1. Write the first three chapters of your brand new soon-to-be-bestselling legal thriller and send a query letter via FedEx to John Grisham’s agent. Get a phone call back the next day. Have a new agent in the office ask you to send along the entire manuscript. Tell her you’ve only got three chapters.
2. Tell a friend in Manhattan who tells a friend who’s a book agent who tells a friend who buys books for TV. Have that person want your manuscript for a TV movie, meet with you in NYC, tell you as soon as you finish and get a publisher she’ll make the deal. Have her mention a six-figure payday.
3. Start thinking about your fabulous new life and what you’ll do with all that money.
4. Go back and take a year to write the book, sending Grisham agent chapters along the way that she files and doesn’t look at.
5. Finally send her entire book and start staring at the phone.
6. Be on a cruise when a letter arrives from her. Call and have your Dad (staying with the kids) read it. Have it be crushingly dismissive.
7. Be discouraged for a couple of years. Have life intervene.
8. Write a political thriller that you plot out with savvy writing group pals. Finish in six months. Send out query letters to agents.
9. Have some ask for chapters, some ask for entire manuscript. Have one call you and say she stayed up late reading it and loves it.
10. Be amazed and wait for a fantastic offer.
11. Have her call the next day and say her fellow agent asked her not to take it on because the bad guy is African-American.
12. Write a sample for another book for her.
13. Have her send that out to publishers, who either don’t get it or think it’s a joke.
14. Be discouraged for a couple of years.
15. Rework political thriller over and over. Learn to write better. Change the bad guy’s complexion. Make the other candidate female. Send it out sporadically. Become really excellent at query letter writing.
16. Write a young people’s fantasy and lots of short stories. Contemplate other plots. Do freelance writing for magazines and eventually online.
17. When people ask you when your book will be published, shrug and smile. When they suggest self-publishing, tell them it’s death to a “real” writer. Stay discouraged.
18. Read about Amanda Hocking. Read Joe Konrath. Read David Gaughran.
19. Do one last pass through political thriller. Get a professional to do the cover. Pay someone to edit. Hold your breath and…
20. Spend the long Fourth of July weekend in 2011 learning to format and upload the book, with the help of your mostly patient IT-wise husband who has a PC. Argue about italics. Stress out. Get it up with KDP, finally. Stay married. Become an indie on Independence Day!
21. Sell a few books. Tell friends. Be thrilled at reviews from strangers. Be happy to sell 35 books the first month, then 20, then 10, then…
22. Jump into KDP Select free days when that’s brand new, at the end of 2011. Be amazed as the counter on the “sales” page clicks every few minutes. Give away 8,500 on the first day. Catapult to something like #120 on the paid bestseller list the next day, because giveaways count as sales, and be too green to look and get a screenshot. Get on Movers and Shakers list twice, and miss it because you don’t know what that means.
23. Make $6,000 the last week of December, 2011, and prepare to be rich.
24. Watch as sales drop slowly from that date until the summer of 2012. Goose book with occasional free days, with less and less effect.
25. Publish thriller in print in summer of 2012. Sell few, but enjoy the beauty of holding the book in your hand.
26. Read a short story called WOOL around the same time. Read the Omnibus. Read First Shift when it comes out. Notice that someone else is writing Silo stories for money in the spring of 2013.
27. Become fascinated with following a loose thread in the WOOL saga yourself. Contemplate writing “fan fiction,” never having read or written fan fiction. Email author Hugh Howey and tell him about your Silo story.
28. Have WOOLmeister Hugh Howey tell you he LOVES your story, and go ahead and publish the first segment of the Karma series. Note that even 99¢ ebooks make money when you sell two thousand in your first month.
29. Write and publish the second, the third, and the fourth books in the series. Make a reliable four figures a month. Get nervous and balk at writing the fifth. Worry that the ending won’t live up to your fans’ expectations. Write it anyway.
30. Come up with more Silo stories than you have time to write. Decide not to spend your whole life writing ebooks set in the WOOLiverse, tempting as it might be. Start plotting a new sci-fi dystopian series of your own.
31. Concoct your recipe for keeping on keeping on, and plan to find that amazing writing-for-a-living success in… about four more years, after doing a lot more of this:
Write for joy.
Write for yourself.
Write for fun.
Write a lot.
Write and publish and forget about it.
Write as though you are already the successful author you will be.
Remember that success is not about the money.
It’s about the amazement of taking what’s in your wild and unpredictable imagination and sharing it with others.
It’s about living in a time when we can get our words out to the entire world for virtually nothing.
It’s about the joy of creating something that never existed before.
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Well, the world of books has somehow turned upside down! Even established literary agents now acknowledge that self-publishing is a viable, and possibly more lucrative, option for writers.
There is a surprisingly open-minded and encouraging post at Alan Rinzler’s “The Book Deal” blog. Here’s an excerpt:
What do you say to writers who are considering self-publishing?
Candice Fuhrman: In many cases I say GO FOR IT! It’s never been a better time for self- publishing; there are so many options for sell your own e-book. With most major publishers still only paying 25 percent of net for e-book sales, most writers can do better on their own. Of course they have to be marketing demons — but that’s the case no matter who publishes you. Although many agents are becoming “jacks of all trades” with self-publishing authors, we could be called something else — such as a publisher or a production person or a marketer.
Andrea Brown: Some authors we’ve worked with have also done indie self-published e-books but don’t seem to make any money with them. The market is overwhelmed with titles — many badly written or edited — and writers find it’s tough to market. We do tell writers that if their book will be difficult to sell the traditional way (or we do not think we can place it), to go ahead and self-publish — but they must do it well and plan to spend lots of time to market.
Andrea Hurst: For many authors, this is a very viable option today. Indie publishing, especially with e-books, offers a way to get your book directly in the reader’s hands. It is still important to have a high quality product and market your work. Many agents I know are diversifying what services they offer and how they will work with authors seeking nontraditional publishing options. Our agency consults with self-publishing authors through the whole process, offering professional editorial, design and evaluation services.
Bonnie Solow: Self-publishing is a viable option for many writers. There is no barrier to entry and authors can enjoy the satisfaction of maintaining full creative control with an accelerated release schedule. For authors who are entrepreneurial and who can access their readers through online marketing, speaking engagements, and so on, self-publishing can be the right route to take. In the long-term I do think agents will be more and more involved in helping clients self-publish… At this stage, however, authors who come to me are not interested in self-publishing. Instead, they want to enjoy the myriad benefits that come with being published by a major house.
Thanks to Alan for all the great information he shares with writers, and to these bold agents for giving us their perspective. Of course I had to add a comment advocating the vast superiority (and fun!) of self-publishing….
Go read the entire post on “The Book Deal” blog.
And thanks to The Passive Voice for leading me to Alan’s latest post.
M. Louisa Locke wrote a post last August that describes, in great and careful detail, the advantages that those of us who are self-published have attained in this rapidly changing industry. Here’s one of my favorite quotes from her piece, which is well worth your time:
“Once an author has been exposed to the liberating belief that all of their work can get in print, and all the work that is good, will get to be read, they will not go back to telling themselves that the gatekeepers were saving them from the awful mistake of publishing a bad book, and that the favorite quirky cross genre manuscript they wrote really is better off never being read by anyone.”
And one of the things that I would add to Ms. Locke’s admirable list is the inspiration that comes with knowing that your writing is finding an outlet — giving impetus to the very stream of creativity that begets more stories — unfettered productivity being great for writers and readers alike!
This was a provocative book with a certain compelling quality. It took me a while to get into it… and then I was captured. The length was both off-putting and effective — I lived with the story for so long that it attained an unusual power over me. I just finished it this morning, so it’s hard to judge at this point, but I think it will stay with me for a while.
I was surprised by the odd simplicity of the language. I couldn’t tell if this was a result of the translation or the way the author originally used words. In fact, I think that the second translator was better; suddenly the text became more lyrical and evocative during Book III.
Many mysteries were left unexplained, and I was disappointed about that. I realize that this is a kind of dream-narrative, but I think that if you’re going to dangle certain unresolved plot lines, you need to wrap them up — or at least refer to them — when you finish.