I will clear the air early by declaring myself a non-expert in the world of high finance. Let me certify this as I ponder who is the character known as Dow Jones, and why I don’t have this person’s Twitter/blog address. (I’m a little better than that but not much). I believe love makes the world go around. I believe hate destroys the world. And last, I’m absolutely certain of the hard-cold fact that money is required for survival. Money is a very personal issue for all of us; therefore, this discussion of money regarding new authors is made in broad generalities. Everyone has his or her own financial obligations, and as it would be nice to breeze through life without the need of money, it doesn’t happen.
So what of the financial status of the new author? At first glance it appears to be a contradiction of terms. “New author” and “money” translates often into “new author” and “no money.” Especially regarding new fiction, which is my emphasis, a new author would certainly need to have a heart stopping manuscript in order for a publishing company to award big bucks prior to publication. A writer must show that they have a marketable product in their talent, and once that achievement is made, the status of “new author” is removed, hopefully leading to writing careers.
Self-published new authors, like myself, start out “in the red.” Many writers’ threads are out there in cyberspace, with anywhere from extreme cautious advice like “anyone that spends a dollar publishing is a sucker or shouldn’t be writing” to “an agency offered to read my manuscript, but I didn’t want to belong to a club that would have me as a member.” I didn’t find these threads especially helpful, other than the emphasis to never pay someone to read your work, which is good advice. I do agree that if the new author is to fork out money, then it should be to either improve the manuscript with an editor, or move to self-publishing. Many writers criticize the self-publishing industry for having no interest in marketing the book, since they make profits with the publication process. I don’t believe they have disinterest, I believe they sell marketing like publishing and it can get very expensive.
So what can the new author do to achieve the dream of writers by having a published manuscript? I tend to lean on the practical side of finances; meaning, if you cannot afford it, don’t buy it. Businesses employ people to generate customers to purchase their product, so especially self-publishing companies will ring your telephone off the hook and sound extremely interested in your book that they haven’t read and probably never will. Lines like “it’s an investment” are used often. I tend to define “investment” on my own terms. To me, an investment is risking money with the hopes of earning more money, outside of the realm of household bills and long-term savings. If the money is not available and is borrowed via loan or credit card, to me that’s “debt.” New authors already come out behind considering the hard work and possibly editing fees. The addition of the financial risk of debt may make for some inspirational writing on lessons learned, but some lessons need not be learned “the hard way.”
As a standing target for non-stop sales pitches in publishing, new authors need not succumb to financial risk to achieve their dreams. Take some time and think about your financial situation in terms of yourself, those depending on you, and those that you depend on for everyday livelihood. Explore all options in the writing industry; especially now as digital books gain popularity. (Since acquiring a kindle, I have space in my home to store more useless stuff than books). Don’t be too shy to say to some guy calling you all the time pushing some great deal to stop calling, and if you think it’s too expensive, just say so. No apologies are necessary to anyone from the new author who needs to maintain financial responsibility.
Are new authors just “screwed” from the get-go financially? Answer: Probably, in the most general sense. Would I stop writing or recommend a new author to stop writing because I’ve not made a profit? Answer: No way. I cannot put a price tag on how much I love to write and the amount of enjoyment by reading the work of other authors, as well as readers enjoying my writing. Also, the news is not all grim, as self-published fiction becomes more popular and generally new authors are paid a greater percentage of sales than in the traditional publishing industry, according to some articles. As much as we’re driven to write, we’re driven to success, but success has it’s own double edge. As writers achieve and are promoted from the “new author” status, at some point their craft is at risk of becoming “work.”
I love my job and I love to write. As a new author, I remain uncertain if I’m ready for my job to become what I write.