By Caitlin Kelly
The goal in blogging/business/inspiring non-fiction is to share a truth, or at least
a truth as the writer sees it. To not just share it, but to spread it and to cause change to happen. You can do that in at least three ways: with research (your own or reporting on others), by building and describing conceptual structures, or with stories that resonate…
A more heavily-researched approach to writing [is] exhausting, but the work is its own reward…
The biggest takeaway for anyone seeking to write is this: don’t go looking for the way other authors do their work. You won’t find many who are consistent enough to copy, and there are enough variations in approach that it’s obvious that it’s not like hitting home runs or swinging a golf club. There isn’t a standard approach, there’s only what works for you (and what doesn’t).
I read Godin’s blog every day. His advice here is spot-on.
“Malled: My Unintentional Career in Journalism” was just published in China, which is pretty cool, and a first for me. Now I’m seeking someone to read it and compare it to my original to see if they censored my section about appalling labor conditions in Shenzhen, China where they make parts for Apple and others at Foxconn.
After two books published by major commercial houses, I’ve lost my innocence about how bare-knuckled a business publishing is, that’s for sure. I have no illusions — which many yet-to-be-published writers naively and deeply cherish — like the publisher will: 1) be my new BFF; 2) that they will pick up the costs of designing and maintaining my website; 3) send me on a book tour.
The only way I got my own book from China was having it sent by a photographer there my husband knows, who did us a personal favor and Fed-Exed two copies; my publisher still hasn’t sent me any.
But I still really love the process of writing books, if not the selling of books. Trying to tell any truly complex story in an article is like trying to shoe-horn an elephant into a matchbox — articles are too short, too shallow and pay poorly.
You can’t dive deeply or widely enough, even in a 5,000-word+ story, (which very few people assign now).
You need to write a book.
This week I finally sent in the proposal for my third non-fiction book to my agent. I’m nervous as hell. I hope she likes it. I hope she doesn’t require more work on it as I’ve already spent about a year creating it (in addition to all my other paid work.); it’s about 10,000 words.
The real challenge will be finding a publisher to pay me enough to actually make writing it worth my time financially. Let’s say — hah! — I got a $100,000 advance, a sum extremely difficult to attain.
If I did, and if we could negotiate it into three payments, (also difficult now) — on signing the contract, on my delivery of the manuscript and publication — I’d get about $28,000 to start out with, (after the agent’s 15 percent cut, always taken off the top.)
From that, I also have to fund all travel costs and research; (I’ve already started looking for researchers.)
Many non-fiction writers have full-time jobs and/or teach as well. Few writers can actually support themselves, and their families, only by writing books.
So….why write another?
Surely the world is full of books already?
Not this one!
Cross your fingers, please.