I’ve recently watched a friend — practically fainting with excitement as her dream finally came true after two years of hard work on a non-fiction proposal — sell her book to a major New York publisher. Editors were vying for it!
There are few moments in life as sweet and fulfilling as selling your book, especially your first book, as you cross that threshold into becoming a published author.
Another friend is slowly tooling away on what might become a memoir, but she is much more ambivalent, not at all sure this is what she wants to do with her time, wisely aware — knowing many authors as she does — that after that initial burst of joy and relief there’s a lot of hard work ahead.
She’s wise; here’s a powerful, truthful (if deeply depressing!) blog post from a multiply-published best-selling author about the true vagaries of this weird business.
And here’s a thought-provoking post from Kristen Lamb’s blog on how much luck plays a part in any author’s success.
I’ve so far published two non-fiction books, “Blown Away: American Women and Guns” (Pocket Books, 2004) and “Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail” (Portfolio, 2011) and am working on the proposal for what I hope will soon become my third, also non-fiction.
Like giving birth (although I am not a Mom), it gets a little easier the second time because everything is familiar. You know the lingo — “foul matter”, for example — and that your advance payments will never come as quickly as you hope or need. I’ve learned to keep at least three months’ savings ready at the end to pay for the time I will have to spend on revisions.
As I shared the first friend’s nervous excitement and my other friend’s lack of it, I realized a few things about why I — and others — should be trying to write and sell a book in the first place.
Here are ten reasons to write and publish a book, (and five reasons not to!):
1) You become an “author”, not just another journalist or would-be writer amongst the many thousands who have not yet achieved this goal. You did it, and you did it well, and you have a complete 60,000 to 100,000 word manuscript to prove it. This will set you apart. (Kristen Lamb estimates — !! — only 5 percent of wannabe authors actually achieve that goal.)
7) You create new networks and constituencies. I’ve been humbled and delighted by the people I’ve gotten to know and the communities I’ve been invited into since “Malled” came out, only seven months ago, from being the closing keynote at major retail conference to speaking out in Manhattan in favor of the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act, working with non-profits, academics and union officials. Once people know you care as deeply about an issue as they, and understand its complexities, alliances form that can lead you in new directions.
8) Expertise. After you’ve immersed yourself in your subject, you’re an official expert in it, and media attention will follow as journalists always need someone smart, succinct and available to help them explain your issue. I’ve been interviewed by Glamour magazine and a friend appeared on the Sundance channel thanks to his book — and expertise on….vampires.