Since the dawn of self publishing, the rise of the power of Amazon, and the subsequent vast drop in the marketing budgets of conventional publishers, an aspiring writer’s dream of having a book appear on a bookshop shelf is more remote than ever before. It is no longer enough to be able to write a good story that appeals to a wide readership in order to have your work accepted for publication. In the modern age, an author has to do almost everything a publisher used to.
So, before you take that step towards a career in writing, you need to ask yourself a few questions.
Who are you writing for?
Yourself, friends, your family, or the world at large?
What are you writing for?
Money, fun, to make a point, to leave something of yourself behind after your death, or because you simply have to write?
Where will you write?
At home, in the local café, the library, or a hired office?
What medium will you chose?
Paper, computer, tablet, phone, dictation?
Will you approach an agent, a publisher, or self publish?
It has never been easy to get an agent, and with mainstream publishers taking fewer authors, it is harder than ever before. However, if you do find an agent, then you have a chance of finding a publisher who will pay an advance for your work as well as royalties per sale.
If you find an Independent publisher, which usually doesn’t require an agent approach, you are unlikely to be paid an advance, but you will get a share in the royalties.
If you self publish, you have to be prepared to do everything yourself, but you will have more control over your work, and you’ll receive up to 75% of each sale via Amazon.
Self published books rarely get into libraries or book shops, however, and it can take much longer to build up a readership without the backing of a publisher unless you can afford to pay someone to do it for you.
Can you manage your own marketing?
Most publishers have a clause in their contracts asking for writers to do at least one hour of marketing each day. Self published authors need to do at least three hours a day to make their efforts worthwhile.
If you are happy to get to grips with social media, do personal appearances at book events, travel, spend hours marketing, invest your own money in business cards, posters and promotions- and you want to write a book – then being an author might just be the job for you.
It may be that you have read all this and been put off the idea of trying to get your work out there. But if you truly want to achieve this goal, you must be prepared to go the distance and do the less glamorous work standing in your way. If you are good enough, it is worth it.
Dr Kathryn Bates is a graduate of archaeology and history. She has excavated across the world as an archaeologist, and tutored medieval history at Leicester University. She joined the administrative team at Oxford Open Learning twelve years ago. Alongside her distance learning work, Dr Bates is a bestselling novelist, and an itinerant creative writing tutor for primary school children.