It Ain’t Easy or Thoughts on Publishing

One of the online writers groups I joined started a discussion about making money writing.  It is frustrating to participate in because there seems to be so little understanding of the multitudinous steps that take ideas out of writers heads and get them into readers minds.  For me, blogging is thinking out loud. I am in the first stage of writing, I get to put it out there and see what kind of response my writing inspires.  The blogs I call chapters are heading into book form. Right now, I am in  the process of reorganizing, enlarging, and rewriting as well as creating. If I do some major structural changes that I am particularly pleased with I’ll let you, my alpha readers, know.  Minor changes and notes to myself are an ongoing process.  Other blogs are  plots and plans, musings, and pieces that I am sure belong but I don’t know where. Those I may cannibalize and integrate into the book proper.

Putting it all together into  a book form that can be sold is another step. Writing for money is basically changing a hobby into a money-making business and that is work, whether dog-walking or writing great literature. A lot of people are willing to write, not so many are willing to do all the other work required to make it possible to make money at it. Having a clear picture of the over-all process makes it possible for both writers and readers to make conscious informed choices. And that choice may vary depending on the particular piece of writing. Not every stage of writing is marketable and not every piece is meant for the spotlight. 

Publishers have been the middlemen for some time, taking care of ALL steps after the first step of getting something written down. Professional craftsmanship is making something that is complex and difficult look easy and the finished product costs money because it has hundreds of hours and dollars invested in it. Unfortunately, publishers have also kept readers, writers, and the whole support crew in the dark about how the entire process works, and several big publishing houses are currently under investigation by the Dept of Justice for their consistently shady business practices and unethical treatment of writers. So here goes my breakdown of the publishing process.

The creative act of writing is what drives most writers. Usually they have ‘alpha’ readers, people who offer support and help during the creative process.  This is the writing for one’s own satisfaction stage. Until just recently, this was the stage where authors sent their manuscripts off to a publisher. But it is really just a first step towards communicating ones ideas to other human beings. What indie authors are realizing is that self editing requires a critical eye. ‘Beta’ readers read the complete work, and their comments and criticism are helpful in editing and polishing. People who have enough interest to read the complete manuscript and offer their opinions at this stage are a great gift to a writer. Some authors hire editors and proof readers to make sure they have a polished product. This step is at least as much work as the creative burst.

When the reader can readily engage with the information and not get tripped up by structural issues and technicalities like spelling and punctuation, then it is time to pursue covers, formatting for e-versions, printing layout for hard copies etc. For me, and I am sure other authors, how my work appears is important to me. There can be creative satisfaction in this step. Transparency is changing the relationships between authors and editors, cover artists, proofreaders, printers, and  e-formatters, . What any individual wants to do for themselves, and what they want to hire others to do for them can now be up to each person. In my case, the end product may well have material that is not part of the blog, I want it to be pleasing to the eye, and the writing should flow smoothly.

Then there is copyright and distribution or HOW your books will get out to the public, and publicity or WHO will pay to read them and/or support the author. These two steps are confused by just about every one at present. Distribution and copyright are straight forward business contracts where ownership, obligations, exit strategies, etc… need to be clearly stated. Publicity, on the other hand,  is challenging because part of the uproar and transformation in the publishing world is that nobody really understands marketing books right now. For the independent author/publisher, the magic element to making money seems to come down to the personal connection.  An engaging finished product and a great distribution system are essential, but people are willing to pay because they appreciate the work AND the person who made it happen. They have to connect with the writing, the characters, and with the writer as a person.

An outline of  the steps from writing to making money  goes:

  • creative writing
  • critical writing (editing and proofing)
  • illustrations (if desired)
  • presentation (layout, formatting, printing etc)
  • copyright
  • distribution
  • publicity
  • sales

I don’t know if I will make money writing these books, but I can say that blog statistics are great motivation. They tell me about new contacts and dedicated followers. It is really great when countries like Lithuania, the UK, and Venezuela light up because some one I have never met looks at my writing. It is also great when old friends keep checking in.  And in the long run those statistics will let me know who is interested in my writing and what kind of distribution I need.  Blogging allows writers and readers to become part of a wireless global cloud community, and that gives me and other writers a degree of freedom and support that is unique to the internet.

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