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Friday, December 12, 2014

Should You Be An Author?: 5 Ways to Find Out

     At every writer's conference or gathering of authors, I hear the same refrain from agents, editors,  publishers, and other authors. "Too many people want to write. Less people should try to become authors."

       I disagree. Writing like reading is an innate part of all of us. Whether it's a third grader writing a mother's day poem or a ninety-year-old grandfather penning his life wisdom for his descendants to read, everyone has an audience they can touch with their words.

      That said, not everyone who has something to write is going to be a New York Times bestseller. More than 80% of Americans talk about wanting to publish a book someday. For most of those Americans, that's an unrealistic dream. When I was at a writer's conference this fall, I met a lot of people who were headed towards complete frustration chasing that elusive fantasy. And wasting time and money on the way.

       So you're reading this because you, or perhaps your child or someone you mentor, wants to become a published author. How can you look ahead and see if this author train is a good one to jump on?

       As many of you know, I'm pursuing that New York Times bestseller dream right now. Here are some questions I regularly ask myself as I put ever more time and energy into the ride.

        The good thing about this quiz is there are a lot more options than NYT bestseller. Even if you decide you're not cut out for the NYT bestseller list, your writing still does have an audience.

        Here are 5 great current day publishing options. I'll discuss each in more depth in future blogposts in this series.

1. Traditional Publishing. A publisher like Random House or Zondervan takes your book, pays you an advance, publishes your book, and you end up in bookstores. In order to submit a book proposal to big publishing houses you will need a literary agent.
2. Small Press. A startup press like Lighthouse Publishing or Taegais. Small presses usually offer Print On Demand (POD) services, which means instead of printing several thousand books and sending them to bookstores, books are printed one at a time and usually sold through online distributers like Amazon. You usually don't need an agent to go through a small press.

3. Self-publishing. These days you can self-publish for free through Amazon's self-publishing POD arm. Other companies charge up to 12,000 dollars to self-publish a book, but seriously who can argue with free?

4. Magazine Articles and Short Story Publication. Pretty self-explanatory. You can look up different magazines and online publications submission requirements online. Thought Catalog is a great place to start for non-fiction submissions.

5. Blogging and Blogposts. You can start your own blog for free on Blogger or Wordpress.

6. Personal memoir for Family/Friends. If your book is a personal story then maybe it's something you just want to distribute to family members and family friends. Or since self-publishing is so cheap, you could self-publish on Amazon and then buy copies for your family and friends. This is a great way to pass on wisdom to future generations.

Question #1: How Old Are You?

      Even if your book is fantastic, getting a literary agent will take a year or two. Then the agent will want you to work on your social media and author platform for a year or two while he tries to find you a good publisher. Then once you sign the book contract the publisher will still take two more years to get your book to print. We're already up to six years. A small press will usually take one year instead of two years to go to print, but it's still going to be a while.

 1. I'm young and spry and have time to waste. (All publishing options are open to you.)

2. I'm in my golden years and aging faster than I'd like. (I wouldn't waste six years trying to find a traditional publisher. Write the words you need to write and get them out there. Besides, traditional publishers are usually looking to invest in a 20-year career.)

Question #2: Are You a Fast Writer/Reader?

      Of course you become a faster writer as you work at it. But in general are you the type of person who whizzes through books and dashes through paragraphs?
       The faster a writer/reader you are, the more opportunities you have to make it on the New York Times bestseller list. Traditional publishers like to invest in careers of authors who write dozens of books, not just one novel that you spent 20 years writing.
       If you're the type of person who takes 20 years to write one novel, I'd suggest either sticking to shorter formats such as articles, blogs, children's books or self-publishing that one perfected novel.


  1. Createspace is an EXCELLENT and inexpensive way to self publish your own paperbacks etc.

    1. I'm so amazed by how far POD has come! Just did a short story in a Christmas collection through Createspace and was very impressed by the results. :)