#12: Why Are You Writing a Book?

Before you start sending your work out, you need to do a bit of soul-searching. The most important question you can ask yourself is: why am I writing a novel? What is my end goal? Let’s explore some options.

Are you writing just for fun? If you sold 100 copies of your book to friends and family members, would you be satisfied? OR are you a hard-hitting self marketer? Able to create a product and move it effectively?

If so, you might consider independent publishing (formerly called self publishing). Your options include online electronic publishing companies, vanity presses (where you pay all the costs of publishing) and subsidy presses (where you pay part of the cost of publishing).

Be aware: these companies will take what you’ve written “as is” – no editing is the norm, so your critique partners become even more important! These publishers make your book available through online bookstore sites, such as Amazon, B&N or Borders. Buyers can purchase an electronic copy (For Amazon’s Kindle, Barnes & Noble’s Nook, the Sony Reader, etc.) or pay for a print on demand – POD – hard copy. PODs are usually sold to readers for $12 to $30, depending on your contract and desired profit level. You receive a percentage of the revenue from all books sold, either format.

Recent shifts in the market – which include national distribution to bookstores and dedicated reviewers in book review magazines – are making this path more possible/profitable for the aspiring author. If you are interested, check out these informational sites:




Full disclosure:

  • You are the only one marketing your book.
  • Generally speaking, these manuscripts can not be sold later to traditional publishers. (Unless you sell literally thousands of copies. Think “the Shack”…)
  • Most national genre-specific organizations (Romance Writers of, Mystery Writers of and Sci-Fi Writers of America, for example) do not consider this path as “published.” Yet.

OR… Are you looking at writing as a career path, either full time or part time?

If so, then currently (early in 2010) you’ll still need an agent and want to sign with a traditional publisher. I mention the date because in the 3.5 years since I started writing, the publishing world has shifted dramatically and much faster than anyone anticipated. This advice may be passé in six months – who knows?

If you are bought by a traditional paper publisher, your books will be simultaneously e-published. And reputable e-publishers’ books are always available in hard copy as POD. So both routes offer both formats.

***Don’t worry if you don’t know how to find an agent: Query, synopsis, and submission blog posts are “on deck.”***

Full disclosure:

I hate to be the one to break it to you, but the average fiction author makes about $5,000 per year, and nothing at all for the two years or so after a manuscript is bought. The average book deal includes:

  • A 2-book contract with an option for a 3rd.
  • A release date about 18 months in the future.
  • An advance payment of $2000-$4000, and
  • to pay for your book’s marketing out of your advance!

Obviously, this is not a path to riches for 99.99% of us. So we all must be especially careful not to get sucked into:

…an author mill!

These sub-level publishers count on you being ignorant, frustrated and desperate. They throw anything and everything on the web and hope you convince a few people to buy. I actually had one author email me – happily – that her “first draft” was for sale online!

I did a quick Google search (as you will!) and found that she was with a mill. I sent her links exposing the company, and gently explained that no legitimate publisher would ever sell a first draft!

Before you give any manuscripts away or sign any contracts, search Google for feedback on the company. Then look for these warning signs:

  • Legitimate publishers do not advertise for new writers, solicit them by email, find authors on Yahoo groups or Facebook, etc. They don’t come looking for you. Author mills do.
  • Author mills operate on volume. They accept just about everyone and within days of submission. And they don’t edit, so the product can just plain awful.
  • Author mills pressure or contractually require their authors to purchase their own books. They continually offer “special deals” if you buy. These copies cannot be returned, so you become the biggest customer of your own work.

So – why are you writing a book? For the same reason as I am, I would guess. We do it because we have characters living exciting lives in our heads and their stories need to get out.

And I know – that you know – exactly what I’m talking about.

2 Responses to “#12: Why Are You Writing a Book?”

  1. 1 amberscottproject 01/14/2010 at 9:07 AM

    Where were you and this blog five years ago!? Every post has a wealth of information given is such a fresh, candid way. Keep ’em coming!
    :}Amber Scott
    Is it HOT in Here?
    Play Fling

  2. 2 kristualla 01/14/2010 at 5:41 PM

    Thanks! Yeah – I sure could have could have used a concise guide, myself. Hence the blog 🙂
    Kris 🙂

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