About the Book Writing Profession - What Authors Should Know

What is it like to be a published author? Author at a book-signing during the annual Literary Festival held at Althorp, Althorp, Northamptonshire, England.
Being a published author comes with bragging rights.. VisitBritain/Olivier Roques-Rogery / Getty Images

What can a newly published author expect from publishing his or her book?

There are real, tangible thrills in being a published author: Your name on a book jacket. The privilege of having your words available to an audience of readers. The knowledge that you are stick-with-it-enough to have finished and published a book.

But those who are publishing a book for the first time, or those who aspire to, might have unrealistic expectations of the author or publishing experience.

 

Here's What You Should Know About Being A Published Author

Read about the fantasy versus the facts:

1. Your book will make enough money to enable you to quit your job

True, some authors do make a living at the business of writing books. But how much do most authors make? The vast majority of book writers rely heavily on other sources of income. And even many best-selling authors couldn't quit their day jobs right out of the gate.

Most authors write books because they have an obsessive passion for their subject or an obsessive need to tell their story -- and they manage to do so in spite of the fact they have a day job, at least at when starting out and sometimes a good deal longer.

Tom Clancy sold insurance while writing his first military / espionage novels. John Grisham was an attorney (did you guess that?) who carved out a time to write his first legal thriller, A Time To Kill, in the early hours of the morning before he needed to appear in court.

When it sold only modestly, he did the same while writing The Firm. Mystery writer P. D. James wrote quite a number of books while supporting her two children and caring for her mentally ill husband by working as a civil servant. After several years and several novels, award-winning science fiction writer David Louis Edelman blogged about performing a "juggling act" between his writing and his contract web development work.

2. Your finished book will contain exactly what you'd originally envisioned

This likely won't happen unless you self publish your book and have budget enough to create the exact book package and jacket designs you want.  (and, even then, some ebook publishing services have restrictions on content). 

Once you sign a contract with a traditional book publisher, you're essentially in partnership to create "the book," and you both have a say in the end product. From trimming the fat of your language (akin to "killing your babies") to altering the logical flow of the chapters, your book editor will have much to say about how your text will look in print. While your editor is there to make the book (and you!) sound better--and a thoughtful, skilled editor absolutely will do that--you two may not always agree on what's best for the finished book. If you're going to publish, it's good to be prepared for some "creative differences."

For detailed information about the editorial process, read about what happens to your manuscript after you submit it to an editor and about a book publisher's editorial department.

3. All you have to do is write the book and hand in the manuscript -- a traditional publisher does the rest of the work

If you find a publisher for your book, chances he or she likes you as much for your marketing and media platform as for your brilliant prose.

In general, publishing editorial, production and marketing staffs are hard-working and passionate about books — but the reality of the editorial process demands a lot from authors.

And the reality of the book marketplace dictates that, in order to be successful, most writers need to work hard at promoting their own books and do as much, if not more than, the in-house book marketing and publicity staff (who, by the way, will be each be working on probably a dozen books at the same time as they are working on yours).

To get ahead of the book promotion curve, familiarize yourself with this overview of book publicity and marketing, learn how to create your own book publicity and marketing campaign, understand content marketing for authors, and be sure to take these six critical book promotion steps before your book is published.

4. You get to select your book jacket

Afraid not. The jacket that appears on your book is usually the work of a book art department informed by the opinions of everyone from the editor, the publisher, the marketing and PR departments to the sales representatives and sometimes even the Barnes & Noble buyer. Pretty much everyone has his or her say about your jacket — except for you, the newbie author, at least in most cases (check your contract).

While your editor truly wants you to be happy with your book jacket, he or she really wants you to be happy with the one they pick for you.

Learn more about the book jacket development process.

5. You will get a book tour

There's a slight chance you might.

But touring authors around the country is very expensive. With so much opportunity for effective internet promotions like virtual book tours, there are fewer and fewer of the non-virtual, several-city variety book tours being offered by pubishers, so don't count on getting on that plane. And, if you do get lucky enough to get a tour, certainly don't count on traveling anything but coach.

6. The publisher will throw you a book party

Book parties are expensive and since they rarely generate sales, it is now almost always left up to the author or the author's generous friends to foot the bill, even for fairly high-profile authors. But you can always throw your own book party (and, if you're considering it, read about how to organize a book party and the key team you need to make your book party successful).

Of course, being an author does come with bragging rights. But you'll have a happier experience if you don't count on bragging about quitting your day job, or about your ten-city book tour. At least, not just yet!

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