Myths About the Writing Life
Tamsin L. Silver, Misty Massey, Claudette Marco, Jim Bernheimer, A.J. Hartley, Roy Mauritsen, James R. Tuck
Moderator: Faith Hunter
Myths of the writer’s life (read aloud)
1. My solid gold hummer doesn’t spit money
2. Royalty checks are big
3. People always want to write your books
4. No revisions
5. No day job
6. You need a big publisher
7. Once you write in one genre you can only write in that genre
8. All you need is an agent
9. A book deal equals fame
10. You need to write chapters in linear sequence
11. A great-selling novel equals an automatic movie deal
12. Just about getting your first book out, and it’s all gravy after book 1
13. Publicity and marketing people at your publishers ensure your book gets read
14. Book sales are counted in hundreds of thousands
Myth: Publicity and marketing people at your publisher ensure your book gets read.
AJ: People assume that if you’re with a major publisher that marketing budgets are divided equally between authors. The person with the higher advance gets the higher budget. Unless you’re one of a very small percentage within that house, there is virtually no publicity or support.
TS: Her publisher told her promotion was her job, and didn’t help after a year, so she pulled her book.
RM: Went for a smaller press because he wanted more control.
MM: Not only did the PR people not do anything, they weren’t clear on what she should do.
FH: PR is the lowest position in publishing. New authors are often taken care of by inexperienced PR staff. Best to get a PR firm to help you learn. Online ads and referrals are best. If you don’t know how to do your own PR then you lose out.
JB: (mostly self published) Marketing time will eat into your writing time if you’re not careful. Be prepared to part with money to get noticed.
CM: (self published) Successful at conventions. Blog tours didn’t help much. Being at conventions, especially speaking on panels, helped her make connections.
AJ: Twitter blew up when Richard Armitage read his Hamlet book. Made it hard to keep up, have a dayjob, and write.
Myth: You need a big publisher to sell your work.
TS: Self-published, at book 5, and someone who works at Vampire Freaks.com loved her books and asked her to write a new online vampire show, so began work on Skye of the Damned, learned how to produce a show, and as a result the cross promotion led to more book sales. Don’t be afraid of what you don’t know. If you don’t know it, you can learn it.
FH: The learning curve never stops.
MM: Releasing a book of short stories on her own featuring Mad Kestrel because there has been a long gap in releasing books 1 and 2.
CM: All the marketing is on you if you are self-published. Used CreateSpace as publishing venue so that she could put more money into editing, cover art, etc.
JB: You don’t even need the brick and mortar stores, either. Self-publishing – Create Space, Lightning Source. Create Space is more print on demand. Lightning Source will send you the bill for returned books put in brick and mortar stores.
RM: Brick and mortar stores are fighting, competing with other books. Prefers to take books to convention regardless of small press or large. Works in graphic design and now designs covers for other writers. Likes having more control with a smaller press.
FH: Brick and mortar stores are going away is what we’re hearing. But?
AJ: There’s a myth going around that b and m stores are going away. It’s hard to make a real living without a big pub and books in physical stores. Doesn’t have the skills or time for publicity and marketing his books, so he wants the big press to promote him. It comes down to what you want to achieve. Grocery money? Being out there, sharing stories? Self pub. Consistently 50K a year or more, very difficult to do that as a self-published author. Traditional publishing is not dying. Some of those who self pub should not be putting their work out. The initial myth that you need a traditional pub to get your book out is not true. The new myth that we can also load up to Amazon and make a fortune is also untrue.
FH: The myth that you can quit your dayjob is also untrue. She just quit her dayjob, decades in. Hit bestseller list, hired a PR firm, and the firm let her down, didn’t get much attention from publisher until they noticed her books stayed on the extended list. Hired her own PR firm.
AJ: The NYT list is calculated based on numbers of copies shipped from warehouses to stores, while the USA Today list is based on number of sales. Also, Booklist and many others have their own lists.
FH: Making the bestseller list did not translate to more PR when she hit the bestseller list the first time, but then eventually did.
Audience Question: What’s more important, print and e-book sales or hardcover?
FH: Mass markets don’t make much per book. Print and e-book sales
JB: Has been self-publishing, and the most he’s ever made in one year is 22K. Nice supplemental money is great, but don’t quit your dayjob.
FH: But until you hit a bestseller list, you’ll be lucky to make even 20K in traditional publishing. The first book selling for a million to a pub is very rare.
JT: There’s no money in publishing. This isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme. Don’t do this for the money, do it for yourself.
AJ: Those who make the most money are hybrids, selling out of print backlist via self-publishing, and also selling traditional work.
FH: Publishers aren’t letting go of the print rights like they used to. An agent helps to keep it. If you go for a traditional press, have an agent.
JT: If you don’t have an agent, demand things out of your contract. Have a lawyer look after it. A contract lawyer can help too.
Myth: Once you get that first book published, you’re set.
FH: This is more for the traditionally-published folk, but how hard is it if you haven’t been traditionally published to keep publishing?
CM: It is difficult, and conventions take money, but does get the satisfaction of putting book out there and interest in writing to work. Tried to find an agent, and some were interested, but eventually it didn’t work out. Liked finding her own editor, connecting that with story, finding own cover artist, etc. Not much money, but she has the satisfaction of living out her dream.
FH: Even for traditionally published it can take a lot. Hotel rooms at a con, meals, flights, etc, are not typically comped.
MM: Eight years after Mad Kestrel, finally got invited to a con that comped a hotel room.
RM: Being able to share a story, create something, that’s the satisfying aspect for him.
FH: We all do this because we love to do this.
TS: I can’t not write. As an artist, this is extremely fulfilling. Remembers that she is not writing for anyone but herself. It’s always better to write for you, not for the people around her
FH: It sucks having to write something just to pay the bills.
AJ: there is a downside to quitting your dayjob. You become a slave to the market. There’s a freedom to knowing that the sales of your next novel don’t determine whether you get to keep your house.
MM: Most people do not have the discipline to treat it as a job in your own home. Most people are writing in their home and when you’re in your home the brain is telling you to do all the things, the chores, the laundry, and Facebook, etc. You have to be super disciplined to not have a day job and write in your home.
Me: Three times I’ve taken a week off just to focus on writing, and three times the week has been filled.
FH: There are no benefits for those who quit their dayjobs.
Myth: You’ll be able to write at conventions.
JT: I’m too busy drinking with friends.
TS: I go out to eat and drink with friends.
JB: Maybe a bit but cons are an opportunity pit.
AJ: Used to bring his laptop. *snort*
RM: Cons are an opportunity to not write, to make connections.
TS: It’s important to talk about writing, so you have so much more energy when you get back to that
FH: The networking that happens at cons happens at the bar. You can do this even as a recovering alcoholic.
Audience Question: How do you write at home without social media?
FH: Rewards herself: she can only check FB after she finishes every page, if she wants.
JT: No internet in his office. Researches things later. “Research” turns into time spent on FB.
CM: Sets goals, takes breaks.
TS: Easy to sit and write.
Audience Question: Advice on finding cover artist if you’ve self-publised a book?
RM: You can find a lot of great artists through Deviant Art.
JT: If you buy a sketch from a cover artist, you can’t use it for a book cover. There’s a big contract involved first.