A Post Mortem on Book Writing

I feel like I cheated a little.  Even though I still consider myself a “newbie” writer in the grand scheme of things, and although I put in some sweat equity  in to querying for high quality freelance writing jobs, most people don’t come out of that with a print book deal early on in their career.  I thought I might share some thoughts after-the-fact about how I feel having a print book in my name published by a publisher, not self-published.

By the way, this isn’t a diatribe on how to decide whether to self-publish or not.  We’ll save that argument for another time.


  • Writing a Book is Hard Work.  A LOT of hard work.  Getting a deal seems like the easy part.  In fact, to get a book deal,  you just need a lot of patience, persistence, and a lot of good luck.   But to write one…you need as much determination as you can muster.  You’ll also have to block out a certain amount of time everyday and write write write.  It’s a long slog, and if you can get through it, you definitely will have earned your name on paperback.
  • The Pay is Peanuts.  Really. This is more of a long-term earner than a way to get a cash infusion into your wallet; as you know, few writers get advances anymore, and the way the royalties process works, you have to give everyone their cut, so at the end of the day, there just isn’t much left.  It’s always nice to see that check show up unexpectedly, but its never as much as you’d like it to be.
  • Get Some Perspective.  Even if you’re a grammatical maven, this is one of those cases where paying someone to proofread/review before giving it to your publisher (or just shipping it out for print) is well worth the cash.  Yes, I know I’m the one with the terrible typing, but really.  You just can’t do something this big by yourself.
  • Saying You’re a “Published Author” improves your portfolio.  I never thought about it, but I had a client mention it to me the other day that they were really impressed, so I asked them if it weighed in on their decision to hire me.  They said yes, because it demonstrates commitment.  That’s not to say you need a book to prove you’re a committed writer, but it helps.
  • I hope you know marketing. Regardless of the publishing route, you’ll be expected to do more than you’re fair share of the marketing, and I have to say this is something I haven’t done very well.  Social media gives authors a great platform to get the word out, but it’s still terrifying to send a book out to a blogger and wait on pins and needles to see if they like it or not.

Further Recommended Reading:

  • 75 Write for Us Pages:  quite a few publishers in here looking for book proposals.  This is the route I took.
  • Interview with Marye Audet:  Marye had her blog published as a cookbook and I think you’ll find her frank perspective also insightful.
  • Actually, anything in the success stories section is probably worth a re-read if you’re seriously wanting to get into the book market.

If you’ve published a book, anything you want to add to the list?

Photo by Ed Yourdon





3 responses
  1. Tom Avatar

    Man, have you got all THAT right. In fact, I’d say that every one of your points is understated.

    Why do we do it?

    Think about this: Of the 100,000 plus titles in your local superstore, a large proportion won’t even sell one copy before getting returned to the publisher. Why? Because only 2 percent of the 1.2 million unique titles that sold in 2004 had sales of more than 5,000 copies. It’s worse now.

    The reality is that most books sell fewer than 99 copies (950,000 out of that 1.2 million). Another 200,000 sell fewer than 1,000 copies. Only 25,000 sell more than 5,000 copies. Fewer than 500 sell more than 100,000 copies. And these are six year old numbers. Book sales are way down, although I do suspect the ratios are about the same.

    Still, there is money to made writing. There is. But times, they are a changin’.
    .-= Tom ´s last blog ..• Are You An Entrepreneur? =-.

  2. LIsa Avatar

    Writing the book, for a writer, is work – but it’s what we do. SELLING the book, though – THAT’s a challenge, even with a “real” publisher. Unless you’re Tom Clancy, it’s up to you. And really, it’s all about the marketing. Honestly. And that’s a HUGE ongoing commitment.

  3. Andy Hayes Avatar

    Ha – thanks Tom, I will re-emphasise next time 🙂

    Lisa, you are so right and it is an area I am woefully slacking in. Thankfully I have at least broken out of the bottom percentile Tom mentions!
    .-= Andy Hayes´s last blog ..Tracking Website Performance: It’s Not as Hard As You Think =-.

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