This rant is either going to be ignored, which is to be expected, or it will raise controversy of some sort among writers. But it needs to be said.
Unless you are writing just to get the muse out of your head, or for some cathartic reason like a memoir for your family: don’t waste your time writing books.
I have been writing (and published) for more than thirty years. I began with short fiction and then articles, and initially had a fair amount of success with getting published in literary magazines and newspapers. But when I began to write novels, that’s when everything went pear-shaped, as the British say.
No matter how many writing workshops you’ve taken, conferences you’ve attended, submissions you’ve made, editors you’ve hired, stellar reviews you’ve received, it won’t make a difference. There are now far more writers than readers. I see writers marketing their books to other writers. I have purchased more books than I will ever be able to read.
Your chances of being picked up by a large, traditional publishing house are infinitesimally small, if not zero.
With not too much difficulty, you can get picked up by a small, independent publisher, but you won’t receive an advance, your royalties will be small, and most of the marketing, including expenses, will fall upon you.
Recently I gave a workshop at a writer’s conference about publishing options for writers. We all know about Amazon’s self-publishing arm, CreateSpace. The problem with publishing through CreateSpace is that most bookstores won’t accept books published through Amazon. So unless you want to concentrate solely upon online sales, you need to go through a company like Ingram, which prints and distributes your books to traditional brick and mortar bookstores such as Barnes and Noble.
The problem with self-publishing through Ingram is that unless you already have a readership, your book sales will be miniscule. You also need to offer a 55% discount (15% goes to Ingram; bookstores get the remaining 40% discount on purchases). In addition, most bookstores will not order books that are not able to be returned. If a bookstore buys five books and only one sells, the returns will not just zero out, you will actually be in a negative sales bracket because they tack on a return charge. Your future book sales will have to pay off that deficit before you receive royalties, or if no royalties come in, you will have to pay it out of pocket.
And the marketing time and expenses are still your responsibility.
The people who are making a living in the writing business are those who are already established authors, or those who offer services to writers, such as editors, proofreaders, publishing services, and marketing services. By far the most difficult aspect for writers in the writing business is marketing. Most writers are not natural salespeople (unless they worked in sales), so marketing their own work can be excruciatingly difficult. And most often they throw thousands of dollars toward marketing programs, like Twitter and Facebook ads, that just don’t work. You will find that everyone wants your book to be given to them for free, whether through promotional giveaways or just because you’re a friend, family member, or neighbor.
So, how do you get your book published, read, noticed, reviewed, and in turn, make good sales?
I don’t know. If I did this would be a much different blog post.
What I do know is that I would never recommend that anyone in today’s short attention span, quick gratification world, become a writer. The joy of having written a book, no matter how good it may be, is short and fleeting. Writing a book is the most colossal waste of time, and ultimately, all you will have to show for your years of effort and expense is a pile of unsold books that will ultimately end up at a Goodwill outlet or in a landfill.