Alright, so, you’ve written a book, you’ve edited (I hope you’ve edited it!), you’ve done everything you can do in your own power to make the book as amazing as you possibly can, and you’ve put down the red editing pen feeling confident that this is the best book you can possibly create.
The question that you have now is probably the same one you’ve been asking yourself since before you even started writing the darn thing: What do I do with it now?
While I’ve long been someone who has enjoyed doing a bit of writing, when I actually sat myself down to write a full-length novel, I’ll admit I didn’t do so out of pure enjoyment of the craft. I wish I could say I started writing books purely as a hobby, but the only thing that actually kept me moving forward on my path to becoming an accomplished novelist was the idea that I’d be getting all that good old book money right after I finished the darn thing.
This is part of the reason I considered The Legend of Buddy Hero completed right after I finished its first draft. I had entered the world of writing novels with the idea that it would be what would change the trajectory of my career and I had very little patience for my effort to pay off. While I’d play it off with family and friends that I just wanted to write, the truth of the matter is that when I finished that book, I immediately expected all the money to start flowing in. As well as some of those good old movie adaptation offers.
This, of course, is not how writing books work. I have a hard time believing that if you’ve managed to find this blog series, you haven’t heard the story of J K Rowling, and how she was rejected countless times by different publishers before finding someone who actually believed her book was worthy to be printed. It’s a well recounted message of the need to stay firm in the face of adversity, of how even those who have achieved great successes had their roadblocks. I remember at the time finding it incredibly inspiring. Heck, if the first billionaire author received rejections, I shouldn’t take it so bad when I get mind. Looking back at her story now, the miniscule number of rejections touted in the tale have an opposite effect. While she may have had some folks say they didn’t think her book was publishable, the numbers of people she had tell her that are nothing compared to my own numbers, or the numbers I’ve heard from my fellow authors who have written books I consider far superior to those containing one particular group of young wizards.
I’ve been asked a fair number of times by young aspiring novelists what they should do to prepare for their career as an author. And I’ve always found myself giving a rather pessimistic answer. That’s difficult for me, because in general, I find myself quite the optimist. But the reality is that life as an author is filled with far more rejection than acceptance.
I’ve been trying to change my perspective a bit on this, even amid my own struggles with finding that Harry Potter money. Because the truth of the matter is, although I’ve fought hard against my own insecurities when facing the sheer numbers of rejections I’ve faced in attempting to sell my art, I also considering writing an incredible experience, and wish for everyone who has any sort of inkling, to make the leap and just plain do it.
But you’ve already done it. You’ve finished your book. You’re just in the position of trying to figure out what to do with it now. Maybe you’re one of the lucky ones who finished it just to be able to say you finished it. Great. Way to strike something off your bucket list. Writing a book is no simple feat, and if you could do it for the simple joy of actually doing it, I’m incredibly impressed.
If, however, you’re hoping to find some sort of compensation for your time investment, you’re in for quite the battle for yourself and your art.
If you want to strike gold, you’re more than likely going to need to find a literary agent. Lucky for you, there are quite literally thousands of them out there. Unlucky for you, there are over ten times as many novelists seeking their attention. Add onto that the fact that the publishing industry at large is rather fickle, far more focused on specific trends at the moment than just simply finding a good book, and you’re in for a ride simply trying to find an agent who is interested in the type of book you’ve poured yourself into.
In fact, looking back, I’ve realized I probably should have written my first book after determining which trends were big at the moment, and trying to match that. Or, at least, that’s what going through the process of finding an agent feels like.
The truth is, it can feel like a literal crap shoot to even find an agent who will be interested in reading the type of book you’re written, much worse then to find one who is interested in actually working to sell your specific book.
Which leads me to my personal greatest hurdle in the whole process of attempting to sell a book, whether through finding an agent or going the self-publishing route: marketing yourself. You see, when reaching out to agents, you aren’t just simply putting a book in their lap with them eager to read the whole thing regardless of what it is. No, you have to convince them that they want to read it. You have to sell your book to this person who you’re hoping to convince to help you sell your book. That means, you have to come up with a legitimate reason why anyone should want to read it.
If you’re anything like me, this might be one of the most difficult things possible. While I’m pretty good as supporting my friends and family and the things they’re doing, heaping all the praise and coming up with all of the ways to recommend what they’re up to, when it comes to myself, I’m quite a bit more self-conscious. I have a difficult time believing this isn’t a similar issue that any other artists face.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my friends who have found success with agents, it’s that you have to toss that self-consciousness away, and focus 100% on convincing these people that your book is the absolute next best thing and that they need to be the one to sell it for you so that you can both get in on some of that Harry Potter money.
This is where I typically fail. But, you don’t have to. There are plenty of literary agent fish in that publishing sea, and honestly, I believe that if you market yourself well enough, even if your book isn’t that great, you’ll probably find someone who is willing to try to get your book printed. Heck, look at all the books out there that you can find sitting on the shelf in your local bookstore, and I’m sure there are more than a few you instantly recognize as stinkers. This means that it should be possible for anything to get published, you just need to know how to convince someone to help you get there (we’ll jump on the self-publishing conversation later).
However, regardless of your successes with agents, you’re going to have to deal with quite possibly the most difficult trait for any writer to need to possess. Patience.
Which…we’ll get into next time.