I never thought I’d see the day where my daily shoes would be *Sorels. I’m a SoCal native, and my shoe choices leaned more heavily toward Rainbows or deck shoes. Socks? Phht, we don’t need no steekin’ socks. It’s SoCal, baby.
Then I moved to Pittsburgh, and the idea of wearing Rainbows or deck shoes became pure fantasy during the months of October-March/April. Had Baby Daughter not spent a year in Boston, I wouldn’t have known about proper footwear in frigid weather because I hadn’t planned for it. I know squat all about cold climes, and believe me, it’s all about the planning, baby.
The same can be said about your writing career. Most writers get an amazing idea and increase their BIC index (Butt In Chair) to 24 hours a day in order to bang out their tomes. But at some point, you need to take stock of what to do after writing The End. This is where reality slaps you upside the head and you realize This. Is. A. Business. And successful businesses take planning.
So you need to ask yourself, “Am I a Rainbow gal walking around in Sorel Land?” If so, then you might want to consider these points:
I reject many manuscripts because the authors didn’t do any research. I remember reading one story where the main character was taking a romantic moonlight stroll along the Amazon River. I nearly broke a rib laughing. I’ve been to the Amazon and the last thing anyone (with a brain, that is) would do is stroll outside at night. Not unless they were interested in seeing how long it took for the mosquitoes to drain your blood supply. Research, baby.
If your character has MS, then you better research the snot out of MS because you’d be amazed at how vital and active many MS patients are.
Stamp this on your forehead: If you don’t research, then you haven’t planned for success.
The same goes for writing. My last post said something about authors whose writing skills are still at the remedial stage, then they don’t need a good editor, they need to learn those skills. And it’s true. You can have a great story idea, but if you write like you barely made it out of 8th grade, then no reputable editor will take pity on you and offer you a contract. They’ll kick you to the curb. Quickly.
Being an expert in your craft should take precedence over your desire to be published. Sadly, I see the opposite in large quantities.
Stamp this on your forehead: If you haven’t learned how to write, then you haven’t planned for success.
I know I beat this particular drum to the point of excess, but it bears constant comment because not all editors are created equally, as I mentioned in a recent post. If your book is poorly edited, then you are going to suffer the ultimate humiliation of having everyone tell you how many mistakes they found.
You must, must, must be absolutely certain of the kinds of editors your publisher hires. Do they have experience from solid houses, or did they serve a small internship and were set loose to wreak havoc on unsuspecting books? Be especially aware with e-publishing because these houses oftentimes have a much smaller operating budget, and can’t afford to hire experienced editors. Keep your focus on those who have been in business for at least 2-3 years.
Stamp this on your forehead: If you haven’t checked out potential publishers’ editors, then you haven’t planned for success.
Before you begin the query process, you need to have a dialog with yourself about your writing intent. Are you a hobbyist who’s simply having some fun? If so, then you should probably take trade presses off your list because they’re not looking for hobbyists. They’re looking for career writers. Instead, you could think about slapping it up on CreateSpace and see what happens. But the idea is that you have a realistic vision of your writing and arrange your publisher query list accordingly.
Stamp this on your forehead: If you haven’t analyzed your writing career, then you haven’t planned for success.
Marketing/Promotion – You vs. Your Publisher
With the advent of DIY publishing and the need to self-promote, many authors have forgotten a very important element in the equation; the publisher. They have a responsibility to you as well, besides assuming production costs. You need to find out exactly what they will do for your book once it comes out.
Do they send out physical ARCs to media and reviewers? Do they schedule signing events and interviews? Do they provide you with free books? Do they take out ads? Marketing and promotion differs for each house, and you need to know which houses will best enhance your exposure to the marketplace.
Stamp this on your forehead: If you haven’t found out what publishers do to promote your book, then you haven’t planned for success.
You may love your editor like you love Twinkies, but if they can’t get your book out to the marketplace, then all the niceness in the world won’t make up for the fact that your book is circling the drain.
When I talk about distribution, I’m not talking about Ingram and Baker & Taylor. They are warehouse distributors who simply fulfill orders placed by bookstores and libraries. I’m talking about independent distributors who have sales teams that pitch your catalog to genre buyers. It means those publishers have store placement.
The same goes for e-publishers. I’ve run across many who only sell their e-books on their own sites. In cases like this, you need to ask yourself what is driving the marketplace to their website. In most cases, nothing. And so your e-book circles the drain. Your e-publisher should have your e-book available in every digital online site in order to increase your footprint.
Stamp this on your forehead: If you haven’t asked potential publishers about distribution, then you haven’t planned for success.
In short, if you truly honor yourself and your writing, then you must plan for your success. You can’t leave it up to the four winds or chance because the streets are littered with broken-hearted authors whose new mantra is, “Shoulda, coulda, woulda.”