It’s simple, no? You write and write and slap 75K words on the page, go back over it, maybe have a beta reader or two give it a go, and then contract with one of the litany of e-pubs and voila! You have a book out and you’re an author.
What could be easier?
And though if you’re reading this, you’re already laughing, this is what the vast majority of new folks do.
Gone are the days when new writers had to actually learn and hone the craft before having even a glimmer of hope of being published. And those days are never coming back.
To the bane of decent literature and good writers everywhere.
You know the ones (again, I’m figuring you aren’t in this category, or you wouldn’t be here!). You see the crappy work on Amazon. And hear your mother tell you about Aunt Ida’s next door neighbor’s daughter who’s an “author” already, at age 22. She must be a prodigy!
And you run screaming into the night!
I just love real writers, aspiring to become actual authors (the kind published by real Traditional houses), and willing to put in all the blood, sweat, and tears to get them to the brass ring.
Now, I’m not saying doing some self-publishing on your own is a bad thing, once you’re established. Most authors these days are doing an amalgam of Traditional and self-pubbing. But if you dig deep, they’re doing the self-pubbing part for marketing purposes, not because they couldn’t get published the old-fashioned way.
Because that way was and is and always will be, well, a ton of work.
Writing is hard. Even that initial inspiration/creating phase is difficult. But what y’all all know is that once you’ve done that, the actual labor begins.
The taking that big blob of creation, dissecting it, piecing out the characters and the plot, finding the holes, identifying the boring sagging parts, lining out the arc of the storyline, seeing who’s flat and who’s belabored, making sure the plot furthers the characters and the characters drive the plot.
And all that doesn’t even mention finding your voice, honing your prose, making the words sing on the page with nothing superfluous to be found.
You know, all those minor details.
I often have wanna-be authors tell me this: “I just want to write the book. I’m hiring you to fix it. I don’t want to do all that stuff—I’ll give you a cut to revise it for me.”
Or about five hundred variations of the above.
That’s when I mention seeking a ghost writer, for 20-30K. If that’s the way you want to go, have at it! It’ll work out for you better in the end.
But that’s not what real authors do.
It takes years and years and years to learn this craft. It can take years of writing—hard writing—to even find your real voice. And I’ve yet to meet (or know of) a great author who isn’t still learning, all these decades later.
Beginning a novel takes courage. Sticking with it, fortitude. But learning how to finish a novel, truly finish it, can take more years than even I like to count.
What it really means to be an author requires all of that, and then some.
I’ve known great writers who didn’t break into publishing until a decade or more after they started. And you know what? They thank their lucky stars that those first works didn’t see the light of publication’s day. Because they were, well, elementary. The amount that those writers who finally become real authors have learned during this time boggles even their minds.
And instead of the all of creation watching their quite elementary (and cringe-worthy!) first efforts, they present to the reading world something unique, wonderful, while everyone raves over the talent.
When all along they knew that yep, the talent was there, but what got them over the hump was all the skills they learned along the way.
And isn’t that, in the end what you want?