Planning for Failure

The title of this post is meant to get readers’ attention. No one wants to plan to be a failure, right? I read recently that a poll claimed that only 1000 writers actually make money or earn their living from selling books. The figure was challenged but it’s enough to know that few of us actually make it big.
Writing Tip for Today: Every writer wants to succeed. If you say you only want to write well, OK, but I’d wager that a neon sign reading “Bestseller!” lurks somewhere in every writer’s brain. Meanwhile, reality dictates that many writers today will end up self-publishing, fewer will publish with a traditional publisher but will sell modest numbers of books, and a rarefied few will break out with a blockbuster.
Most of us will either be “mid list” or self-published. If you’re discouraged by the reality, here is a plan to help you deal with the implosion of those bestselling dreams:

  • Write Your Best. Write your very best always. Don’t stop honing the craft–ever.
  • Educate Yourself. Find out all you can about both traditional royalty-paying publishers as well as self-publishing companies and options. Never sign a contract if you’re not sure about the language, stipulations or any of the terms. Many POD (print-on-demand), subsidy (you pay part of the costs) and vanity (you pay ALL the costs) publishers have package deals that run into thousands of dollars.
  • Conference Your Work. If you aren’t sure whether to shop for an agent or self-publish, take your work to a writing conference and pitch it to agents and editors, just to gauge how ready for the market (or not) your work is. You can get feedback that is worth the fee.
  • Three-month Shop. If you’re leaning toward self-publishing but still hope for a traditional publisher, try shopping for agents for 3 months before you make your decision. If you’ve blown through say 50-100 agents, your answer will be obvious. But you won’t have as much regret that perhaps you could’ve sold your book but instead self-pubbed. Thanks to C. Hope Clark for this idea.
  • Close Calls. If you are getting “almosts” from agents or editors, you might consider self-publishing an e-book to gauge interest. Authors have jumped from self-pubbed to big companies after their work sold well in e-book form. So see? You’re not really planning to fail, you’re simply covering all your bases. Take heart and don’t give up or stop writing.

About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

2 comments on “Planning for Failure

  1. I really appreciated this post, Linda. It would be interesting to see some hard and fast statistics, but as you say, reality is quite grim if you’re planning to ‘make it big’ as an author.
    I also liked the advice you gave – all of it – from educating yourself, to shopping around, to letting things ruminate …. all very sound.

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