I’ve been following a thread in a writer’s group about people who come into writing classes wanting to learn how to be a bestseller. They seem to think all they have to do is take the books that are out there, learn the formula, turn them around a little, polish them up, market them, and whammo, they’re millionaires.
Or they could buy a lottery ticket. The odds would be better.
To anyone out there who thinks writing a book is a ticket to fortune—I’ll tell you the secret formula.
Read every bestselling book in the genre you want to write in. Once you figure out your story, then you need to develop characters and plot and get all your notes down on paper. Next, research the setting, the plot turns, the personalities that fit the story, and all the little details that make the story come alive. If you work at this full time, and you have a really active imagination, that first draft should only take a year or two.
While you’re writing that draft, you’ll also need to set up a website and social media. It’s necessary to promote the heck out of yourself, and the book you’re writing, so you can prove to agents and editors that you can build an audience. You’ll need a newsletter eventually, but you probably don’t have anything to put in it just yet. But start collecting those e-mail addresses anyway.
Once you’ve polished your draft a few thousand times or so, have the book critiqued—or maybe just hit yourself over the head with a hammer a few times. (You remember how it felt when someone criticized your child or pet? That’s close to the pain—if each insult equals a pin stuck into your skin.) Rewrite. Maybe spend a few thousand hiring an editor to clean up the final manuscript—just to show your professionalism.
Now send that polished, edited work of art off to the very few print publishers left in existence and start the next book. Yes, exactly—one book isn’t enough. The publisher won’t be interested unless you have more.
Continue increasing your media presence. Maybe get accused of an ax murder or two or run for political office so the media will throw tar all over you. Publishers like a well-known name.
Finish the second book and send it out. If the book has enough of whatever publishers are looking for at that minute—hint, sex and violence are never wrong—you might get an offer for $2500, probably in e-book because you’re still not well known enough, unless you’re a senator or a king with a corruption scandal to keep your name in the headlines.
And if you do actually get that book contract—really start promoting yourself. Selling books out of the trunk built at least one bestseller’s career, back in the day when there were bookstores. E-books are a little trickier to shove into reader hands. So hire a media expert (which will cost you twice that advance) and get that newsletter working.
And most of all, make your book a really, really good story so readers will want the next one, which you’ve already written, right? And plotted the next three? Because your audience will forget your name unless you produce a book a month or so.
Pass this rant around a little, please. It’s hard writing a book a month and I need the exposure!
Have you ever wanted to write a book? If not, how do you keep track of writers you like when they can’t write fast enough?