Writing Isn’t for the Faint of Heart

Posted on: February 27th, 2012 by Donna 2 Comments

Now that my book is coming out, I can say this. In the past ten years the publishing world changed dramatically. Big firms gobbled up little ones. In addition to paperbacks, shorter, less costly soft cover books emerged. When the recession hit, rumors abounded of pending publishers’ bankruptcy. Advances, marketing and PR budgets, and staff size all shrunk.

Literary agents found few takers for new manuscripts, even those written by their best clients. Like big box stores vs. small grocers and Mom and Pop retailers, independent book shops found it impossible to compete against national sellers like Barnes and Noble, Borders, and the wild and wooly Amazon. Even as chains folded, reading devices came along. Doom and gloom-sayers predicted the end of books; no one would buy an electronic reader because they’d miss the tactile sense of paper pages.

Still, perhaps because of computers and research availability, or less insistence for quality literature, books proliferated. In response to some of these factors, self-publishers popped up everywhere. Writers’ conferences, magazines, and columns buzzed with a mixture of jubilation and feverish consternation. An author whose agent unsuccessfully pedaled his manuscript to houses for years fired his agent and self-published. After great sales he sang praises to the process. Equally vociferous purist authors and booksellers felt only the untalented, unschooled or unprincipled would pay to have their work published. Indeed, most self-publishers needed a running start to overcome the (deserved or not) common moniker of Vanity Press.

Today millions of books are published each year. Millions! Whether produced by a traditional house, a respected self-publisher, or a little print on demand shop, some books are exquisite, some just a darned good read, and others, well, you have to wonder what that “editor” did for a living before he hung out his shingle. A daunting experience for any writer consists of sizing up his competition by going into a book store for a slap-in-the-face wakeup call. Unless one has LOTs of money he’ll never see his book on the front table at Hastings, or on a rack at the entrance to the book section at his local Wal-Mart. Yep, kids, those spots are purchased for big bucks.

After seven years, I’m still a newbie in this writing business. I lost my agent before we had a chance to introduce my book to a single publisher. Discouraging, true, but I love writing, even though it’s difficult. There are so many ways to lose a reader – weak plots, unbelievable characters, the lack of tension—or this blog going on much longer. It’s solitary work and sometimes lonely, yet writing can take over your life. I mean, I don’t miss the housework, but I just spent an entire week writing to get four pages of my second book nailed tight. That doesn’t even begin to cover what it takes to actually sell your book once it’s published. No matter which publishing route you chose, you’re pretty much thrust out there before the ink dries. Another whole subject, but if you want to learn about marketing, let me hear from you and I’ll share secrets.

I guess what I’m trying to say is this: no matter how a book is produced, there’s an author behind it, doing his very best to entertain you, make you think, or see new possibilities. Regardless of the format you prefer, keep reading. Keep buying books, borrowing books, or checking them out of your library. Read to your kids, your grandparents, a friend’s great grandchildren. There’s a whole wonderful world to experience through someone else’s eyes. If you find a book that makes you feel better, or inspires you to take action, pass it along and tell others by every means at your disposal. It’ll do a body good. And if, by any chance, you have a story to tell—and I think everyone does—start writing. It doesn’t have to be the next great American novel. It can be a family history, pure fiction, poetry, a children’s book, or a cookbook. Start today, and let me know why and what you’re writing.

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2 Responses

  1. Ona Heyl says:

    This is great, thanks a lot!

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