Yesterday morning I woke up earlier than usual so I could finish the book I was reading before I sat down at my desk to write. I had only about fifty pages left. That was a huge mistake. Because after I put the book down and sat at my desk I couldn’t write. I kept thinking about the book, and how great it was. After a while I left my table and then felt miserable throughout the rest of the day. Then to make things right I started leafing through my old notebooks and came across the following.
10 Time-Tested Steps to Becoming a Published Author:
1) Know Why You Are Writing
2) Set Clear, Short-term Goals
3) Know When and Where to Write
4) Choose A Good Topic
5) Select the Right Target Audience
6) Research Your Topic
7) Know How to Write
8) Use Your Target Book as a Model
9) Write Captivating Titles
10) Rewrite, Rewrite, Rewrite
Then underneath in red ink:
“Don’t underestimate the importance of these simple tips. Follow them to transform yourself from a struggling would-be author into a successful, selling writer. I promise.” Kenneth Henson
Kenneth Henson promises. There is no reference to any book or any date. But I know for sure that I have summarized these points from either the books or the magazines that I was reading at the time on how to write. And I can definitely say from my notebook that this entry was made sometime in the mid 1990s.
How many times have you implemented all these steps to perfect your manuscript and yet it still hasn’t found a home? How many times have you promised yourself that ‘by this time next year’ you will have submitted at least one manuscript to a publisher? Then you have worked endlessly, writing day and night, revising, polishing. You have followed every single step, every single rule, sought feedback from professionals in the field, taken every single criticism and removed all the unnecessary words and paragraphs from your book, and yet no publisher has believed in your project. How many times have you followed the advice of other professionals who have told you that ‘successful authors don’t write for editors; they write for the readers’? You don’t need anyone to tell you that it is the reader who must like your book and your style enough to buy it. And after all the most effective way of selling a book is through word of mouth.
Had I known then what I know now about publishing and writing books I wouldn’t have wasted my time and kept this list perhaps. Proof, Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James. The book defied all the rules of publishing, from language, grammar and sentence structure to topic, subject matter, to theme and plot, to characters and finally target audience, and yet the publishers believed in its ‘value’ enough to accept it for publication?
In Samuel Clemens’ words:
“The law of work does not seem utterly fair- but there it is, and nothing can change it: The higher the pay in enjoyment the worker gets out of it, the higher shall be his pay in money also.”
Makes me wonder what ‘value’ publishers are looking for these days.