“Anyone can use words. It’s called talking. But writers arrange them in a way so that they take on a beauty in their form. Think of words as colors, and paper as a canvas.” (from the movie Shadows in the Sun)
Turns out I like to write. If I’m any good at it? You tell me. I’ll keep doing it anyway, if you don’t like what I have to say there’s plenty of other stuff to read. Or go write something of your own. We’re all monkeys with typewriters.
This monkey was curious about what it would take to publish a book. When I first started pondering the idea of becoming an author, I wasn’t quite sure on what to write about just yet. But I had some vague ideas, and the strong belief that you’d never know where writing might lead. Aside from the many self publishing options (who all tell me, without reading anything, my writing is excellent and deserves to be published), there’s the traditional route where you have to convince an agent or publishing house to take on the majority (if not all all) of the risk and cost. Publishing is expensive, and that’s probably the main reason why the sales engine of self publishing would be more than happy to take my credit card digits for my “excellent” writing. Of course they do. In my book writing course I address self-publishing as one of the options, but also why it’s probably not suitable for most new authors in the traditional sense of the word. Learn more here.
So to my surprise it turns out that for a non-fiction work it’s not really necessary to finish the entire manuscript before finding a publisher. Instead you have to write a business plan first, talking about the intended market and perceived audience, and why what you have to say is unique enough for them to buy what you have to say, literally. With the proposal the writer might include a sample chapter or two, but that’s not always required. The proposed actual writing comes much later, after you sell the book. This was new to me.
My idealist dreams vanished into thin air: it makes a lot of self-help and business books less inspiring to me. Authors don’t just write because they feel they have something to say, they sell the book first, cash the advance cheque and then start writing. It’s just a little less romantic than some hermit writing a manuscript because they feel like they had to write it. For example Tim Ferriss writes in his “4 hour workweek”, that he finished the manuscript for his book in a cafe in Buenos Aires. One of the ways he had implemented his 4 hour workweek and created the ability to live anywhere. Don’t get me wrong – I’m a fan of the book, Buenos Aires, and the idea of working “4” hours a week. Tim doesn’t specify whether he had a signed book deal when he finished the manuscript for the 4 hour workweek – but finishing a manuscript in South America with a cheque for a book advance in your back pocket sure must have been a hell of a lot easier than writing something because you felt you had something to say you believe in, and choosing an inspiring spot on the world to do it. The same applies to many other non-fiction books out on the shelves today. I guess I’m an idealist, or at least was – another bubble bursted.
@Tim – sorry for picking on you for this post. I love your books. Feel free to get in touch if you think I’m all wrong (or right) on this one.