So, You Want To Be An Author?
by Rie McGaha
My first question would be why? I know for myself it was the dream job. What could be better than sitting in front of computer and writing a few stories, getting published and then raking in the money?
We've all heard of the authors like Dan Brown who wrote The DaVinci Code and Angels & Demons and was immediately published and both novels became Hollywood blockbusters. The same happened with the Harry Potter books, and Nora Roberts' books have been made into television movies on Lifetime. James Patterson has been a top selling author for many years and several of his books have become movies. And of course, Stephen King is synonomous with horror books and movies. But for the majority of us, that kind of success is slow to come. Breaking into the big New York publishers is difficult at best. Though still difficult to become published with the smaller publishing houses, it is easier than the large ones.
Reading and writing goes hand-in-hand and I learned to read before I started kindergarten and devoured everything available all of my life. I began writing as soon as I learned to print and have written stories, poetry and song lyrics all of my life. Of course, after I had children my efforts went into being a mother and although I wrote stories for my children, the thought of being a published author was a faraway thought.
Before the advent of computers, email, and Google, manuscripts had to be typed and mailed to a publishing house and then the reply might be six months or longer in coming back. Now most publishers accept queries, synopsis', and manuscripts via email. We've all come a long way, baby!
When I was growing up computers were something only the government had and video games weren't even thought of. I was seventeen when Atari Pong came out, so I didn't grow up knowing what an IP address was, I'd never heard of a byte, and email and texting were foreign words. In today's world, children of six or seven know more about computers than I do!
Computers are everywhere now and even if you don't own one, and I know no one who doesn't, but in that event, libraries have public computers, and you can even access the Internet on your cell phone! But this does present a problem for authors, especially unknown and new authors. Publishing houses are inundated with manuscripts every day. I spoke with one publisher who said his company recieves as many as five thousand queries a month and over five hundred manuscripts each month. The company publishes less than one-percent of those they recieve.
That's a lot of competition! So how does an author become one of those lucky ones who recieves a contract and gets published? First, luck has nothing to do with it. Second, polish is the key word. I write great stories. Wow, you say, she's full of herself. No, I'm not. But I know my stories are great, I also know that I am the worst editor in the world, and when it comes to the technical side of writing, I suck, plain and simple. I am a story-teller and that's what I love to do, but when it comes to POV, dialogue tags, grammar and other technical challenges, I know I need help. Badly. I also can't write a query letter to save my life, and when it comes to talking about myself, promotion is a dirty word to me.
Fortunately, this is where the Internet becomes my friend. There are so many sites available that can help in these areas and many more. There are also people out there whose business is the business of writing and promotion. Hiring an independent editor can save your manuscript. Hiring a professional promotions company can get your name out there fast so people will recognize you when your book is finally published. But what if you can't afford to hire someone?
There are many groups available that anyone can join for free. There are critique groups, writing groups, how to groups, and promotion groups that are made up of other writers who are basically in the same boat. The great thing about these groups is that a lot of the writers have been in this business for years and have already gone through the pain of rejection with publishers. They have advice and insight that only comes from experience and are freely giving this sage wisdom to others simply because they understand where you are.
Nothing worth having comes without a price...that adage is so true of writing for publication. Know your audience, know your own story, and know your own limitations. No one knows everything and that is especially true with writing. You will never stop learning no matter how many books you have published. Even the Stephen King's of the world don't know everything, but they do have advice that can make your path to publication a lot easier to maneuver.
Rie McGaha...fantasy that keeps you up