I'm taking it easy this week, so enjoy the insightful wisdom of the great Andrew Leon.
“Damn it, Jim, I'm a writer!”
Yeah, that's how I feel an awful lot of the time when it comes to dealing with things related to writing. I feel this way because I self-published, but my understanding is that, really, this is how writers are feeling more and more these days as even the big publishers leave the writers to fend for themselves once the book has been published. Unless you're a Rowling or a King or a Martin, the publishers don't have the time to deal with you and selling your book. After all, more than 80% of books that are traditionally published never make back their advance or sell through their first printing. Why should a publisher put out money on marketing and other things for something that's never going to make them any money?
So they leave it for the authors themselves to do.
Some publishers, even large publishers, want the author to take care of all the editing themselves, too.
Looking at the state of the publishing industry, why would I want to pay them (since they keep most of the money once the advance has been earned back (and it can take an awful long time to earn the advance back since most of the money coming in doesn't count toward the advance)) for my work?
The problem, then, is that I'm a writer, and I don't really know that much about marketing other than to know that most of what most people are doing doesn't work which leaves me with a problem: how do I sell my book?
I mean, I thought writing the book was difficult, but that was so much easier than everything that comes after the writing is completed. Fortunately, I'm a (really) good editor, because there is no way I would have been able to hire anyone to edit for me, but most writers can't say that. Most writers do need an editor, and a good editor costs.
Then, there's the cover. Man, that was a tough one. When I first released my book, The House on the Corner, I blew off the whole cover thing. Naively, I thought, the writing should be able to stand on its own. Ideally, I suppose, that should be true, but that's not how it works. I discovered very quickly that people didn't take the initial release of my book seriously because of the lack of art. They'd ask me, “When's it coming out?” and I'd say, “It is out. This is it.” This, with it's plain gray cover and black lettering. They'd give me that “Oh...” look. So I found a great cover artist that would work for cheap! (Actually, he does covers for me, and I edit for him, so it works out, although I owe him a lot more editing!)
After all of that, after you finally have a product in your hand, you have to sell it, and that's the point where I really just want to say, “No! Someone else please do this! I'm a writer, damn it!” Selling is hard, and the skills that go along with selling are completely different from those that go along with writing, but it's something you have to be able to do if you want to get to the place where you don't have to do it anymore, which is kind of unfair, but there it is. In some ways, it's like asking an EMT to do open heart surgery right there on the street.
I've been at this a while, now (the current edition of The House on the Corner is just turning 1), and, still, I have no good advice for anyone out there trying to sell their books. Well, that's not true. I have one piece of advice: keep writing. Seriously. I don't know for sure, yet, but I'm almost convinced that the only real way to sell your book is to show your audience that you have more than one book in you. People seem to want authors they can follow, not just individual books. The biggest reason, though, that you should keep writing is you're a writer, damn it!