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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Seven Myths of Being a Published Author by Pippa Jay Green

I'm sure there's probably more than seven, but these were the keys ones that seemed to come up after I announced that I was going to be published. If you can think of others please leave them in the comments and maybe I'll do a 'Seven Myths Part Two' sometime. :D

1. You'll be rich and famous like JK Rowling or Amanda Hocking.
Very few authors achieve fame and fortune. I'm not sure of the stats, but the majority of published authors are relatively unknown except to their small group of fans. And rich? No. If you aren't a writer, you'd probably be shocked at how many authors actually have to work elsewhere for a living and write as a 'hobby'. I'd love to make enough to be able to stay home while my kids are still at school but it's unlikely. I have another year before my youngest starts full-time school, and then I'll be job-hunting. :( Most new authors are lucky to sell over a hundred books in their first year. Imagine - your e-book sells at £5 and you get £2 from that. £200 in a year? Well below the minimum wage, isn't it?

2. Once the book is written your job is over.
Ha! Unless you're with one of the big publishing houses, you'll have to do some, if not all, of your own book promotion. And even if you do have help with promotion, it makes sense to do some yourself. This doesn't have to mean paying out lots of cash on advertising. Social media makes it a lot easier to get your name and your book 'out there.' But you need to be careful. If you're using things like Twitter and Facebook, don't just pour an endless stream of 'buy my book' or similar posts onto them. I've unfollowed people for that. I'll stick with you if you mix your sales pitch in with blogs on interesting things. It doesn't have to be much. The odd link to something else, a funny picture, a news article. Think of it a little like a date but with the first kiss being to sell a copy of your book. Get to know your followers. Entertain them. Flirt a little. I have to confess I've used social media to actually ... well ... socialize! It's too much fun for me to see it as business.

3. Why isn't the book coming out until next year?
Sigh. Okay, it's taken me 18 months to get my first book written, edited, submitted, rejected, re-edited, polished, resubmitted and contracted. And I've been lucky! Now I'm starting the editing process, and the projected release date for Keir is May 2012. Why? There's a whole mess of things going on until then. The cover design, editing, formatting, more editing, lots of to-ing and fro-ing, and then even more editing. Being a UK author publishing in the US, I’ve had some very entertaining US tax forms to fill in. Applying for the copyright takes three months alone. And behind all that, I have other projects I want to write/submit/self-publish/promote. I have three kids to care for, and I'm on a promise to edit a fellow author's book. After Christmas I'll need to start promoting Keir. Even though the sequel is written, it needs a major overhaul and editing. All these things EAT time. And don't get me started on all the social media stuff that I need to keep on top of (besides being able to spend some quality time with friends and family).

4. Writing is easy.
Oh yeah? Okay, so maybe when that first blinding flash of inspiration comes and you have no distractions and plenty of time then, yes, it's easy. But in the real world? Writing takes work and practice, the same as anything else. You can't sit and paint like Picasso if you've never used a paint brush in your life. Unless you’re a genius of course. And that first splurge of words may be easy, but weaving into a whole, coherent story and editing it into a masterpiece is HARD! A popular quote that I see from authors on Twitter (and that I've used myself) -

There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein. ~Walter Wellesley "Red" Smith.

5. Writers are a special breed - I could never write a book.
Um, I certainly don't think there's anything special about me. Not unless sheer pig-headedness counts. It's said that there is a book in everyone, and I believe that. It's whether someone chooses to spend the time writing that book, working at their craft, and then polishing it to be fit for publication. I don't know why it was such a compulsion for me to write, and to keep working at it even when the 'I suck' demon sat on my shoulder and mocked all my efforts. It's like being a musician or a painter or someone who rescues animals. It's your passion - the one thing you want to do above all others. I don't believe anyone will look at me and go 'wow, an author!' In fact, friends have introduced me to their friends and announced 'BTW, Pip's an author', a comment which is usually met with blank stares.

6. All the characters in your books must be based on people you know.
Well, to a degree, yes. But you won't find my friends and family in my books. To be honest since most of my characters 'live' in my head, most of them are going to be based on me. Not because I think I'm that wonderful, but because it's easier to project aspects of my personality and my reaction to things onto my characters. A writer can't help being influenced by the things around them, but generally I don't put any specific happenings or people into my work. Not consciously or deliberately. (And referring to point one, I wouldn't be worth suing for it either!)

7. You have to have an over-active imagination to be a writer.
I've always said that I have one, but I don't think it's a requirement. Do you dream? Have you ever told a fib? Have you ever exaggerated? The old 'it was THIS big' fisherman's tale? Human beings are generally creative in one way or another. My husband isn't a writer, but occasionally he'll come up with an interesting twist or plot suggestion when I'm struggling. I don't think you even need to be a prolific reader in order to write, although it helps.

Did knowing (most) of these put me off the process? No. Very little short of complete disability or death would stop me WRITING. So far it wouldn't stop me submitting either. Do you find these facts a little daunting? Would you rather not know? I'm very grateful to the people who told me what lay ahead if I aimed for publication, and I hope this helps a few others to prepare for their own journey. :)

Pippa Jay


  1. Love it! The first question from my family when I told them I sold a book was, "How much did you make?" I had to explain advances vs royalties and condense the whole publishing industry to a sound bite. *sigh*

    Thank you for stopping by today!

  2. Thanks so much for having me, Liana. Yeah, my husband was pretty much 'so can I quit work now?'Um, sorry, but no... :-P

  3. It's not often that I read a blog post on a topic like this and agree with every single point, but I do here. This was worth the anticipation :-)

    I had to laugh at your first point, too! I've always said that writers should write for the love of it, not money; otherwise, disappointment is sure to come.

  4. Thanks, all good points to keep in mind! I'm poised on the verge of the query stage and it's good to keep things in perspective...

  5. @Vanessa - it's fortunate that most of us choose to write for love. :) Of course, it IS feasible to make money - good money - from writing, but you need to be realistic (or a damn good author with a damn good marketing head and/or extremely lucky!)
    @Angela - I don't want to put anyone off, but these are the kind of things that might come as a terrible shock to new authors. Even with the heads-up beforehand, some of it still comes hard.

  6. 1. Ha! If only people really knew. I admit I did used to be that way, dreaming of being the next JK Rowling. (Still am on occasion.) But I don't think I ever was as deluded to think it would happen overnight.

    2. LOL. I remember my creative writing class in high school. Someone, probably the teacher, mentioned that she'd heard of some writers never reading their work once it's published because they will always find something they wished they'd done differently.

    3. This is the one which surprises people the most when they find out. I love bursting this bubble for people.

    4. *dies laughing*

    5. Definitely not a requirement, but developing your imagination, no matter how active it already is, is crucial.

  7. Great myths! Was thinking about them earlier today. LOL Okay, #7 might not be a myth. I do have an over-active imagination, or maybe just mind, because it never stops.

  8. If only someone had told me all this years ago when I first flirted with the idea of publication. I probably would still have done it, but I would have been better prepared.

    Thanks for sharing. We need the starry-eyed newbies, but it helps if their stars are based in reality.

  9. Also:

    "You should only write a book if you have something really important to say and a completely new way to say it."

  10. Wow. You nailed it on every point. Great post. Pip.

  11. Nice post and good points made! If only #1, #2, and #4 were true. Sigh...

  12. These are excellent points, and I agree with every single one of them, although, I can still hope that I'll be rich and famous :)

  13. "It's said that there is a book in everyone, and I believe that. It's whether someone chooses to spend the time writing that book, working at their craft, and then polishing it to be fit for publication."

    I love that you said this because I'm always surprised when writers think no one else could do what they do because they were born with some type of innate talent or divine gift with words.

    Maybe it's the teacher in me, but I believe anyone with the passion and discipline can do what I do everyday...some of them might even be able to do it a lot better!

  14. Thanks everyone for stopping by and leaving a comment!
    @Stephanie - I'm just working on the line edits for mine, and the stark warning of 'this is your last chance to make any changes' is killing me! I would tweak it forever if not for deadlines, so I get why writers won't read their work once it's out.
    @Jessica - yeah, an active something, lol! Although I suppose you wouldn't need it to write a non-fiction book.
    @Jaleta - I've been extremely lucky that I've had people to warn me what was coming. It would never have put me off, but as you say it's better to go in with eyes wide open, rather than be blinded by the stars. :)
    @Tony - I'm not entirely sure if I agree with that quote. It was important for ME to say for my own sake but I don't know if anyone will find it important to them. Have I said it in a new way? I've said it MY way.
    @Lauri - ty! But you pretty much gave me most of that low-down. :)
    @Vicky - there's always hope. :)
    @Heidi - I believe that too. I don't think I'm so special that someone else couldn't do it if they had the desire to and, as you say yourself, perhaps do it better than me.

  15. Hi Pippa, I learned these when I first started writing! Thanks for sharing here for it is good to be reminded.

    Sorry to be late to this blog!

  16. Hi Kaye,
    No worries, thanks for stopping by. :)