traditional publishing, we called them “Want-to-be-writers.” They want to be writers, they love the idea, but are unwilling to learn craft, business, or put in the time.
Indie publishing kicks these people to the curb quickly. In traditional publishing, you just never saw them except in coffee shops and local writer’s workshops.
The path in indie is pretty simple after 15 years into this transition. It actually has become a clear path if you can avoid all the stupidity of the myths and those who want to take shortcuts.
The Path into Indie Publishing in 2023
1… Write and finish what you love to write. (Never write to market, only what you love.)
2… Learn the steps of doing your own covers, layout, proofing. (Small learning curve, but seems huge until you do it. Then you will wonder what you were afraid of.) No stupidity like beta readers.
3… Get the book out wide to 80+% of the English reading world through Draft2Digital, Kobo, and Amazon.
4… Write the next book.
5… Keep reading top writers and learning craft and storytelling.
6… Never read reviews or watch sales numbers. Ever.
7… Learn basics of finding readers like Patreon, web sites, newsletters, social media, and kickstarters. Watch for new stuff coming up to help you as well. Don’t be an early adaptor, wait and let whatever the new thing is prove itself.
8… Write the next book and keep learning, especially licensing and business and copyright.
9… Keep writing until you find yourself making more money than you expected every year.
10… Write the next book and just keep on writing what you love and having fun.
Yup, it is that simple…
So how to avoid failure in indie publishing? Never quit writing. Never get in a hurry. Never compare yourself or your sales to any other writer. But most importantly, never stop writing.
Sadly, the indie side is easy to make up excuses to quit for writers who want to quit, who don’t want to do the work. On the traditional side, gatekeepers tell you to quit. Indie, the writers give up on themselves.
So that’s it for a fun chapter in this discussion about the two paths that new writers are picking as they come into the field.
Next chapter… What is success, what does it look like in publishing on both sides in ten years or twenty years for a new writer coming in now?
Stay tuned, the numbers might surprise you.