I recently bought a book from a talented author whom I admire entitled Publishing & Marketing Realities for the Emerging Author. Because of that book I am taking more active and more purposeful steps along the road to published authordom.
One of the first steps the author, Ms. Catherine Rose, recommends is to ask oneself a few motivating, goal setting questions. I have decided to post my answers to those questions here.
What does this have to do with Monty Python? Well, as I was contemplating my responses to Ms. Rose’s questions I was reminded of the bridge crossing scene from Monty Python’s Quest for the Holy Grail.
Now, bear with me. I know one doesn’t usually look for deep philosophical truths from this band of comedians; but, think on this. Three simple questions: What is your name? What is your quest? And, a third question either simple or difficult that deals with some bit of general , or not so general knowledge. This might be a metaphor for most any momentous undertaking. When one has obstacles in one’s path, one need merely keep in mind these three things. Who you are, what you hope to accomplish and the preparation/training/research/education you’ve undergone to get to this point.
Too deep? Maybe.
Here I am embarking on a significant undertaking. Therefore, I find myself reflecting on these very things. As for who I am, that will unfold through the pages of this blog if you care to follow along.
As for the preparation/training/etc. I’ve done a bit of writing, creatively, for several years now. Short stories and collaborative fiction, mostly. I also have a few published special interest articles to my credit, or at least to the credit of my nom de plume.
What do I hope to accomplish? That brings me to the questions posed by Ms. Rose:
- What do you want to accomplish with your book?
Way back in another life, when I first used to dream of being a paid writer, I always thought it would be cool to be a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). According to their eligibility criteria all I need is ” three qualifying short story sales, one qualifying novel sale, or one professionally produced full-length dramatic script.” Seems easy enough. The kicker, of course is the “qualifying” part. For instance, for a novel to qualify the author must have received at least $2000 either in advance or on publication and only from specified Qualifying Professional Markets (meaning only certain publishers). So, ultimately, what I want to accomplish with my book is at least $2000 (via sales or advance) and hopefully from one of the listed publishers.
- When do you want this done?
According to Ms. Rose getting a book published via the major publishing houses can take as much as 5 years, even after the book is written and assuming one actually manages to both attract an agent’s attention and that said agent can get your book picked up by said publisher. Even if one goes the indie publisher route, marketing and selling ones magnum opus can still consume several years. Therefore, I’ll set a realistic expectation here and allow myself 5 years to reach this goal. If I have not made significant progress toward that $2000 sales figure by my 48th birthday, then I may have to re-evaluate.
- Do you want to live solely off of writing, or do you just want to see your work in print? Or something in between?
Sure, I’d like to be able to live solely off my writing; but, realistically, I’d be quite satisfied if this little endeavor simply turned a profit, meaning it covers the marketing expenses I’ll incur with enough extra to feel worth the effort.
- Do you want to be a New Your Times Best Seller (who doesn’t)?
It would certainly be an ego stroke, but, I’d be happy if it turns up on top of someone’s google search.
- By when?
The 5 year timeframe applies here as well.
- Do you want to/can you travel extensively?
I like to travel. If I can write it off as a marketing/business expense, all the better. I foresee attending many a con, faire, fest, signing (hopefully), etc. all over the place.
- How much time do you want to put into marketing your book? What is your initial marketing budget?
Once I get this first one written, marketing it will become a primary focus of my life. Of course, I do have a wife and two lads at home, so I will have to balance the needs of publicity with the responsibilities of a parent. As for budget, I am going to have to defer that question for now.
- Do you want to ultimately quit your day job? Why or why not?
As a romantic ideal, yes. This goes hand in hand with the living solely off ones writing question above. In my current profession I am a white-collar “cube rat”. I would much rather not have to get up every morning at 6AM, commute for an hour back and forth to the
- How much money are you willing to invest in this venture? How much time each day? Each week?
Here again, I’m going to have to shelf this one. Until I get at least the first draft finished, I’m not even ready to talk about monetary investment. Temporal investment, however, is something I can realistically consider. I have a basic 40 hr a week job. The boys have various extra-curriculars they are involved with. I have my activities with the Lodge. Plus, my wife and I actively plan “couple time”. Add in the honey-do list and mundane stuff like the weekly grocery run and such, and it seems I have very little time for anything other than just living life. However, there are a few hours in the evening, since I don’t watch all that much TV, especially in the Summer, when I can sit myself in front of the keyboard and punch out a couple of pages worth of prose. (such as this post). So, I can probably manage to set aside 10 hrs a week to the craft. That will change when it comes time to market the thing.
- What will you have to accomplish to feel like a “successful author”
I think that when someone I don’t even know comes up to me and says something along the lines of “I read your book and really liked it. When’s the next one coming out?” Then I will consider myself a “real writer”. Ms Rose quotes a Publisher’s Weekly article which states that the average book sells fewer than 500 copies in its lifetime. Back to the first question. My goal is to reach $2000 in sales. Assuming rather than landing an advance I go with an indie publisher, or a POD situation and sell most of those books either on my own or via Amazon/B&N then if I price my book at $7.99 (a fair price for an epic fantasy paperback judging by a quick look at the listings on Amazon), that means I only have to sell 251 books, half the average, to reach that mark. Even if my book doesn’t do nearly that well. If I see sales volume in the high double digits, even, dare I hope, triple digits, then I will consider myself at least moderately successful as an author.
I have several ideas bubbling around in my head and now it’s time to get them out and into words. With any luck, the first one will be ready for publication by the end of the year. I hope you will join me for a bit of blathering and conversation along the way.